Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Email from the partners this morning:


Please congratulate Ben and make him feel welcome as the newest member of the Partnership. We are all excited about the new challenges this presents for the business moving forward and we are looking forward to seeing how Ben can contribute to growing the business in new practice areas.

A new artwork has been installed outside the seventeenth floor conference room to celebrate Ben's promotion.


Monday, October 29, 2007


I had a breakfast meeting with Peters this morning about the pro-bono program. He seems genuinely excited about the whole set-up and keen to get things moving as quickly as possible. We had a bit of a brainstorming session and I think we have actually come up with some good ideas.

We thought offering to write wills (for free) for terminally ill cancer patients could be a good one. And providing some lawyers on call for women checking into one of the local domestic violence shelters. The drought too, we decided we should work out some way to help the farmers with the drought. Good programs that make a difference in the community. And more importantly, get the BCF name out there in the community,

At the end of the breakfast, as we walked across Collins Street to the office, Peters slapped me on the back and said "good job". It was strange but let me know I am going in the right direction.

Then he handed me a business card and said, "Call this lady, she's an old family friend of mine and she's got a matter I'd like you to handle. You've got the relevant experience, get Ben to sign off on any work for you, he's done some crime too."

"Of course", I said.

But inside I could feel a storm brewing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the list

After speaking with Liz Porter the other week, I have been thinking about all the little services that BCF provides to keep me from having to leave the building when I am busy.

I started to make a list of these today and this is what I came up with:

- coffee machine
- biscuits
- sandwiches
- soft drink
- wine/beer
- catering service
- cab charges (so you don't have to leave before public transport finishes)
- dry cleaning drop off at reception (for 24 hour return of garments)
- book club in the kitchen (so you can shop during your coffee break)
- subsidised gym membership for the gym across the street (so you can break up a late night with a quick workout)
- grocery delivery service (of personal groceries to work)
- medical and dental check-ups
- flu jabs
- massage
- yoga
- pilates
- triathlons
- fun runs
- theatre tickets
- movie tickets

I am sure I have missed a few.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

maybe, just maybe

I saw Peters after lunch and what he gave was indeed ' a big matter'. And Uncle is right, it is 'perfect for me' but I am suspicious it may also be the BCF kiss of death.

The 'big matter' Peters and Uncle want me on is the pro bono program. They want to rebrand it and re-vamp it. I have suspected for some time that this may have been the secret ulterior motive that Uncle had for me when he threw the massive pay cheque at me to get me here. Strangely, a couple of months ago, I would have thought this was a brilliant opportunity. I think when I last mentioned my suspicions I even said some thing like 'what a dream, principled work and a corporate salary'! Now, I feel trepidatious about the whole thing.

Corporate social responsibility is treated as a bit of a necessary evil by most BCFs. It' s something they know they should do, because it looks good and clients like it, but really, they hate it because it doesn't give them any cash in their pockets. It's a bit like flossing, it's good for you but you hate it, so you give it a half-arsed effort occasionally and hope that it stops the rot.

It stands to reason then that anyone BCF wants to put on their pro-bono program is being treated as disposable because they are not bringing cash to the hip pocket of those who matter. This is why I feel incredibly unsure about being Pro-Bono Director. I have come to enjoy the weird dysfunctional family that is BCF since I have been here and I have this incredible desire to please and perform well. By BCF standards, this means bill above target and stay out of trouble. I seem to have failed pretty spectacularly on both those counts but nonetheless I am like a stupid puppy dog that doesn't learn and keeps coming back for more, wanting to finally make my owner happy.

With Uncle out of action still (and perhaps indefinitely - he has to have surgery to fuse a disc) I am not sure I have many other options. I could ask the other Partners for work (or even worse Ben), but when they are handing me this project on a platter it seems insolent to go behind their backs and try and find something else.

Maybe my freakish qualities are finally being realised and I will actually be the first senior associate to make partner based on pro bono contributions.

I mean, anything's possible, Peter Andre is married and has children.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

take me to the bank

One of the first things that was explained to me when I started at BCF was that, as a lawyer, we sell time. Not legal services, as the articled clerk at the back of the induction session so eagerly yelled out when the question was asked, but time. This, I'm told, means that a lawyer sitting around wasting time is like having a chair full of hundred dollar notes that no-one bothered to bank.

Apparently, criminal lawyers don't understand the danger of leaving a lot of cash around unattended, so I had to be trained in every aspect of the risks involved when I made the switch from fixed fee criminal work to hourly rate civil litigation at BCF.

You can, then, understand the pressure I was starting to feel about getting some good billable work across my desk. My office was starting to swim in hundreds of 'unbanked' hundred dollar notes.

Yes I have made some great non-billable contributions over the last couple of months by organising the Shindig and preparing tenders and any other non-billable task that came my way because I couldn't stuff it up. But I am ready to get back amongst it now. If nothing else, I have to prove that I can do this work and, hopefully, prevent Ben from making partner in the process.

I was just getting ready to walk into Peters office to see if he had any work I could do when I received an email from, guess who.... Peters.


Big matter. I have spoken with your Uncle and he thinks it is perfect for you. See me after lunch.


I could feel tears of relief well at the back of my eyes, thank goodness all that awkwardness of asking for work has been avoided.

Somebody take me to the bank!

Monday, October 15, 2007

a billable bind

I started this week with my new motto, 'I'm a lawyer, I can do anything'; I had embraced my decision to man-up and fight harder. I was prepared to stand up for myself and try to get some good work going again post the 'Niffen incident'.

I'd done everything right, I had come in on the weekend to sort my emails and clear my desk of administrative rubbish so that I would be ready to go, firing on all cylinders when Uncle started allocating work my way.

Unfortunately, Uncle is still in hospital, so no Partner allocating work to me. This placed me in the unenviable position of needing to generate work for myself.

My billables over the last couple of months have been shocking. Of course, since the 'Niffen incident' I was placed under the full supervision of a more senior Senior Associate. This meant that I was relegated to discovery tasks, drafting hearing certificates and organising witness availability.

Essentially, I was doing the same work as a vaguely competent mid-level solicitor. The difficulty is that Uncle has been the one funnelling that work in my direction and now he's out of action, I'll quite possibly be out of a job unless I can find some billable work, and fast.

This leads to one of the eternal BCF etiquette questions... if your Partner is out of action (or even, as is sometimes the case, just out of work) is it OK to seek work from the other Partners? Does it make your Partner look bad? Does it amount to theft (in the sense that you are 'stealing' work and billable hours from your colleagues)?

Monday, October 8, 2007

dry your eyes princess

After a brief drink at Ben's 'I'm-so-great-I'm-about-to-be-a partner-premature-celebration-drinks' on Friday night, I left to meet Kate at Black Pearl for some much needed champagne cocktails.

I had spent much of the day browsing Lawyers' Weekly 'bonus' section on international job opportunities and wondering if my weird patchwork of a CV would hold up in an international BCF. With Ben's imminent promotion and the sculpture, I knew that something had to change about the way I was handling BCF life - my current approach was clearly not a winner.

Kate was running late so I set myself up at the bar to wait. Fortunately Will, my favourite bar tender, was working. He has been trialling some new cocktails recently and if I catch him in the right mood, I'm often lucky enough to be taste tester for whatever he's invented that day. Friday was not one of those days but he did keep the champagne cocktails rolling out at a record pace.

After my third, I started to wonder where the hell Kate had gotten to. I checked my phone and there was a text saying that she had been caught up and would be about an hour later than we'd planned.

'Bugger!' I exclaimed.

Will glanced in my direction and brought me another champagne cocktail.

'Why so blue lawyer lady?'

'Kate's running late.'

'Is that all?!' he joked.

'No, it's been a crap day all round. I feel like I've been worked over and hung out to dry.'

'Wow, you used to love your job.'

'That was my old job. I'm with a new firm now. It's a BCF and it's a killer.'

'Geez ... dry your eyes princess. You're a lawyer and no doubt on some big fat pay cheque. You could do anything. Just be grateful you're not earning a bar-tender's wage.'

And he's right. I know Will loves his job WAY more than I will ever love mine, but hell - I am a lawyer and I can do anything.

Time to man-up and stop playing the little girl in a big boy's game.

Friday, October 5, 2007

bulldog clips with 'strong vision'

Kate and I delivered the sculpture to Uncle on Wednesday night and I am amazed that he failed to detect the stench of terrible-home-made-sculpture. He loved it. He said the artist had a 'strong vision' and the lines were 'powerful'; that he could not imagine a 'more perfect vision of strength and masculinity'.

I was instructed to thank Ben and let him know that the sculpture would take poll position among the firm's art work outside the seventeenth floor client conference room.

I am obviously going to have to find some other way of bringing Ben down than through gifts of faux art. Rather than hurting his partnership prospects, I think the sculpture actually enhanced them.

The vote was yesterday and it is almost a dead cert that Ben is now one of 'them'. He was so excited that he is organising premature celebration drinks after work. And I have to go, because if he IS a partner then technically, he's now my boss.

I wonder how long it will take for a client to question the sculpture's merit or for a co-worker to point out that the charcoal plastic covered bull dog clips are the same as the ones in the stationery cupboard.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

bad back opening

BCF got the better of Uncle yesterday afternoon. He has been fighting off a cold for a week or so now and after losing his voice at lunch time, he somehow managed to put his back out while pulling files off the top shelf of the bookcase in his office.

Uncle has had a bad back for a while and yesterday's filing really pushed it over the edge. He was on the floor of his office in pain for some time. He couldn't scream for help because he had lost his voice. His secretary eventually found him and called an ambulance. Kate and I visited him at Epworth last night. Apparently he will be there for a week or so.

It's an interesting development in the partnership game really. Ben is being considered for partner at tomorrow's partner meeting. He has gone to great lengths to get me to lean on Uncle (with the photos and his fake-nice), which I have done to a certain degree, and though I am sure Uncle will still vote, I am not sure how.

He can't speak so a teleconference is out. He has no computer access so an email is out. Maybe one of the partners will collect a written vote from him during visiting hours tonight?

Obviously, I need to cover my back but, even more, I would love to rip the rug out from under Ben.

I have considered my options and decided that the best course of action is to send Uncle a gift, from Ben. It will help butter him up prior to the vote. I mentioned this idea to Ben over tea this morning and he was quite taken with my initiative.

Uncle loves art, so I thought a small sculpture would be the perfect gift. Something small enough for him to keep in the hospital but also something permanent he can keep forever. And not too feminine, like flowers.

I have spent most of the morning making the sculpture. A colander (from the office kitchen), some paper clips (from the stationery cupboard) and a very creative use of bull dog clips and staples (also from the stationery cupboard)have made quite an impressive piece of art.

At lunch time I am getting a small plaque engraved with the following:

Anon. - 2007

I will deliver the sculpture to Uncle tonight, as a gift from Ben.

Now I just have to work out how I am going to bill the time I spent making it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Saturday night. It's one night of the week when we hope we would very rarely be put in the position that we have to work. I have managed to never work on a Saturday night, until this weekend just gone.

After Shinding, I invited Ben for drinks at Polly on Brunswick Street. I was going to get to the bottom of this if it killed me. Just a short stroll from my house, I thought it would give an easy and convenient escape route if required (run like mad and lock the door behind me).

To reduce suspicion, I glammed up, like all good girls going out for a Saturday night drink. I arrived a little early, just to make it clear that I had the upper hand. I grabbed a drink, so that he couldn't buy me one, and nabbed a table behind the fish tank.

He was predictably late, about 5 minutes, and looked predictably attractive in some very casual weekend get up. He had a brown A4 envelope tucked under one arm.

He greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and sat down, placing the envelope on the table. There was small talk, and he ordered a drink. Then it all came tumbling out.

My subtle line of questioning began, 'What the hell are you playing at Ben?'

Not surprisingly, this got his back up and he launched into a long and tiresome monologue about how nasty women are these days, that a man can't just be nice and friendly or buy a drink without the woman assigning him some horrendous ulterior motive.

I agreed but pointed out that his behaviour of late did, in fact, strongly suggest an ulterior motive - collusion with Peters, being nice to me, orchestrating photos of us kissing at a work function. He tried to tell me that his affections were genuine. I laughed and asked what was in the envelope.

He, of course, pulled out the photos of us kissing. Then he explained that the partners were considering promoting HIM to the ranks of partner at the partners' meeting on Thursday, and that he would like me to have a quiet word to Uncle to help persuade the vote in his direction (apparently using Kate would have been too obvious, plus she has a boyfriend and is less vulnerable).

The photos, he said, were copies for me to keep. To take away as a keepsake, to remind me of the fun we had at Shindig. And he said, if it ever became an issue, they would be good record of the way I behaved at work functions - lots of champagne and kissing colleagues. Apparently, this is not the only function where I have consumed champagne, the BCF ABC merger was another prime example of my excesses.

Nonetheless, I was, apparently, still looking fabulous and if I wanted to replay the events of Shindig Ben was happy to oblige.