The Molestation Test

Written By: anonymous - Jan• 22•12

Carlton has been on holiday with his family (!) since The Incident.  I do not know what to expect when he returns. Will he treat me to more of the same? Will he resort to other means of attack? One thing is for sure: I am not expecting him to leave me alone. But, in fact, that is exactly what he does. For two whole weeks I have no contact with him at all; which is even more unnerving than seeing him every day.

Meanwhile I have resolved to tell no one of the kiss. I am too ashamed they will think I was an active participant in it. But, of course, Jane and Margaret notice that something is up.

“What’s wrong with you?” Jane says with her typical directness. “You’ve got a face like a smacked bottom.”

“Happy New Year to you too.”

“What’s up?”

I let out a large sigh and explain: “After the Christmas Party; I was waiting outside. Someone crept up behind me and put their hands over my eyes. I thought it was you but it turned out to be Carlton getting ready for a grope.”

“Did you punch him?” Jane’s solution to everything is violence.

“No, I kneed him in the groinal area.”

“You didn’t!?”

“I did.”

I can tell she is impressed. She is looking at me with a mixture of shock and awe. As if she is seeing my potential for the first time. “Then what happened?”

“He staggered about, swore quite a lot, threatened me a few times and then a taxi pulled up and I jumped in.”

“Wow! Excellent. What kind of threats did he make?”

“He told me that I would be sorry; that he was in a position of power and that he would make my life a misery.”

“Ok, well then, we need a defensive strategy.”

In the past, Jane’s defensive strategies have been known to rival NATO’s.  And she doesn’t disappoint. “You need to write a report of the incident and put it in a sealed envelope marked: Philip Carlton. Tell Personnel that you want this put on your file immediately and it may only be opened with your permission.  Tell Caroline what happened – off the record. Tell her that the matter is resolved as far as you believe and you will not be taking it forward unless Mr Carlton makes any further move.  In the event that he does you will make a full statement to the Police, you will launch an immediate employment complaint and you will call all his previous victims as witnesses. In the meantime, she must take action to prevent him from ever doing this again to anyone else. Finally, you need to tell her to deal with Alistair.”

“Is that all?”

She thinks for a moment; “No. You must learn Kung Fu.”

I think that might be the easiest part of the strategy.  “Can’t I just resign?”


But before I can put my strategy to the test, I have my secondment to deal with. I have to tell Margaret what has happened.

“Well, I’m shocked,” she says, with a look of mild astonishment in her eyes. “Even I didn’t think he would be so public in his attentions. That’s very schoolboy. I thought he would be more sophisticated than that.”

“Oh, he usually is,” I tell her, “But he had obviously had quite a lot to drink.”

“So, when he let his guard down he showed his true colours.”


“Well, what are you going to do about it?”

“Learn Kung Fu.”

She laughs. “So you can properly disable him next time?!”

“Yes, but in the meantime, I am going to file an off the record report with Personnel; tell them I shall go to the Police if it happens again.”

“Do you think that will work?”

“Absolutely not. He may lay off the physical abuse but he’s bound to step up the emotional torture. That’s his way.“

“Well, you know you can always rely on my support.”

“Thanks, I know. You have done so much already. The list of witnesses may yet be utilised.”

“I hope not.”

Me too. But I know I haven’t seen or heard the last of Mr Carlton. So I set about putting Jane’s scheme into action. Caroline fakes shock when I tell her.

“Gosh, I’m so surprised to hear this!” she says with steely surprise. “He has always been so proper in his dealings with us. Are you sure you haven’t made a mistake?”

“He groped me.”

“Yes, but there are many forms of groping aren’t there?”

Are there?

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well,” she laughs, “You know! On one hand there’s a bit of flirtatious fumbling and then, on the other, there’s full-on molestation.”

Does she have a checklist for this, I wonder? Hair stroking = light lechery; bottom pinching = medium molestation; breast squeezing = hard core harassment?

“It was full-on molestation,” I tell her. There’s no point in beating about the bush.

“I see.” She purses her lips and makes that slapped arse look we all love so much. “And what do you expect us to do about it?”



“I shall write a report. You shall put it on my file and note that this has taken place. Then you will do nothing.”

“You don’t wish to bring a complaint?”

“Not at the moment. I would prefer to deal with this in my own way; if it doesn’t work then I shall expect you to act.”

“I see.” She is, clearly, delighted to hear this. No nasty sexual harassment claim for her to clear up.  “Are you sure? I mean, if he really did something as serious as that he should be dealt with via the official channels.”

“He did and he should but we both know what will happen if I make a complaint. Junior lawyers don’t win employment battles with senior partners, no matter how valued they are.”

“We always do our best to be fair in our complaints handling,” she assures me.

“I’m sure you do,” I agree, “but, in the final analysis, they are our employers. If they don’t want to employ us they don’t have to.”

She nods, accepting this fundamental bias of labour law.  “Well, thank you for letting me know. I shall, at least, be able to keep an eye on Mr Carlton.”

“Please do. If he does anything more serious than this, I may be forced to change my plans.”

And staple his testicles to his desk.

Jane is waiting for me back in my office. “How did it go?” she whispers.

“Fine, she was delighted to do nothing.”

“She believed you?”

“She seemed to; once I’d passed her molestation test. Flirtatious fumbling is ok, but full-on molestation is not, apparently.”

“Where does she draw the line?” she asks.

“God knows! Somewhere between giving us a suggestive wink and selling us into sex slavery.”

This seems to amuse her. “Well, I think I might try it out on Tarquin,” she laughs. “See how far I can push it!”

My concern is: if she did: he’d be clad in leather, locked in a basement and turning tricks by the end of the week.

“I don’t think Tarquin’s ready for that,” I point out.

“No, you’re right,” she hoots. “He needs to lose his virginity first! Ha  ha ha!”

“Perhaps you could help himt?” I suggest.

She immediately stops and glares at me. “I would rather gouge my eyes out off with a teaspoon!”

Fair enough.

“Anyway, this conversation is not about me, it’s about you,” she says crisply. What are you going to do about Carlton?”

“I’m going to wait and see,” I tell her.  Because, to be honest, I don’t know what else I can do without getting laid off….






The Final Proposition

Written By: anonymous - Jan• 08•12

2nd Jan

It’s that period between Christmas and New Year when most people are at home eating leftovers and watching Morecombe & Wise, but I’m in, working on all the stuff I failed to finish in 2011 oh, and readying my resignation letter.

The secretaries (who, clearly, view this as an extended holiday) have set up a buffet by the photocopier and put on some seasonal music, whilst they dissect, discuss and debate what happened at the Christmas Party.

“I can’t believe she did it!” Danielle is telling Lynnette (who is tucking into a piece of black forest gateaux at 9.30am!).

“I know,” she agrees, between mouthfuls of cream.  “I thought she’d gone home.”

“Me too! We looked everywhere for her; well, we thought we had; no one thought to check under the tables, I mean, why would we?”

“Precisely. She said she was going to the Ladies!  Does anyone know how she ended up there?”

“Celia said she came back to find us but we were dancing. She felt a bit dizzy so she decided to have a lie down. The next thing she knew it was two thirty in the morning.”

“And then she panicked?”

“Yeah. It was dark, the room was deserted; she didn’t know where the hell she was. “

“Nothing new there!”

They both laugh.

“No! Ha ha ha! Anyway, she wakes up and stumbles about in the dark for a hit.  Then she manages to let herself out of the ballroom into the corridor. She heads to the Ladies and then looks for the exit. But when she finds it it’s locked, so she goes back to the lavs and calls her boyfriend. But he’s asleep in Romford.  So, then she tries to break out of the window, but she can’t get through the hole.”

“She got wedged in?!”


They fall about at the thought of this.

“She freed herself eventually, but only after she’d pulled half the sequins off her new dress.”

“She’ll be devastated about that.”

“She was.  She sits down on the sofa to have a little cry and the next thing she knew it was six am and the cleaners had arrived. They thought she was a burglar so put her under house arrest until the management turned up and released her.”

More gales of laughter. I have to admit: it is funny.  Only Melinda could have ended the Christmas party locked in and asleep under a table.

But that isn’t the only thing that happened. The Senior Partner gave a speech about the impending ‘merger’ (which was supposed to allay fears about job losses but did the opposite). After the initial shock, a reckless spirit seized the room; sod it (everyone thought) if we’re on the Titanic, let’s go down with splash! There was a rush on the bar; a settling of scores, a few confessions of unrequited love, two fights and (I’d guess) at least one unplanned pregnancy; it was like the fall of Rome! Everywhere we looked people were drinking, shouting or snogging each other. And Carlton took advantage of the chaos to make his move.

“Well, hello, Heleeeeen.”

“Well hello, Philiiiiiiip.” Ok, I admit, I was making the most of the drinking part.

“Are you having fun?”

“Absolutely!” I giggle, as Jane’s request for Anarchy in the UK blast out over the disco: ‘I am the Anti-Christ, I am an anarchist…”

“Indeed? Well, don’t worry; I’m certain you won’t be going down with the ship.”

“Too right!” I nod “I shall be jumping overboard and taking my chances with the sharks.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because I won’t have anyone to entertain me…..”

He will have plenty to ‘entertain’ him when I file my sexual harassment claim.

“I’m not here to entertain you,” I smile, “I am here to do my job and to pay my mortgage.”

“What’s wrong with a little amusement in between?”

“Nothing.” So long as it doesn’t involve poles, feathers or thongs, which, knowing him, it probably does.

“You should let your hair down a little, Helen. Enjoy work.”

“It’s hard to enjoy something so filled with horrible things,” I tell him.

“You don’t mean that,” he smiles.

I do. But I don’t reply and there is a pause whilst he fixes me with one of his predatory looks.

“You need to loosen up. Let me help you….”

No no no!

“I’m perfectly limber, thank you very much.”

“No you’re not; you’re like a tightly coiled spring. You need unwinding and I need some action. I always get action at the Christmas Party, Helen.”

“Do you?” I fight to keep voice level. “That’s a very bold statement to make.”

“It’s the truth.”

She Works Hard for the Money’ has just cranked up on the loud speakers.  Can the DJ read my mind?

No, it turns out to be another of Jane’s play list (which, for the record, also includes: 9 to 5; A Hard Day’s Night, Factory Worker; Manic Monday, Livin’ on a Prayer, Respect, Every Day is Like Sunday and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. She has given it a lot of thought.)

“Come on!” she appears and bundles me onto the dance floor.

“Sorry!” I mutter to Carlton.

“Oh, don’t worry,” he mouths, “It can wait.”

“What the hell did he want?” she gasps.




“I can’t believe he says that kind of thing!” she laughs.

“He says it and he means it,” I tell her.  “I think I’m going to go home after this.”

“I’ll join you. I’ve had enough anyway.”

We slog our way through a couple more numbers before making our exit. Jane heads to the Ladies as I collect our belongings from the cloak room. I’m waiting outside when she creeps up behind me and puts her hands over my eyes.

“Very funny,” I tell her. “It’s freezing out here, come on let’s get going.”

But she won’t let me go.  And then I catch a whiff of a strange scent. And I realise: it’s not Jane.

“Did you think you could escape so easily?” asks Carlton.


“I’m not escaping you,” I lie. “I’m simply going home.”

“Without giving me a kiss goodbye……”

He releases his hand from my eyes, and (still retaining his steely grip) turns me slowly round towards him.  I am paralysed with shock and fear and astonishment and he presses his mouth to mine and sticks his greasy tongue down my throat.

But that quickly passes and I knee him sharply in the groin.

He staggers away in amazement. “You have just made a big mistake!”

“Really?” I exclaim.  “I’m not the one who has a wife and children waiting at home. I’m not the one with a recorded history of this kind of behaviour. I’m not the one in the position of trust!”

“And you are not the one who makes the decisions around here,” he hisses. “You may be sorry for what you’ve just given up.”

“I doubt it.”

And, although I don’t think he can be right, I’m readying my resignation letter, just in case.




















Cinderella Strikes Back

Written By: anonymous - Dec• 18•11


It is a big week: the merger is being announced (it’s a big secret but everyone knows); the Christmas party is being taking place and I have decided to take matter into my own hands and demand a pay rise. In order to do so I am armed with several weapons: Peter’s formulation of loss; my appraisal from Margaret; a copy of the market salary survey and (best of all) the pay review spread sheet, which I have decided to keep in reserve.

And, against my better judgment I told Jane what’s been bothering me. She caught me in a moment of weakness; after a particularly bruising encounter with Miranda.

“I shouldn’t have to put up with this when I’m paid less than anyone in the department.”

“How do you know that?” she demanded.

“I just know.” I didn’t tell her about the spread sheet. She would have it photocopied and hanging off every notice board before I can say stop.

“Well,” she considered this, “I can see why they would do that.”

“What?!” I expected her to support me.

“Well,” she said airily, “you don’t have the gravitas of some of us and you don’t publicise yourself as well as others.”

Gravitas? I’ll give her gravitas.  “Being a good lawyer is not about gravitas or publicity. It’s about intelligence, hard work and experience.”

“Oh, I know that,” she agreed. “It’s just that being a good lawyer and being paid well are two entirely separate things. And that’s what you need to learn.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you have to learn the art of self-promotion. Margaret Thatcher did it and you can do it too.”

“You want me to have vocal coaching and an image overhaul?”

“If necessary, yes.”

She decided to make me one of her pet projects; like homeless people and communists.

“Ok, first, you need to lose the dark suits,” she tells me.

This is rich coming from someone who wears nothing but black suits; even at weekends and in the country.  “You are a fine one to talk,” I point out.

She waves her hand dismissively. “Black suits are my thing. But you wear any old dark coloured thing. That’s not a look, that’s a lack of effort.  And it’s not very memorable.”

“So, what do you suggest?” Gok Wan.

“A theme: a trademark colour; some jewellery and new shoes.”

“I don’t want to look like Jacqui Collins,” I warn.

She lets out a loud guffaw.  “You should be so lucky! That woman is worth a small fortune; if you could emulate her success you would be laughing.”

I can see it now: gold lame; red lipstick and big hair but I resolve to put my foot down at animal prints.

She decides to take me shopping at lunchtime; which is alien enough. And, we start on Cheapside; which is some irony because there is nothing cheap about anything for sale along there.

“Here, try this,” she hands me a purple jacket. “And this.” A scarlet scarf.  “And  this.” A cerise pink dress. “ And this. ”A turquoise belt.

I stumble out of the changing rooms wearing all four items at once.

She almost falls off her chair from laughing. “You look like Cyndi Lauper! Ha ha ha!”

To top it off she starts humming Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

“There is nothing fun about this,” I snarl. “Besides, you chose all of this.”

“I didn’t intend you to wear it all at once!” she howls. “These are signature pieces.”

What the hell are they? And who made her a fashionista anyway?! It’s not like she’s ever read Vogue or shown an interest in design. Cursing her under my breath, I flounce back into the changing room and remove the offending items.

“I’m not enjoying this,” I shout. “It’s like shopping with Anna Wintour’s evil sister.”

“You’re not supposed to enjoy it; you’re supposed to appreciate it. It’s doing you good. We’ll take the scarf and the jacket,” she tells the assistant. “I’m not sure about the dress or the belt.”

She is (at least) half right; secretly, I thought the jacket was nice and the scarf was ok. Not that I tell her that; I slump out of the shop like a sulky teenager muttering about the outrageous cost. Ignoring me she proceeds to pick out two more jackets, three dresses, a pair of shoes, two more scarves and several sets of jewellery.

“Now, Christmas party outfit,” she declares. “What have you got?”


She rolls her eyes and pulls me into a shop selling shiny skimpy numbers.

“I’m not wearing any of those with Carlton around!”

Imagine?! He would literally think all his Christmases had come at once.

“No, you’re right, you’re not;” she points to a blue satin number “You’re wearing this with some nice pearls.”

I am forced to try it on and (although I hate to admit it) it is lovely and completely respectable (no unwanted cleavage on display and certainly no knicker skimming going on); like Grace Kelly.

“Wow!” says the sales girl as I exit the cubicle. “You look amazing.”

Jane nods. “You just need some matching shoes and you’re all set for world domination.”

We return to the office laden with bags; no one notices though, they’re all too busy discussing the impending merger.

“My friend worked there; she left after four months; she said it was a terrible place to work.”

“Why was that?” gasps Melinda.

“Because it was really political and back stabbing; and they made her work really hard.”

“What do you mean ‘political and back stabbing’?”

“Groups of secretaries would get together to gossip and make bitchy comments about each other.”

Wow; no wonder the partners think the two firms are a good match.

“Oh that sounds awful!” She fails to appreciate the symmetry. “How hard did they have to work?” but she is worried about having to earn her keep.

“Really hard. All day,” Lynnette explains. “With no biscuits.  And they only got overtime if they worked a whole extra hour.”

Really? It’s growing on me already.

But not them, obviously; they spend the rest of the day plotting and scheming about how they can bring the new girls into line with the CWS way of doing things.  But is it a merger or a takeover? No one is sure. So Alex decides to ask The Boss.

“It’s a takeover, of course!” he laughs. “We’re taking over them to save them from collapse.”

“That’s not what they are saying.”

“Well, of course, it isn’t. They wouldn’t admit to something like that. We are allowing them to retain their dignity.”

Pity they don’t extend that same generosity to their own members of staff.

But all this talk of change persuades me to seize the initiative and confront him about my pay review. But, first, I have to test out my authoritative new look. I cast off my dull dark suits and replace them drive, colour, energy. The new zingy, thrusting, no-nonsense Helen is born!

And no one notices.  Not even Melinda (usually able to spot a change in lipstick at fifty paces).

I try swishing my new scarf as I walk around.

Still nothing.

I jingle my new jewellery.

Nothing again.

I flick my heels in my new shoes.

Not a dickey bird.

“It’s a good thing,” Jane tells me. “It show’s it’s a subtle change.”

So subtle that it takes them five whole days to notice.

“You look like an air stewardess in that scarf,” Melinda says, absently, one morning.

“Yeah,” Danielle agrees, scrutinising me, “You just need one of those little hats and you could work for British Airways.”

“Maybe that’s what I should be doing,” I agree. I would certainly get better benefits and holidays (what a luxury!).

“What’s that?” asks The Boss as he stalks past.

“Working for British Airways,” I tell him.

“Oh yes?!” he snorts. “Thinking of a career change are you?”

Actually, yes.

“Not exactly,” although I am wondering if I shouldn’t adopt their enthusiasm for strikes.

“I should think not; you young solicitors don’t know you are born.  I didn’t earn half what you did at your age, I didn’t get a pension and I certainly never expected time off.”

Here we go again; poor old Bob Cratchitt….

“I didn’t have an office or a secretary, I was made to sit outside my boss’s room and do his filing. There were no computers back then; we had to fill in our time sheets by hand.”

And so it goes on; an endless list of self-pity; I decide it’s probably not the best time to raise the issue of my pay review.

I still haven’t said anything by the time the Christmas party arrives. By then it’s eating me up so much that I think I may do/say something I’ll regret.  But still I’m too scared to confront him. And I don’t want to go to the blasted party.

“Put your new dress on,” Jane commands, “And get out here.”

I stare at it hanging on the back of the door.

“Come on!”

With as much grace as a baby elephant I writhe and wriggle my way into it; fling on the pearls and fumble for my shoes.

And then something magical happens.  It’s not me staring back in the mirror; it’s some feisty, glamorous Amazonian goddess. And then, I realise; I’m finally ready to face him.

“Just a moment,” I tell Jane. “I have something I need to do.”

And with confident strides across the floor, I walk into his office, take out the spread sheet, highlight my name on it and leave it in the middle of his desk. Then I turn around, and head off to the party. Cinderella has finally found her ball(s).

Spread Sheets Rule the World

Written By: anonymous - Dec• 04•11

I am so annoyed by my discovery that I am being paid less than everyone else (not to mention far less than the average legal wage) that I cannot speak to any of my colleagues.  I get three texts from Liz and Jane, which I ignore and a call from Alex, which I divert.

Luckily my secondment saves me from immediate interaction with them. Margaret has decided to take my on a guided tour of the office.

“This is where we keep the stationery; this is the secret biscuit store; this is the best place to go if you need time out…”

“I may need to use that today.”

“Really? Well, go ahead,” she laughs. “It’s got padded walls which are great for punching. I often go in there after meeting our management board, but what do you need it for?”

I toy with the idea of telling her my discovery. And, to be frank, I have to tell someone.

“I found out that I am being paid less than everyone else in the team, except the trainees and paralegals, of course.”


“Exactly. Even lessor qualified lawyers are being paid more than me.”

“Double ouch. So, what are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, you have to do something or it will fester away like a canker and make you hate all your colleagues. Do you mind me asking how you made this discovery?”

I do. Because I cannot tell her that I spent Saturday rifling through my Boss’s secret papers. So I lie.

“I found a spread sheet on the copier, at the weekend.”

“What were you doing in at the weekend?” She scrutinises me.

“I was trying to keep on top of things.”

“Haven’t you got juniors to help you with that?”

“In theory.”

“Helen!” she exclaims, “You have to be more assertive.  Perhaps if you were you would not be going in at the weekend and you would not be paid more than anyone else.”

Perhaps.  I hang my head dolefully.

“If I were you, I would march down to your Boss’s office and present him with an ultimatum: equal pay or I leave.”

“Then I shall have to leave.”

“Well, be prepared for that!” she commands. “Besides is it so terrible?”

Actually, it’s quite enticing. I could go off and do something worthwhile and useful with my life. Before I can do that, however, I must finish my tour and get down working on my secondment.

Margaret has arranged for me to share a room with Peter, one of the accountants.

“It was the only free desk,” she chuckles, “For some strange reason no one seems to want to share an office with an accountant.”

It doesn’t’ take me long to understand why. He barely utters a word all morning and, suddenly, he turns round and tells me that spread sheets are the key to world domination.

Normally I would meet this sort of comment with the huge scoffing it deserves, but I’m trying to make a good impression. “Really?”

“Yes,” he nods. “I’m not joking. Spread sheets and logarithms run the world.”

“That must make accountants very powerful.”

“It does.” he agrees. “Accountants and programmers are like gods. The universe would collapse if it wasn’t for us. There would be no order; no logic; no sense.”

“You mean it would be chaos, conflict and mayhem?” I joke. “Sounds like a law firm.”

“Yes, I should imagine so. Although I wouldn’t really know; I’ve never had very much time for lawyers.”

“Me neither.”

“I find them rather arrogant.”

“Yes, me too.”

“And pompous.”

“Yes, indeed.”

“And overbearing.”


“But you are one,” he frowns.

“In qualification maybe,” I admit, “but not in spirit.”

“Then we shall get on well.” He says this very seriously, nodding to himself, without looking up.

“Perhaps you can teach me spread sheets?” I offer.

“Perhaps.”  Then, without saying another word, he gets up and shuffles out.

Mid afternoon, Margaret pops in to see how I’m getting on. “Have you bonded with Peter?” she asks.

“It’s hard to tell.

She laughs. “There is a sure fire way to find out: did he give his spread sheets rule the world speech?”

“Yes!” I exclaim.

“Then you did. He only gives that speech if he’s comfortable; if not he simply doesn’t speak at all. We have had people in here for months, years, even; he hasn’t uttered a single word to them.”

“Then, I suppose I should be flattered.”

“You should!” she laughs.  “You managed it in one single morning.  So, since you’ve obviously settled in, I thought you might want review the office manual and compliance guides.  Your report said that some of them might need updating, so perhaps you could take a look?”


“Great. I’ve asked Katherine to help you if you need her.”

A short, eager-looking girl pops up. “Hello!” she says. “I’m Kath, I sit just out there. I’ll be able to help you with anything you need.  Would you like a cup of tea and a biscuit?”

A cup of tea and a biscuit? Melinda has never offered me so much as a glass of water.

“That would be lovely, thanks. I take it black, no sugar.”

“Ok!” she whirls off to fetch it.

“She’s a marvel,” Margaret says. “I don’t know what we would do without her.”

“She’s certainly an improvement on my present secretary,” I tell her. “She thinks just turning up is enough to pass for work.”

She frown. “I thought legal secretaries were the elite forces of the secretarial world?”

“If being ‘elite’ means moaning a lot, earning too much and bossing people round, absolutely. They are a crack team! ”

“Well, that surprises me,” she shakes her head. “I always thought law firms were such efficient, disciplined places. “

And I thought Margaret was an intelligent, insightful woman!

“The only discipline is for the Assistants” I tell her. “We are drilled and martialled to within an inch of our lives but after that it’s chaos.”

“Well, things are a little different here;” she tells me. “If anything it’s the other way around. The traders have no self-control.”

“Sounds like paradise!”

She laughs. “I wouldn’t put it quite like that.”

I would: anywhere where professionals have autonomy is a Utopian dream…..

Kathleen returns with my tea and Peters shuffles back clutching another pile of papers.

“Payment orders,” he explains. “And P&L data.”

“Aha,” I nod.

“Life blood of the firm.”

The day wears on with amendments and revisions. Peter remains stoically in the corner, immersed in his computer; occasionally muttering something about formulas or metadata.  Jane calls, I ignore her. She texts me, I ignore that too.  She (somehow) gets through to Katherine but I tell her I’m too busy to take calls.

“It sounded pretty urgent,” she tells me.

“I don’t care. I don’t wish to speak to her.”

“Oh, ok.” I can tell she’s confused but I can’t explain.

“Something wrong?” Peter asks, when she’s gone.

I had almost forgotten he was there.


“I can tell when people are lying.”

Lying! “I’m not lying; I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“Suit yourself,” he shrugs.

He resumes his programming (or whatever it is he’s doing).

Then something occurs to me. “Could you do projections, you know: calculations to work out, say, losses of over a period of years, with interest?”

“Spread sheets can do anything you ask them.”

Could they find me a new job I wonder? “If I were to give you some figures, could you run me some forecasts for me?”

“Happy to.”  He seems pleased that I have taken an interest in his work.

I rummage in my bag and pull out the copy of the pay review table; I write down the average wages of Alex, Liz and Simon beside mine, then I hand it to Peter.

“These are the present figures,” I tell him, “As you can see there is a big difference between the two. I want you to assume that the gap has been growing by, say, £1000, for the first two years then £2000 for the next four.  I want to know what that actually means in lost income with compound interest before and after tax at, say, 40%.”

“No problem,” he smiles, knowingly. “I’ll do it when I’ve finished this.

A few hours later, he hands me the figures. Even after tax, the losses are eye watering: enough for a deposit on a small flat.  I am staring at them, like a zombie, when Jane calls again.  I pick it up automatically, forgetting my embargo.

“Where have you been?!” she demands.


“Well, if you had bothered to pick up your calls, I would have been able to tell you the news.”

“What news?”

“We’re merging.”


“Yes! With Carlton’s old firm!”

“How do you know that?”

“My friend works there, it’s all over their offices.  They are saying that Carlton went ahead to pave the way. So what do you think?”

I thought Carlton had been sacked! But, no, he was an envoy! And some envoy:  Carlton is a vile, repugnant pervert, devoid of all human emotion. Does that mean that they are all like him? Will we be overrun by an army of automated Carlton-clones? Will females be forced to wear body armour and carry protective weapons to work?

Then a thought occurs to me: at least they pay their Associates well.

“It could have its advantages,” I muse. “It might be good to have some blood in the team; not everyone is so well appreciated by the old guard.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” she scoffs. “More partners only more trouble. We might not like the ones we have got but at least they are devils we know.”

Yes, and looking at these figures, it seems I sold my soul to them far too cheaply.















Salary Sacrifice

Written By: anonymous - Nov• 20•11

Having been unable to persuade a single person to assist me with my cases I am forced to go to Plan B: Working the Weekend.  Saturday morning arrives and, instead of spending a lazy morning in bed and planning trips to the gym/shops/pub, I am up with the larks and tripping into The City.  I get off the tube and head towards the office.  It is eerily quiet; there are no people around; the roads are devoid of cars and the shops are firmly shut. Feeling like the only person left in the world I push open the foyer doors to find Kevin, the night guard; engrossed in some trashy novel.

“Hello Kevin,” I greet him.

“Oh!” he sits up with a start and hides the book. “I wasn’t expecting anyone so early. What are you doing here?”

“I’ve been sent from the English Literary Society to root out readers of bad fiction,” I gesture to the book.

“It’s not bad,” he scowls, “Parts of it are quite high brow.”


“Yeah, there is a murder at Royal Ascot and a car case between two Porsches and a Bentley.”

“Very highbrow.” Practically Dostoyevsky.

“What are you doing here, anyway?” he sniffs, as if I am trespassing.


“At Eight o’clock on a Saturday morning?”

“I have a lot to do.”

He shakes his head. “You young lawyers spend all your time in the office; one day you’ll wake up and find you’ve reached middle age without noticing. “

“Thanks for that cheery thought, Kevin.”

“It’s true,” he nods, “I know cos I spent most of my youth playing war games; I may have been Barnet and Hendon area champion but I was still single and living with my parents.  One day I had an epiphany: I said: Kevin do you want to spend all your life cooped up in your bedroom, never socialising, never meeting girls? And I thought: no, I don’t. So I stopped playing the games, went on a training course and got myself a job.”

As a night guard…..

“Did it work?” I ask, wondering what difference there is between spending evenings in our foyer and in his bedroom.

“Yeah!” he nods. “This job gives me lots of time to chat to my new security mates on Facebook; I joined an internet dating service and I found a flat online.”

 “Lucky you,” I wonder if I should look into security guard training…..

“Yeah,” he nods, “Take it from me: you have to reclaim your life if you don’t want to end up on the scrap heap.”

“Perhaps you can tell that to my Boss,” I suggest. “He’s the one who is depriving me of our free time.”

“The thing is,” he says knowingly, “If you sell your soul to the Devil you have to honour the contract.”

“I’ll bear that in mind.”

“You do that, now it’s the end of my shift, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go home for a nap.”

Feeling irritated at having to take life lessons from someone who never sees daylight, I turn on my heels and head to the lifts.

The floor is deserted; (even!) Tarquin has the sense to avoid work on a Saturday morning.

I busy myself by making coffee and then decide to raid the secret biscuit cupboard; helping myself to an armful of Hobnobs.

The morning passes in a blur of faxes, memos and reports; I have never been so productive; without the constant interruptions from Jane, Melinda and the partners I have finished oodles of things off.  I wonder if The Boss would allow me to permanently change my working patterns to come in when no one else is here?

The only problem is the lack of food. Without my morning stop at Pret a Manger I’m still hungry. A secret raid on the kitchen is woefully unproductive (half a cheese scone and a prawn cocktail) so I scour the office. 

I begin with Liz (horder of all office biscuits) but she’s on her pre-wedding diet and the prospect of Ryvita and Special K is not appealing. Alex next, he has no food, of course, but a nice collection of style magazines and some unisex scent which I test (rancid).  Jane eats nothing but small children but I try her anyway; a quick rummage through her desk throws up a bottle of gin and a tin of Barocca.  Dan has some cereal bars so I steal those and laugh at his draft leaving speech which is perched on his desk.  I try Tarquin out of desperation, but it proves to be the most fortuitous: not only does he have a secret supply of Ferrero Roche but he also has a copy of the latest legal salary survey. Gold dust! According to the figures for CWS I am underpaid by at least ten thousand pounds.  I take a copy and make a mental note to ask The Boss about this (obvious) oversight on Monday morning.

Then I have a thought, spurred on by this discovery and empowered by the knowledge that I am the only person here, I decide to poke around the partners’ rooms. There is an illicit thrill in knowing that I can rifle their drawers and no one will know….. 

I start with Miranda’s, which is more of a dressing room than an office; I push past mountains of make-up and accessories before I can even locate any work.   But what I find is hilarious: in her Legal 500/Chambers file there are references for herself!  DearAntony, she has written, as agreed, when those lovely reference people come calling, this is what I should like you to write:’ Miranda Myers is a force to be reckoned with; I wouldn’t instruct anyone else’. And there’s more; to another she says: “Miranda Myers is a litigation legend,” and to a third (the best one!) “Miranda Myers is the closest thing I have found to litigation perfection,” Ha ha ha!  I wonder what she gives them in return.

Spurred on by this I consider my next options.

Malcolm’s office is too impenetrable to even attempt (I could die of asphyxiation in there and no one would ever find me.  My body would be preserved for decades under the perma-mess until a team of plucky young climbers venture in and stumble across my remains) but Clive’s is better: cleaner, tidier and he has memos about ‘new partnership initiatives’. Marvellous! Apparently the firm is looking to open an office inAbu Dhabiand there is a freeze on recruitment at the moment. Interesting….

I hit The Boss’s room and, soon, I am swinging my legs and playing with his executive toys as if it they were my own. Before I know it, I’m pulling open his draws and sifting through the piles of paper on his desk; reading the management accounts and reviewing the firm’s profit forecasts!  And, then, I stumble across the most astonishing thing of all: our pay reviews. A spread sheet of everyone’s salary and the increase they are in line to receive. This is the ultimate Cornelian dilemma:  read it and be empowered (but, perhaps, disappointed); avoid it and be ignorant (but content).  I choose empowerment. And immediately wish I hadn’t: there in black and white is the proof to what I have long suspected: I am paid less than every one of my peers! Less than Liz, Alex, Jane, Jack, Siobhan, Tarquin, Dan, and, even, Simon!

My heart lurches. How dare they pay me (me who is here on a Saturday!) less than everyone else! I feel sick. I want to smash the executive toys to smithereens. I am so cross I could cry! 

But then slowly, surely, an icy fury descends. I walk calmly to the photocopier, take two copies and scan another to myself. Then I pick up my coat, switch of my computer and leave. 

“May I ask what you are doing?” Asks the new guard, as I pass back through the foyer.

“Taking Kevin’s advice,” I tell him. “Reclaiming my weekend.”