The gods of small things

February 20, 2014

Forget the recruitment hype. What should you really be looking for in a new firm?

Photo: Shutterstock


If you’ve been looking to move – and now seems to be a good time, by many accounts –you’ll have noticed the Group-think that influences most firms’ attempts to woo you into their ranks.

Salary, pension, health insurance, holiday allowance, blah, blah, blah. Work in the City? Expect a decent salary to make up for the loss of your social life, friends and sense of self-worth. Work on the high street? The salary may be rubbish, the only health insurance you’re offered is a few plasters and a sticky tube of antiseptic in the first aid kit, but at least you’re not an estate agent.

In this sea of sameness, the things that will really make a difference to your working life are the small ones. The following items will not appear on any law firm’s website, but can make the difference between a work place you skip to, and one where you skulk in through the back door with your head hung low.

Law firms, take note.

1) The people

If your work place is full of Tarquins and Clarissas, but you’re the proud product of a Bolton comp, you might be forgiven for feeling a little out of place. While they’re all reminiscing about the rugger at Harrow, you’re remembering that time you nutted a bloke for stealing your chips. Social mobility is a great thing – but ultimately you’ll want to fit in.

Let’s be honest. A few attractive faces to drool over wouldn’t go amiss either. A little light flirting with the fittie from accounts livens up a work day no end.

2) The biscuits

Do meetings come with biscuits? Are we talking chocolate Hobnobs or a few stale Rich Tea? Best of all would be chocolate brownies: not so good for the waistline, but oh-so-good during those interminable hours spent arguing the finer points of a mortgagee exclusion clause with the other side.

On the other hand, if you’re given nothing but a Tesco Value teabag dunked in some lukewarm water, it’s time for a change.

3) The socials

Bowling. Imagine the horror. There’s retro, and then there’s rubbish.

A formal dinner might not be much better, spending hours trapped next to that lecherous tax partner.

There are two simple rules for law firm socials: free booze and – well – free booze. Champagne is great, but frankly a few bottles of Blue Nun and a crate of Stella would be fine by me. As for having a table plan, we spend all day talking to people we would rather avoid, so do us a favour and let us spend socials with people we choose.

If in doubt, just give the associates a partners’ credit card and send them to the pub.

4) The facilities

In one firm we know, the client loos come with Molton Brown cosmetics and soft hand towels. In contrast, the pleb loos have soap which was rumoured to have last been used by Saddam against the troops.

A loo break offers a valuable excuse to get away from the desk. A bit of luxury in there won’t break the bank. As for the toilet paper – don’t even think about giving us that tracing paper stuff, it’s a breach of human rights.

5) The coffee

Brown sludge that tastes of dirt might give you a caffeine injection, but it will not be pleasurable. An onsite coffee shop would be great but if this is out of reach, a few pots of fresh filter coffee, replenished regularly, will do wonders for both morale and billable hours.

6) The IT

Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours looking at the blank screen of your broken PC while increasingly irate clients call to ask for the latest draft of their franchise agreement. We live in the 21st century. Decent hardware and competent people to call when things go wrong shouldn’t be that difficult to provide.

On the other hand, if your computer takes up half the room and technical support means backing your work up on a floppy disk, you are entitled to complain – just before you get the pen and ink out.

These are the things that make a real difference to life in a law firm.  Now, where’s the number for that recruitment agent? LM

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