SOAP – Episode One

March 20, 2014

‘Making a Name’: our new serial drama, set in a legal start-up

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“I’m not convinced.”

Giles rapped his neatly-manicured nails on the eight-foot sweep of Japanese maple that described the new law firm’s boardroom table.

Through the etched glass of the goldfish bowl meeting room, he could just make out the curvy rear-view of Clara, the receptionist of the as yet unnamed firm. Goth? Emo? Whatever. Her presumably delicious pale body was swathed in folds of black cloth. Giles’ Irish grandmother would have been quite happy to have been buried in that cloth. Ah, the youth of today.

His grandmother. What would she say if she were alive? Despite her firebrand nature she was as intensely conservative as it was possible to be. What would she say about her golden boy, the favourite grandchild, jettisoning the partnership he had only just gained at the Big City firm, the partnership he had worked so hard for, aimed at from the sunlit quads of Cambridge like a pin-striped javelin for this – start-up?

“Look, single word names are all the rage these days. Think Olswang, Ashurst, Nabarro,” said Miranda, breathily. Giles knew she was trying her best to woo the ghastly brand guy, all ponytail, wild beard, no socks and Hoxton tweed. No socks?

This guy was just her type. Miranda, like her favourite private members’ club, Shoreditch House, did not permit entry to professionals in Savile Row suits and was instead conducting her own one-woman experiment in speed-dating media losers.

“At least those are actual names,” said Giles.

“OK, yes, but that’s trad law firms, no?” said Ponytail. “Look at the new ones. They all have cool one-word names. Radiant. Signature. Bold.” He waved one hand airily as if describing a logo.

“I’m sure that last one is a washing powder,” said Giles.

“Yeah, but wouldn’t it be cool if it wasn’t? Bold, eh? Bold and confident, exciting, new…”

“Soapy,” said Giles.

“It does sound a bit like washing powder,” came a lugubrious voice from the back of the room.

“Artem? I thought you were dead.”

“No, just losing the will to live,” Artem said, chuckling disturbingly. He pronounced ‘bit’ as ‘beet’ and ‘washing’ as ‘voshing’, just like Dracula would have done. ‘Drac’, was, coincidentally, Artem’s nickname, propagated by the two young associates he had brought with him from the City litigation powerhouse.

“I quite like it”. He pronounced ‘quite’ as ‘kvite’.

“I don’t see what was wrong with Schlessenhoffer O’Connaught Alvanessian and Pennyfather,” said Giles.

“Apart from the fact that the receptionist would die of oxygen deprivation every time he or she answered the phone,” said Miranda.

“Well, I suppose it isn’t very modern,” admitted Giles.

Ponytail aimed another cheesy grin at him, accompanied by what could have been a sleazy wink. Not the kind of wink you aim at another guy when you’re trying to pick him up, but the kind of wink you aimed at another guy when you wanted him to acknowledge a busty sixth-former bouncing out of college. Giles shuddered.

“SOAP is perfect,” said Miranda. “It’s clean, bright, cheeky. All the things we want to be, all the kinds of changes we want to bring to the practice of law.”

“People will take the mickey,” said Giles weakly. Now he knew he had lost.

“Yes, maybe, but at least they’ll be talking about us,” said Miranda, now the self-appointed champion of SOAP. “Anyway, other firms have initials that could be taken the wrong way.”

“Like who?”

“LG, for a start,” said Ponytail. “Do they make TVs or legal services? And DLA.”

“DLA?” said Giles. “What does that stand for other than, well, what it stands for?”

“Disability Living Allowance,” said Ponytail. “My mum-in-law in Dorking is on it. She has a tumour the size of a kumquat in her neck.”

“DLA doesn’t exist anymore. It’s PIP now,” said Miranda. “Personal Independence Payment.”

“God, Miranda. Don’t employment lawyers have off buttons?”

“No more than corporate partners have muzzles, Giles darling.”

“That would be a fine thing,” said Artem.

“Anyway, it’s DLA Piper,” said Miranda.

That sounds like the musical entertainment at a protest rally about benefit cuts,” said a deep voice. It was the first time he had spoken, the immaculately tailored grey hair at the head of the table.

“You are a wag, Fritz,” said Giles, immediately wondering if German had a word for ‘wag’ and concluding almost instantaneously that it probably didn’t.

“I am senior partner.”

“Just,” said Artem, with a slight crackle in his voice.

“And what do you think about SOAP?” It was Giles’ final desperate attempt to gain an ally and he almost squeaked the new name in his desperation. Alas, the attempt fell on ground as stony as Fritz Schlessenhoffer’s pale, handsome visage.

Stony, that was, apart from a slight smile, like a fissure in a granite cliff.

“I like it. Clean. Efficient. I would make just one change: it should be SOAP LLP. Now I would very much appreciate seeing how our expensive new time-recording software works in practice.”

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