Giles and Miranda discuss partnership over Pimms. What did she ever see in him?
“Does it bother you that we’re not equal partners?”
Giles and Miranda were sitting on the rooftop balcony of the firm’s nice little building enjoying a welcome burst of early summer sun with two cans of Pimms.
Miranda had known this was coming. It had irked Giles since the get-go.
“Fritz and Artem are much, much more senior than us,” said Miranda, “and they put most of the money up for the building and the start-up and such…” She refused to let Giles’ latest little ego-trip take the edge off her Pimms moment, even if it was sadly lacking in the usual accoutrements – citrus fruit, strawberries, mint, cucumber, ice.
“I don’t think they could have got another corporate lawyer to come and join them,” said Giles, somewhat petulantly, Miranda thought. “And besides, they borrowed the money. We all could have done that.”
Despite being thirty-something, Miranda had an enduring impression of Giles as a rather small boy in flannel shorts and striped socks, one ruched messily to his scuffed Hush Puppies, jam or chocolate down the front of an otherwise-pristine white shirt. How could she ever have found him even remotely attractive?
“Well, you say that, but I did hear that the creepy-crawly house at London Zoo lost a number of scorpions and tarantulas…tarantula? What is the plural?”
Miranda let her weak joke dissolve into the warmth of the afternoon sun, rather like an ice-cube should have been dissolving into her Pimms, she thought. “I really think we should get a fridge, with an ice-maker,” she added.
“What are you talking about? Have you even been listening?” snapped Giles. Snappy didn’t suit him. It made him sound even more petulant.
“Corporate lawyers are like unicorns farting rainbows etc., etc. I heard you,” said Miranda, putting him down somewhat more effectively this time, she thought. She adjusted her new Prada sunglasses. “I’m fine. Employment lawyers are ten-a-penny, I was just delighted to get offered the partnership.”
“You wouldn’t have made it at Harpers?” asked Giles.
“I might have made it to salaried partner, but not beyond that. West End firms are tighter than ducks’ you-know-whats when it comes to sharing out the cake. And besides, all the senior equity at Harpers are men.”
“Muriel Sarat isn’t.”
“She bloody well is,” sputtered Miranda, feeling a cold, inky something stirring in her stomach at the mention of her former department head. “Well, she’s more of a man than most of them.”
“Isn’t that sexist?”
“And from an employment lawyer, too,” said Giles, knocking back his Pimms and reaching for another can. He was wearing Ray-Ban aviators with gold rims and blue-tinted mirror lenses which slipped to one side as he reached underneath his wooden recliner. Fine glasses but they looked ridiculous on him, Miranda thought.
“I’m not sure equity is that important to me anyway,” she said. “I’m not sure I want the responsibility.”
“Are you mad?” said Giles, almost leaping from the chair-bed and spilling a drop of Pimms onto his suit-trousers in the process. He wiped it away distractedly and this time his glasses fell off. “It’s the only way to be master– or mistress – of your destiny.”
“Ooh, Mistress Destiny. Sounds like a kinky psychic.”
“Be serious. I mean it. I’ve always wanted to be an equity partner. I have always hated being told what to do by people who think they are better than me because they’re more senior, but who aren’t.”
“There’s equity and there’s equity, though. Take Annabel’s firm –”
“Yeah. They rejigged everything last year and made all the salaried partners into junior equity partners.”
“That’s good isn’t it?”
“And then this year because of the HMRC changes, they asked them all to stump up capital.”
“That is fair enough,” said Giles. “They’re equity partners so they have to contribute.”
“Yes, but what does that mean? They don’t have any real say in the firm. Everything goes through management committee, nothing gets done by full partner vote. And practically all the instructions into the major departments – corporate, finance – have to go through the relevant department head. Junior equity means some of the exposure and none of the say. You’re basically a super-annuated associate.”
“You do get profit points.”
“Yeah, and as an associate you get a profit-related bonus,” said Miranda.
“So you’re saying remain an associate?”
“No! Oh, I don’t know what I’m saying. It just seems like there’s this constant pressure to be partner or be nothing.”
“Carricks has those director-level thingys, though, doesn’t it? The non-partner senior lawyer.” Giles sipped his second Pimms with gusto.
“The redundancy waiting room you mean,” said Miranda, more sharply than she’d intended. Maybe it was the lack of cucumber.
“Really? No, surely you don’t mean that. They have given it a lot of publicity, flexible resource and all that.”
Miranda sighed. “I wish I really believed that. But to me it just looks like an increasingly expensive lawyer who does pretty much what someone ten years more junior can do for less. Come the downturn in the legal market and they’re the first to go. It’s what just happened in the recession.”
“I guess. You may be right. I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
“Legal experience,” said Miranda, building to a clever flourish she thought, “is the law of diminishing returns. Unless you’re a partner.”
Giles laughed. “That is funny. And true, I guess. Well, I’m glad we’re partners then, old thing.”
“And senior equity one day, I’m sure,” said Miranda. “For now, though, I’m just enjoying my time in the sun, even if we don’t have any strawberries.”
“When we’re senior equity partners, we’ll have strawberries, I promise,” said Giles.
Miranda tipped her Pradas and looked over at him. Suddenly, in his blue-mirror aviators, starched white shirt open at the neck to reveal a tanned and even slightly muscled neck with a little curl of dark chest hair poking above the second button, he didn’t look like a little boy anymore.
She felt a little thrill go through her that she was sure wasn’t entirely down to the too-warm Pimms and pushed her sunglasses up again so that her eyes didn’t betray her.