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Blogs

(17)

Blog Name: The Legal Agony's blog

Shout, Shout, Let It All Out...
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2
29 June 2017

Problem of a reader.  


I often “have” to go out for beers and a curry with the team and also with my contacts at my biggest clients.  I love a “bucket’o’beer and vindaloo” combo but it does play havoc with my insides.


I work hard to try to keep it all in, but sometimes the gas needs to come out.  If I want to do this away from my colleagues I have to go out of the office, which involves using the lift (risky in case of a premature evacuation) and going out through the double height glass fronted lobby into the busy street.  It’s a ten minute trip on its own and my boss is like a hawk and if I am in and out all the time I will be “marked down”.


My gripe (apart from the stomach gripes) is that since I’m eating and drinking in the interests of the firm, it seems only fair that I be able to let it out in the office. Can I?



The usual thing is to go down the fire escape stairs to the floor below and stink out someone else's facilities.  This is especially effective if you are in a shared block with common toilets on each floor, where you can be a thief in the night leaving nothing but   If you want to make this a little more deniable, then pop back up clutching a box of post it notes or folders so it looks like you have been to the print room.  If you need to drop off the requisite stationery each evening on your way out, to pick up the next day as required, then do so. Make sure your chosen comfort station is in the opposite direction from the print room, so that you can make it clear you were nowhere near the bogs. BUT DON'T GET SEEN.


Pretend you smoke. For some reason this activity still seems tolerated in a way that stepping outside to have a can of pre-mixed gin and tonic or a benzo is frowned upon.  Maybe buy one of those weird vape things and then relax outside, puffing clouds of smoke from both ends.


If you want something my environmentally sound, maybe get some of that herbal tea which smells strongly of fruit and deliciousness but tastes of nothing (if you are lucky). If your office is anything like mine there will be a cupboard full of it. NAked flames for fragranced candles or joss sticks are not allowed.  You could get a bowl of potpourri (try TK Maxx which must be the world’s largest seller) but don’t just leave it for ever - after a few weeks it turns into a dusty bowl of arid scraps of wood and the cure may well be worse than the disease.


Tape one of those Neutradol balls to the bottom of your desk.


Maybe try to change your diet - Ethos offers meat free, dairy free, gluten free, joy free dining - but keep off the potatoes and have the KeenWah, as they charge by weight. £££.


However I think the best solution is some charcoal pants. Check out these - they even have jeans for Dress-down Friday.  Get them yourself before they come to you from the secret santa……  


 "I'm not doing my own stunts"

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Don't You Forget About Wee
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1
15 June 2017
Problem of a reader:

"I have a male colleague with very bad toilet manners who always urinates on the toilet seat. I can't prove it was him though and it's seems a bit of a taboo to confront him on it. What do I do?"

The Legal Agony writes:

RoF is full of stories of people who seem unable to aim their urine down a foot wide hole from 2 feet away - as well as people who deliberately wee and poo in any old receptacle, from shoes to bins to stairwells.  You could perhaps think yourself lucky that all you have to deal with is urine, in the toilet and not poo in your jacket pocket.

 This could solve all your problems and keep the office rent down

Maybe you need to suggest the creation of a "Toilet Monitor" at the next team building event?  And hope it won't be you. Institute inspections before and after each visit.

 Thanks for sending in a photo of how the loo looks now

The Monitor could lock the loos and keep the key on a massive keyring made from a wireless keyboard to something (like they do in rural service stations) so they can keep a check on each visitor.  I suspect the frequency and length of everyone's toilet breaks would decrease if we had to claim the key and you sound like a heavy user with a love for the smaller spaces so let's park that.

Maybe suggest that there be a competition to see who can wee on the seat the most and when the urinator comes to claim his prize you can have him bang to rights?  You may have to require photo evidence which may not be pretty or impressive (although I am reliably informed all things look smaller from above).

 With a snappy name, maybe it will catch on!

Obviously what I want to do is tell you to wire up the seat to the mains (don't try this at home folks!), however I suspect the HR department won't be keen.  Although maybe if you campaign for some of those fancy Japanese toilets which are all singing and dancing then you may get lucky with a wiring problem which does the job for you.

 I understand this goes up to 11!

Good luck.

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Run, Fat Boy, Run
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3
18 May 2017
A problem of a reader.

"I'm an associate at a large national firm.  I'm not in the peak of shape but I'm not clinically obese.  Anyway I recently started running at lunchtime to try and get fitter and maybe even live longer.  The problem is that I have started to be joined by a few others in my team.  Whilst it's bad enough to be accompanied and observed by running zealots as I puff and huff along the Embankment to my "couch to 5k" app, I'm now being joined by a partner from my team as well.  

Whilst I like and respect this individual, they are much more driven that me.  It has turned into a prolonged session of them showing and urging me on to ever greater feats of endurance whilst I curse and groan under my breath.  Rather than helping me become a proficient athlete, it is putting me off.  The problem is I don't know who to stop this situation without stopping running, which would look like I'm weak and not a "stayer".  Although it's meant in a good way, it's almost turned into bullying.

How do I get out of this?"

The Legal Agony writes:

This is also an unusual problem for me in that you like and respect the partner involved.  So the usual nuclear options don't apply.

This is a blessing and a curse.  Whilst an encouragement to lead a healthier lifestyle is laudable and the partner taking time to run with you and encourage you is I am sure meant in a good way, there are certain parts of your life you may want to keep separate.

Obviously one way of doing this would be to run from home and not in the working day, although as the working day increasing expands and you need to be seen to be in the office early and late, there are less opportunities to do your own stuff in your own time (look at the internet shopping habits of most lawyers).

Indeed really what you are trying to do is to avoid hurting the partner's feelings without giving up the running and as a result being thought less of (not sure not about the grammar of that).

So you could fake an injury - a temporary interruption in the program and hope that the others lose interest in your progress and you can restart with a lower profile.  

 "I'll be OK next week"


Perhaps you should look again at starting early before work.  Try Project Awesome for a great way to start the day. They meet at stupid o'clock so you will still be at your desk first thing with a story to tell.

 Awesome

My recommendation is that you say you are training for the marathon as a charity runner and start stepping out in a massive poo emoji costume. No one can criticise you for that but they may then choose to keep their distance.  And this has the added advantage that no one can see it's you (not indeed hear you scream).  

 "I'll just pop to Boots on the way.."










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Grin and Bear It
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1
04 May 2017
Problem of a Reader:  

"How do you deal with clients you hate?"

Well the best way is to become a manager and palm them off on a junior, whilst having a direct financial interest in their business. Magically, you will love your clients then.  

This dynamic is different if you are having to do the daily grind with them and some people are just beyond the pale. 

First step - try to get to know them better (if that's possible) to see if you can establish if there is some sort of moral code in them.

   "All our best clients get a bottle for Christmas"

Second step - get to know their assistant.  Having a friendly voice at the end of the phone or outside the office will make your meetings with this person more bearable as they are only the shit in the sourdough sandwich of the nice assistant.

Third step - obviously keep a note of how difficult they are so that you can trot that out when need be as part of your experience of dealing with "demanding" clients in your next interview.  

Fourth step - achieve a zen state of mind - rise above it.  These are people just like you and the foul nature they exhibit at work is a symptom of their unhappiness and inadequacy.  They are actually deserving of our pity (although perhaps not whilst you work for them).

 "It's time for the client team meeting"

Finally and in due course they will come to reap what they have sowed.  And when you tell your accounts team to serve a statutory demand on their company for unpaid bills, you will be able to gain that grim satisfaction of knowing that there is justice in this world.  Although more likely, they continue to prosper and you just move on and have a story to tell at lawyer gatherings. and interviews.  and in therapy. and in bed when crying to your partner wondering why you put up with it.  and as the inspiration for why you left the law. and became happy.
 



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Hotter than the Sun
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2
27 April 2017

Problem of a reader:

“I’m a hottie (I’m just being honest).  Short of putting a photo of myself in my bikini on my CV, how can I make sure that this comes across?”

I think there is a critical path to making this apparent without coming across as (too) shallow. Obviously the first thing is to check who is likely to be your boss or interviewer – pitch your approach to your market. Now please don't take this as my personal opinion - I am simply trying to help you achieve your goal.

If it’s a suitable panel, go for it.

Think about your experience, your interests, your previous jobs and your role as an example for women trying to break the glass ceiling in business.

For instance, if you were on the brochure for the recruitment milk round or the “join us” section of the website, people will assume you have a face which can be shown in public. Put it on your CV.

If your previous roles included something which is “public facing” such as UHNW private client or litigation, where you need to look presentable in court, then that may be another clue. Put it on your CV.

Were you in the school play in a leading lady role (the Upper Sixth present “Basic Instinct”) or another glamourous role (excluding Princess Fiona in Shrek)?  Put it on your CV. "I played Baby Spice in the Varsity production of "Spiceworld The Movie The Play"

Your current hobbies should of course always include “going to the gym”, which is the default code for “I’m a hottie”.  If you can broaden that to refer to a type of exercise (TRX or Barre) which is particularly effective and requires some form of flexibility, that’s even better. A class as opposed to a solitary activity shows that you are in good enough shape to brave exercise in athleisure it in front of others - and that alone should entitle you to a bonus on the interview score. Put it on your CV.

Maybe you could start a blog or Instagram feed which is filled with inspirational quotes and photos of you achieving things.  Whilst looking hot (not sweating hot – hottie hot). Buy some followers and put it on your CV. "I do a lot of charity swims"

Whilst this is not exactly standing shoulder to shoulder with the sisterhood, it is using your god given gifts to counter the benefits given to men by other men (who are not gods but think they are).  I see no shame in that.   Certainly, my looks were always a help and never a hindrance.
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Learn from History
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1
20 April 2017

Problem of a reader:


“All I do at work every day is surf the web.  Whilst my knowledge of fashion bloggers is now second to none (the Blondesalad anyone), I am worried that should my firm implement the mysterious “internet policy”, which is referred to in our employment contracts, and check my browsing history they have more than enough ammo to to give me the bullet.”  


There must be a room in every law firm with a printer spewing out pages of website history into a massive industrial wheelie bin. Every 6 months they heave it out to the mobile shredder.  The volume of websites visited in any sizeable law firm must be massive (as must the number of ASOS packages arriving).

"And these are the records from the litigation team"

However, the reality is they will only ever go down to the basement to get the record of “websites in contravention of our internet usage policy” when they want to get rid of you and by then you’re on the way out anyway.  In order to even think about what you have been looking at online they already have your name marked for the black spot and it’s just a matter of time.  In a world where you can make the front page of the national papers for physical abuse, odiousness and even for leaking misguided email *bantzzz* about sex acts (which any reasonable and decent human being would expect to be keep private) and not get fired, I think the website history is the last thing that will sink you.  

"Here are the trainees delivering the websites from week 23/52"

You’re more likely to fall out of favour as a result of topping the partner’s story at an office drinks than anything related to internet (or indeed work generally).


Therefore so long as it isn’t NSFW then you may be safe to surf the web at work for another 20 years.  If you can stand it.
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The Life and Soul of the Party
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4
06 April 2017

A reader writes:

"I have been asked to join the Social Committee to help plan the Christmas party.  Is this a ladder to promotion and a way for my bosses to see me in action, or something even worse than being poked with shitty stick".

I have been on a few social committees and there are some perks to the job.  

Free sandwiches at the internal planning meetings. Maybe some of the overstock of Tab and Pepsi Zero from the client fridges. The chance to taste the canapés to be served at the event.   A succession of small glasses of wine at said tastings to select the drink.  A password protected link to a website showing six 40-something year old men playing "Sex on Fire" whilst a 23 year old in a short skirt belts out the lyrics as if she was on X-factor showing how many notes she can fit in a single syllable.

You also get to have some chats with the finance director and the partner designated to supervise the party.

However the downsides are legion. 

Every choice you make will be be criticised and subject to scrutiny. Some petty partner you have never heard of will be asking you why you selected this venue or that date, who are the "we the social committee" you referred to in your email announcing the plan and on what basis you were selected and authorised, all of which should properly be addressed to the managing partner but for the usual reasons never will. Your email sending out this selection will itself generate a barrage of out of office replies leaving your inbox in suspension due to being over capacity.

The date won't work for the matrimonial team as its the day when they write their articles for the free local glossy mags talking about New Year being the busiest time of the year for divorces.  You know, the same articles as ever other matrimonial team writes which never produce any business.  Nor will it work for corporate as its too close to Christmas, nor for property as it is not close enough, nor for tax as it clashes with the visit of their biggest tax avoider client. Nor anybody else as they wont agree to something which any other department agrees to.

The chats you have with the FD will solely relate to the fact that the budget is being reduced and you can only have one glass of house white or red per head and only canapés from the "basic" menu not the luxury menu with two protein based choices and the mini beef and Yorkshire puddings. An you can't have a band AND and DJ.  And no mini casino, only giant Jenga in the corner.  And fee earners have to pay £15 per head. And so do support staff. And you must collect that money.

You will have had tastings at The Savoy and The Clove Club but the final venue will be downstairs at the Bung Hole Tavern.

  "The band performed at one of our previous do's"

The Social Committee itself will be dominated by one member of the support staff who has worked at the firm for 27 years and knows where all the skeletons are buried and who slept with who.  They are untouchable, bullet proof.  They even have their own office hours and a desk bigger than the managing partner's, but in a nicer part of the building.  With pot plants that are real and not plastic.  There is no way your opinion or choice will count for anything as between the old timer and the structure of the Social Committee there is no way you can have any bearing on the plans.  No mud will ever stick to the "old timer", the partner in charge or the FD - you are the sacrificial lamb.

 "This is how we weight the decisions"

On the night, you spend your time sorting out fights and complaints  - and that's only before you go, when you tell your partner that this year it's no partners (even though every previous yer they bitched like mad that they were expected to go).

After the party there will be an email sent around the office from the senior partner thanking the old timer by name and the "rest of her Committee" for a great night. Swiftly followed by a succession of "helpful" comments from the rest of the firm about what could have been done better and why didn't you do it here and then and with those and next to this and user it. Some of which may be useful but which are never provided before, but only too late, to allow the giver of the advice the satisfaction of feeling that they could have made it a great night without the bother of having that theory tested.

So unless you have the thickest skin in the world, or a cousin at an events company who will give you 10% of the bill as a backhander it’s a no from me.




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"....and then I went bareback whale riding in Tooting Lido....."
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5
31 March 2017
A reader writes....

I'm noticing that I can't stand my colleague telling me all about her long weekend and she never seems to shut up. It's awkward as we share an office but I feel like screaming "can you please just STOP talking!!? "

What should I do?"

You tend to get two types of "weekend sharers" in an office -  the type who never do anything except stand in a field watching children do sport and then repositioning them afterwards, and the type who are meeting for breakfast, elevenses, brunch, high tea, pre-prandial cocktails and then going to an experimental supper club based on gluten free vegetables cooked by an Amharic shaman in a water treatment plant above the Hillingdon to Hackney post office railway.

 
"....and then we chose our own turtle for supper...."

Of course the whole point of being the latter is to tell you all about it.  A life lived alone is no life at all.  Look at all these lifestyle bloggers compelled to shout their life story into an empty and uncaring void.

I feel you have a few courses of action:

1) try to channel her activities into an area which interests you.  It may be cooking, travel, BDSM, human rights, films, BDSM films or whatever, so that you can perhaps get something out of those discussions.

2) turn into a topper, who can top every story she tells with an even better and more exciting, hip and shallow story, so that she soon gives up downloading her weekend to you.

3) come in one Monday and tell her that your partner died on Saturday and weekends are now too painful to talk about. Except for "Weekend at Bernie's" which of course remains your favourite film.

4) complain to HR that your are being victimised as she won't stop talking about her weekend and that is a form of bullying as you don't have exciting weekends (falling into the first category above) and you are putting the firm on notice that you will be logging the incidence of bullying.  And writing to the Law Society Gazette to make the situation clear.  Which will no doubt result in a massive campaign on behalf of all solicitors to change the workplace,  co-ordinated by the Law Society, taking ten years to get going and resulting in nothing. 

5)  stop being such a miserable old fart and enjoy someone else's happiness and enjoy the sociability and camaraderie of your room-mate, which you so obviously lack.  You are set fair for partner.


"Here's what I did at the weekend"

Get a life (literally and metaphorically).


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The Holy Grail
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3
24 March 2017

The Equity Partnership


"How do I refuse a promotion to equity without damaging my prospects? Last week the senior partner sidled up to me and suggested that we talk about me becoming a full equity partner.  However I don't want to put my home on the line for the sake of MAYBE getting some more pay and some enhanced status. How do I say no without damaging my career?"


All I ever read about now is firms going bust.  Big firms are no longer safe and small firms live from hand to mouth.

Equity is a busted model. Why this is deemed desirable for law firms when almost every other organisation realises that the limited company is the right way to go is unbelievable. Why move to a variable and uncertain salary, with personal risk, when any decent organisation should reward you according to productivity and contribution with no requirement to accept having to sell your house if the other partners (over whom you have no control) or yourself (more likely in my case!) mess it up? Promotion on ability, not based on whether you have mortgaged your house to the firm’s bank, should be the rule. The Practice Manager considers what to do with your capital contribution.


The irony is that once you put aside the old fashioned view that partnership is the goal of private practice, there are many alternatives.  All these titles such as “Legal Director” and so on work just fine. Whilst I was as snobbish as the next person when these titles were introduced (just sliding another rung on the top of the ladder), equity is not for everyone.   The way to do this is to appeal to the partnership’s greed - another equity partner dilutes the profits per partner.  It muddies the decision making process (theoretically…) and it sets up new rivalries and insecurities in the partnership.  Since the only real reason to get you into partnership is to (a) get their hands on your capital as they need the cash or (b) lock you in and stop you leaving, neither of them are designed to appeal to YOU.  Offer to accept a longer notice period in your contract (which can always be dropped when you come to leave) and remind them that you are helping their profits which flatter them in the profits league table.


If that fails, just say “my partner won’t let me take on any liabilities” and the male dominated partnership will sympathise with your predicament and immediately accept that as a valid reason.


Of course accepting equity is a test of your loyalty but one that perhaps should no longer be required. It’s time to come up with a new structure for law firms.  


What appeals most to Roffers?


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Hmmm... The Smell of It....
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1
15 March 2017



A reader writes... and please keep the problems coming).

“The trainee who I share an office with has really bad BO. How do I address this issue?”

It’s not simple…..blah blah blah…. could be a sign of stress….blah blah blah….. may be a sign of them having problems at home…….maybe they have accommodation problems…..blah blah blah……no matter how many times people wash some still have odour problems…..call HR ……after a training day when the trainee will have been near many people…… ask it to be anonymous…..blah blah blah…. HR will call them and they will speak to them and see if they need help….blah blah blah….if “HR” is not listed in the phone directory try “Human Capital Management” as law is a people business (like yeah….).  You are doing the decent thing - the trainee would be mortified to know and they will appreciate being helped in a sensitive way. 



 "It's standard for new Trainees - your armpit please" 

Or you post a can of BO basher to them in the internal mail and suggest they use it.  Signed “a well wisher”.

 


 "To the Trainee - from XX"

 

Or you start a water polo team and insist you train every day.  First thing. With team shower gel. I recommend “Insignia” - it’s all over.

Or you learn to love it, valuing it as the musky scent of raw humanity (although to be fair the phrase “really bad BO” does make it sound hard to love).

Or you move job - and when on interview the question “why are you moving?” comes up - tell them this sorry tale (and don’t mention those allegations of misbehaviour at the Christmas party or the forwarding of an email regarding the flavoursome properties of your intimate fluids to the whole world).  It may be drastic but then really bad BO is serious as well. Enjoy!

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