That the email was a bit cryptic didn’t strike Eleanor Beastly as unusual – initial contacts from clients were often parsimonious with the details until they had decided who to engage. It simply said “Dear Eleanor, we are contemplating an acquisition in your jurisdiction and think you are just the lawyer we are looking for. Please let me know if you are interested and perhaps we can set up a call. Best regards, Stan A. Prince”.

The signature indicated that Stan A. was head of Corporate Development at All Souls Exploitation Inc. located in Hello, Nevada. And though it was a bit unusual that the conflict check at her firm, Faith, Hope & Charity, didn’t find the company listed in any data bases, Eleanor, whose position at the firm had been cemented by years of ruthlessly monopolizing clients and a knack for rendering other partners highly dependent on her proprietary deal flow, was loath to let this one go.  Moreover, she had managed to convince herself that the kindly Managing Partner, who suffered from eye spasms as a result of weeping uncontrollably whenever an associate had to be let go, was winking when he said “We take ethics very seriously here at FH&C”.  So she decided she (and, by extension, FH&C) could live with this small technicality.

On the phone, Stan A. was charming and smooth, and when he refused to disclose the name of the acquisition target on the grounds that it was “quite a sensitive matter”, Eleanor, whose mortal fear of de-equitization (“a fate worse than death”, she had told her fentanyl dealer) made her push associates to work 4,000 hours a year in order to boost her own numbers, again decided to disregard it and move forward with the project, especially when Stan A. readily agreed to her fee quote – based on no information at all – of £10 million, with a breezy “we get what we pay for”: with FH&C’s eat-what-you-kill compensation system and Eleanor’s knack for short-changing associates and other partners, she reckoned this would net her personally at least £9.5 million, which would allow her to pay off her cockfighting gambling debts, fund her disinformation campaign against Greta Thunberg, and still leave enough to silence Rod, the office assistant who was making uncomfortable noises about that event in the copy room last Christmas.

Eleanor and Stan A. agreed to meet in London for what Stan A. vaguely described as “due diligence and contract negotiations”. But rather than meet at the firm, Stan A. proposed they convene that night at the Eleven Lords, a seedy pub in a decidedly sketchy part of town.  Upon her arrival Eleanor (who always took Ubers and was proud of her 1.3 rider rating) was shown to a dimly lit back room where Stan A. was waiting for her.

Stan A. was, at least physically, not quite what she had expected.  He was short and ruddy, with two strange protuberances on his forehead, knees that appeared to bend backwards when he walked, and a velvety black suit with the collar turned up past his ears like the yoke of a cape. On the rough-hewn wooden table in front of him was a flickering candle, two tarnished chalices of what appeared to be wine, a rusty nail, and an old-fashioned parchment scroll rolled up and fastened with a red ribbon.

Stan A. gestured for Eleanor to sit on the only other chair at the table and she settled in, feeling strangely at home. “Eleanor”, he said, “it’s time for me to come clean. I’m not really Stan A. from Hello, Nevada.  In fact, I’m not even a client.  I’m Satan from Hell, and I’m here to make you an offer.  You see, in addition to my other duties I’m also Senior Partner at Wrath, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Pride, Greed & Sloth, the official law firm of Hell. We’ve been planning to open our own London office for some time now and we need someone to spearhead that effort.  We’ve been watching you closely since the beginning of your career, and we think that with your single-minded pursuit of money, disregard for human well-being, and, in particular, utter lack of ethics (which we have now successfully confirmed – well done!), you would be perfect for the job. We are prepared to offer you £50 million a year, indexed to inflation and guaranteed for eternity, and your name on the masthead.  There’s only one wrinkle.” 

“What’s that?” asked Eleanor breathlessly, barely able to contain her excitement. Satan, unfolding the scroll with a dramatic flourish, said “We also need you to sign away your soul, which you can do by initialing this legally binding document”. 

Eleanor paused for only a second, and then replied, with just the hint of a smile: “There’s no need for that, you’ve had my soul for years already.” “Ah”, said Satan, chuckling quietly, “I suppose that’s true, I suppose that’s true.  Nonetheless, we at WELGPG&S take the formalities quite seriously, so if you don’t mind…”.  And with that, Eleanor pricked her finger with the rusty nail and, wincing slightly, reached across the table and signed her name on the dotted line (Hell still uses typewriters).  Satan and Eleanor then raised the chalices and toasted each other with the wine (which turned out to be associate sweat, blood and tears, and was absolutely delicious).  WELGPG&S&B – which adopted a new, now-familiar name when it opened in London – went on to become the most profitable law firm in the history of the world, eventually consuming the entire GDP of the United Kingdom and millions of souls in the process.


Status message

Sorry, the survey is now closed. Thanks for trying! But you are too late. Why, why so late?