Self-styled Top Gun hero fighter pilots, Mav and Goose were the nicknames favoured by Dennis and Brian, the star M&A/Private Equity partners at Testosterone, Allnighter and Billum LLP. And those golden geese were not just interested in laying eggs at Christmas time. Nor was Goose an entirely inappropriate name. Even if his behaviour was entirely inappropriate at all times.

The Christmas party gave ample opportunity both to strut and to celebrate the fact that they had yet again cracked 3,000 chargeable hours year-to-date. And the year was not done yet. Their clutch of year end closings for their monster private equity client Marley+Co could see another hundred plus hours added. Their team would be having cold turkey at their desks. 
The New Year as usual was likely to see them raise yet again the subject of Project Purge, their festive attempt at playing Charles Darwin. The weaker brethren amongst their partners would start to cower even as midnight chimed on New Year’s Eve.

(Tiny) Tim and Oliver (Twist), partners in Employment and Real Estate respectively, were in the Project Purge cross-hairs and they knew it. They had nice clients, were well organised, collegiate and regularly hit their 2,000 hour target. Utterly sub-standard in the view of the Top Gun duo.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to our heroes, on the other side of town, on the sixth day of Christmas, Marley+Co were working with TABs arch competitors Darth, Vadar+Co on a ground-breaking general partner stake deal, under which the world’s biggest ethical investment fund (based in a Middle Eastern country not known for its regard for the Human Rights Convention) was becoming an anchor investor. They had negotiated a comprehensive set of rights, including a requirement that all professional advisors to Marley+Co adopt the very highest of ethical standards.

Rigorous and frequent audits of working practices, pro bono commitments and other indices of ESG acceptability were to be carried out. Your local kebab shop was more likely to get a Michelin star than TAB was to survive the looming cull.

As the New Year dawned, the deal made headlines in the Financial Times online. As Dennis and Brian got on their running and rowing machines respectively that New Year’s Day, they saw the headlines on their well-worn iPads and realised that they were going to need help in all sorts of ways if Marley+Co was to remain a client.

By mid-morning an email had gone out to Tim and Oliver, their erstwhile victims, asking for help. Tim and Oliver immediately convened a rare all associates meeting on Teams. They did not of course explain the background, but they said that they wanted ideas for things which would make the firm a much better place to work. The responses came in a torrent.

Partners could serve in the kitchen/canteen from time to time, at Christmas everyone should be allowed a couple of additional days off, there should be a much greater willingness for partners to resist unreasonable demands from clients (Marley+Co was mentioned), partners should make much more of an effort to know the names of all trainees and support staff, there should be a much clearer culture at all levels of encouraging people to say thank you and smile. The list went on and on. Everyone there was so excited that they began tweeting or x’ing with some of their ideas. The likes and traction which began to emanate were extraordinary, outside the firm as well as internally.

The General Counsel of Marley+Co was sitting wondering what she was going to do with all the existing advisors that simply were not going to be acceptable given their newfound love of values and standards. Out of habit, she idly checked her tweets and was almost speechless when she saw what was coming out of TAB, a firm which she regarded as living in the dark ages and for the chop.

Our heroes will never forget the moment that the email from the GC of Marley+Co arrived telling them that, in the light of the cultural changes that were clearly being driven at the firm, the relationship between Marley+Co and TAB would not be subject to the root and branch panel review.

Christmases will never quite be the same at the firm ever again. And yes, Mav and Goose did thank Tim and Oliver. Joy to the World.


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