Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Car Park posturing

I lease a car that I use to get to + from work and also own a separate family motor. The lease car is, shall we say the "nice" one and the family motor is used as a skip with every nook and cranny stuffed with the kids garbage. (something in this car reeks of sweat but despite searching high and low we cant locate what it is and have to apologise to any random passengers - one day we'll unearth something green, gooeey and very smelly from some deep interior storage compartment)

My lease car is my "LOOK AT ME IVE GOT A GOOD JOB" car. I unashamedly use it for showing off and ensuring that my subordinates know I earn far more than they do. (ok its leased but they dont know that!) Sad, vacuous and shallow I realise but hey its my blog and Im just being honest.This led me to thinking that our car park really is a hotbed of hierachical posturing. At every level within our firm you have little battles going on regarding who's driving what and how new the car is. Women invariably tend to drive Mini's almost irrespective of rank or seniority.Men of power go for Beamers and the more senior you are - the bigger your Beamer number! Im a 5 series man but I may just opt for a number 7 this time around. If only to see the face of the top man who believes that 7's are for those at the pinnacle.

Last month we had a major blip in this otherwise consistent car park microcosm of society. A secretary (who calls herself an assistant but really she isnt - she's a typist for a muppet fee earner who cant use MS Word) pulls up in a lovely, superbly flashy mazda sports car. She previously had a Fiesta and so the tongues began wagging. I overheard a chat during a water cooler moment.

Not being blessed in the looks department - in fact she is as dowdy as Betty off Coronation Street - people decided she had come into some money possibly thru an inheritance. Then she started getting stick for showing off and being profligate!You wouldnt believe the jealousy that goes on over something so simple.

Fair play to her. Cant wait for the weather to get warm and see her pull up with her top down.

Take a look at your own works car park. I'll bet its much the same. The pecking order exists even before you reach the front door of most law firms

Thursday, March 15, 2007

All aboard the Eastern European "Litigation Express"

There is something about people from behind what was the iron curtain. They really do know an awful lot about their legal rights.

To say that they or at least their parents were possibly brought up under a totalitarian regime, this demographic are happy to jump on the compensation bandwagon for even the slightest reason. Im not saying they are vexatious litigants, just incredibly aware of how this country and its marvellous civil laws protect one and all.

We are picking up literally dozens of Polish, Lithuanian, Slovakian and Balkan claimants right now. Obviously this is helped by the huge influx of migrant workers into the UK.

One guy rings up today, accident at work which is by far the best PI business out there - barely spoke English but was able to ask in a disjointed fashion:

How much compensation do I win?
Is it No win No fee?
When will I get paid?
He also wanted to know what slice we took from damages and was gobsmacked when I said zilch!

He probably struggles to order a coffee in the caff yet here he is asking me about compo because he fell off a ladder and had no training (his argument by the way not one prompted by me). He virtually tried to educate me on the working at height regs!

So the guy is on board and in the bag. But thats the easy bit

When you start discussing funding and cover oral advice that can be when your problems with foreign claimants really start. Now there is rarely any LEI cover in place - most migrants or even long term residents tend to have no insurance of any kind. So youre left with the CFA which is fine by me because as ever Im happy to take my 20-40% wedge.

But this is the difficult part. How the hell do you explain a CFA to a person with limited English? Its impossible. You can barely get away with it when explaining the finer points to a native. Anyone with half a brain will inevitably be confused and every sensible lawyer will agree that the new cfa is the biggest pile of horse crap that has ever landed on our desks.

Best practice would be of course to translate through one means or another in order to ensure the key message within the CFA gets across.

Sod that. Its not the bleedin United Nations.

Tell you what though - there really is gold in them thar eastern European hills.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Heads up for this blog

Its got to be one of the funniest around:

A partners night out - when the senior men let their hair down

We have an eclectic mix of partners at our firm.

Some are sharks who will eat you alive soon as look at you. Some are piranhas who hunt only in packs and when cornered alone just blow bubbles. Others can be as slippery as eels and contain more oil than the average whale carcass. They're the ones you have to watch

There are many good guys of course but generally you have to be careful with one's peers.

Last week we had a night out to celebrate another successful year. There is one partner who is a little leftfield and slightly odd in comparison to the rest. The clean living, tree hugging type who does yoga every morning and only eats organic. He's as stiff and as "Old Etonian" as you can get in the north of england (he didnt do Eaton but you get the picture). He's incredibly posh and clever using words like "paragon" whilst drunk to describe a tight client who wont pay his bill (I didnt know what a paragon was until I looked it up)

But on this particular night out we saw a different side to him.

We went to a cheesy niteclub and had a bit of a boogie. Pretty embarrassing really - we looked like a group of middle aged gay blokes dancing round their manbags - any decent folk around created an exclusion zone, a moat of dissociation to ensure that they werent linked with us. Whilst bopping away - who should leap on the dancefloor but Mr Tree Hugger himself. He was like a man possessed, arms all over the place, eyes wide and glazed, dancing like an octopus on acid. At first we found it quite amusing and went along with it forming a circle and clapping vigorously in support.

But then it got a little uncomfortable because, despite 3 or 4 records changes - this mad, trance-like dance just continued. Same movement, same eyes, same motion. We started drifting off, one by one to stand on the sidelines. I was sadly one of the last to move because I felt a bit sorry for the chap and tried communicating with him. This was of course impossible.

Most onlookers from the firm were now staring slackjawed and stunned into silence. Was this the same chap? had someone spiked his drink? Was he just a show off or simply trying to fit in with the group

By now he had a circle of "new" friends who were definitely not part of our group and this only encouraged him. He was the unofficial cabaret for the night.

The DJ switched to a SKA montage which totally bamboozled him and he lost his rythm. He writhed his way off the dancefloor and that was that. Conversation resumed and he rejoined the group as though nothing had happened.

This guy is senior. He is well respected and knowledgeable. The problem now is that no one can get the mental picture of him dancing like a maniac out of their head. Word got round and he was not best pleased.

Who can blame him. You have a meeting with him in attendance and refer a matter of the utmost importance - all you see is that "dance" playing over and over in your mind like a youtube clip. He's like the Numa Numa fat guy - it really did happen but he doesnt want to hear anyone talking about it.

There were a few more juicy going on that night involving sex, fighting and vomiting. But the dance is the one thing everyone is talking about