It was the height of the swinging sixties. Mods and rockers clashed in Brighton. Harold Wilson sailed into number 10 on a rising tide of optimistic modernity. And former Goon turned global film star Peter Sellers captivated the tabloids by marrying Britt Ekland, 21.
For aspiring solicitor David Mitchell, however, 1964 was a year of more modest horizons. He got in touch to share his first contract of employment (pictured below) as an articled clerk, discovered during a clearout of old papers.
‘£2 a week with two weeks’ holidays – plus bank holidays,’ he notes. ‘I also found my salary cheque a year after I was “headhunted” from the firm where I was articled to join Owston & Co (now Shakespeares) and reached the dizzy heights of a salary exceeding £1,000 pa. My wife recalls me saying when we got married that, if I ever earned a thousand pounds a year, I would have made it in life….’
A thousand quid in 1964 equates to about £20,000 now. Hardly a fortune. Still, back then the average house cost £3,000 – the equivalent of three fab and groovy MG sports cars.
David adds: ‘While there was a long lunch period, often used for marketing since advertising was not allowed (only “tombstone” wording of a restricted size on office windows, for instance), you were expected to work long hours. And the office was open on Saturday morning. It was a long time before holidays increased. When I reached partnership status I remember arguing strongly that 20 days for staff was wildly over-generous…’
Obiter would love to hear more anecdotes of lawyering in the good (?) old days: Michael.Cross@lawsociety.org.uk.