What do law firms imagine one time visitors to their offices miss about the experience? Maybe razor-sharp legal advice, or talking through the knotty problems of a competition law headache or a bet-the-farm piece of litigation, all in the reassuring atmosphere of a senior common room chat.
Actually, Obiter can reveal that what visitors to law firms miss is the snacks and the stationery. We start at venerable law firm Slaughter and May, where the Gazette’s features editor took to Twitter to recall that serving cake was a feature of meetings at the magic circle firm.
‘They did! Proper tea and cakes! Seriously, that was a great strategy as it made the meetings enjoyable and memorable,’ was one reply. Professor Richard Moorhead misses the firm’s Jelly Babies, always in a bowl on the reception desk: ‘I tried to confine myself to one or two. Three if I was feeling weak. It is of course a famous psychological experiment that tests our strength of character.’
Choice of law firm, though, is one of the City’s strengths – a source of its soft power. ‘I used to particularly enjoy going to any law firm that served Jacob’s Club biscuits. Sob,’ ran another memory. Further north, at Scottish firm Inksters, Tunnocks Tea Cakes were always on offer. Head east to one international firm’s Moscow office and ‘they brought out Russian champagne - it was lovely! But I don’t recall much else about the meeting.’
Take home kit is another area for reminiscence. ‘It’s the pens I am mourning the most,’ one tweeted, prompting the revelation from another: ‘I bought a pen recently, a nice one but I miss the free ones.’ Pens from Wedlake Bell and Irish firm Arthur Cox are especially highly rated.
‘I give [the pens] to my neighbour who is in a wheelchair as she tends to run over them. She asked me for a new stash the other day and I realised that I haven’t spoken at a conference since 13/3/2020,’ goes one lament. ‘I have no pens.’
The pads are also missed as home-schooled kids search for something to write on.
But what if a visitor, having filled their pockets and satchel brim full of cake and stationery, tottering a little from Russian fizz, gets to the exit to find it’s raining. Well, there’s always the law firm umbrella for the lucky. As one lawyer recalls: ‘My Goodman Derrick umbrella is from the storm that turned Fleet Street into a river with flash flooding about 18 months ago. I was already wet through, I bought new clothes on the way back to my hotel, but the umbrella is a good one.’