The cautionary tale of a failed legal career, Part 4

A Rake's Progress: IV - The Arrest (Public Domain)

Part 4: A missed opportunity?

So I had passed my law finals. Now I needed to find somewhere to finish my articles, and finally qualify as a solicitor.

Well, I didn't have to do any looking. By this time my father was the Clerk to the Justices at Gravesham, and he had a word with a local solicitor, who had a vacancy for an articled clerk. Thus I joined Firm #2, in the late summer of 1983.

Here my work experience was quite different from Firm #1. In the main I did what my Principal did, which was mostly family law. I also did a bit of crime, after I qualified on the 1st of April 1985, a date in the calendar that I always thought appropriate.

There was no great celebration when I qualified. I didn't even bother to attend the admissions ceremony at the Law Society to collect my admission certificate (or whatever it was called) - such events were never my 'scene'. I simply had my certificate posted to me. Unlike others, I did not have the certificate framed. It remained in its envelope, where it probably still is, somewhere in the loft.

After qualification I ended up doing mostly family law. This was not out of choice, but simply because the firm needed more 'manpower' in that department. Again, probably not the best reason to make an important choice along my career path (I have often thought I may have been more suited to something non-contentious, like wills and probate, or possibly commercial conveyancing).

Anyway, about two years after I qualified I had a visit to my room by one of the partners at the firm. He gave me the news that the firm had decided not to offer me a partnership. This revelation came as something of a shock. Not because I had been seeking a partnership. On the contrary, the idea hadn't even occurred to me.

Partnership, for non-business readers, is the road to a share of the firm and, more importantly, a share of its profits, which should entail a substantial increase in income from a mere salaried employee. If you are a solicitor in private practice, then the only way to 'get on' is to get a partnership, or to start your own firm.

The reason the idea had not occurred to me was simply that no one had told me that that was what I should be doing, and somehow I had not up to then thought of it myself (this may have been a consequence of not having any fellow trainee solicitors to talk to - Sean and I had lost contact with each other shortly after leaving law college, and rarely 'talked shop' anyway). I realise that some may find this unbelievable, but I genuinely wasn't looking for a partnership - I had no ambition, and was just 'doing a job'.

As to the important question of why I had not been considered to be partnership material, a little thought soon made it obvious to me (apart from the fact that anyone without a partnership ambition is probably not partnership material, by definition!).

Whilst I believed I had done everything that had been asked of me by the firm, to a reasonable standard, I guess that I hadn’t gone that ‘extra mile’ - that unrequested but nevertheless expected additional effort, that the ambitious know is required, but which was alien to me. A classic example of this that occurred to me afterwards was that I was almost always a 'nine to fiver', unlike my more ambitious colleagues, who often demonstrated their dedication by staying on long after office closing time (I sometimes suspected that they stretched their work out to fill the extra time).

I did realise, however, that I had been 'slighted', although the blow had been softened somewhat by a significant increase in my salary, which was an unexpected pleasant surprise (I remember telling my parents about the pay rise, but not about being rejected for partnership).

The pay rise seemed to indicate that whilst the firm didn't think enough of me for partnership, it also didn't want to lose me. But before long it did lose me anyway...