Dining With Judges

An item on the radio today about imagined dinner party guests prompted a memory of the one time my selection mattered. Oh well…

I made a momentous decision in 1976 – apart from asking the Textiliste for a date, that is and that, happily was far more successful than the other decision. I decided that my premier career option would be to qualify as a solicitor once I had finished my law degree. I was late to the party compared to many and by this time I had missed some opportunities to obtain my ‘articles’.


That probably sounds rather Dickensian. Like being Indentured. These days you acquire a Training Contract – same toil, different branding. Two years working as a poorly paid skivvy at a Law Firm after which the legal world is your mobster..

The reason I came to that decision was because the Milk Round was underway. For those not in the know, the Milk Round is where prospective employers visit august learning establishments trawling through the talent pool and selecting the plums for their graduate intake. For those of us keen to secure the best articles it was essential to take part. For a lot of Firms this was the only way they recruited – a separate application would most likely be binned or held over for a year until the next Milk Round.

I had had no experience of interviews. And university didn’t try and help. We created a CV. We sent it in and we waited to see if we were offered a first interview. For a lucky few – much admired and envied – a second interview in London or wherever was on the cards. Bigger Firms paid expenses. What wasn’t to like?

Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde?

Some days two or three Firms would attend and if you were selected you might be hurrying from one interview to the next. Word soon spread about the types of questions being asked – one was on a really abstruse area of law which we hadn’t yet studied which panicked everyone as the interviewer insisted we ‘had a go anyway’. Another wanted to know the closing price for the FTSE Ordinary Share index the day before. Most of us hadn’t a clue what that was but someone went and bought the Financial Times and we were prepped – which was great until he twigged and changed the question.

The only one I now remember with any affection, possibly because it was the only interview that led to me being recalled- was from a Firm called Rowe and Maw, now merged and the name long gone (though in a quirk of history, many years later, we bought our current house and inherited some old title deeds. It turned out that the Mr Maw of Rowe and Maw was the first owner of our home after it was built in the 1930s; indeed, since he and his wife acquired this place there have been four families here, the shortest period of ownership being 18 months and that’s probably because the then owner went to prison for financial fraud – another story, another time perhaps).

His question:

‘If you could have dinner with five guests, who would you have – it can be from any time in history and they can be real or fictional’.

I remember because I had the first interview of the day – no one prepped me. My mind was a blank. He was really nice, quite smiley. He pressed me gently and, in a  rush of madness and mental mucus five names popped out.

I can still see his face; surprise, astonishment probably given he laughed.

‘Let me get this right. You have the sweep of history and you have chosen – correct me if I’m wrong – Winston Churchill, three cricketers and Tintin?’

He never explained why he laughed. Maybe Churchill was a little obvious.

Today I’d be more pretentious – say, Fibonacci, Douglas Adams, Richard Burton (only for his voice – he could read the menu all night), Clare Balding and Alan Bennett maybe.

What about you? How would you get on with this one?

PS I didn’t get the job. In fact, it took me over 100 letters applying for jobs all around the country before I secured my articles some 15 months later. Partly that is because the UK was going through a really bad time economically – The Sick Man of Europe – so jobs were hard to come by, but mostly I think it was because the opening line of each letter, for at least the first 60 or so, I wrote, after the Dear Sir,  said

I am planning to qualify as a Solictor…

There may be no ‘i’ in team but it took me a while to realise there are two in solicitor…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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21 Responses to Dining With Judges

  1. arlingwoman says:

    Today, solicitor would have been corrected to a completely different and likely incomprehensible word in that sentence.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. noelleg44 says:

    Funny, Geoff, as usual. Nice that we can all look back on these fumbles and laugh about them. I remember when one person interviewing me for a faculty position at Wisconsin showed me a hole in a basement and told me it would be my lab. What do you say to that? Then he asked me what I was going to do to become a member of the National Academy of Sciences, which you usually are nominated for at a rather mature age or win a Nobel Prize. I was not offered the job…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Annone Butler says:

    Good story. I can’t remember much about my interviews for Articles as they were called. One was with Stephenson, Harwood & Tatham (poor old Tatham has since been dispensed with). I was interviewed by Richard Eddis who had the reputation of being one of the rudest lawyers in the City (he once threw a draft letter back at me with the comment “ pure verbiage”). He asked me what my father did (he was an old Etonian) and looked completely non-plussed when I replied “bus driver”. I doubt he knew what one was. But I got a second interview and accepted their offer. The other interview was with Hugh Peppiatt at Freshfields. He was very jolly I remember and didn’t seem to want to know much at all. I didn’t go to the second interview they offered as I’d already accepted the offer from S,H&T (I was so grateful that anyone would accept me). But, oddly, I ended up at Freshfields anyway……

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Dear old Hugh. He offered me and Trevor our partnerships. He had this low glass table and having banged on about his delight at our election reached out a hand and said ‘Well done, Graham.’


  4. willowdot21 says:

    It was a funny old world back then… It that question was is timeless.
    I like Napoleon, A.J. Cronin, Vincent Van Gogh, The time Travelers wife, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yours is a terrific story, Geoff. My first job was at Procter and Gamble. I remember the interview since it took place at the university in a sterile room. I was seated on a chair in the middle and surrounded by five representatives of the various divisions. The first question was, “Do we frighten you?” My quick answer was, “Not at all.” We had a good time and only after I left the room did I feel the weakness in my knees. The job offer came from the division that sells toothpaste and shampoos. He specifically mentioned he liked the response to the question. As far as dinner I think I would like Cleopatra, Sir Winston, Amela Erheart, Thomas Edison, and Kurt Vonnegut.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the laugh. I love this post, misspelling included! And the photos are so cute – ah, to be young and innocent! My 5 would be Maya Angelou, Josephine Baker, Naomi Osaka, James Baldwin/Pat Conroy and my grandmother. Unlike your tragi-comedy with the recruiters, mine was very nearly tragic, but that’s a story for another time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. George says:

    Judging by the photo, are sure it wasn’t because potential employers took one look and assumed you were only applying for a stop gap to tide you over until you got the gig with Creedence Clearwater Revival?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m sure that the reasons for your choices would have been more important than the actual picks – splendid as they were – as long as one wasn’t Boycott


  9. Thanks for this very interesting, and entertaining story. Even though at this time not all of this had been similar entertaining to yourself. xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nick Bliss says:

    Very good Geoff. Those interviews were interesting. Am glad I’m not currently interviewing as a 20 year old….! I attended an interview at Denton Hall and Burgin and met a contemporary there who seemed fascinated that they acted for M&S. I couldn’t believe what she was saying to me…..!!

    Liked by 1 person

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