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?
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).
‘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…