Friday, 17 June 2011

Have you got the LeXFactor?

Summer can be a painful time for the legal profession.  It's the time of year when most lawyers' partners (the domestic kind) force them to stop working for two weeks and spend time with the family.  This can involve rewarding activities such as applying factor 50 sun cream to a small child covered in sand who then yells at said lawyer.  Or may require the lawyer to acquire multiple ice creams from a distant kiosque and navigate them across a beach in 30 degree heat before they have melted.  Cue more yelling at lawyer.  Or for those lawyers who prefer a UK staycation, they get to spend time lying to their kids that Stonehenge is near Cornwall and that the fifteen mile tailback they are sitting in will soon get moving and before you know it we'll all be eating overpriced fish and chips at Rick Stein's gaff in Padstow together with the rest of Islington and Clapham.

What keeps a lawyer going during this awful period are two things. Wifi and 3G coverage.  These holiday essentials allow the lawyer to ensure that during the two weeks quality time with their partner and/or family, they will be able to find some downtime away from their loved ones, involving themselves in non-consequential work matters that someone back at base could easily sort out without them interfering from afar.  Canny holiday companies wishing to woo the legal profession would do well to provide an industry recognised symbol in their brochures illustrating excellence of mobile coverage.  Perhaps a judge's wig - the larger the wig, the better the coverage.  This holiday criteria is, for lawyers, at least as important as whether one's holiday destination has amentities such as a pool or proximity to the local nightlife or even a working toilet.

The highlight of any lawyer's holiday is "the holiday conference call".  It allows us to feel superior to the other adults in our holiday destination who clearly are not important enough to don a bluetooth headset whilst sitting on the edge of a rockpool.  It also allows us, upon our return to work, to  elicit sympathy from colleagues who know we had to give up our holiday time for that call (any lawyer worth their salt will only jump on a holiday conference call with at least four other participants, anything less is just not worth it in optical importance terms.  Preferably one of those five will be partner level (outhousers) or board level (in-housers)).

So with this context in mind, I introduce the inaugural Lawyer Holiday Conference Call Charts (#lhccc).  Straight into the top five go my own personal top five holiday conference calls (one of them was not strictly holiday but it makes it on merit).   And I invite anyone related to the profession to enter via the comments section below and see if they can top the charts.  Have your calls got the LeXFactor?!

*Plays Top of the Pops theme tune in background to accompany rest of post and adopts the voice of Bruno Brookes (or *oooh* Gary Davies if you prefer)*

Location: British Airways Lounge, Terminal 5, London Heathrow
Callers: 4
LeXFactor: three of us on the call are sitting next to each other in the T5 lounge on Blackberry headsets looking like, well, the proverbial you know whats.  We're on our way to New York to negotiate outstanding issues on an acquisition. The fourth caller is our unfortunate US outhouse lawyer who we made get up at 0600 his time to dial into the call.  We couldn't have waited to speak to him in person 6 hours later, oh no, we are very important dealmakers you know.

Location: Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest (to be precise, in that small hallway bit of the "lodge" between the outside door and the toilet)
Callers: 4
LeXFactor: staying in lodge with another family whose adult members are not lawyers.  So when they go on holiday they, erm, stay on holiday.  They don't even have Blackberries for goodness sake.  I am supposed to be going out for a drink with the bloke adult at 8pm.  For some reason, having listened to me on the phone through a thin wooden door for 90 minutes he no longer feels like a drink with me at 930pm and goes to bed in a bit of a huff.  Mhmm, who is the unreasonable one here?

Location: Dunwich Heath, Suffolk (National Trust thingy)
Callers: 3 (rubbish, note to self, never ever again agree to less than 4)
LeXFactor: we have taken our kids to the heath to participate in a half term Halloween craft workshop run by the National Trust.  Other parents are helping their children make witches hats and taking nice holiday snaps.  I am not.  I am running around the Heath trying to find a mobile signal and shouting to drown out the howling winds (successfully - yay).

Location: a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the small Maltese island of Gozo
Callers: Irrelevant.  But managed three calls in ten minutes.  Macho law in action
LeXFactor: taken family to the Maltese version of Stonehenge.  Guided tours a plenty.  The sun is shining.  History is here.  We're going to the beach soon.  And Daddy is walking 200 yards behind the family wearing his headphones talking frantically into his iPhone.  Other tourists look on pitifully.  Bah, their not lawyers, what do they know.

Location: a church porch somewhere near Lake Windermere
Callers: zillions.  And VIP ones too
LeXFactor: Me and Mrs Legalbrat have spent the day cycling in the rain.  Much further than we intended.  With a toddler in tow.  We are wet, cold and fairly frazzled.  I *have* to be on this call.  We set off to drive back to our holiday cottage.  Oh no.  Before we get there, we have to cross a lake on a small ferry.  It is full of cars and we can't get on.  Decision time.  Stay in car with family and do call with toddler in back?  Or leave car, jump on ferry as foot passenger, leave family behind to make their own way back?  As a lawyer it is no decision.  Get onto ferry alone.  Reach other side of lake.  Church is only nearby building.  Sit shivering in church porch for 90 minute call.  Walk 20 mins back to the house.  A perfect end to the day.

So, lawyers, remember your holiday essentials this summer.  Family.  Check.  Passport.  Check.  Currency.  Check.  Suncream.  Check.  Phone.  Check.  Spare phone.  Check.  Mobile chargers.  Check.  Laptop.  Check.  3G dongle.  Check.  Map of destination Wifi hotspots.  Check.  Work life balance.  No room in luggage.  Happy holidays.


  1. You know what upsets me about those self-important lawyers who take conference calls on holiday is how they do like to be certain that the world knows they are essential, indispensable and *loved* by their clients.
    I really did not think @legalbrat was amongst them but seems I was wrong.
    Spare a thought for all the bitter childless women lawyers who have no-one to show off too ...and no ice cream either

  2. Hi Barbara. My post wasn't to be taken too seriously. And in fact is deliberately critical of how work/life balance can get distorted without realising it. My aim was certainly not to look self important, if that were the case I'd be grandstanding at work in a serious tone about all this, and I assure you I'm not (of course, you will have to take my word for that). Just a bit of fun with a semi-serious point thrown in. I place a huge premium for me and my team on partner/family time. And even though I don't always get it right for myself, we do have very happy family holidays nonetheless.

  3. "Map of destination Wifi hotspots. Check."

    Brilliant - must remember to find one of those for my next holiday. I was in Paris at the weekend in a hotel where there was supposed to be wifi access. What it didn't say was that said wifi access extended only to the 5th floor, not the 6th. Wi fi fo fum ;-)

    All the best,

    PS feeding the fish again