Matt Muttley, managing partner of Muttley Dastardly, has returned from from a two week business trip to America. In the partner’s boardroom at their City offices are ten partners and 25 senior associates. The partners are seated at the boardroom table on a raised dais. Muttley sits in the only chair with arm rests, an affectation he designed into the furniture after being shown The Cabinet Room when Tony Blair was prime minister. This chair is in the centre of the black polished ebony boardroom table. The associates stand by the wall facing the partners. Muttley’s PA, Eva Braun stands behind Muttley dressed in a black skirt suit, white silk camisole and five inch heels, her expression impassive.
“Listen up. This game’s in the refrigerator! The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling … I’m pleased to report that the partners have had a good year. In fact we have managed the quite remarkable feat of increasing our profit per partner by 28.5% despite a downturn in revenue of 18.2%. This is, in part, due to the great cull of last Summer and in part to increasing your billable hours requirement. Two of you have failed to meet those targets and your desks are being cleared by security now. Levison and Edmondson, I’d be grateful if you would make your way to reception… the game is over for you.”
Muttley paused while the two shocked associates left the boardroom. No-one spoke.
“We’ve had a change of government and the new clowns have already lost one guy who couldn’t read the rules, or chose not to, or chose to give the rules a different spin to others. This is what happens when people don’t check with lawyers about rules. The new clowns are going to slash budgets, slash spending and in all likelihood there will be strikes ahead. We’re beefing the Employment division. There will be some fairly spectacular business failures as well… football clubs and airlines are worth a look and don’t be surprised if BP litigation comes our way. I’ve been Stateside and I can tell you… it is going to be a turkey shoot. Big Law are alternately wetting and crapping themselves. One CEO…. their ‘word’ for managing partner, I spoke to was calling for oxygen at one point so excited was he at the prospect of work when he took a call from The White House while I was there.”
Muttley sipped some Perrier from a glass to his right, put his hands together and continued.
Let’s take a look at the markets. I’ve been doing some key reading, a guy called Paul B. Farrell of MarketWatch. Let me summarise, using his rather colourful language. Are we heading for the bear or is the bull going to run? I quote...“…you decide: As you stare from high up in the nose-bleed bleachers watching the game, staring at a Dow that not long ago was above 11,000 and heading for 12,000. Now the Dow’s sitting on the bench, ready for the showers, weak after a couple air balls around 10,000. No more timeouts. “This game’s in the refrigerator……
Main Street lost 20% last decade … yet like sheep keep going back. Yes, if you’re channeling Chick, here’s your “mixed metaphor” cue card: “This game’s in the refrigerator … Wall Street won (proof, Goldman’s $100-million-profit trading days and Blankfein’s $68 million bonus) … Main Street’s headed for another losing streak … Congress’ lights are out … the refrigerator door’s closing on financial reforms … the lobbyists are laying some rotten eggs, poisoning capitalism … the Tea Party-of-No-No ideologies are hardening … the bull’s Jell-O is jiggling to a flat line … and this market’s going into hibernation, with the bears … run, don’t walk, to the exits, folks.”But will Main Street exit? Will we ever learn? No……
Economist Gary Shilling said price-to-earnings ratios are at a “nosebleed 22.5 level.” The Dow was around 11,000. Money manager Jeremy Grantham recently said the market’s overvalued 40%. That could mean a collapse to 6,600. Last week in Reuters’ “Markets Could Be Derailed Again,” George Soros echoed a “game over” warning with a “stark warning … that the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis.”
Now Dow Theory’s Richard Russell is warning the public of an imminent crash: “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country.”
So… are you feeling confident that Danny Alexander, a man who has absolutely no experience apart from sending PR bull out about somewhere in Scotland For fuck’s sake and negotiating a coalition with a group of grasping, desperate, politicians who would short-sell their mothers if they hadn’t already done it while in opposition?! Cable is simmering like a tin of beans on the back burner with about as much effect. We know nothing about Osborne. The good news is that they are going to cut legal aid budgets to buggery, slash spending on the courts, and encourage Tesco and the Coop to package and commoditise legal services. It’ll be a car crash… we’re probably looking at the equivalent of Emmerdale Farm or Pot Noodle… an emollient but hardly exciting.
Muttley paused to look at the sleek iPad beside him. He looked up and spoke in lowered tones, forcing the associates to lean forward slightly, expectant.
“What does this mean for us..and when I say us, I mean of course the partners of this firm? We gear up on insolvency and taxation – the clowns are going to ‘simplify’ the system. When governments say that there is always work for lawyers. We talk to a few senior barristers and get them into our version of a Procureco. Where there’s money there’s barristers as my father used to say.
We’re going to look at buying a few small regional firms, or rather, turn them into an alternate business structure and go for the very lucrative personal injury market. We’ll use our Megaladon Direct brand for that. The good news is the idea of banning referral fees has been kicked into touch. This will give us an edge. This will also irritate the hell out of The Law Society and The Bar Council who have both been pressing for abolition. This could keep both these august bodies frothing for months. Again, good for us because their eyes will not be on point on other reforms to ‘suggest’ to government. Our black psyops unit is putting out articles on blogs and in the legal media about the future of the legal profession…. lawyers love this stuff and it is always good to get our competitors a little worked up and frothing. I’m pleased to report that our Twitter presence will soon sow dissent in the profession so we may reap the rewards of keeping lawyers busy responding to our nonsense. It is amazing how lawyers like to engage on twitter when they should be at the coal face digging coal for their partners. We won’t need to trouble any of you with this. Eva Braun has found five or six people to put the word out and stir things up a bit.
Finally… let’s put the squeeze on the law schools. We are hiring 125 trainees next year. 50 will make the cut, 20 may even survive the first year PQE. We are paying far too much for our LPC training. The law schools are getting greedy. This is fine for law firms, but most inelegant in the public consciousness when it comes to legal education. We’ll place some psyops about the fact that we’re looking to partner with a law school for our LPC training. The water should froth a bit at that and then we’ll send in a team to have a look at the facilities, the staff, do a bit of teeth sucking and promise a three year deal on our terms. As you know, we are specialists in shark repellent, exactitude and ‘zone of uncertainty’ clauses which will deter any law school from suing if we want out. I would hope for at least a 40% discount against their published rate her head on the LPC. This saving will, of course, go towards the partner bonuses.
You know what you have to do. Same time next week. Oh… and remember…. “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year the clowns won’t recognize the country. That is all.
I would like to point out, for members of the public who are fortunate enough not to need the services of Muttley Dastardly LLP or Megaladon Direct that the event described above was, in ‘its entirety’, a fiction.