Solicitors Journal

Down big smoke bah’t flat

By ‘eck, what’s a lad to do? City firms are rejecting candidates because of their regional accents? Well, that’s great timing, just as I pack up my belongings in a gingham sack, throw them over my shoulder and head down to London in search of my fortune amid the streets paved in gold.

That’s right, this ‘northern light’ is moving south with a mix of trepidation, excitement and most likely not enough money in his back pocket to buy a pint of London Pride. We’ll come on to the property prices later.

To an outsider, London can be a daunting prospect. The banking towers of Canary Wharf plunge the City into a darkness dominated by bonuses, class A drugs, back-stabbing and scandal. The tube ferries non-speaking drones from tower block to office block – when Bob Crow isn’t crowing (or appearing on TV). Lunch hours are taken at your desk and are rarely an hour, and your friends, when you see them, don’t recognise you as it’s been so long since you were last out of work by the last tube.

Now, I know the reality is very different – for some anyway. And maybe this view of the world is as stereotypical and offensive as casting someone aside because they say grass as in ass and not grass as in arse? Which is why I am casting aside my preconceptions and opening myself to most – if not all – of what our fine capital has to offer.

High and dry

Of course, I could enjoy a lot more if the prices weren’t so high. On a recent flat-hunting trip I was dismayed to see how far my money went. Or didn’t, as it turned out. Here in Sheffield, I enjoy a central two-bed converted apartment with ensuite, fitted kitchen, pleasant neighbours and walk everywhere. In London I am finding that I will be lucky to get a two-room flat within walking distance to a public toilet.

All this I have heard about Boris and his bikes sounds great, unless you live outside of Zone 1. And I have already prepared myself for the standard initial conversation when meeting new people: where do you live? Which zone is that? When is the last tube? How long does it take to get home on the night bus?

Of course, I am hoping for some cultural, intellectual and stimulating entertainment that only London can offer. I am personally looking forward to meeting ‘a real Essex barrow boy’ even if he isn’t the sort of person you could put in front of a client.

Access denied

If you’re not already aware of the research, Dr Louise Ashley of Cass Business School interviewed 130 staff at five prominent London law firms to determine their views on recruitment, status and, it appears, accents. Incredibly, more than 90 per cent of lawyers who took part in the research had fathers who had been managers or senior officials, and at two of the firms more than 70 per cent of lawyers were privately educated. This backs up previous findings in the Milburn Report into social class and access to the professions.

It’s difficult to see what my chances are of making a success of my career in the big smoke. For some, I sound too southern to be a true Yorkshire boy (despite having never lived outside of Yorkshire) and too northern to pass off as a southerner in London. But the point of all this, surely, is that we should all just be judged on our merits?

And so, I must leave you now to continue my search for a flat that I won’t need to sell a kidney on the black market to live in. Wish me luck. I hope to be back next month with some good news. I only hope I’m not mugged in the city streets in the meantime.

This article was first published by Solicitors Journal on 18 January 2011, and is reproduced by kind permission

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