Solicitors Journal

Frosty Reception

I’m conscious that this column is called northern lights and all I do is talk about London. I have suggested making a request for alternative titles when I moved from God’s Own County to the inner city ghettos of our capital, but I think the editor fears (as I do) about the quality and potential offensiveness of any suggestions that might be received. If you do have any suggestions though, and you are adept in social media, feel free to tweet me your ideas (details below).

Back to the moniker as it stands – northern lights. Last month the Aurora Borealis made a rare appearance in the UK, lighting up the skies above Scotland, Ireland and as far south as Yorkshire. The aurora is caused when, according to the BBC, coronal mass ejections, which are eruptions from the sun, throw matter towards the Earth. This matter, made up of physical particles and also solar radiation, interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field – known as its magnetosphere – causing the matter to glow and which makes lights appear in the skies. I found it interesting that the intensity of the aurora is measured according to the Kp index (no connection, as far as I am aware). Here endeth today’s science lesson.

Although the magnetic energy over the north of England didn’t make it as far south as London, the snow certainly did, bringing chaos and disruption as it does every year. Fortunately the shelves were well stacked and Waitrose was stocked with a sufficiently plentiful supply of milk and bread so as to please and distress the panic buyers in equal measure. No, dear, it’s not the apocalypse, just a dusting of snowflakes and will be gone by the morning. It was interesting to watch the reaction across the generations as kids think it’s Christmas again (but properly this time, like on the films), young professionals cling on to the hope that it will mean a day off work as the transport network grinds to a halt, parents revel in their children’s excitement (and being forced to instruct them in snowman building and sledging) and the older folk among us try to avoid spending all of the extra heating allowance.

Hot-desking down under

No such fear in future for those lucky few at Russell Jones & Walker, where it was announced that the UK top 100 firm has been acquired by Australian firm Slater & Gordon. The deal, worth a reported £53.8m, may see trainee seats become available down under to a lucky few, and hot-desking could take on a whole new meaning for its Britain-based lawyers. Whether suits and ties will be replaced with board shorts and baby oil is still to be decided, but plans for a rebrand to position RJW at the top of the legal consumer tree are already being discussed. It will be interesting to see how the deal works out, being the first merger to happen under the ‘revolutionary’ Legal Services Act. If it is a success it will undoubtedly pave the way for more of the same and place the UK legal market at the centre of some global strategies. Just don’t fire up the barbie just yet, Sheila.

I’m sure a more laid back way of working, as our stereotypical antipodean cousins enjoy, would be welcomed by many lawyers though. Although firms differ greatly in their approach to work-life balance and ways of working, there is no getting around the daily grind and the euphoria of that Friday feeling. Perhaps it has been the short days and long cold nights of the past few months, but I have noticed my brow furrowing a little deeper, my temper becoming a little shorter and my commute to the office being a little less pleasant. Regular readers will remember my extolling of the virtues of cycling in London (and some of the drawbacks). I’ll readily admit I shall forever be a fair-weather cyclist – my recent cold weather experience being wholly unpleasant and very uncomfortable. But the more I suffer among the hustle of commuters, the drag of tourists and the constant battering of rucksacks, the more inclined I am to risking frostbite on my nose and taking to the saddle. If the weather doesn’t change soon, I fear the rejuvenating qualities of Yorkshire water that I once enjoyed will be overtaken by the cynicism of London living. Where once I presented a cheerful glow, I will now sap delight from those around me. And worse still, where once I found only the occasional white hair, I may soon find only the occasional brown. But it could be worse – although life generally lasts longer in Australia (81.5 years’ life expectancy compared to the UK’s 80.1), the sun can give you terrible wrinkles. See, I am not a cynic after all.

This article was first published by Solicitors Journal on 13 February 2012, and is reproduced by kind permission

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