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Procrastination: a jaded solicitors’ guide

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Once the sheer relief of having a job in a shrinking market has worn off, at some point you’ll be forced to acknowledge that most of the tasks which will fill the next 40 years of your life are pretty dull…

Of course, there are always some freak outliers who genuinely enjoy poring through a 120-page asset purchase agreement or filling out stamp duty land tax forms, but giving them attention only encourages them. Assuming you still have a vestige of a soul and a sense of perspective — and some intention of keeping both — the only option is to find a way of putting off some of that spirit-crushing work.

Obviously, you could just spend your whole day engaged in increasingly aimless internet searches. Wikipedia is particularly hypnotic (does anyone else suddenly “come to” after half an hour of clicking, unable to remember how they got to “isoprene” or “structural functionalism” and what they might have been looking for in the first place?), as is researching your fantasy holiday/house by the sea/ alternative career as a folk singer/barista in San Francisco. If only internet-based procrastination wasn’t so easily-detectable: even if your firm’s IT department isn’t keeping tabs, Google and GCHQ surely are.

A far better strategy is to pick something apparently blameless yet entirely unproductive, like tea-making. George Orwell identified 11 requirements for a perfect cup of tea (frankly, a much more important contribution to civilisation than that stuff about the talking animals). So it’s not surprising that making a leisurely afternoon brew (or 11) is a time-honoured method of whiling away the day. For extra authenticity, try standing by the kettle with a pensive expression that suggests you’re carefully contemplating where to put the comma in that tricky sub-clause.

The more obliging firms provide those great machines with sachets you pop in and buttons to press, so that you have an almost infinite range of options (although mostly undrinkable dross like “chai mochaccino”). These are perfect for the novice procrastinator. In the spirit of empirical enquiry, I once spent a happy afternoon slotting in the various coffee sachets while pressing the buttons for tea (and vice versa) to see whether it made any difference to the end product. It doesn’t. But somewhere out there is a corporate lawyer still waiting for my inserts to his due diligence report.

He probably assumes that I’m caught up at a training session — another time-wasting gem. To quote Futurama, “the pursuit of knowledge is hopeless and eternal”, which, of course, makes it the perfect displacement activity. No one can really criticise you for trying to add to your legal expertise, so take maximum advantage. If you don’t quite have the chutzpah to demand to be sent on expensive week-long conferences, go for the budget option of signing up for every internal training session you can.

Most fee-earners think they’re far too busy and important to bother, so your firm’s training manager will be so thrilled to see you there that they won’t question your sudden enthusiasm. Plus, there’s often free food, so you’ll even save on lunch money. Chambers seminars are also a good option. It’s an hour of your life you’ll never get back, and the sad-looking bowls of crisps suggest the 70s have never really left the Temple, but they give you the perfect excuse for a prompt 6pm exit.

Of course, you’ll have to counter the office whispers about you never being at your desk. Which is where wholeheartedly embracing Twitter and tweeting your every movement comes in. OK, so the pathetic amount of hours you bill will eventually catch up with you, but by then you’ll have enough followers to unleash fury against anyone who dares cross you, or, at the very least, launch a new career as a social media guru. Good luck!

WaitroseLaw is a lawyer with luscious organic selection, impeccable ethics and dinner party skills. She is not affiliated with or authorised by Waitrose.