Calling all students, trainee solicitors, hard-pressed pupils, struggling legal aid lawyers, general dole loafers and functioning alcoholics: the Law Society is flogging pints of Stella for £2.85!
After more than 180 years of noble history, the body that represents — and until only recently, regulated — the esteemed solicitors of England and Wales has found a new business model: going head to head with down-market pub chains in a bid to become the cheapest boozer in London town.
The railings around the society’s majestic neo-classical building in Chancery Lane are festooned with notices promoting “summer drinks deals” in its ground floor bar (one of which is pictured above). And in a gambit taken straight from the Marketing for Beginners handbook, it is blatantly looking to undercut the competition.
Chancery Lane’s bar — landlord: chief executive Des “Del Boy” Hudson (pictured below) — is brazenly attacking the Knights Templar pub over the road, a great barn of a former bank now operated by boozer behemoth Wetherspoon.
That is no easy task — not only is Wetherspoon large and experienced, it too pitches for the affections of the economy drinker. But that hasn’t deterred the new boys in the pub trade, with the Law Society bar undercutting the more established players by 25% on a pint of traditional English … er … traditional Belgian jet fuel lager, Stella.
But the good times at the solicitors’ representation body don’t end there. Hudson has ordered his bar staff to slash the price of bottled lagers to undercut the Knights Templar by 12%.
Ironically, this cut-throat commercialism comes as Hudson is about to walk out the doors of Chancery Lane for the last time. The chief executive is standing down this month, vehemently maintaining that he is not leaving as a result of vote of no confidence from the profession at the end of last year.
His as yet unnamed successor will doubtless be intrigued by the possibility of deriving a rich income stream from thirsty but skint drinkers in the heart of legal London.
There is mounting speculation that the society soon will be forced to stand on its own feet commercially, instead of financing its activity through the practising certificate tax on the jurisdiction’s 130,000 practising solicitors. So keep an eye out for quiz nights, bingo evenings and all-you-can-eat buffet deals.
Still, those who have availed themselves of Law Society bar say the venue has some way to go before it challenges more established watering holes.
“It has all the atmosphere of an airport lounge,” says one depressed drinker.
And despite recent marketing ploys, the general view is that the bar is little more than a staff pub for the society’s hard pressed worker bees.
“On most evenings,” comments one lawyer from the Chancery Lane environs, “you’re more likely to see tumbleweed blowing through the bar than drinkers.”
A Chancery Lane spokesman confirmed that any old punter is entitled to wander in off the street and start supping up the cheap booze in its bar — in other words, you don’t need a solicitor escort.
Operation of the bar is technically outsourced to an outfit called CH & Co, which also handles the Law Society’s internal catering. The spokesman confirmed that the society takes a commission on external catering, with the details of that deal being commercially confidential.