33 years on, one Slaughter and May home video star is still at the firm, another is at Herbert Smith Freehills, while the solicitor behind (and at times in front of) the camera has left the law altogether.
The lawyer behind the now infamous Slaughter and May 1981 video can be revealed as James Mitchell (pictured then, and now, above), a property specialist and avid Crystal Palace FC supporter, who went on to become a partner in two other well-known law firms before quitting private practice in 2007.
Last week Legal Cheek spotted the video after it was uploaded to YouTube, and it has subsequently become the talking point for Square Mile lawyers. Shot by Mitchell in the run-up to the firm’s Christmas shindig, it is a fascinating peek behind the curtain of legal practice more than 30 years ago.
The nearly 24-minute clip is striking for the slightly down-at-heel appearance of the offices of a firm that went on to become the gold standard of City practice. Secretaries smoked freely in the office, while a joke about the “backside” of a female trainee (then known as an articled clerk) seems to pass relatively unnoticed.
Mitchell — who appears to have become the recent owner of what was then the still new technology of a video camera — roams the firm’s corridors and offices interviewing just about anyone hoving into his lens.
The feisty young solicitor joined Slaughters as an articled clerk in 1978, having gained a degree in maths and statistics from Imperial College before reading law at the LSE.
Mitchell’s LinkedIn profile (seen below) shows that his amateur cinematography didn’t do his immediate prospects at the firm any harm after the senior partners sobered up in the new year. Mitchell stayed with S&M for another four years before moving to Barlow Lyde & Gilbert as a partner.
He stayed at that now defunct firm — it merged with Clyde & Co in 2011 — for another 10 years before jumping to the partnership at Stevens & Bolton in Guildford, where he was on the books for a dozen years. And from the mid-90s to the present, Mitchell has been a director at two property investment companies.
Outside the law, Mitchell takes his support of The Eagles seriously. A post on a Crystal Palace forum cites what it says is a Daily Mail article from August 2002 which claims Mitchell got into a directors box bust-up with then club chairman Simon Jordan during a home match against Bradford.
Mitchell is not the only lawyer to be resurrected by the 1981 video. Tax specialist Philip Higham — seen below waxing lyrical 33 years ago about the “intense spiritual content and emphasis” of section 460 of the Taxes Act — is, according to Law Society records, still practising at the firm as an associate.
However, we can see a bit more of James Barnes (pictured below), now a real estate partner at Herbert Smith Freehills.
Back in 1981 he was a fresh-faced young assistant at Slaughters, set upon by a colleague with a video camera and goaded into unwrapping a Christmas bottle of Beaujolais.
“Clients benefit from the in-depth understanding of property issues James brings from advising organisations such as London and Continental Railways Limited, Transport for London and the National Asset Management Agency of Ireland”.
Legal Cheek was keen to hear the views of Slaughter and May’s current senior partnership on the evolution of Square Mile legal practice over the last three decades, but senior partner Christopher Saul and his top colleagues declined to comment.
Clearly, any recollections — or filmed evidence — of last year’s Christmas bash would make a nice historical comparison. Please don’t hesitate to use the Legal Cheek tip-off e-mail.
The full video is here:
No computers, smoking in the office and a comment about a female trainee’s ‘backside’: this video of Slaughter and May from 1981 is incredible [Legal Cheek]