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Review: Ex-Slaughter and May lawyer very nearly got fired in first episode of The Apprentice

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An anonymous law student — who himself has appeared on the junior version of The Apprentice — reviews the performances of the two solicitors on last night’s series ten opener

Felipe-2

So The Apprentice is back, and this year we are treated to two lawyers on the show. The first of these candidates is Colombian Felipe Alviar-Baquero, who presumably got bored of earning a fortune at Slaughter and May — where he advised Arsenal FC — and then Latham & Watkins, and decided to make a fool of himself on prime-time BBC One.

The second of our two failures-in-waiting is self-described “glamorous solicitor” Lauren Riley, who claims she won’t take no for an answer. I’m sure she’ll be a roaring success.

In last night’s episode — where candidates were tasked with selling various things — Felipe made the classic Apprentice mistake of being project manager in the first week, thus placing himself at high risk of being fired if things didn’t work out for his team. Lauren, a family law solicitor at St Albans firm Labrums, sensibly adopted a more low key approach.

The first issue in Apprentice openers is of course the team names. As per usual the candidates chose names with no relevance to business. “Have you ever heard of a company called Summit?” asks a member of the boys’ team. No, of course we haven’t because it’s completely and utterly ridiculous. The girls team call themselves “Decadence”, which quite frankly sounds like something you’d buy from Ann Summers. Later, for the first time in the history of the show, Sir Alan advises them to change it. Well done guys.

Meanwhile, there are lots of clips of Felipe talking in the third person. I hate him already — almost as much as the girls team project manager, Sarah Dales, who at one point states that “people prefer buying from females because they’re attractive — let’s all wear short skirts”. Fool.

Sarah thinks there’s money to be made from selling lemons in slices, rather than as whole lemons — possibly the most stupid product proposal in ten years of The Apprentice. It may surprise her but there isn’t. Felipe takes an alternative strategy and decides to sell hotdogs because “everyone loves a hotdog”. However, in spending three hours buying cheese for the hotdogs he sows the seeds of his downfall.

Felipe can afford to enjoy such frolics because he has delegated part of his management duty to Chiles, which I’m sure should be spelt Charles, who is put in charge of his team’s other revenue stream: flogging T-shirts. This branch of team Summit descends into mild anarchy as everyone falls out with argumentative Canadian hopeful Steven.

Over on the girl’s team, Lauren has basically still done nothing all task — a classic early Apprentice tactic which will probably pay off — as her teammates opt against selling segmented lemons and, not unlike the boys’ team, stumble along to a hum of low-level bickering.

Back to Felipe, who seems to be doing pretty well, mercifully unaware of the unfolding T-shirts disaster being overseen by underling Chiles. At one point, as the hot dog sales continue, the former City lawyer goes in for a kiss on the forehead of an unsuspecting team member, which is unorthodox to say the least but perhaps the way things are done in Latham & Watkins and Slaughter and May. Latest news on Lauren: nothing, she may have gone home for a nap.

Task over: it’s boardroom time!

Felipe receives rave reviews from his team mates as project manager, which is pretty rare in the first week. Girls’ team chief Sarah fares less well after rather awkwardly forgetting her team mates’ names. Breaking news: Lauren spoke, I was beginning to worry she was asleep.

Scores on the doors are that the boys’ team have made a total of £696.70; the girls on the other hand have made £753.50. Alan informs us that that’s about a £50 difference — nice to see he’s been improved his maths since his Tottenham days. This means Lauren is out of the firing line, and the team who were portrayed as doing really well have lost; certainly didn’t see that one coming…

This leaves Felipe at risk.

Out of what seems like desperation, Felipe opts to park the blame squarely on Steven’s door. He’s making himself look like a bit of a fool here — all very un-Slaughter and May — and his hard-work seems likely to come undone.

Then, in what turns out to be a Machiavellian masterstroke, Felipe turns his attention away from Steven and boldly elects his deputy Chiles and lame hipster Robert to face Sir Alan in the final reckoning. The hapless Chiles looks to be in trouble; his middle-management style is called into question and, given that he didn’t do anything useful, he should probably be on his way out the door. Was this Felipe’s back-up plan all along?

And so this is it. Felipe, who is wearing an annoying shiny red tie, kicks off by claiming that he is excellent manager — which seems a generous assessment. Sir Alan has the weary look of a man who has heard this sort of thing many times before, and warns Felipe that the blame for the task lies firmly with him.

“A lawyer who claimed to have managerial skills has allowed this to happen!” he thunders.

The legal profession holds its collective breadth, fearful at one of their own suffering the ignominy of being the first one fired. And then, after dramatic pause, Sir Alan turns to Chiles and boots him off the show.

In a state of shock, perhaps, Felipe exits the boardroom still holding one of Sir Alan’s glasses of water. Back in the contestants’ house, Felipe admits that what just passed was the most horrifying experience of his life. A happy ending, then, for those seeking to use Felipe’s Apprentice travails to gain an insight into City law firm life.

Previously from Brenda Denning:

6 things you can buy with 18 grand that are much more fun than law school [Legal Cheek]