One associate can’t help but see comparisons between her crying newborn baby and her demanding clients
In March this year, I sat down to my first NCT antenatal class. For the uninitiated, this is a way of spending £300 to meet some other prospective parents and simultaneously be patronised by a woman wielding a knitted breast and insisting that a bit of deep breathing is a perfectly adequate alternative to an epidural (spoiler alert: it’s not).
But something was familiar about the set-up: the air of competitiveness (whose bump is neatest?), the sizing up of potential coffee/lunch-date mates and above all the middle-class anxiety of the whole thing.
Then it struck me: it reminded me of nothing so much as a cohort of new trainees meeting each other for the first time. I couldn’t help but wonder… (as they used to say on a TV show before your time) whether being a lawyer might not be bad preparation for parenthood. And so it has proved…
Dealing with the urgent demands of someone who expects you to guess what they want while simply getting angrier and louder? Second nature to a City solicitor. And the coping strategies are more or less the same: try to anticipate their needs (from “commercial awareness” to recognising the tell-tale grimace of “poo face”), throw money at the problem (whether it’s a fancy client lunch or frantic late-night purchases from Amazon’s “gullible parents” section) and if all else fails just shove your tits in their face.
As soon as someone catches you throwing up in the office loos, people start telling you (with varying degrees of smugness) to expect severely disrupted sleep. But how much rest is the average lawyer getting anyway? From pulling all-nighters on corporate deals to answering emails 24/7, the concept of down-time has yet to gain traction in most firms. The sinking feeling you get when your newborn wakes up mere minutes after the last night feed is no different from the dread of seeing an email from your supervising partner at 6am on a Saturday. And at least a baby’s failure to understand that you’re a separate person is developmentally appropriate. Clive in Comm Lit has no such excuse.
The uber-competitive trainee, with their unyielding enthusiasm and aggressive networking, has their annoying parental equivalents, whether it’s the attachment-parenting mother who loudly decries bottle-feeding and boasts about her drug-free hypnobirth, or the latte dad ostentatiously adjusting the straps on his Baby Bjorn sling.
Ignoring them becomes easier when you remember that their lawyer counterparts tend to end up on beta-blockers at the age of 27. And the irritation of having complete strangers volunteer their views on your child-rearing skills is a little easier to bear when you’re used to having to gather feedback from a veritable army of partners (who barely remember your name) for your end of seat appraisal.
Oh, and before the below the line commenters weigh in with some trademark Legal Cheek “appreciation” — you lot are fluffy amateurs compared to a Mumsnet bitchfest.
WaitroseLaw is a solicitor in London.
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