The Furies

Dear Furies. I write to you on a Friday afternoon. COVID saw workers of all vocations and professions flee the city. The advantages of working from home have been well recognised and recorded. Equally well known are the effects this trend has had on the hospitality industry in the CBD. The best thing we can do to support fellow small business owners and the economy at large is to lunch early and lunch often. Alas it is no longer the 1980s. We cannot tax deduct tens of thousands in Barolos each financial year. A celebratory or funereal lunch with solicitors often devolves into eyes down tap tap tapping on their phones. Many mishaps and mayhems that might have seen some member of the Bar hailed as a hero in days gone by have long since become career suicide. So my question to you is: how to engage in a short nutritious lunch with my solicitors in a socially conscious and appropriate way in 2023? Can buying alcohol for solicitors remain my primary mode of marketing? What must the composition of associate-to-junior counsel be at any given lunch? Can I make them put their phones in a Tupperware box like I do with my children? Can lunch still roll into dinner? When is the earliest one may have a ‘cleansing ale?’ Do people under 30 even drink wine these days? Do I have an obligation to buy Australian wine given the glut? Have you seen my shoe? Have you seen my children? What is a glut?

Each quarter, like clockwork, the good editor of this publication presents the Furies with a choice selection of readers’ queries. We savour all of the qualms and conundrums but, ultimately, we must choose one or two queries which truly deserve our care and our carefully crafted words. Sometimes, granted, the questions are a little long-winded. Many a time we must prune and tweak to ensure the correct query to response ratio. Occasionally, just occasionally, we receive an absolute gem which, for posterity, must be replicated in full. Yours, dear reader, is one such gem.

But where to start? The legendary lunches of the 1980s? The, ahem, ‘mishaps and mayhems’? The whereabouts of your shoe?

So many issues, so few column inches. So let us start with the alcohol.

We are not entirely sure that drinking is as absent from the workplace as you suggest. The tone, general prolixity and concluding observations of your query, written on a Friday afternoon as you say, are not uncharacteristic of someone progressively decanting a vintage Penfolds, but without the use of a decanter. Do not get us wrong. We certainly do not judge anyone for drinking alcohol. But neither do we judge them for not drinking alcohol.

We especially do not judge the younger millennials/older generation Z (we’ll call them Zillennials and see if that sticks) for not drinking alcohol. Have you seen them recently? Apparently, ‘heroin-chic’ is making a resurgence, but we think it is just Zillennials failing to make healthy lifestyle choices when purchasing a new iPhone charger over a square meal because all of their disposable income has been consumed by the rent on a 1 bedroom plus study in Alexandria. Older millennials, on the other hand, think they are better off financially because all of their disposable income has been consumed by the mortgage repayments on a 1 bedroom plus study in Alexandria. We beg to differ: neither generation can conceive of, let alone experience, a long boozy lunch or the excessive consumption of vintage wine. Remember, these are the people for whom the spreading of avocado on toasted bread was considered a luxury, and they were publicly shamed for it.

So, yes, hosting a short nutritious lunch with your instructing solicitors in a socially conscious and appropriate way in 2023 should be just that. Short is important: social media has all but destroyed the young solicitor’s attention span and many venues now have two sittings over lunch to boost their post-COVID revenue. Nutrition is also key: most grads only get one meal a day (plus cabcharge) which they earn by working until 8pm under the terms of their indenture. Aim to lunch on a Thursday which, as everyone knows, is the new Friday, and invite the whole team.

As for alcohol: order a glass of wine for yourself if you would like one, ask if anyone would like to join you out of politeness, but do not be disappointed if no one does or if the extent of their imbibing only goes so far as a 2% craft cider. Their livers are not seasoned to excess, and they might have a work deadline to meet that afternoon.Above all, do not cajole or shame anyone into drinking just because you would like to order a bottle or two. That is just not cool.

Be appropriate. Do not tell a story about yourself or anyone else which would not be told at a swearing in ceremony held after 2016. If you tell a joke with a hint of sexism, racism or homophobia, expect some devastating side-eye. Refrain from war stories. Junior solicitors are too young to know the names of the barristers or judges you are discussing, and they would rather gnaw off their dominant text thumb than hear you recount, in excruciating detail, the circumstances of an in-court sotto voce remark made by Chester Porter to you in 1993. If there is a lull in the conversation, try asking them questions about themselves. Who knows? You might even learn something about the younger generation which may give you some cred with your own kids (assuming you can find them).

Above all, and we cannot stress this strongly enough, do not, we repeat, do NOT come between a Zillennial and their phone. If you do, it will definitely get ugly. BN