Monday, 25 November 2013

You can’t get the senior partners these days: a lesson in style from Ashurst Morris Crisp

In 1988, when dinosaurs roamed Hyde Park devouring hideously-attired yuppies, I wrote to the senior partner of Ashurst Morris Crisp. I’d spent an uncomfortable evening at the theatre in a badly upholstered seat sponsored by his firm.

Martin Bell's reply, dictated by the flickering light of a tallow candle, makes me wonder which senior partner today can match his style.

And has the Law Society changed?

If you can’t read the text in the photo below, this is what he wrote:

27th April 1988

Dear Miss Williams

Thank you for your letter of 23rd April. I am sorry to learn of your discomfort.

There seems to be something of a curse on that seat. When our name first appeared on it a complaint was made to the Law Society that we were thereby breaking its rules against advertising, as it might attract clients’ custom. My predecessor replied that if that had been the intention the ploy had proved singularly unsuccessful, but offered to have the plaque and, indeed, the Seat removed entirely. Unfortunately his offer was not taken up but the Law Society warned (and I do not jest) that if the Seat did effect the introduction of a client then their rules would have been broken.

It was, therefore, at first of some comfort to me, though I appreciate of none to you, that the Seat was unlikely to have that effect; but on reflection one does not wish one’s reputation to be at the mercy of an unstuffed seat and I will therefore write to the Manager of the Barbican.

Yours sincerely,

M. G. H. Bell

To find out if Mr Bell is still with us, I telephone Ashurst. The operator hasn’t heard of him and puts me through to an answering machine in the HR department.

A search of Ashurst’s website yields nothing but an exhortation to ‘adjust various search criteria’ and press the ‘Go’ button. There is no ‘Go’ button. There is something which says ‘submit’. I wonder what Mr Bell would have said.

We will be forgotten too. Now get back to work.



  1. I've just learnt that Martin passed away earlier this year and in the written tribute delivered by his successor as senior partner, your exchange was recounted.

    1. Thank you for letting me know. I had suggested to Mr Bell that the seat might have been sabotaged by a rival firm of solicitors. To counterbalance his delightful reply, I received a reprimand from the manager of the Barbican Theatre, saying that I should have written to him and not to Mr Bell. I currently have lumbago but doubt whether that can be attributed to the seat.