Why lawyers who lunch don't eat quiche

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At last, something of which Rumpole might approve. Lunch is apparently still regarded as an important part of the lawyer's job. And though they drink less than they did three years ago, most lawyers consider it to be either beneficial, or at least standard practice, during lunch.

The typical lawyer attends or hosts a business lunch at least once a fortnight, and 27 per cent do so at least twice a week, according to the latest research, carried out on behalf of London's Athenaeum Hotel.

However, when they are compared with other professions, lawyers look somewhat less convivial. They lunch "reluctantly and conservatively", says the survey. On average, lawyers entertain one guest and spend between pounds 20 and pounds 30 a head.

Curiously perhaps, considering that they see little benefit from lunching, the legal fraternity claims to take up about half of the lunch on business. The researchers suggest that this is attributable either to conscientiousness or enjoyment of talking shop. But it could possibly also be put down to a desire to eliminate themselves from their own suspicions that lunch is largely abused as a business practice. Either way, only one would admit to spending more than pounds 40 for lunch, while just 6.7 per cent of the lawyers in London's West End who were surveyed were up to lunching every day.

So what do they eat? According to the survey, French cuisine is tops, followed by English and Italian. American, Indian and Eastern "are definitely not on the menu". And when it comes to location, it probably comes as little surprise to learn that lawyers are not found in pubs, nouvelle cuisine restaurants or "trendy/modern environments". Cafes, brasseries and hotels or clubs are their preferred gaming areas, with a full 93 per cent preferring to stick to what they know than venture into fresh pastures.

John Mortimer's ramshackle barrister might draw encouragement from the fact that 3 per cent of those responding either would not state whether they ate quiche or stated that they indulged only in the privacy of their own homes and "definitely not in front of clients". But he would no doubt be horrified that half were worried about the effect of lunch on their waistlines.

The survey was commissioned by the Athenaeum in Piccadilly to discover whether there was a revival in business lunching, the value of it and the standards of service and product available in the West End. The findings suggest there is an upward trend in the practice - more than half those surveyed replied that they lunch more often than they did three years ago.

And if this looks like good news for the likes of the Athenaeum, then it is probably a sign that the legal profession is not doing so badly either.