I took my lawyer and he fired me: William Donaldson's Week

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The Independent Online
IT'S AS well that I've got Roger from Chicago working on the new Root television series, since I've been fired already and Pete the Schnoz doesn't know who Sam Malone is. We can't expect our best young writers to match their American counterparts, of course, but it would not be unreasonable to hope that they might watch Cheers on a Friday night, rather than Have I Got News For You.

I discovered that Pete the Schnoz doesn't watch Cheers when I was advising my pal Simon Holliday - who is being treated abominably by Amy Jenkins, his beloved - to try and behave like Sam Malone.

'Who's Sam Malone?' he said.

Young people. 'OK,' I said. 'Try and behave like Cary Grant.'

The next day I told Pete the Schnoz that I'd been advising Simon Holliday to behave like Cary Grant. 'In fact,' I said, 'I originally advised him to behave like Sam Malone.'

'Who's Sam Malone?' said Pete the Schnoz.

'Don't you watch Cheers?' I said.

'No,' he said. 'I always go out on Friday night.'

I couldn't believe my ears. 'Don't be silly,' I said. 'Sun Page 3 girls go out on Friday night.'

Be that as it may, it looked on Wednesday as if Pete the Schnoz, Roger from Chicago and I would be in bad shape at a meeting on Friday with Mark Chapman and Justin Judd, at which all our lawyers would be present. Chapman and Judd were to be represented by several hundredweight of smart types with offices in Bruton Street, whereas my chap, Dipley, was in conveyancing, Pete the Schnoz's was in recovery and Roger from Chicago's was in the pokey.

I run ahead of myself, however. On Monday, I didn't have a solicitor of any sort on board, since in my circle we prefer not to go to law; rather, we lead with the knuckle and stand up close, breathing down the back of a litigant's neck.

On occasions when that hasn't worked, I've either relied on the advice of the Bishop of Belgravia (a struck- off solicitor who was told when he was disbarred that it was customary for an officer of the court to advise his clients after an offence had been committed rather than before), or on arguments put forward in a well-thumbed copy of my friend Professor Ronald Dworkin's seminal paper, Is Law a System of Rules?, frequently, on that account, confounding a stipendiary magistrate with Dworkin's sternly anti-positivist stance on the concept of legal obligation, and, just as frequently, not.

'In hard cases such as this, your worship,' I say, 'it's as plain to me as the nose on your face that your positivist position - legal obligation issuing entirely from the pedigree of certain rules - leads us nowhere and tells us nothing.'

'Horse-feathers,' says his worship. ' pounds 200. Six weeks to pay.'

Anyway, the Bishop of Belgravia recently fell off his perch, and it didn't seem sensible to appear before Chapman and Judd with nothing but Dworkin in absentia. At which point I suddenly remembered Mr Dipley of Dipley & Dipley, an old-time outfit which had once looked after my mother's affairs.

When my mother died, young Mr Dipley persuaded my sister and me to sell her house in Sunningdale (30 acres and 20 bedrooms, each with bath) for pounds 6,000 to an estate agent who then divided it into 15 flats, charging pounds 55,000 per flat. And that was in 1956.

Young Mr Dipley would be more than a match for Chapman and Judd's smart West End representatives, always supposing he was still alive, of course. I rang him up and, on discovering that he was indeed still with us, told him to be at Chapman's office at 2pm on Friday. I then rang up Pete the Schnoz and Roger from Chicago, thereafter being reassured that each would be accompanied by a brief - Pete the Schnoz by his next-door neighbour and Roger from Chicago by Marvin Mitchelson, no less. However, when I pitched up at Chapman's office I discovered that neither had a lawyer with him.

'Where's your chap?' I said to Pete the Schnoz. 'In chambers?'

'In recovery,' said Pete the Schnoz.

'And yours?' I said to Roger from Chicago. 'In recovery?'

'In prison,' said Roger from Chicago.

I'll be shafted here, I thought, but then I thought, no, I was forgetting my chap Dipley. And I was right. He shafted me before the others got a chance.

'While the other writers should be paid generously,' he said, 'it would be fairer, I think, were my client to contribute his services on the house. Further, if he's not being paid, he might as well be taken off the job.'

'Hear hear,' said Pete the Schnoz. 'Have a banana.'

Then he turned to Roger from Chicago. 'Would you like to go out tonight?'

'Don't be silly,' said Roger from Chicago. 'Only Sun Page 3 girls go out on Friday night.' They'll not last long together.