|A man enters the reception area. He seems hesitant. ‘Is ‘vacant’
the right word?’ He wears a tie, but the top button of his shirt is
undone. My heart sinks. He doesn’t look like lawyer. More like a confused
‘You must be waiting for me? Come through please.’
I replace the magazine and gather my documents. An enthusiastic friend
who recently broke up with a partner encouraged me to make the appointment,
and provided unsolicited advice. ‘Prepare for the meeting. Briefly
write down your own understanding of the legal relationship, and take
it along, together with any contracts you may have entered into. Also
take your latest pay slip.’
When I made the appointment I explained briefly what it was about,
and the lawyer requested that I also prepare a list of our assets
and liabilities, and of our monthly expenses. I tried to do so, but
I am frightened.
We enter a room with papers on the desk and on the floor. I realise
that the ornaments on the corner cabinet are two miniature clay dwarves.
The one dwarf looks angry, and is holding onto a toy trumpet. The
other dwarf has a delicate violin in his hands, and seems friendly.
I notice a piece of scrap paper and a short pencil on the cabinet,
next to the dwarves.
The walls of the office are off-white. In the corner with the cabinet
it seems shadowy, and quite dark.
I gaze at myself and at the room, from the outside. The room is certainly
not very tidy. On the side table a wrist-watch with a broken strap
waits for a new battery, and there is an empty Panado container next
to the watch.
‘Excuse me,’ the lawyer says. ‘Excuse me. Would you like a cup of
tea or coffee? Please take a seat.’
I wake up. I do not know which of the three chairs to take. ‘Take
any chair,’ he says.
I wish he would help me to take the right chair. He gives no indication
‘Which is yours?’ I ask. ‘It makes no difference. It really doesn’t
matter. I have no preference,’ he says.
I sit down, and he takes the chair next to me. Then he closes the
door with his left foot, while writing in a file with a pale blue
He remains distant, absent, as he writes down my details. He writes
my surname, followed by my initials, in the top right hand corner
of the file. Then he writes the words 'relationship issue' just below
He looks up. The vacant look is gone. He now appears friendly, present.
The swimming objects in my hazy dream separate. The wrist-watch with
the broken strap and the empty Panado container come back into focus.
The two dwarves are both staring at me.
I realise that I do not know this man at all, and that he is waiting
for my attention.
‘Did the receptionist explain the fee structure to you? Unfortunately
we have to talk about these things. We charge on a time basis. We
cannot really predict the costs in advance.’
He appears apologetic. Shy?
I confirm that the fees were explained to me. I go on to explain.
‘I am only here to find out about my rights. I would like to pay for
the consultation and then think about things.’
‘Good’ he says. ‘But it may take a while. This is an important discussion.’
I nod. ‘Yes, I understand. Your secretary has explained that I should
allow at least an hour to an hour and a half, and I’ve budgeted for
the fees. Can I settle your account before I leave? I really do not
want you to send an account to my home address.’
‘I understand,’ he says. ‘We’ll keep it confidential.'