Have I told you about my friend Liz? Maybe, in passing, but not really. Is it odd that my two oldest dearest friends are both lawyers?
Curiously enough, what passed for careers advice when I was at school (some kind of questionnaire which arbitrarily spat out job choices) suggested I should become a barrister. But then again it also offered up industrial relations, hotel management and, er, journalism. Anyhow…
Liz is a solicitor, one of London’s top divorce lawyers as it happens. Don’t believe me? Google her. Liz Vernon. Liz ‘The Terrier’ Vernon as dubbed by The Sun, if I recall. And, y’know, they’ve got a point – she IS like a terrier, a sort of Asbo but way brighter, less neurotic and with much sweeter breath.
She was on Diana’s divorce team at Mishcon de Reya but now she’s a partner at Clintons, handling the break-ups of the likes of Karen Parlour (wife of footballer Ray, which became a landmark case), Shane Ritchie and Slavica Ecclestone (wife of Bernie).
And if I were facing a potentially messy divorce, I know who I’d want on my side. Yup, The Terrier. Why? Well, first up, because she’s sharp as a whip with one of those razor-bright brains… No, forget razors, let’s go for scalpels. But then, like a terrier, she doesn’t think just in straight lines; she makes quantum jumps.
Once she gets her teeth into something, she doesn’t let go. She shakes and shakes it until it gives in. And she digs. She’ll uncover things even your spouse didn’t know about him or herself – honestly, the delight she takes in delving is plain…frightening.
She’s deceptive. Look at her, all five foot nothing of her, and you’d think, Oh sweet little munchkin. But, please, fight the urge to pat her on the head. Many a person (men in particular) has been taken in by her stature, her pretty face, her disarmingly charming manner. But foolish is the man or woman who fecklessly underestimates or patronises her. For if need be, she bites – hard and sharp and fast. Trust me, you’d need tetanus shots. I’ve heard her in action and it made me quake – and I wasn’t even on the receiving end of the bark and bite.
Yet, also like a terrier, she is loyal as feck. If she’s on your side, you won’t ever feel alone. She looks after people, and she really cares. I’ve often been there, when she’s off duty, relaxing – and then her mobile phone rings and she excuses herself and I hear the tone of her voice shift – alternating between calm reassurance and firm ‘you can do this’ cheerleading. Then, even though I can’t hear the words, I detect the tone fall into total empathy. Because Liz knows, first-hand, what divorce can feel like. She’s been through it herself, and gutty it was too. So she knows, she really truly knows. ‘Hey,’ I said once. ‘It’s 11pm on a Saturday night – can’t you just turn off your phone?’ She shook her head. ‘Not everyone needs it,’ she said. ‘And I don’t always do it, by any means. But it’s part of my job. I’m as much a counselor as a lawyer, sometimes. And I do understand. Anyhow, nine to five doesn't always cut it - you don't always arrange to have your wobble during office hours.’ Fair point well made.
I adore her. From the moment she moved into my house and my life, along with Snuff the cat, flamenco shoes, furry handcuffs and Learn Russian tapes, I knew we’d be friends for life. She’s not only smart and kind and honest, but she’s got a brilliant sense of humour, a filthy dirty laugh and she tells it like it is…she doesn’t pull her punches and that’s exactly what you need from your true friends (and your lawyers, come to that).
We don’t see each other than much, sadly. But it doesn’t matter – we just pick up right where we left off – and seeing her in London was sublime. She took me for lunch on the South Bank and we talked long and hard and silly and sensible. We laughed like drains and came close to tears. What did we say? Oh, what did we say? I couldn’t possibly divulge. That’s between me and my terrier.
But, seriously. If you do ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing a shit-hot divorce lawyer, then my considered opinion, m’lud, is that you should nab The Terrier fast. Before your spouse does…
Okay, so that’s not terribly Buddhist, huh? Though, hang about…I open Pema at random and read… “Wanting situations and relationships to be solid, permanent, and graspable obscures the pith of the matter, which is that things are fundamentally groundless.” :-)