The Case of the Misconceived Foreign Adventure

It is a rare, yet wonderful, feeling to think that one might have saved one’s client not only the anguish of a failed dream, but several million pounds into the bargain.

However, on a crisp October morning, in the cavernous, glass-sided yet curiously gloomy room at one of my larger client law firms, any glory was far from my mind.

Instead I faced a group of partners who did not like what I had to say to them. Not one little bit.

I had been called in to this firm of great repute and historic standing in the City of London to assist with the establishment of a new office in a former colony of the once-mighty British Empire.

I had, for a long time, been sceptical of the regular ‘strategy’ – I employ quote-marks advisedly – law firms employ when intending to open new offices on foreign soil. This, to my mind, usually amounts to little more than a raid on local resources in order to establish a base in the hope that the indigenous commercial community welcomes the invader with open arms.

I would not employ this crude stratagem where my client was concerned, I told them. Instead I would conduct a proper feasibility study. I would visit the location (“Visit?” they said, “are you sure you need to actually go there?”), talk to potential clients, competitor firms, suppliers and such on the ground. I would assemble information on the competitive market, think about office location, talk to property agents and include local salary information.

Initially, I confess, my client was sceptical. Some in the partnership simply wanted to “get on with it” and considered my demands pernickety and fussing, but the project-leader was an enterprising man possessed both of vision and an open mind.

I researched. I went. I observed. I returned. I reported.

My interim report was delivered to that silent, brooding room. They had wanted to “just do it”, I told them this was nigh-on impossible. I did give them one possible route, the only one I thought viable and, without further ado, I assembled my papers and prepared to leave.

“Don’t be glum, old chap,” said one of the partners as we all departed the room, “I think you’ve probably saved us about three million quid!”

I started, somewhat intrigued by the specificity of his postulation. With a smile, he continued, having read my mild puzzlement correctly. “That’s what we lost when we had to close the [ ] office!”

“Planning, dear boy, planning!” I explained later, to my companion, as I related the tale of the meeting and the great satisfaction of those sage partners at my client who had urged a little caution. Alas, my companion is but a dog, and I fear the subtleties of this case were lost on him*.

*Lest readers be misled by the notion that Motive is a ‘one-man-and-a-dog’ operation, let me reassure them that my dog takes no active part in the business.