E.G. Arghyrakis & Co  
  Commercial law firm  
A day in the life of a legal assitant

Arrive office 9.30 am: late by City firm standards - but E.G. Arghyrakis is different. Some like to start earlier but there is no frowning on those who don't, as long as the work gets done. And make no mistake, if there's a trial on or things are particularly busy, start time can be much earlier.

Make coffee: forget all those movies where coffee gets brought to your desk — and settle down to some serious work. Today it's starting a Disclosure List for a case fixed for hearing in 9 months time. Five fat lever-arch files to sort - or do we go for electronic disclosure in this case? What does the White Book say about electronic disclosure?

Check emails: respond to routine ones. Make a couple of calls.spell out Ar - ghee -rack - iss a lot - and get quite good at alpha/romeo/golf routine.

Re-think plans: client has just rung with urgent problem. A shipowner refuses to release a bill of lading until the client (the ship charterer) has paid sums claimed. Whether or not those sums are due, the shipowners' conduct is wrongful. And not having the bill of lading prevents client trading the cargo on board (the main purpose of the venture).

The ship is due at destination (India) in a few days and who knows what chaos will ensue if there is no cargo buyer to take delivery of the goods? Can we arrest the ship at a port of call on the way to put pressure on the shipowner?

Desperately reach for maritime atlas. Charterparty provides for London arbitration but it will take an age to get a tribunal in place. High Court. Isn't there something about injunctions only being in negative terms? Start researching Arbitration Act and High Court procedures...

Lunch? Forget it for the moment, we are looking at urgent Court application - need to get papers to Counsel ... and, yes photocopier chooses this moment to break down. Think calm thoughts. Sort blockage (you don't see Ally McBeal doing this).

Bliss: take papers over to Counsel's chambers. The firm's offices are next door to the Temple and the gardens are a real sanctuary. Time for a sandwich? Some people go to the gym nearby or a walk along the Thames path or cook up something smelly in the microwave. Or maybe there's a lunch with clients - unlike some firms, E.G. Arghyrakis & Co encourages assistants to have client contact from an early stage. Many clients visit from abroad, so it may be traditional steak and kidney pie in the dining room of London's oldest inn. Or there's often a firm outing for lunch at the slightest excuse.

Counsel calls: yes we can go for it but it's a slightly unexplored area of the law. There's a lot of that - which can be frustrating when you are researching something, but on the other hand the case may make law which is pretty cool.

Meanwhile: back to the prosaic pile of filing to be done. There are no secretaries or filing clerks - we all do our own typing and everyone does a share of admin and filing - not glamorous but you do get to know what's going on in everyone's cases. One day the office may be paperless but few if any firms have yet taken the plunge, so for the moment we are paperless and paperfull.

Client rings: he's got his bills of lading - panic over. Pity, from a legal point of view, looked like it could have been interesting. Back to that Disclosure List, time recording clock on and settle down to a couple of hours uninterrupted work (does that ever really happen?).

Call it a day at 6 30 pm: Had we been off to Court in the morning it could have been a late one - so seize the opportunity to go home and dream about the next day in the life of E.G. Arghyrakis & Co.