On Monday, a friend from work forwarded me a flyer for a new independent coffee shop with a suggestion that we try it out before work on Thursday. The coffee house was running a 2 for 1 offer and, if the forecast snow came to nothing, we could have a caffeinated catch-up.
The flyer showed a promising funky montage of coffee snaps with a retro feel. My friend wasn't exactly sure which street it was on and asked me to find out.
I knew exactly where it was.
I emailed back to say it was on the site of the first law firm I'd worked for; the start of my secretarial career.
They'd torn the old building down a couple of years ago and sold the plot. It had been a crumbling wreck, leaning on the building next door for support – a place where you froze in the winter, boiled in summer and which had a relentless stubborn smell of damp or bad drains.
The fee earners had comprised of a small team of socially motivated lawyers, passionate about immigration, mental health and housing. The workload was weighty and the pay was rock bottom, but they made up for it in camaraderie. It was a little legal family living on borrowed time in a ramshackle house, knowing the changing face of Legal Aid and the various commitments to pro-bono were going to wipe us out.
Having worked for Howard, and then for corporate lawyers, I'd quite forgotten my humble beginnings.
Of course, there's such a thing as being 'too nice' in business, but surely what employers should aim for is a company that turns a profit as well as maintaining the sort of culture where ex-staff will talk of it fondly, years later, over a cup of coffee.
The best of both worlds!