A spotter’s guide to the men and women of finance.
Despite its name, the legal eagle, genus lingebant ulcera pullum, is a flightless member of the chicken family. It is mainly harmless and lays nice nest-eggs. Legal eagles can breed in captivity — as a matter of fact that’s often the only way they can breed, in glorified coops called “law firms” — and if released in the wild can, with appropriate camouflage, make do among the grassy banks and hedgefundrows.
The name originated as a well-meant but still faintly derogatory way to address the personnel from the legal department, used by junior salespeople in the sincere but mistaken belief it would ward off, and not compound, the resentment that department has for them. All the more so when uttered by a newly-migrated structurer who, a few short days ago, worked, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and was himself a beloved member of the legal team.
The varieties of legal eagle
Eagles fall into two broad categories: first, those who love language, wish they could have more respectable way of making a living out it, and who might have done just that they not got waylaid by the easy lucre one can pull together quickly, by accepting a training contract at Allen & Overy. It is like a debilitating drug. They keep plying you with more of the stuff, on one condition: you limit your lexical playground to legal documents. This is a constraint, but like all constraints can propel and juice a truly great artiste.
The others are those who despise their language: they mistrust it, they fear it, they don’t understand it, they don’t trust themselves with it: these people have devoted their lives to neutering language. They regard themselves not as artists but bomb-disposal experts. They see words as incendiary devices, which they must baffle and cushion, to prevent loss of life or limb to adjacent bystanders. They have discovered the best way of cancelling clausal potency is to overlaying ones expressions with so many contradictory figures over the bare propositions that they are unrecognisable, skeletal traces, and impotent for anything but a harmless plouffe.
As a badge of honour
There is no better way of dealing with a slight than owning it and taking pride in it, and that is what proud legal eagles have since done. Hence, now, the eagle squad — a crack paramilitary group of commando lawyers for whom no assignment is too
trivial tricky. Soon to be serialised into The New Adventures of Opco Boone, Legal Ace, featuring Eagle Squadron Commander Obadiah Cody “Opco” Boone, LL.B, Legal Ace, by that perennially underwhelming prose stylist, Hunter Barkley.
- You could continue to wax Wilfred Owenesque for young sir will, with horrifying speed, find himself quite unbelovèd by his alma mater. Those who remain will regard him with the same fondness surviving members of MI6 — the ones who weren’t betrayed and murdered by a filthy double-crosser — have for Kim Philby. Their humour will not be improved by being addressed as “legal eagles”.