A London-based lawyer recollects some of the more memorable moments of his long career.
Debut author Altman was born in London, but in 1939, his family relocated to Manchester in the hope—ultimately frustrated—that they could avoid the German bombing campaigns during World War II. The son of a milliner who had big aspirations for all four of his kids, the author took an interest in the law and was mentored by his older cousin Cecil, who was already a working solicitor. He graduated from King’s College London and developed an expertise in property law. After a stint in private practice, he became an in-house solicitor at a public property company, a post he held for nearly two decades. Most of Altman’s remembrance is less a linear chronicle than a series of anecdotes—he frequently recounts his most memorable cases and draws general lessons from them sure to be helpful to the novice lawyer. The repeated moral seems to be relentless diligence—often a seemingly routine assignment goes awry due to a lack of preparatory research. Altman became a prominent lawyer eventually and handled property deals for members of Parliament and even for Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was then looking for a new headquarters for the Labour Party. He also had an opportunity to give back and sat on a committee that tackled the issue of affordable public housing. Altman’s memoir is breezily charming and unpretentious, and some of his stories are worth sharing, though most don’t qualify as remarkable adventures, as the subtitle suggests. But they can be endearing and relentlessly cheerful. For example, while flying to Rome, he realized the pilot was a client and was invited into the cockpit and then out to dinner after the flight. The prose can be a touch long-winded and convoluted, and some of the stories are less than notable—there’s one about being unable to find a good mattress in a hotel in the Canary Islands—but Altman’s good-natured optimism generally carries the day.
A very brief memoir companionably related.