Christmas parties are a bit thin on the ground this year. To judge by the many reports in the business press of party cancellations, doing without them seems either to be a sign that the petty cash box is empty or an empty gesture designed to show that the company is in tune with the grey zeitgeist.
You get none of that nonsense from Epiq Systems. Leaving empty gestures to the Government and bucking the zeitgeist, Epiq held a party at the City Golf Club.
I vaguely remembered going there before – a gloomy basement near St Bride’s as I recalled it – and did not check the directions. I reached the door at the stroke of 6.00pm. The City Golf Club was no longer there.
How did one manage before BlackBerry included Google Maps? I suppose you asked a policeman. These days, even if you can find one, you hesitate to ask for fear that the poor man will have to fill in a 20 page form to record this “voluntary, non-confrontational, one-on-one public inter-action information transmission event” or whatever the officialese is for being asked for directions, especially if you have to stand with your hands in the air whilst he fills it in.
A brisk hike through St Paul’s Churchyard took me to the City Golf Club’s very smart premises in Coleman Street. I can pass up the simulators and games consoles, but good food and drink served by pretty girls go a long way towards making a pleasant evening.
Epiq seem to have done well this year, judging by the number of times the name of the company or its review platform, DocuMatrix, comes up. It helps, perhaps, that the US company specialises in corporate insolvency (they are handling Lehmans for example), but the London end stands on its own two feet with plenty of litigation, regulatory and other work.
It is only four years since Epiq set up in London. John Lord sold nMatrix, Inc to Epiq Systems, Inc and then took four people out of Linklaters’ litigation support department to start Epiq Systems Ltd. The original four still remain, but the offices in which they rattled around in the early days now house 60 people.
They make it sound as if those early days were quite fun. Kitting the place out seems to have been jolly in a pioneering sort of way, especially after coming from one of the best-serviced offices in London. We are a computer company, so we ought to have some computers. Nothing is coming out of the printer – down to Rymans for some paper. Oh – we haven’t got any chairs.
It is hard to retain that spirit as a company grows, but Epiq seems to have managed it. The statistics – of staff, engagements, clients – imply more than the ability to give a good party, and the latest upgrade of DocuMatrix adds some good-sounding functionality.
The parties do matter, though. Reputation and formal meetings count for much, but people buy from people, and best way of getting to know people is in a social context. The secret, I think, is not to seem to try too hard. Epiq manage to convey that they have asked their friends round for a quiet drink and pleasant conversation. It seems to work.