… for Bucknall Austin

This is the bit of the magazine where, contrary to tradition, reason and morality, journalists put their hands in their pockets and buy the drinks for somebody else. In this case, three QSs from Bucknall Austin.

First up in conversation is the smoking ban, set to come into force next summer. "I really object to going out and coming home smelling of smoke," says Tim Preston. "You get in, have to take your clothes off and put them straight into the washing machine and I think that's wrong. Plus it's dangerous - everyone knows that now."

"Can I interrupt there, Tim?" asks Andy Mace. "I'd ask you to think about every time you drive a car and the fumes that it is pumping into the atmosphere. If you blow your nose, what comes out is black. That's not down to smoking, it's all the pollution."

There is a hum of agreement as the other two men accept Andy's point but are united in their decision not to dwell on it, or accept much of the blame for the colour of what Londoners deposit in their Kleenexes.

Tony Catchpole then spares a thought for the smokers themselves. "I'm sure there're people at work who'd smoke a huge amount more if the opportunity to light up in offices hadn't been removed. It's an effort to have to get up and go outside for a fag. Not being able to smoke without getting up and leaving the venue will help people cut down. Smokers still deserve respect. They have rights."

Tim has compassion only for their victims. "Smokers might have the right to hurt themselves but they certainly shouldn't be given the right to hurt others. This issue can't be about individual rights but the greater good."

Tim adds that the ban will just stop people smoking around others. This point silences the others as it's a good one.

As we continue to discuss and disagree, come round to each other's ways of thinking for a second, then diverge, an interesting point emerges - there has never been any question that the ban will not be complied with. "We're a great country for abiding by the law," says Tim. "We easily fall into line. Now it's been decided people may be anti it but they will follow the rules quietly."

The conversation then diverts to join that of everyone else in the bar: England's chances in the World Cup. At the mention of this subject, two faces light up and one falls as Tim slumps back in his seat decidedly unimpressed. Tony, on the other hand, looks as though all of his Christmases have come at once.

"Oh, this is the year," he grins. "We're going to go all the way and I really, truly believe that England is going to win."

When asked whether they will be watching Saturday's Paraguay game, Andy confirms that he will be watching with his son, Tony will be sat on the edge of his sofa with the family and Tim? Well, he'll be, in his own words, "in the garden doing something else".

Those present …

  • Tim Preston associate responsible for regeneration in London and the South-east, anti-smoker, 40
  • Andy Mace partner in Bucknall Austin, reformed smoker, 39
  • Tony Catchpole managing partner of London office, avid England football fan, 48
  • Emily Wright Building reporter

  • Chosen watering hole: The Bull, Devonshire Row, central London  

  • Ambience: Old man’s pub 

  • Principal preoccupation: Next year’s smoking ban

  • Drinks bought: Gin and tonic , Perrier water (pah!) and bitter