Legal Practice Management Conference 2015 – Reviewed

Simon Slater opens proceedings at the Legal Practice Management Conference 2015

Simon Slater opens proceedings at the Legal Practice Management Conference 2015

On 19 May 2015 I travelled down to London for the Legal Practice Management Conference organised by the Legal Support Network. Billed as “the only event for practice managers in small to medium law firms” it is aimed exclusively at professional managers from on average 2-25 partner firms. This was the fourth year of this particular conference but my first visit to it. I had been attracted by an interesting  programme with many of the speakers being from the coal face practitioners with tried and tested knowledge to impart. I prefer conferences like that compared to the ones with the big keynote speakers who struggle to know what lawyers really are or do. I was not to be disappointed. It was an enjoyable day with some interesting insights.

Due to a hole in the runway at London City Airport and planes being re-directed to Gatwick Airport my flight to Gatwick landed late. Thus I didn’t arrive in time to hear Simon Slater’s opening address. I also missed the very beginning of Jeremy Hopkins‘ presentation but was lucky enough to catch the most of it.

Jeremy was talking about the outlook for SME law firms – maintaining your position while responding to increased competition.

Innovation, Jeremy says, is simple and incremental. So true: Don’t think you have to reinvent the practice of law just try improving.

Service needs to be at the forefront of your strategy. See my last post for a very simple example of that.

Agility is a strong point for smaller firms. Again, very true: A partner in one of Scotland’s largest law firms once described to me making a decision there as being like maneuvering an oil tanker. He envied the fact that at Inksters I could make an immediate decision and it happened.

Jeremy finished by comforting us with his view that whilst the robots are coming, control will still be in our hands. See my take on robot lawyers in my review of ‘Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer’.

Next up was a panel discussion on measuring and managing the cost of risk and compliance and the benefits to your firm. Reference to the 2 minute rule, write the e-mail and sit back and consider it for 2 minutes before sending it, caused some discussion on Twitter:-


Reference was made of a recent case where fraudsters hacked emails to a solicitor and stole £340,000 from a clients property sale.

We were told that law firms should update their browsers or they could be liable for losses caused by poor online security.

Cyber crime losses is a real issue. Insurers are “miffed” by it to say the least. Don’t click on suspect links including (maybe in particular) pictures of cats!

Cyber risk is going off the scale. You have to behave. Slow down with what you’re doing online both with e-mail and on social media.

We were left with one final security warning: Don’t use Dropbox.

Following a networking break we had the choice of two streams. I would have liked to have gone to both but as I don’t have partners as such at Inksters I selected the stream that wasn’t about herding cats and making penguins fly. Instead I listened to Kane Lewis of Cushman & Wakefield present on managing your office space to meet the demands of the future. Something that interests me following Inksters recent move into the Inksterplex.

Kane told us that the focus had to be on brand, client experience, flexibility, IT, generational differences, health/wellbeing, staff recruitment and retention. Quite a lot of bases to cover. Surprisingly bespoke toilet signage didn’t get a specific mention: something we take very seriously at the Inksterplex.

BigLaw are opening operating centres outwith London to reduce costs. Indeed just after the conference I saw a report by John Hyde in The Law Society Gazette suggesting that London should beware.

There is a changing office dynamic happening with less dedicated desk space and more informal and collaborative meeting spaces. Certainly something we at Inksters introduced as part of the design of the Inksterplex.

A change in the ratio of secretaries to fee earners (now more like 1 to 7) has affected workspace usage.

Alternative and flexible areas for work and rest are required and you have to think of the next generation and their needs.

Next up was an interesting workshop on creating efficiencies to drive pricing strategy and greater profitability. This was facilitated by Drew Winlaw of Taylor Vinters and Tim Aspinall of DMH Stallard.

You have to either sell legal services at the right price or drive down the cost of delivery. Price or efficiency are the only two options for lawyers to make money.

Lawyers can charge more for a lot of the work they do. Better pricing strategies can increase revenues by 5% to 15%.

A survey of General Counsel showed that they want first and foremost transparent pricing followed by guaranteed pricing and then value pricing with lowest pricing coming last.

New entrants to the legal market never over engineer anything. Most old law firms when surveyed thought their own efficiency was only 3/10. At Inksters we are seeking to legal process engineer everything with great gains in efficiency.

It was suggested that you could scope your work like a builder and introduce extras like they do. They make money on the extras but lawyers lose on them.

A question about value pricing was answered by Tim Aspinall taking a cheap biro pen from a delegate and comparing it to the Mont Blanc in his own pocket. Value is in the eye of the buyer.

It was pointed out that most clients want a Ford Fiesta not a Rolls Royce service. Although as highlighted on Twitter:-

Legal Practice Management Conference 2015 (Lunch)

Time for lunch and a chat

A very nice lunch was followed by an excellent presentation by Ed Fletcher and Sara Duxbury on defining resourcing strategies to attract, recruit and retain the best talent to SME firms. Ed and Sara simply told us what they do at Fletchers Solicitors. As I said at the beginning of this post the best legal conference presentations come from those at the coal face of actually running a law firm.

Ed revealed that in selecting Sara as ‘Head of People’ at Fletchers he ensured she was not tainted by the law. She had no legal background. Fletchers was the first law firm she had worked for. A sensible approach compared to the norm of a law firm partner getting the short straw of being in charge of HR!

Ed told us how important it was to get the right law firm culture: values, beliefs, personality and essence.

Sara highlighted the fact that Universities are turning out law graduates who can’t spell or construct sentences. You now need to test potential recruits in such skills that were once taken as a given.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that Fletchers had paid £5,000 to have a recruitment tweet sent to all followers of The Law Society Gazette Twitter account. That is 53,700 followers so a cost of about 10 pence per follower. However, they filled the post as a result and Sara saw it as good value for money as a recruitment agency would have charged them £7,000 for the same task. So a saving to Fletchers of £2,000. Done differently they could have saved themselves £7,000. They could have tweeted it themselves and asked their followers to retweet. It could potentially have gone on to hit more than 53,700 tweeps depending on retweets made and number of followers those retweeting had. However, I recruit via Twitter in a different way. I identify potential recruits by their Twitter activity and head hunt them at no cost (other than my time) to Inksters. I mention this strategy in my post on Lawyers and Social Media + Personal Branding for Law Students.

Ed and Sara showed us some videos. Here is one of them:-

Ed indicated that although they allow flexible working at Fletchers, which includes working from home, there is, in his view, no better way to impart knowledge than face to face in the office.

After another networking break there was a panel discussion about aligning your business with your clients.

We were told that partners often consider marketing a waste of time. It should, of course, be a core part of any business.

Chris Allen, managing partner of Blacks Solicitors, is a great advocate of social media (his firm does it well). He told us social media is not going to go away and you have to get with it. I find it amazing (maybe not) that in 2015 this message still has to be conveyed at a legal conference. But not many of the delegates had heard of Periscope. Chris thinks it is a “game changer” and “the biggest thing since YouTube”. I am still getting used to Vine never mind Periscope. Telescope for Periscope is not a good enough Windows Phone App to appreciate what clearly is the finer side of Periscope. They really will have to produce a proper Windows App for me to get with it. Until then I will let Chris lead the way. Apparently (for those of you with an iPhone) he has a weekly Periscope Broadcast.


It appears though that such broadcasts vanish after 24 hours. Click on the link in the above tweet from Chris and you will disappointedly see that it has expired. You have to be in the moment. Not sure that this makes it a “game changer” in a world of catch up TV, iPlayer and anytime and forever on YouTube. But I may be missing something *borrows wife’s iPhone to check*.

Moving away from social media (Chris would have kept the panel on that topic all afternoon if he could have) we were told that not all clients are the same. You should treat different clients differently. Be as close to your clients as you can.

Clients don’t care how good your law degree is they want good communicators.

Being top heavy can manage client expectations. The clients speak to a ‘partner’. Keystone Law have 180 at partner level and only 3 Paralegals. Although that raised a query on Twitter:-

We heard that Skype and SMS are both playing a part in client communication. We need to accommodate our clients’ preferred communication methods. I have certainly seen this with SMS but not really seen the demand as yet for Skype.

The silo mentality of lawyers was discussed and the difficulty of getting them to cross sell. There was a suggestion that there should be no option. They are part of a business and should be making that business work.

The last panel session of the day was perhaps the most disappointing one of the day. It was entitled 2015 is the year of data: cloud computing, disaster recovery, cyber security – is your firm at risk? Unfortunately the panel seemed to have little idea about what cloud computing entails with a suggestion that it may be best to have a mix of cloud and non cloud in your law firm. Absolute mince. Unfortunately it seemed we hadn’t advanced much from Lex2012 and ‘camel’ computing. One of the sponsors who provide cloud services for lawyers should perhaps have been asked to participate in this session to provide an accurate picture of cloud computing.

fog machine in a data centre

Views on the ‘cloud’ were certainly foggy!

It was suggested that there could be issues with cloud providers not providing maintenance on site if required. Well in a true cloud environment you shouldn’t need maintenance on site as your servers are not on site – they will be in a data centre! I assume what the panellist was getting at, but this was not made clear, was hardware as opposed to software maintenance. You would need either a separate maintenance agreement with a company that can service that locally or a cloud provider who can and does do both. At Inksters we have the latter arrangement and have never had a problem.

It was suggested that most lawyers would not have visited the data centres that hold their data. I was beginning to wonder if the panellists knew what a data centre was! However, I am sure that it is true that most lawyers who have moved to the cloud would find it difficult to tell you where their data was held let alone have actually visited it. Not me. I have been there, done that and blogged about a visit to my law firm’s cloud.

I have only ever attended one conference, which was dedicated to cloud computing, where the actual facts were made clear and the myths surrounding the ‘cloud’ were busted. On the whole anytime the ‘cloud’ is mentioned at legal conferences the myths are hyped and delegates are more likely to leave with more worries and concerns than was ever necessary. Read my post on ‘Law Firm in the Cloud‘ to alleviate any concerns you may have.

Turning to security issues we were alerted to the all too common occurrence of lawyers breaching confidentiality on trains. This reminded me of the Kilroy Scale as blogged about by Legal Bizzle back in 2011.

There then ensued a rambling discussion about ISO accreditation. I was left not knowing what ISO number they were speaking about or the real relevance, if any, of it. I don’t believe the panellists knew themselves. Definitely the time had come to bring proceedings to an end and move on swiftly to the drinks reception.

The final word was left to Simon Slater who gave us the Charles Darwin quote or misquote: “It is the species that is most adaptable to change that will survive”.  It would be unusual to go to a legal conference these days and not hear either that one or the one about Wayne Gretzky skating to where the puck is going to be. Some conferences even do both! But perhaps, like the fact that social media is here to stay and is not going away, these are all messages that need hammering home to ice age lawyers. Although I reckon they are not the ones who actually attend such conferences.

The day ended with a drinks reception and a chance to catch up with faces old and new.

All in all a very good conference that provided some useful insights. I was glad I had made the journey south for it. I look forward to seeing the programme for the Legal Practice Management 2016 Conference and hope one of the topics is “busting the myths surrounding cloud computing” with a panel of speakers who can do just that.

Image credits: All photos are © Legal Support Network ; “Welcome to the Cloud!” meme by Irreverent Monk

Notarising and Grass Cutting – Providing flexible and accessible legal services

Notarising and Grass Cutting - Providing flexible and accessible legal services

I was still able to cut the grass and gain a new client

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon a potential new client called my law firm, Inksters, looking for a Notary Public to notarise documentation for her today (Saturday). She had already called a good number of law firms in Glasgow but the response from each had been the same: “Tuesday is the earliest we can do it as it is a bank holiday weekend and we are closed until Tuesday”.

At Inksters we are open on Monday as we don’t close on bank holidays (other than Christmas and Easter Monday). As I am often in the office over a weekend it would not be a problem for me to see a client then if they want to meet at the weekend. I wouldn’t think twice about accommodating a request to specifically do so and, indeed, have done just that on a number of occassions.

But today (Saturday) I was planning (at the request of my wife) to spend the day at home doing household chores that included, amongst other things, mowing the lawn. So I had to tell the potential new client that I wouldn’t be in the office on Saturday but would be happy to meet her there on Sunday. However, Sunday was going to be too late for her as there was a deadline to submit the notarised documents by e-mail (as long as then followed up by post) that could only really be met if the notarising took place on Saturday. Not wanting to be as obtuse as the other law firms had been to her I enquired as to where she lived. It transpired with some serendipity that she lived just around the corner from me! So I suggested that we meet at my home this morning for the notarising to take place and that is what happened. She is now a happy client and I was still able to cut the grass so I have a happy wife too!

Even if we had not lived so close together she would have been more than happy to have crossed Glasgow in order to get the documents notarised wherever I had lived. It took very little time out of my day and was indeed much easier for me than arranging a meeting over the weekend at my office. No other law firm she contacted even contemplated such an arrangement. They thought only of their own normal working hours and not of the possibility of being flexible to meet the specific needs and requirements of a potential new client. Inksters gained a client. They didn’t. No doubt that new happy client will tell her friends the story about the accommodating lawyer and we will get even more new clients as a result.

In this day and age lawyers can’t afford to miss opportunities by only being open 9am to 5pm (possibly closed 1pm to 2pm) Monday to Friday and closing on bank holidays. Your customers don’t live in that world. You have to adapt to their world.

 

Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer – Reviewed

Tomorrow's Naked LawyerMy concern on seeing the cover of ‘Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful, 2015 to 2045′ was that this was very much a futurist book that would assist today’s lawyer no more than listening to a keynote talk at a LawTech Futures Conference. A prediction made three pages in did not alleviate this fear:-

“Cities will be run by robots and machines could potentially wipe out a significant proportion of the workforce, globally.”

‘Terminator’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘I, Robot’ here we come!

However, Chrissie Lightfoot comforted me somewhat by stating that her book is:-

“VERY futuristic as well as practical for today, proffering insights, ideas, and examples which can be put into practice now to help you and your business grow, and be prepared  for, the future.”

Chrissie warns of an ‘adult’ element and theme throughout her book. This may prepare you for, amongst other things, her comparisons of poor rainmaking being like unfulfilling sex and extraordinary rainmaking leaving both parties, client and lawyer, more than satisfied. Not perhaps what you would be expecting from a business development book for lawyers but some of her analogies may well be left imprinted on your mind! Beware: Chrissie also prrrrrrrrrrrrs a lot.

In his forward to the book Stephen Mayson states of Chrissie that:-

Her brush strokes also have such compelling (and evidenced) force that they will frighten the pants off a lot of lawyers. It is a world that many will resist. It is also one for which no lawyer has been trained – and, more importantly, for which no lawyer is currently being trained.

Even Stephen adopts Naked Lawyer speak by calling the world we lawyers inhabit “law law land”. And as Stephen points out in law law land:-

The certainties of the old legal world have gone: career for life, reasonable expectation of rising fee income and rewards, promotion to partnership, client loyalty, self-regulation, professional and organisational autonomy, legal aid, and so on.

I think many lawyers have yet to grasp this fact and are still clinging on to notions that simply no longer exist in the world we live in today.

Uncertainty, change and constant challenge are now the order of the day.

Chrissie tells you all about it.

At the beginning of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer, Chrissie provides a recap on her first book : The Naked Lawyer (one I have yet to read, maybe I will review that one next – a time travelling blawger can do that!) and her ROAR (‘reach out and relate’) model.

Chrissie reckons that today’s lawyer requires a combination of:-

commercial savvy, business nous, soft skills, rainmaking skills, and technical law excellence.

And to achieve bottom line results they are going to have to be prepared to be on the frontline with their ‘Brand,Me’.

Thirty pages in and you reach Chapter 1 where Chrissie looks at the kind of ‘law law land’ that we live in today. The number of law firms that we have seen the demise of in recent years and the prediction that 1 in 3 law fims face financial meltdown.

Chrissie believes that you can future proof your law firm by focusing on three horizons: (1) operational excellence; (2) innovation and efficiency; and (3) creating growth and the future. Thankfully all three areas that we have been focussing on at Inksters.

Chrissie refers to some new and sexy models and players in ‘law law land’ but misses a trick by not mentioning Inksters ;-)

Only global firms and ‘super niche’ will prosper in the long term predicts Chrissie. I would tend to disagree as I think there is still a place for smaller general law firms serving local needs – but it is how they go about that service provision that will be key to their success. Likewise, Richard Susskind in Tomorrow’s Lawyers, did not see much of a future (beyond 2020) for most small law firms in liberalised regimes. However, he has since retracted a bit from that initial stance.

Chrissie does, however, go on in Chapter 2 to tell us that sole practitioners, independent lawyers and small law firms are rising to meet the industry, economic and business challenges in the present and future with new working practices, increased optimism and the emergence of a new breed of entrepreneurial lawyer.

A lot of this is down to the smart use of marketing, networking and technology.

Please take note prrrrrrrrs Chrissie:-

If you don’t have a voice on the internet, you won’t have a place in the future of law; and

In an increasingly technological, digital, artificially intelligent, silicon and robotic legal world, you will indeed be committing professional suicide.

Chrissie is a social media evangelist and spends much time ramming the benefits of social media home to the reader. I don’t need any convincing but I know that many lawyers do!

I like Chrissie’s formula for success: ‘Brand,Firm’ + many ‘Brand,Yous’ = profit/growth.

The difficulty though for most law firms is getting their lawyers (beyond a core one or two) to become ‘Brand,Yous’. I have been attempting to start them on this path at an early stage at the University of Glasgow School of Law.

I liked the fact that Chrissie suggests that we need to sound human to differentiate the robots from us. She gives you ways to do just that. Many law firm Twitter feeds look and feel robotic even though they probably are not. They could do with following the ‘pub rule':-

Don’t publish any piece that wouldn’t be appropriate for a conversation in a pub.

Although there may be some pub topics that it would be best for lawyers to avoid and tweeting from the pub after a few pints may not be a good idea!

What seems like science fiction kicks in when you reach Chapter 3 of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer. Chrissie predicts that:-

Artificial intelligence, machines, and quite possibly robots will come to dominate the legal world in the not too distant future. By 2020, I reckon. That’s a mere five years from now.

I hate to be a party pooper but I doubt that it will be dominance in such a short period in slow moving ‘law law land’. We will no doubt see the emergence of technologies in that time that should be of concern to lawyers that still don’t embrace technology as they should – and that is the majority. Indeed in the past week or two I have seen references to research and development by a large law firm into new technology-related opportunities, including in the area of artificial intelligence (AI), and also how IBM’s Watson is working to transform legal research.

Robotic Brian

Tomorrow’s Crofting Lawyer?

However, I don’t see a robot standing in for me in 5 years time at a Land Court hearing in the Scottish Highlands & Islands to dissect a complex crofting law point. The Scottish Land Court have only in recent years adopted the use of some basic AV technology and AI is certainly light years away for them.

There is technology that was available for lawyers 20 years ago that many are still not using today. Around that time, if I recall correctly, the Law Society of Scotland was mooting the possibilities of smart card technology of a more advanced kind than what they are currently in the process of rolling out.

Five years ago Automated Registration of Title to Land (ARTL) was going to revolutionise conveyancing. It has been a resounding and very expensive failure. Perhaps due to unwillingness by the profession to adopt it more than anything else – although technically it could have been much better. In 2015 Veyo likewise promises to revolutionise conveyancing but will it?

The Cloud has been a reality for a number of years now but most law firms have yet to jump on board especially Big Law who struggle to keep at the forefront of the legal IT curve.

The Law Society of Scotland still run an Update course on manual book keeping! The blurb says “Spaces are limited so early booking is advisable”. What! There are so many lawyers in Scotland still doing manual book keeping that some may not get into a course on it!

So a lot of catching up required in ‘law law land’ I reckon before artificial intelligence, machines and robots take over.

It should also be borne in mind that some technology with much hype and promise can be short lived. Chrissie predicted that Google Glass “will become as prevalent in law law land as e-mail has been for the past 15 years”. Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer went to print before Google announced on 15 January 2015 that it would stop producing the Google Glass prototype. Whilst Google apparently remain committed to the development of Google Glass it will not be released as a completely redesigned product until it is deemed to be “perfect”. That has not stopped American lawyers playing with them at the ABA Tech Show last week. I assume a retro slot ;-)

What next on the wearable technology front for lawyers? An Apple Watch perhaps?

But new technology should not be ignored (I am a huge advocate of it as any Time Blawg reader will know). Those firms using what we have at our disposal today to their maximum benefit will be the ones who will no doubt be at the forefront of the rise of the iCyborg lawyer. But I doubt we will see a major impact on that front in 10 years let alone 5 years.

Chrissie announces that:-

An avatar/robotic copy of yourself will be available in 2015 and mass produced by 2020 (we’re talking clones here!)

Hologram Doctor

Dr. Who?

I do not doubt that technology is advancing at an alarming rate but basics like WiFi that can actually work on trains for the entire journey must come before a hologram like avatar of yours truly.

Chrissie does, however, acknowledge that:-

“[Lawyers] have always been behind the curve…. Technology solutions can make our lives a lot easier. But we’re in a profession that’s backward-looking.”¹

We are brought back to earth in Chapter 4 with a good look at what the lawyer of today can be doing to improve his/her lot. This may still involve re-inventing and transforming yourself, daring to adapt, innovating and feeling inspired.

Inevitably, for us lawyers to survive the Digital Age, this age of UnLawyering, the pending iCyborg lawyer era and Robotic Age, we must begin by changing (or simply improving) ourselves – our behaviour, our approach, our knowledge, and our skills. It’s going to be a real challenge, but if we get it right, at least we will be a little better prepared for the journey ahead and possibly be more certain of a likely positive outcome.

I couldn’t agree more but it is indeed a real challenge for law firms to get their lawyers to adapt in this way.

Chrissie points out that:-

The days when law firms could rely on hiring a select handful of rainmakers, usually at partner and/or senior associate level are over. Today, ambitious and extremely successful businesses of law want all of their lawyer recruits to be rainmakers.

This is something that today’s lawyers really need to grasp to avoid being one of the three kinds of lawyer that Chrissie suggests will/does exist: the unemployed one. The other two are (a) the support worker to machine systems (low paid); and (b) the super lawyer (highly paid ‘relationship broker’ with business savvy and rainmaking prowess).

Inevitably, in the drive for efficiency (going forward) there will be even fewer lawyers and those who prevail will need to truly justify their existence (and ‘merit based’ salary and bonuses). Rainmaking ability helps.

For the aspiring lawyer who does not want to be an unemployed lawyer it is “you who must take responsibility for your own development and success”.

You must ‘get out there'; business savvy and commercial acumen is only truly learned by interacting, engaging, and getting involved.

The long-term success of a business of law is reliant on maintaining a pipeline of highly skilled ‘value’ rainmakers lawyers.

Chrissie gives plenty of practical examples of how you can be a better rainmaker including a good section on the all important (but often dreaded) task of following up after the first meeting.

Legal education is looked at and the good work being done by Miami Law School and University with its LawWithoutWalls initiative.

I enjoyed Chapter 5 on the SocialHuman. Here Chrissie looks at social media use. She explains the use of ‘Brand,Me’, ‘Brand,Product’ and ‘Brand,Firm’. She also looks at pricing, why smart words and smart behaviour sell, the rise of resonance and provides some interesting case studies of businesses who have successfully used her ROAR model.

‘NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw’ is the enticing title to Chapter 6. Now Chrissie warns we are “going to be prancing and dancing into some really futuristic stuff”. However, thankfully not “without first addressing the legal technology available today to support you in your transitioning roles”.

The companies (and you lawyers) that succeed in the near future will be those that take the time now to assess the role of technology in their delivery and service model.

Chrissie looks at today’s CRM and CMS systems and providers. One point that she doesn’t make is that whilst the technology is available today the actual usage or lack of usage by lawyers (even by those that have purchased it) is a real issue. For a very recent and interesting discussion on this topic see: The Human Barrier to LPM Technology: Will Lawyers Get to the Future? We are trying to combat this problem at Inksters with Legal Process Engineering.

This will also be true of the Robot Lawyer of the future. It may be able to do wonderful things but if the user doesn’t know how to use it or doesn’t want to use it where will that leave us? However, maybe the Robot Lawyer of the future will be so advanced that it will not need to come with a user manual and can be used straight from the box by the consumer no different from its human equivalent.

Kepler-22b

Kepler-22b

Chapter 6 also takes you to the Goldilocks zone and planet Kepler-22b. All very interesting but I’m unsure of the real relevance to tomorrow’s lawyer today.

The final and seventh Chapter is promised to be easy, fun and pleasurable. Just what is needed after a trip to Kepler-22b 1200 light years from planet Earth.

In this final Chapter of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer Chrissie provides a quick recap of the key themes, messages, concepts, practicalities/tips/insights, and future thinking that filled the previous chapters. Chrissie also takes time to share some interesting facts about women and a funny (some might say rude) golfing story.

Summary

As I said at the outset I was concerned that Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer would be very futuristic and not have much to provide Tomorrow’s Lawyer today. However, I am very pleased to report that this was certainly not the case. Whilst Chrissie did stray into the territory of the iCyborg lawyer and distant galaxies far, far away she also brought us down to earth with the things that today’s lawyers should be doing today in order to survive tomorrow.

Many lawyers are still not using technology in the way that they can or should do today. Those lawyers have much to fear of the glimpse that Chrissie gives us into the future of ‘law law land’. Those lawyers that grasp what today’s technology can do for them and harness the power available today will have less to fear about what tomorrow will bring. Those lawyers will be up to speed with Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer. Can you afford not to be too?

Buy the Book

You can buy ‘Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer’ from the Ark Group HERE.

Footnotes

¹ A quote from Bill Mordan, who was quoting David Bain, in an article by Monidipa Fouzder on ‘Robots running law firms? Surely not‘.

Image Credits: Brian the Robot © Confused.com; Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour – where all ten of the Doctor’s previous incarnations appear on the Atraxi hologram projector © BBC; “Kepler22b-artwork” by NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Lawyers, Power Cuts and The Cloud

lawyers, power cuts and the cloud

A power cut does not have to mean that your computer systems go off too!

A couple of weeks ago there was a power outage in central Glasgow that affected parts of the G2 and G3 postcodes. This included my law firm’s HQ: The Inksterplex. Power was out for a little over an hour. When it did come back on there was a couple more short outages before it stabilised. Then a week later exactly the same thing happened but this time for the best part of two hours. This was an unusual occurrence in the centre of a city and not one that you would expect to happen twice in the space of a week. However, it did demonstrate the benefits of cloud computing.

Had our servers been located within The Inksterplex then work that Team Inksters were working on when the power went off may have been lost. If remote workers in our Wick and Portree offices or those working from home or on the move were connected to such servers within The Inksterplex then they would have been cut off too.

As it is that thankfully was not the case. Our servers are not located in The Inksterplex but are located in a data centre which benefits from back up generators in an event of a power cut. Our solicitors in Wick and Portree were able to operate as normal. Those solicitors at home or on the move were unaware of the power cut. I was in Shetland on business during the second power cut and was operating without difficulty via my Surface. Even those in The Inksterplex could still function via their mobile phones or laptops (assuming their batteries were charged!).

So a clear example of the benefits of having your law firm in the cloud.

Rainmakers and Trailblazers – Reviewed

Rainmakers and Trailblazers by Kim TassoRainmakers and Trailblazers by Kim Tasso claims in the introduction to provide:-

“step-by-step, pragmatic advice to what an individual lawyer (senior or junior, serving commercial or consumer markets) might do to get started in business development or in specific business development situations.”

Kim does not disappoint and you do get exactly what it says on the tin.

However, Kim does invite you to “skip the social media ideas if you want to”. Perhaps not sage advice. Social media has given me and Inksters some very good business development opportunities over the past few years. Ignore it at your peril.

I assume though that Kim knows that many lawyers (probably the majority of her readers) turning the first few pages will already be prejudiced against social media (‘irrational rejectionism’ as Richard Susskind calls it) and she no doubt wants to keep them engaged.

I liked the analogy between rainmakers and the author’s native American ancestors. Kim knows that:-

success for them wasn’t about a lone brave out on his or her own, but the careful study of weather patterns and the local environment, monitoring the habits of their prey and the trailblazing activities conducted by the entire tribe working together.

One of the major challenges I am sure for most law firms is managing to achieve such unity when it comes to rainmaking activities.

Many lawyers do still think that if you are really, really good at your area of law and provide an excellent service then you will be recommended by word of mouth and the phone won’t stop ringing with new clients and new business.

Kim reminds us that this was perhaps true once upon a time. All has changed due to a relaxation in promotional rules, supply for legal services outstripping demand and the advent of the internet.

Today, it is not only important every lawyer knows how to generate new business – whether from existing or new clients or referrers, whether seeking private individuals or global corporations as clients – it is fundamental to survival.

Some might see this as uncomfortable or even sleazy. But Kim tells us to see it in a different way:-

Consider that you are seeking the right sort of clients and helping them to solve a problem. You are helping them to buy. That way your goals (the need for more legal work) and their goals (a solution to a personal or business problem) are aligned.

Kim then embarks on a journey to turn you into a rainmaker. She warns at the outset “no pain, no gain”. It isn’t that easy. And she also reminds us that “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

‘Rainmakers and Trailblazers’ covers marketing fundamentals such as identifying what sort of business developer you are (what activities you can do best) and researching the external market. But it also provides you with the tools to prepare yourself, such as a business development competencies matrix for you to complete showing your strengths and weaknesses.

The importance of deepening existing relationships is explored. There may be kudos in bagging a new client but retaining an existing one may be more significant especially if that client is one of the 20% that gives you 80% of your business.

You also, of course, need to raise your profile and Kim looks at “Brand Me”. Something I have been known to bang on a bit about too! When I asked some solicitors a few years ago for views on what we should put on our new business cards one said “Google Brian Inkster” as that was all I would need. :-) Many solicitors have a long way to go before that will work for them but Kim gives you all the pointers you need to achieve it.

It is the culmination of a range of activities over time that helps you establish contact, build a relationship, demonstrate credibility, learn about client needs and win opportunities to pitch, and this needs a drip-drip approach to on-going activity.

I know this all to well. It is along term project and takes hard work and dedication but is certainly well worth the effort.

Kim looks at the difficulties of internal cross-selling and gives some good examples of excuses for lawyers not doing it.

My client prefers to deal with me alone.

Ways of overcoming this resistance are given.

The importance of networking on and offline is highlighted with a very useful step-by-step guide from the first encounter to the all important part of actually winning business.

We have two ears and one mouth and should use them in these proportions.

We are reminded by Kim that:-

It is often easier for lawyers to choose not to get involved in marketing and business development – they feel more confident performing their legal job and often this will lead to short-term results, such as chargeable hours worked. This also suggests we must ensure lawyers have the necessary skills and confidence to tackle the business development tasks we set them and to provide clear and specific goals.

Part II of ‘Rainmakers and Trailblazers’ is about law firms supporting business development by individual lawyers. Much of this part of the book is written from the perspective of a big law firm and the different departments and systems that may be there to assist you. But there is much in here that applies equally to the smaller firm and it may just be that the support on various fronts comes from a smaller pool of people with a wider range of skills.

Kim gives three strategies to avoid being pressed down into the commodity end of the market: “go large”, “go niche” and “go local”. At Inksters we are doing all three!

To stay the same, Kim says, is no longer an option:-

It results in a de facto “go out” strategy.

Kim gives some examples of law firm differentiation. She quite likes the idea of “Lawyer on a bike”. This is an “on the spot” lawyer that you despatch on a motor cycle to come and fix problems in situ. An urban approach perhaps to Inksters’ “Flying Solicitors” to help those in the most far flung parts of Scotland. See flyingsolicitors.com.

As Kim says:-

Let go of your constrained thinking resulting from the way you have always done business.

Easier said than done for most lawyers me thinks ;-)

Think as if you were a client – who just wants a solution to a problem.

Kim tells you to make friends with finance:-

The main purpose of getting to grips with finance is so you devote your time and energy to developing the right sorts of clients and work. And the right sort of clients and work are those that generate the most profit. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But too often, lawyers go in pursuit of more clients, work and fee income without really thinking about the relative and absolute profitability of the work.

‘Rainmakers and Trailblazers’ finishes with a reminder of a point made at the outset of the book:-

The ability to generate work and win new clients is no longer a “nice to have” – it is a necessity. The future job market will expect great candidates to not only be good at their legal subject but to have a host of other skills – and marketing and business development is right up there at the top of the list.

And what about the “too busy” excuse? Kim says:-

In terms of being “too busy” the key is to find business development activities you find palatable and a way to fit them into your busy work life. It is possible to do it – believe me. It’s unfamiliar and difficult at first but it will get easier. Set yourself some simple goals to begin with – using this book you will be able to sketch out a plan of activities and schedule a little bit of business development activity a week. Make the effort.

Yes, you really do have to make that effort. But Kim’s book provides the steps necessary to do so with useful tables, flowcharts, checklists, check points and web links.

If you wanna  be a rainmaker, if you wanna be the best, if you wanna beat the rest then ‘Rainmakers and Trailblazers’ by Kim Tasso is what you need. Buy it now via Legal Monitor

Lender Exchange Fiasco

The Computer at Lender Exchange says No!

The computer at Lender Exchange says No!

Lender Exchange is a secure portal for lenders to manage their conveyancing panels. It is operated by Decision First, a joint venture between title insurance company First Title and Decision Insight. Law firms must pay a fee (ranging from £285 to £995 per annum depending on the size of the practice) to use the portal. Lender Exchange was imposed on the legal profession when it launched in the UK on 4 August 2014. The first lenders making it mandatory to use Lender Exchange to be on their conveyancing panels are Lloyds Banking Group (which includes retail mortgages for Bank of Scotland, Birmingham Midshires, Halifax, Lloyds Bank and Scottish Widows Bank) and Santander.

Law firms must input and keep up to date on Lender Exchange a plethora of information such as each solicitors previous employment history covering at least a period of 10 years. Practicing certificates and Professional Indemnity Insurance certificates must be uploaded to the system annually. Much of the information that each law firm must spend time and effort inputting into the system is readily available from the Law Society of England & Wales, the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Law Society of Scotland. These Law Societies repeatedly offered to provide the data free to lenders but their offer was refused without any explanation. Des Hudson, when he was Chief Executive of the Law Society of England & Wales, said that the result was:-

A single commercial provider has been given a powerful position and the potential to control the dynamics of the conveyancing market and introduce needless cost to the detriment of consumers.

Lender Exchange state on their website:-

We’ve been working hard with banks and building societies to deliver a service which makes the lives of conveyancers across the UK easier when dealing with lenders on panel related issues… we aim to make the process of applying for panel membership and updating lenders on changes in your businesses easier, quicker and more cost effective (for law firms and lenders alike).

Well that was certainly not my experience of Lender Exchange yesterday.

I received an e-mail from Lender Exchange that read:-

Further to our previous emails regarding outstanding information and/or documents, our records indicate that the requested action has still not been taken.

As 28 days have elapsed since our initial request and despite several reminders, you have failed to supply your firm’s PII or a reason for this continued delay, your firm has now been suspended from the following panel(s):

Lloyds Banking Group
Santander

Your access to Lender Exchange remains active at this time, however you will need to contact the appropriate lender(s) directly to discuss your panel status with them.

I couldn’t understand this as I knew that I had updated all the information requested on the secure portal in advance of the deadline date previously given to me by Lender Exchange.

I assumed they had an administrative glitch in their systems.

I phoned them up.

I told my story to the lady who answered the phone. Having done so she advised me that she had nothing to do with Lender Exchange. She was in another department of Decision First and if the Lender Exchange phone lines were busy they overflowed to them. I was to phone back in a few minutes when hopefully someone at Lender Exchange would answer the phone before it went through to the overflow again!

I waited a few minutes and phoned back. To my relief it did not overflow this time but was answered by a lady actually employed by Lender Exchange. I told her my story. Yes she could see that I had uploaded all the information that I had to onto the system but I had not pressed the “Submit Firm Details” button. This was on a different page from the one I had updated the information onto and after updating the information I was supposed to know to go to that page (no alert supplied to do so) and press the correct button. There are actually two buttons next to one another on the relevant page: “Update Firm Details” and “Submit Firm Details”. Although I was actually in my mind updating firm details and had previously submitted firm details I was not to use the Update button but only the Submit one. So having been talked through this confusing system I pressed the submit button.

Having now resolved the administrative/technical issues caused by the Lender Exchange system I assumed my law firm was no longer suspended from the two lenders’ panels. No I was told. My law firm remained suspended and I had to take it up direct with the lenders in question to see if they were willing to reinstate. I asked to speak to her manager.

The manager showed me no sympathy. The Lender Exchange secure portal was proven to work and I should have used the 64 page user guide available online if I was unsure how to operate it! A very quick glance at the user manual suggests it is aimed at the first registration process and not the actual updating of information once registered. However, the manager reiterated that my inability to use the Lender Exchange systems properly meant my law firm was suspended from the two panels in question and there was nothing more she could do about it. If I wanted reinstated I had to contact the administrators of the panels in question direct.

Now I would class myself as very computer literate and technologically savy. If I couldn’t follow how to use the Lender Exchange online portal correctly how were the many solicitors who are less computer literate fairing?

Anyway, the prospect of achieving the work on my desk I planned to deal with on Friday afternoon was fading fast. I now had the prospect of phoning two lenders before me.

Both panel administrators were very pleasant indeed and a nice change from my encounter with Lender Exchange.

I learned from both that they had no forewarning or any knowledge that Lender Exchange were issuing such e-mails! Thus Lender Exchange had intimated suspension to law firms on behalf of but without the authority or consent of the lenders!

Apparently 50 such e-mail were issued to law firms by Lender Exchange yesterday and 250 are scheduled to be issued during the forthcoming week.

I was reassured by both panel administrators that my law firm had certainly not been suspended from their panels and I was to simply ignore such communications from Lender Exchange. This was comforting indeed but should Lender Exchange not have ascertained this before being so adamant with me that suspension had taken place? The Lender Exchange portal still shows my firm’s panel status as suspended today. No doubt I will have to spend a good part of the forthcoming week getting them to amend that status to reflect the actual fact that suspension never took place at all.

No, Lender Exchange certainly does not make the lives of conveyancers across the UK easier when dealing with lenders on panel related issues and it does not make updating lenders on changes in your businesses easier, quicker and more cost effective (for law firms and lenders alike). It is a complete and utter fiasco and the lenders need to sort this mess out. I trust the Law Societies will be lobbying them to do so and hopefully, this time, the lenders will sit up and take notice.

Now I have got that out of my system I will be spending the remainder of today, Saturday, doing the work that Lender Exchange prevented me from doing yesterday afternoon.

What do you think of Lender Exchange?

Picture Credit: The image used is © BBC from the television series Little Britain

Lawyers and Social Media + Personal Branding for Law Students

Personal Branding for Law Students

Can anyone hear me?

I gave a talk today on Lawyers and Social Media to the students on the Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow School of Law. My talk emphasised the importance of personal branding for young lawyers which can and should start whilst still law students. I pointed out that lawyers had to tell the world who they were and what they were doing. No one else would necessarily blow their trumpet for them. Who else might know the importance of the case they had just won? However, rather than using a loudhailer to do so IT and in particular the Internet was now the best tool for this purpose.

I asked the students if they knew who Stuart Baggs was. He was, of course, one of the contenders on series 6 of The Apprentice who referred to himself as ‘The Brand’. He also said he was a big fish in a small pond and was told in no uncertain terms that he was not a brand nor a fish.

I suggested that the students are at the moment small fish in a large internet pond that they need to grow in.

But as Richard Susskind has said:

Most lawyers are pathologically late adopters of IT. Despite promising, early successes, until the worth of an emerging technology is proven beyond reasonable doubt it will not generally be embraced by the legal world.

It was, however, heartening to see that of the 100+ students in the lecture theatre nearly all of them were on Facebook (maybe no surprise there) but with one half to two-thirds being on Twitter and the same on LinkedIn. Slightly less (but a fair number) were on Pinterest. These statistics compare favourably to a similar poll I did to the class of 2011 when whilst almost all were on Facebook only 4 were on Twitter and 7 on LinkedIn. That was a class of 165 students.

In 2011 Google+ didn’t exist. In 2014 only one law student pioneer had signed up to it. None of them were on Ello and only one student had even heard of it. No one was broadcasting on YouTube.

One student was quick to join Twitter immediately after the lecture:-

When I was preparing my presentation I was scratching my head to think of any current law students in Scotland who were blogging. So I asked Twitter for help:-

I was pointed in the direction of a few political student bloggers. No doubt elements of law in there but on the whole Scottish referendum heavy. Some Australian student law blogs exist. A few in England (e.g. Lawyer in the Making, Raising the Bar, The London Law Map and Matthew Hopkins – The Witchfinder General) but, alas, I could not find any in Scotland. This was in stark contrast to the position in 2011 when Michelle Hynes (Glasgow University), Alistair Sloan (Stirling University) and the Anonymous Scots Law Student (Strathclyde University) were all blogging. Michelle and Alistair still do. The Scots Law Student stopped it would appear when they were no longer a student. Michelle and Alistair have both since gone onto great heights by becoming employees of Inksters ;-) In both cases their blogging and social media activities caught my eye and led to them being offered positions at my law firm.

A new law student blogger, Paul Cruikshank, did appear just before today and as a result of me tweeting about the dearth involved:-

Paul was at the lecture today and I had the pleasure of meeting him.

I also took the students through my own law firm’s online strategy including a discussion on Tweeting in Convoy, Tweet-ups, Inksters Give, Inksters Christmas Hats, Trial Inksters and the Inksterplex (which now has #inksterplex on the front door).

#inksterplex

How many law firms have a hashtag on their front door?

The benefits of blogging on this blog, the Crofting Law Blog and elsewhere was highlighted. The result of this strategy I explained was becoming a bigger fish in the internet pond.

The talk finished with a quote from US Attorney Betsy Munnell commenting on my post on Law Firm Twitteratigate:-

Clearly, and the data in your post makes this point many times over, young lawyers need to teach themselves how to use social media for their careers. They cannot wait for their firms to catch up–not if they wish to build self-sustaining practices, not if they wish to survive this economy and the coming revolution in the delivery of legal services.

Note: This lecture formed part of the Business, Ethics, Finance and Practice Awareness course of the Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow School of Law.

Law Smash: Lawyers do stand-up comedy

9 Lawyers do Stand-Up

Did you hear the one about the….

On 9 October 2014 I was in London for Law Smash. Nine people associated with the law in one way or another took to the stage at the basement bar in the Star of Kings to do stand-up comedy for the first time.

The comedians for the night (pictured above from left to right and in order of appearance) were: Jeremy Hopkins, Simon Harper, Tim Bratton, John Miller, Rachel Agnew, Sean Jones QC, Daphne Romney QC, Myles Jackman and Laurie Anstis.

Law Smash was organised and compered by Steve Cross and was a spin off from LawFest.

The comedy we heard at the Star of Kings included tales of social media, bed & breakfasts, death, lying like politicians, star trek toilets on trains, life as a QC, Pulp Fiction analogies, the path in life we may have taken and bestiality. So a good mixture of topics and not a huge amount directly to do with the law, which was probably a good thing. The routines and delivery were top class across the board. They created a lot of laughter from the audience.

I am no stranger to comedy performances with my own show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. But there I was surrounded by professional comedians with me being the butt of their jokes. I did have to think up, hopefully, funny retorts on the hop. But it was nothing to what being on stage on your own must be like. Terrifying I expect. All nine acts at Law Smash pulled it off remarkably well and appeared like polished professionals. Well done to them all and I am looking forward to Law Smash 2015 already. Steve Cross asked me at the end of the night whether I would be up for performing at Law Smash next year. I will sleep on it for now!

The night ended with a turn by professional comedian Tiernan Douieb. There was then a chance to catch up with some friends old and new over drinks.

All in all an excellent night out. I would give it 5 stars.

Law Smash was a fundraiser for the National Youth Arts Trust, who work to make the arts accessible to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. All the profit made went to them.

Update: Jeremy Hopkins has published audio of his routine. Enjoy:-

Update 2: Audio of John Miller’s routine now also available. More to enjoy:-

Tods Murray is no more – Another Scottish law firm bites the dust

Tods MurrayIt was very sad to hear of the demise yesterday of another well known Scottish law firm. Tods Murray was formed in 1856 and by 2014 was ranked the 14th top Scottish law firm by The Lawyer based on turnover of £12.4 million. The Scotsman reported in January 2014 that Tods Murray grew its pre-tax profits to £2.5 million in the year to 31 March 2013 from £2.3m in the previous 12 months. But apparently such turnover and profit was not sufficient to keep the wolves from the door. It should be born in mind that, as reported in The Scotsman in November 2011, financial returns at Tods Murray had fallen from a high in 2007 when turnover hit £22.5m and gave the firm a net profit of £8.6m. Tods Murray went into Administration yesterday and was immediately acquired by Shepherd & Wedderburn. Whilst the 160 or so Tods Murray staff are transferring immediately to Shepherd & Wedderburn reports suggest that an initial 50 redundancies are likely.

Tom MacLennan and Iain Fraser, partners with FRP Advisory, were appointed as joint administrators to Tods Murray. As reported in The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland, Mr MacLennan said:

Tods Murray had exhausted every option to turn the business around, and was faced with an unsustainable gap between high fixed costs and income. Administration was the only alternative for the firm, but we are delighted that Shepherd & Wedderburn has acquired the Tods Murray business, and will provide the partners and staff with a stronger platform from which to service their clients.

The demise of Tods Murray was in stark contrast to the news announced just over a week ago when Caroline Shand joined the firm as partner from global law firm Nabarro. The Daily Record quoted Tods Murray, executive partner David Dunsire, saying:

It is a very exciting time just now.

Confidence has been regained in the economy and clients are looking for opportunities.

We are delighted to welcome Caroline to bolster our top level service and legal guidance to the real estate finance market.

We have an unparalleled team and we are very much looking forward to the future.

David Dunsire was apparently  unaware that Tods Murray would no longer exist just over one week later.

Rumours of a possible administration at Tods Murray circulated back in 2009 with David Dunsire having to write an open letter to the Scotland on Sunday in March of that year:

We have heard that we are on our bank’s ‘at risk’ register, that partners have refused to inject more cash into the firm and that we are, indeed, about to go into administration. All of this is totally untrue. The firm is financially stable.

In January 2013 Tods Murray were apparently bouncing back with David Dunsire telling The Scotsman:

We have taken steps over several years to restructure and build a lean and effective practice which leaves us well placed, I believe, to emerge from this recession stronger and fitter as we have done with others during our 150 year history.

In an article published in 2009, entitled ‘Lawyers ponder the future as knife is wielded‘, Ian Fraser wrote:

One source said that Scotland’s law firms are currently in “no man’s land”. While dealmaking and all the other boom-time activities dried up long ago, they are still awaiting the “tipping point” — when a spate of corporate restructuring and widespread insolvencies starts to fill the void. For some of the over-stretched firms, the wait might just prove too long.

It clearly did for Tods Murray.

Tods Murray joins other high profile law firm casualties in Scotland in recent times such as Ross Harper and Semple Fraser. Other Scottish law firm names that have vanished through merger with larger English firms include Biggart Baillie, McGrigor Donald (latterly known as McGrigors) and Dundas & Wilson.

I don’t imagine for one minute that this is the last we have seen of such casualties. Why though are these problems besetting large long established law firms? I may consider that in more detail in a future blog post. In the meantime your views are welcome.

LawFest 2014: Something rather special

LawFest logo

I go to a fair few legal conferences every year and often report about them on here. When I saw early tweets about LawFest it was clear that something very different, from the legal conference as we know it, was forming. I had to go to Cheltenham and experience it. So non ‘legal’ did it look that I persuaded my wife (who is an architect and not a lawyer) to join me.

On arrival at The Parabola Arts Centre in Cheltenham on Friday evening we were given wristbands not name badges. We were welcomed with drinks. There were familiar faces to catch up with and new ones to get to know (including my first face to face encounter with a cigar smoking bear).

Then through to the theatre for an introduction from Paul Gilbert.

LawFest - Paul Gilbert

He told us that LawFest did not carry CPD points:-

Collecting CPD is not personal development, is not learning, is not anything except a small tick in a largely irrelevant box.

Paul set out his vision of LawFest: a place to be involved, to think, talk and connect.

Then Fiona Laird asked us all to write a four line poem entitled ‘Forgotten’. She gathered them in. She congratulated us on our creativity. She then ripped the poems up and put them in a bin. This she said alleviated our fears that she might read them out. Not sure if it prepared us fully for the fact that the following day we would be creating stuff and reading it out!

My poem, for what it is worth, is:-

Forgotten

I have forgotten

how to write  a poem

Shall I be forgiven?

Can I write another?

Saturday morning started with some live jazz with JCJazz to get us in the swing. We were welcomed by Paul who then began a conversation with Tracy Edwards MBE, sailor, entrepreneur and leader.

Tracy insisted that there was nothing special about her. Sailing around the world arose from a drunken evening in a pub. She did, however, reveal that when she sets herself a goal the thought of failure drives her to succeed.

Hilary Gallo, Steve Chapman and Kay Scorah provided an interactive session to introduce themselves and their fringe sessions. This included a Chinese whispers type session on stage involving actions rather than words with the end result being a very lost message:-

[Kay Scorah on the left started the physical Chinese whisper and shows us what she did whilst John Miller on the right was last to see the whisper and shows us what was lost in translation!]

We discovered that we see things differently through one eye than through the other. We were made aware of how we put our underpants on and how we might do so differently the next morning.

In small groups we created stories one word at a time. This was certainly not a ‘normal’ legal conference and it set the tone for the fringe sessions throughout the day. There were three different streams of activity to pick and choose from. You could dip in or dip out as you pleased. It was impossible to take in everything that was going on but I will give you a flavour of what I experienced.

Theatre director, Fiona Laird, made us find our voice. Through breathing and sound exercises we all sounded much better an hour and a half later than we did at the outset.

LawFest - Fiona Laird

Steve Chapman unleashed the genius within us with a personal creative workout. His six mantras were:-

  • Mad, Bad & Wrong
  • Be Obvious, Be Altered
  • Say “Yes” (to the mess)
  • Fail Happy
  • Embody it
  • Make others look good

We each had to create an innovation from two randomly selected words written by others on post it notes.

LawFest - Pig Park

I got ‘pig’ + ‘park’ so created a pig theme park with inter alia roller coasting pigs, pig dodgems, mud baths and stalls selling bacon butties.

Unfortunately I missed Steve Cross on stage (above) on embracing humour in our lives. But I did go to his workshop on turning off your internal editor, how to make a pattern then break it for laughs, body language and using stand-up to build confidence. There was some very funny moments created by the attendees. It reminded me of my trial at the Edinburgh Fringe and how law and comedy can indeed mix. Steve plans to put on a standup show in London featuring lawyers:-

A break from interactive sessions allowed me to take in a poem from Richard Moorhead’sThe Word Museum‘ read by an actor and directed by Fiona Laird. This made up for missing the earlier session that day with Richard on the evolution of ethics and on Leveson (again informed by actors). I couldn’t express the poetry session any better than Paul Gilbert did in his personal reflection on LawFest:-

My personal reflection is this – When a professor shares a poem he has written that touches his heart, that is then picked up and carried by actors, gently placed before a hushed audience for their quiet contemplation, and it then touches their hearts; in that moment we learn about the power of words, of sharing, of loving, of speaking and of listening …then that is truly a moment to cherish.

Next it was back to an interactive session with Hilary Gallo: Changing chairs to have better conversations. In one to one sessions with other attendees we explored blocking conversations and also encouraging them. We also experienced how you can get someone to move with you without words.

Then a cup of tea was called for in advance of the pre concert drinks.

LawFest - cup cakes

I have already mentioned some of the sessions I didn’t manage to take in. Although I saw Tracy Edwards in conversation with Paul Gilbert I missed a session where you could meet, chat and explore making a difference, change, leadership. I also missed Tracy together with Craig Hunter (ParalympicsGB 2012 Chef de Mission) for reflections on realising potential. There was a conversation with Craig earlier in the day on leadership and team building. Charles Grimes (development expert and musician) had a session giving lessons on leadership in music. Kay Scorah had a workshop on beyond words: Co-creation and co-operation. I also missed the conversation with Stephen Jackson (music director) on how choirs work, the music and the role of the music director. There was a lot going on but as I said earlier impossible to take it all in, even with a Tardis ;-)

After drinks it was time for the Cheltenham Bach Choir. One of the foremost choral societies in the South West of England having performed at the BBC Proms and at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham. A lovely way to finish the day.

LawFest - Cheltenham Bach Choir

Although the day was not quite over. There were more drinks to be had. More connections to be made.

We were the last men standing. But we carried on well into darkness. Eating, drinking, thinking, talking and connecting.

After LawFest and not particularly linked to it I saw this tweet from Julian Summerhayes quoting Seth Godin:-

This made me reflect that we perhaps learned a fair bit about relations, stories and magic at LawFest. Will that magic continue in 2015? Paul Gilbert in his personal reflection on LawFest says:-

Will there be a #LawFest 2015? May be, but not definitely. There was #LawFest  2014 not because it was tweeted, planned, talked about or made, but because you came. From just one tweet a few months before to the thing it became, it only happened because you came. There will only be #LawFest 2015 if you come again.

It is clear from the tweets in response to this blog post that Paul need not worry. We will definitely come again and more will undoubtedly join us. Paul has created something rather special in LawFest.

Paul said there would be no feedback forms at LawFest and if we tweeted anything bad about it he would block us ;-)

I will give my own feedback with suggestions for LawFest 2015 (and risk being blocked by Paul). For a first time event LawFest was remarkably well organised. My comments should be seen as little tweaks to improve very slightly on an incredible start.

  • Festival goers are often tree hugging vegetarians. A little more vegetarian, even vegan (dare I say it), food choice would not go a miss.
  • Those tree huggers like their herbal teas too :-)
  • Have longer breaks for everyone when no sessions/workshops are ongoing. I have said before that legal conferences (I know this was not one) are often all about the people. More chance to connect socially with the people there during the day would be welcome.
  • Let us know who will be there. I realised after the event via Twitter that some people I knew from social media or through other connections were in attendance. Had I known in advance I would have tracked them down. Absence of name badges (deliberate to make it less conference like) meant it was not always easy to know who was who. Send out a list a day or two before or even hand one out with the programme on the day.

Very minor niggles for something that was rather special. See you at LawFest 2015 :-)