Sunday, 19 February 2012

Steven Ross

Fascinating working with Steven Ross on his Manchester United racism case this week. A litigation partner at Brecher, he is advising the owners of Red Issue, a fanzine run by Man United supporters, on the high profile seizure of 1600 copies. The copies were seized by Greater Manchester Police just before the big match on Saturday (11th Feb) because of that cartoon - a Ku Klux Klan image and the words "Suarez is innocent!"  Red Issue is clear the cartoon is satirical and deliberately anti-racist, but the police are attempting to justify the seizure on the grounds it's an incitement to racial hatred, raising interesting issues about where the line is between "satire" and "offence". Steven writes eloquently about this in The Times this week, so if you're interested to look into the topic further, you can read more here.

A point that particularly impressed me about Steven's case though, is how he won this prestigious, high profile pro bono job in the first place. He tells me:

"Manchester United put out a plea on Twitter at the weekend for legal assistance:

Being a fan (so a follower on Twitter) as well as a litigator I spotted the request as soon as it was made and tweeted back right away. Within hours, I was given the role as their legal representation on the matter." 

Always interested in stories of lawyers winning work through social media channels, I quizzed him about it a bit more.

"It's not the first time I've won work via Twitter," he says, "and I'm not the only one at the firm either." Steven's joint Managing Partner is the famous and irrepressible legal tweeter and blogger Nicky Richmond aka @saysitstraight, much loved in both the legal twitter- and blogo-spheres for telling it how it is - indeed sometimes saying the unsayable - and generally bringing some much needed humour to the proceedings. Nicky herself has won work on Twitter - nice, fat profitable work as well.

"One of the things I've learned from this week's experience" Steven says "is that because you can choose your 'community' on Twitter [via who you follow and who you entice to follow you] according to your own areas of interest, both professional and personal, when you do get opportunities to win business they really hit the spot! I am very excited to be playing my part in the outing of racism in football. This furore is one of a number that is confronting the issue and helping deal with it. And of course I feel very privileged lending a hand to help my very own Man United."

So I present this to you as evidence to share with any of your colleagues and peers who still maintain that Twitter is an inappropriate or irrelevant forum for lawyers to win business.

The news story that shocked me most this week was the dreadful revelation by The Times that dying patients with learning difficulties are routinely discriminated against in our hospitals - to the point of being more likely to have "do not resuscitate" orders imposed on them without the knowledge of their families. The revelation came in the form of a report by Mencap, which believes the issue is underpinned by assumptions by some healthcare professionals that people with a learning disability are not worth treating. 

Having worked with RJW's employment team over the last years exploring how individuals with mental health issues are often discriminated against in the workplace, I have become very aware how difficult life is for people in this situation. But this story, I have to say, shocked me to my core. 

What was your favourite BAFTA moment? For me it's a close run between two. First, that wonderful "Cinderella" moment when Meryl Streep lost her glass slipper (actually a very elegant black stilletto) on the steps up to the main stage to collect her Best Actress award for her role as Margaret Thatcher in "Iron Lady" - and Colin Firth swiftly assuming the role of Prince Charming, even going down on one knee to replace the shoe gently on to her foot.  But was this an orchestrated PR stunt do we think? Certainly did neither's existing reputations any harm...

Second, was Jean Dujardin's utterly endearing acceptance speech for his Best Actor win as George Valentin in this year's silent movie smash "The Artist". Loved his final line: 

"In the words of Buster Keaton...[silence]

If you caught it first time around on Sunday, enjoy it one more time here.

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