Monday, 14 May 2012

Paul Sayers


Estates Gazette acting Professional and Legal Editor Paul Sayers is an expert in 'fierce conversations'. At an (actually very polite) discussion over lunch with Paul and colleague Henri May to discuss EG's plans for the legal section, I learned to my surprise that aside from a successful career in journalism and publishing (Sweet & Maxwell, Reed Elsevier then Reed Business Information), Paul is also a qualified people development coach. In fact he is a 'Certified Fierce Conversations Facilitator' no less - and of course I told him he absolutely should have this job title printed on his business card.  He works with training company PDA (People Development Associates), which is offically licensed by the wonderfully named and actually quite scary Fierce Inc.  Over a very pleasant meal and a glass of wine we discussed the work he does with PDA under the 'Fierce' banner in the context of conflict and mediation in the workplace.

'Fierce Inc's mantra is 'while no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship or a life... any single conversation can.' The point is that organisations are often blocked for months, even years, because of 'conflicted relationships'. And where these are left to fester, for fear of facing intractible issues, the cost to organisations can be vast in terms of management time and also hard cash. 

'Businesses can be transformed by developing conversation as a skill; by encouraging authentic, courageous, and clear dialogue; and by creating a culture where candour and curiosity are the norm.  There are huge positives: improving workplace communication will boost staff engagement and thus raise productivity levels.  But equally, it's also very much about avoiding the negative: we take the view that these unresolved conflicted relationships we talk about contribute to a large portion of the estimated annual £400m + cost to UK business of individual employment disputes. A very tangible justification for investing in training techniques to encourage staff to resolve relationship issues at the earliest stage before problems become entrenched.' 

You'd think that two careers would be enough for one person,  But digging into Paul's background to write up this blog post I also discovered he is artistic director, producer and actor at the Rooftop Theatre Company in St. Albans that specialises in 'lively and accessible' productions of Shakespeare and which recently won the 2012 Fringe Report Award for Best Shakespeare Producers.  This is most definitely a man full of surprises.

This blog post is the second in a series this May on the topic of dispute resolution. 

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Big excitement came this week with the announcement of The Lawyer Awards shortlist. We were delighted to see Kysen clients well represented in the list, with Mayer Brown, Berwin Leighton Paisner and Russell Jones & Walker, all up for multiple awards and Weightmans up for Regional Firm of the Year. 

One entry we were particularly involved in was Brecher's, now shortlisted for the Boutique Firm of the Year Award. Having worked in-house at this firm in its previous incarnation Brecher & Co before its merger with Nicholson Graham & Jones (now K & L Gates) in the 1990s, I know just how excellent it is and the exciting things the team does at the very top of the property market. They regularly put people and deals together and actively make things happen in the market. These are the people who introduced buyer and seller in last year's landmark sale of Bond Street's Burlington Arcade to a US buyer. Historically they have been shy to promote themselves. Talk about a firm hiding its light under a bushel! But over the last year this has been changing and Brecher is starting to get the profile it deserves. They just need to win this Lawyer Award and justice will have been done!

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What do Sacha Baron Cohen and the Master of the Rolls have in common? Generally speaking not a lot. But last night they were both at the Festival Hall: Sacha for the premiere of The Dictator, complete with red carpet, paparazzi and hoards of fans; and the Rt Hon Lord Neuberger as Chair of Russell-Cooke's panel discussion on 'Enforcing Regulatory Standards in a Liberalised Market'. This event had a star-studded line-up of its own: a keynote address from Legal Services Board Chair David Edmonds (who surprised me talking about his enthusiasm for the 'constant flow of new ideas' he sees vetting ABS licence applications); Law Society President John Wotton; and Vice Chairman of the Bar Maura McGowan QC. It was an excellent event and a 'variety of views' was most definitely expressed (but thankfully fisticuffs avoided). For an inside peek at the event, read Paul Rogerson's account in this week's Law Society Gazette or check out the live tweeting that took place at the event under the hashtag #regstandards.

Most memorable moment? Apparently Sacha Baron Cohen and his entourage inadvertently blocking Lord Neuberger from collecting his coat and having to be asked to move out of the way. The words 'Do you know who I am?' were heard ... and not from the Master of the Rolls.

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