Friday, 27 May 2016

Michael Fleming




Michael Fleming believes “Trust” is the key to success for any lawyer attempting business development.  A man after my own heart!  I love what he has to say about the role of the Trusted Advisor, and how perfecting this is the best way to generate new clients and keep old clients coming back to you time and time again.  He even has a formula for it (courtesy of Charles H Green, famed author of three books on the Trust Quotient in business): 
T = (C + R + I) - SI
…. where T = Trust, C credibility, R relationship, and I stands for intimacy.  And what’s the SI that’s to be subtracted after all these wonderful qualities are mixed together, I hear you ask?  Self Interest of course.  Neat.

Michael is Head of Legal Training at specialist training & coaching company Kissing With Confidence (you’ve got to be confident doing business under a company name like that!)  He joined them some 10 years ago, after 20 years as a private practice lawyer.  So he knows the legal sector inside and out, which means all the training and coaching he offers, (from networking and pitching, to negotiating and influencing, and everything in-between), is based on a very good understanding of what life is really like for lawyers, and how legal services are bought and sold in the real world.   Important for any consultant working with solicitors and barristers, in my view.

I met Michael at a training and networking event run by Pinsent Masons' Vario especially for its freelance lawyers.  The subject of the evening was the increasing importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence in an age where we are seeing more and more Artificial Intelligence in the legal services mix. (You can read more about Vario's event in the Daily Telegraph here.) Just days before the event, news broke of US law firm BakerHostetler’s hire of a robot lawyer, ROSS, into its bankruptcy team, and the event hosts were quick to use this to advantage: "as AI increases in law", said Vario CEO Matthew Kay, "so lawyers need to promote their human side and polish up their soft skills as a point of differentiation". (You can follow Vario's thoughts on this on Twitter, via @PMVario or under the hashtag #NoClones.) So Michael’s session couldn’t have been better timed. He certainly had everyone’s attention.  He led a fantastically engaged and lively session.  We were all ears.

Afterwards, I wanted to know more about this emphasis Michael places on Trust in the lawyer-client relationship. 

“It’s all about lawyers developing that classic Trusted Advisor role and understanding what this means in all its aspects.  There are 10 or so key principles we aim to get across in our coaching programmes on this: first, that the trusted advisor is in it for long term relationships, not short term gain; second, they put clients’ interests before their own; third, a Trusted Advisor is genuinely interested in their clients and their business, demonstrating this by working hard to understand the client’s underlying interests too, not just “surface wants”; next, they are reliable; they do what they say they’ll do.  And they are credible.  Lastly, they get up close and personal, and connect emotionally (appropriate professional boundaries maintained at the same time of course!), and are enthusiastic and passionate about what they do.  At the end of the day it’s about authenticity.”

It’s one of my personal bugbears that people often misunderstand the sales process and think it’s about “swizzing” people into buying things they don’t need.  But that’s not good sales at all; in fact it’s called conning people.  Good sales is about understanding/anticipating people’s needs and delivering products or services that will best meet those needs.  It’s actually about helping people; in law this means listening deeply to what it is that clients really need, (in terms of service and price points as well as legal expertise), and shaping your service to fit.  And if as a salesperson you don’t really believe your service is the best solution for the target client, then don’t sell it to them!  Instead recommend the person who can help them more.  You’ll win in the long run.

It will be no surprise to you that Michael’s emphasis on trustworthiness as a key to successful business development was music to my ears.  If this is what Kissing With Confidence is all about, then I’ll pucker up now!

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A court case this week confirmed the term "Superhero" is free for all of us to use and the Kysen team breathed a collective sigh of relief.  A large segment of our IIP-accredited internal training programme is centred around being SuPR Heroes (see what we did there?), using our four SuPR Powers of Persuasion, Perfect Timing, Storytelling and Soundbite-Spotting to make our PR performance superhuman.  


Given the concept of the Superhero is so embedded in our culture, it seems ridiculous that anyone using the word might be infringing a trademark.  In this case, the mighty Marvel and DC Comics had joined forces to challenge little man author Graham Jules, halting publication of his book "From Business Zero to Superhero", in a David-and-Goliath battle worthy of any comic book tale.  Just days before the court case was due to start, Marvel and DC stood down, withdrawing their objection to Jules using the word.  So no court has yet ruled on whether "Superhero" is so much part of culture it can't be "owned" or protected for commercial purposes.  But at least for now common sense has prevailed.
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We are in the kitchen with a favourite client this week, exploring the "marketing mix". Cookery and business coach Richard Coombes will be leading us in a shared learning experience, as together we think about how to blend business development and PR activity ever more smoothly.  The Kysen team will be joined by the firm's two in-house PRs and also four members of their in-house Business Development team. We've carefully prepared Venn diagrams showing how BD and PR activity need to dovetail for best effect.... and this week's challenge is to recreate these diagrams in the medium of cake! Of course we'll be discussing the key ingredients and how they need to be mixed, stirred or folded together with skill, for best results, as we do this.  Watch out for pix on Twitter. Can't wait!


Friday, 13 May 2016

Jeremy Sokel




Our friends at Nottingham Law School always say that a qualification in law can take you anywhere and help you rise to the top in any sphere, and Jeremy Sokel is the perfect example.  From private practice lawyer, builder of grand design homes to CEO and Chairman, and now … (drum roll please) …MD of film production company Into The Woods and executive film producer!  Regular followers of this blog will know why this has got me so excited.

I’ve known Jeremy and his wife and law partner Jessica (a long-time client of Kysen) for a very long time (I got to 20 years and decided to stop counting!).  Together they run employment law boutique Learmond Criqui Sokel which is my reason for keeping in touch.  Well that and the fact they are amongst the very nicest people you could hope to have the pleasure of getting to know in business. 

Given my passion for film, you can just imagine my reaction when Jeremy invited me to a private screening of his soon-to-be-released film Us And Them.  I must watch about five movies on average per week, at home or at the cinema, but this was the first time I’d ever been asked to view one pre-completion and be part of a team providing feedback before the final cut.  And it was brilliant!  So much so, that when Jeremy and his director were ready for my “objective feedback” once the film reel had whirled to an end, I realised I simply didn’t have any – I had been so sucked in by the story, I’d got totally carried away!  With a power lead performance from Jack Roth (yes, son of the legendary TimSkellig,Reservoir Dogs, Lie To Me), and a fantastic supporting cast, Us and Them is most definitely a must-see when it reaches a cinema near you.

Us And Them is billed by its creators as “the film to ignite a generation”.  A bold claim, but considering it’s been selected from hundreds of applications as one of a few films to be shown at the British Film Council’s London Screenings Breakthrough 2016, it looks like they can back it up. Jeremy says  “It’s certainly very much a “now” film - the first British thriller to explore the discontent and sense of disenfranchisement simmering beneath the surface of our post-credit-crunch society, where cheating bankers have escaped with impunity and the humble taxpayer has been made to pay the price in their place.”

I’m not going to give any of the plot away, as a big part of the joy for me was how the story was revealed in layers: one minute you think you know what’s going on; then the story flips and you realise the film is about something else altogether.  All I will say is that the central idea is about all hell breaking loose when disillusioned youngster Danny (Jack Roth) decides to confront a wealthy banker on his home territory.

Us And Them is as entertaining and funny as it is thrilling, at the same time as having something interesting to say and being very clever about how it says it.  The writing is superb and there are some truly wonderful moments to enjoy.  Oh, did I mention it also has a killer soundtrack from The Sleaford Mods, The Damned and the O'Jays?

You can find out more about the film here


I ask Jeremy if he’s looking for further investment.  “Not just at the moment, although there may be opportunities further down the track for anyone interested in getting involved.  Right now we have more than enough to finish the film.  Our focus at the moment is finding the right distributors.  With this in mind I’m off to Cannes next week, so watch this space…”  Need a PR to help while you’re out there Jeremy??
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So the first print-only newspaper to be launched in 30 years has died.  What a surprise.  New Day was always a curious “counter-intuitive” experiment, hoping to tap in to a generation of web-weary readers, longing for news in hard copy only.  An expensive disaster for Trinity Mirror. 

They’ve learned the hard truth that, as Ofcom’s annual report on our changing news consumption habits continually shows, even if we bemoan our screen-addicted lives and constantly reminisce about the days we used to actually pay attention to people in the same room as us, none of us can resist the immediacy of all that information flowing direct to our computer screens and phones.

In a way the demise of New Day is good news: it proves we're all a lot less luddite than we'd care to admit 😉  
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Of course it was always going to be Sarah O’Connor at the FT who took on the robots.  The irony is not lost.  If you missed this priceless experiment to see how a leading FT-trained journalist compared with a computer called Emma when it comes to writing news, then you can catch up with the plot by watching this short video.

Emma is a “machine augmented neural search interface”, in other words an autonomous artificial intelligence (AI).  She has been designed by robotics company Stealth, “to operate autonomously for delivering professional services related to financial analysis, research and consulting”. Lawyers take note: it won’t be long before a cyborg is coming your way too.

Emma certainly gives Sarah a run for her money, completing the task in just 12 minutes compared to Sarah’s 35.  But to the very visible relief of all in the FT’s editorial team, Sarah wins hands down: whilst Emma’s story is packed with figures, albeit accurate and with some decent enough analysis, Sarah is far better at zoning in on the one key stat that in fact makes the whole story.

So skilled white-collar workers may be safe for now.  But for how long…?