Friday, 6 July 2018

Dana Denis-Smith

The world is catching up with Dana Denis-Smith. In conversation with her at last week’s FT Innovative Lawyers Summit, I commented on how fantastically her First 100 Years of Women In Law project has caught the imagination of so many people in my world, and men and women alike. For any of you unfamiliar with its aims, the initiative is designed to showcase the contribution of women to the law and highlight female role models for young lawyers, by telling stories of the barriers and opportunities female lawyers have encountered since they were first allowed to become practising lawyers almost 100 years ago.

“I’m quite astonished that it’s become so zeitgeisty. I’m far more used to being the squeaky wheel in the corner, the lone voice banging on about things I think are important but nobody else seems interested in” she tells me shyly. “I thought it would be the same with this initiative. But when I first conceived the First 100 Years of Women In Law project I had no idea what was around the corner: Trump, Harvey Weinstein, the whole #MeToo movement. Suddenly equality and dignity for women have become mainstream issues rather than specialist interest topics.”

Dana invited me to her next event so we could talk more about her work and I couldn’t believe my luck! Suddenly I had the hottest ticket in town: First Women of the Supreme Courts in Conversation, hosted by Gray's Inn and sponsored by Serjeants Inn Chambers (one of its joint CEOs is the effervescent  Catherine Calder who is a trustee of Dana’s project) Mischon de Reya, Clyde & Co and LexisNexis. So I was treated to a panel discussion on what it is to be a woman in law between Baroness Hale, the famed law reformed and the first woman to serve as President of the UK’s Supreme Court; Susan Kiel, another law reformer and the first female Chief Justice of Australia; Beverly McLachlin Who was the first female Chief Justice of Canada and the longest serving of any Sec; and Georgina Wood, the first woman to service as Chief Justice of Ghana. Given a key aim of the First 100 Years project is to role model success for younger women, way to go!

These awesome women gave us gems, such as “Women are half the population so bringing your “womanhood” to your work is just as valid as men bringing “manhood” to theirs!”

More than one said “My life changed as a young woman after reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, describing the dawn of their realisation that women are somehow secondary persons to men. [Note to self: order copy for daughter right away.] Whilst the first wave of feminism was focussed on legal rights for women, the next wave, these world-leading custodians of the law told us last night, must be to deal with the more insidious cultural issues that prevail to this day, which subtly, not directly, telling women over and over they are subsidiary to men.

Indeed the premise of the First 100 Years initiative is based on marking next year’s  centenary anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919,  which ended the notion that women weren’t ‘persons’ in the eyes of the law, which had prevented them from being able to practise law.  But law reform only gets us so far. It’s a cultural shift we need to achieve next, for everybody’s benefit, men’s and women’s alike.

Last night Dana invited us to join her on a journey. “The First Women of the Supreme Courts event is just the first of a whole series of exciting and inspiring initiatives and events taking us up to the centenary moment next year, 23 December 2019.  There will be storytelling, events and an amazing digital museum documenting the journey of women lawyers from 1919 to the current day. We will be promoting interviews and biographies of prominent women in law on our website and also asking about the pioneering women who inspired them."

Today, everyone wants a slice of Dana and her First 100 Years project.  This is definitely an initiative of our time. As I say, everyone is finally catching up with her thinking.
The other hot ticket that landed in my lap unexpectedly was for the FT Innovative Lawyers Summit.  A client over from New York asked at the last minute if I could meet him there and help with some introductions.  What a privilege!  I can't divulge any detail of what was discussed in the sessions, (Chatham House Rules, you understand), but I can tell you that my brain definitely expanded several inches hearing discussions about the role of humans v machines in the delivery of legal services today and into the future.  

And I learned from a new friend at UnitedLex, Nancy Jessen, that the smart firms are thinking about this and using classic management consultancy concepts such as the "stratification of legal services".  This is not a new concept they told me, but I have to say I'd never come across the terms before and I've been in conversation with law firm managers for some 30 years.  I definitely think that that some management consultancy discipline could be very good news for law firms just now as they navigate through how technology an digitisation is transforming the business world.  UnitedLex we need you! 
We loved The Telegraph's story about the use of foreign words in advertising.  Audi, for example, has relied on ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ (advantage through technology) for over 30 years to bring to mind Germany’s reputation for high quality craftsmanship and technical expertise.

The reason foreign words and phrases work is down to psychology apparently: they encourage people to embrace a fresh outlook.  This is a subject close to  our own hearts of course, our company name Kysen being a phonetic interpretation of the Japanese business term "Kaizen" which means "continual improvement".  A concept we buy in to as we are all keen here to keep learning....

Friday, 29 June 2018

Jonathan Ames

There’s no one I can think of who produces more legal news stories each day than The Times’ Jonathan Ames. With an average of 12-15 stories per day, (ok he takes a break at weekends, but still...). To achieve this level of output, he currently does two shifts daily, starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm. Gruelling! But no wonder The Times’ email bulletin The Brief has been such a huge success.

The words “brutal” and “relentless” are mentioned when I ask Jonathan about the pressure of filing so many stories every day. But he’s clearly relishing the role and rightly proud of what he and his colleagues have achieved. “It’s a lot of work, no doubt about it. But it’s very satisfying to look back each day, week, month, and see how much we’ve produced. We aim for as wide a spectrum of legal stories as possible, combined with a bit of gossip and some opinion. And about 80% of our news stories are sourced by ourselves, rather than responding to press releases. The Brief is all about old school newspaper journalism, but in a digital context.” [Great soundbite Jonathan!]

I spoke to Jonathan just days before The Brief is to be housed on the main Times Law website. At a time when newspapers and magazines are struggling to monetise content, given there’s so much information available free online, and in an era when most newspapers have been reducing their legal coverage (The Telegraph dispensed with a full time legal correspondent,  and The Guardian its legal  editor role, as far back as 2009) I was keen to know how his paper  has managed to make a success of bucking the trend and expanding legal content. 

“The Brief was launched in October 2015 as an experiment, The Times wanting to see if they could take a specialist subject the paper was already well known for and create some added value”, he tells me. The Times' legal editor is none other than Frances Gibb, the pre-eminent legal editor amongst all national newspaper editors, so The Brief is starting from a strong base in this regard.  Frances oversees all legal content in the main paper as well as in the Law section, in hard copy and online. “The idea was that the new specialist email bulletin, free to anyone who signed up for it, would remind specialist audiences about The Times’ excellent coverage of legal issues, and reel more subscribers in to the main paper.” Three years on, it’s been a huge success. Job done! Jonathan, all that hard work has been worth it! 

It has to be said that The Times has form in this area: The Brief was based on the highly successful Red Box bulletin that worked the same way for its political coverage. As Jonathan put it, “The Times is famous for grabbing commercial enterprise on the web by the scruff of the neck”. [Wow this  man IS good for a soundbite! Made me wonder if he'd ever consider a job  in PR. But knowing Jonathan as well as I do, I wouldn’t dare ask for fear of the expletives!] “There was a lot of scepticism when we first installed the paywall. But now, arguably it’s the healthiest Fleet Street paper online, along with the Mail and the FT.”

“This next stage”, he tells me, “Is about bringing The Brief closer in to the main Times brand. From Monday [2 July] The Brief will still be sent out as a daily email bulletin as usual, but the content will be housed on the main Times website, in the Law section.”

So does this mean it will no longer be free to non-Times-subscribers?  “Existing Brief subscribers will need to sign up and pay for a Times subscription if they don’t already have one. But for a certain period we’re offering a special deal for these readers, to reward them for their loyalty to The Brief.”  

Don’t miss out! If you haven’t done it already, sort out your Times subscription this weekend! 

Next week sees one of the best women-in-law events yet: First Women of the Supreme Courts in Conversation. UK Supreme Court president Baroness Hale will be joined by former Chief Justice of Ghana Georgina Wood, Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin and Chief Justice of Australia Susan Kiefel, to talk about the experience of women in law. The event is hosted by Gray's Inn and sponsored by our friends at Serjeants' Inn Chambers (among others).  It forms part of the First 100 Years of Women In Law project, in association with Spark 21, (the charity that celebrates, informs and inspires future generations of women in the professions).  

I assume everyone is now aware that 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, which enabled the first women - initially four, each with a first class degree from Cambridge - to pass their law exams and be admitted as lawyers for the first time.

I'm planning to catch up with First 100 Years founder Dana Denis-Smith at next week's event and will be writing up our Conversation for this blog, so watch this space...

What an amazing coup for The Lawyer Awards: snaring star comedian David Mitchell as the evening's entertainment.  Fantastic!  He regaled the Grosvenor House Hotel audience of solicitors, barristers, legal marketers, PRs and journalists with a tale of a disastrous mini-pupillage he did as a youngster, when a client was refused the return of a driving licence after a ban because the judge mistook Mitchell for the driver and decided he didn't look trustworthy enough.  

For me personally, as regular readers of this blog will know, it was particularly cool seeing Mr Mitchell as only a month ago I was lucky enough to catch his Peep Show partner Robert Webb at the Hay Festival, discussing his book How Not To Be A Boy.  Now I have the set!

Friday, 15 June 2018

Fay Gillott

Fay Gillott believes internal marketing is as important as external marketing. Particularly so in the case of law firms and barristers chambers. In fact she goes so far as to say the success of your external marketing depends on getting the internal bit right.

I caught up with Fay during the Hay Festival so I had a good opportunity to quiz her about her 20 years’ experience as head of operations and business development in legal businesses.  (In her time she has covered a variety, including a silver circle law firm, a patent attorney and two sets of barristers chambers.)  She is famous for leading successful revenue enhancement and change management programmes, so when she offers her pearls of wisdom on the practical and tactical points that really make a difference between “nice in theory” and “success in reality”, you listen!

“The markets for legal services are more competitive than ever before.  This means there is a need for a professional approach to marketing and more paid-for activity.  But lawyers are “on a journey” to understand this.” [Nice euphemism Fay].  “Those who "get it", use marketing effectively, but with others you need to work hard to bring them along with your thinking. Internally lawyers put the barriers up: advertising is tacky, they say, and social media is not just tacky but dangerous too!  It takes quite some persuasion to show that if these communication channels are used the right way, they are completely capable of communicating messages about the business’s expertise, imparting knowledge and offering  something serious and valuable, in a way that is wholly consistent with a top law firm / chambers brand.”

I was particularly keen to hear Fay’s thoughts on how the rise of social media as a mainstream channel is shaking up the professional services marketing mix, given the study on this topic Kysen is currently working on with New Law Journal

“Many lawyers don’t yet accept social media as a fact of business life.  Some still dismiss it as merely something that students do, not believing that it projects a professional image. And with some the resistance is not just to Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn too.  More are comfortable with LinkedIn, it has to be said, and some get professional help with their profiles and use their LinkedIn accounts for creating a regular blog.  But Twitter is seen by many as a scary frontier to be avoided altogether.  So you can see how much work there is to do in a firm or a set, to convince lawyers that a properly managed social media stream is necessary for the business, before you even get on to what they might do as individuals to support the corporate channel, eg posting and tweeting themselves.”

This social media example is just one illustration of how the success of internal marketing directly impacts the effectiveness of the external effort: with everyone engaged and working together with the central marketing team, the traction in the external marketplace is going to be so much more.  You can extrapolate from the following and apply the same principles across all the other areas of the marketing mix…

“Time needs to be set aside and sessions arranged to present the planned approach for how the business is to engage with their audiences through social media, using reasoned arguments and lots of evidenced examples as to why it is important and why the particular approach has been chosen.  It needs to be an interactive session, so people engage properly, as this encourages buy-in.  These sessions also need to cover what the role of individuals and teams is within the programme, so everyone is clear not only what the business-wide plan is, but what their own role is within this. And of course, very importantly, support needs to be offered, to skill up and encourage those individuals and teams as they give to the programme what is being asked of them.

“Once you’ve cracked this internal challenge, the rest of the marketing effort becomes easier.  Not only is everyone in the business clear about what they need to do, but also the more understanding they have of the rationale behind the strategy of the professionals they employ, the more lawyers will listen to them and let them get on with their job!  The sum total of all of this is that the marketing actually happens, rather than being half-done.  Lawyers are always keen to ask about Return On Investment in marketing.  To my mind, the most important factor in maximising the ROI, is making sure that that the marketing activity prescribed in the strategic plan actually happens in real life!”

From my own experience working 12 years in-house in law firms, I have to say I completely agree:  at the end of the day, strategy is delivered through people, and particularly so in a legal business. This is why investing time in making sure everyone is clear about the strategic plan for developing the business, and their role within it, will reap dividends.

Image result for robert webbA personal highlight at the Hay Festival was Peep Show’s Robert Webb talking about “How not to be a boy”, promoting his book of the same name. He challenged the audience with some very interesting thoughts on the unhelpfulness of gender assumptions and how ‘The Patriarchy’ is as bad news for men as it is for women. I was inspired to buy the book and I read it in just three days. Very entertaining. A definite recommend.  Favourite bit: his little daughter talking over the family breakfast table about “the trick [she meant the patriarchy] that makes men sad and women get rubbish jobs." That about sums it up in my book!

You can buy "How not to be a boy" here

Image result for racoonHere’s Adele’s favourite story of the week: the racoon that scaled a skyscraper in Minnesota over a period of 20 hours.“Just look at his little face”, she says.

On a serious point, she went on to point out what it says about viral memes. This story was broken by a small local radio station and was soon livestreamed and was trending on Twitter (#mprraccoon) – all major news outlets covered it around the world (which is mad). It's interesting, she says, how the news agenda is set more than ever by what the people want, rather than what newspapers think people should know about.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Julie Gingell

SA Law’s Julie Gingell has been talking to me about the importance of creating “thumb-stopping moments” (love the phrase!) in an increasingly digital world. She insists she didn't coin this phrase herself, but she was certainly the first person to introduce me to it.  What she means by this term, is the importance of making all the marketing content her firm pushes out so arresting, that it stops people in their tracks as they scroll through their inbox and news feeds on their phones throughout the working day.  “There’s so much legal content out there now on social media channels and email arriving direct to people’s phones, that if you want to make sure it’s your firm’s update on a topic that people look at, rather than a competitor’s, you’ve got to offer something eye-catching to stop them scrolling past.  There was a time that you could bank on people using their commute into work to catch up on longer reads and in hard copy – whether perusing a national broadsheet, or catching up on industry magazines.  That’s where we would often choose to place our updates.  Now however, most people are expected to be up-to-date with their inbox by the time they reach the office, so commuter time now means heads down and eyes glued to phones.  Time is so short for everyone.  So if you can offer something on social media as snappy as eg “a 30-second guide to the new regulations on…”, you’ll have a much better chance of snaring readers’ attention and making sure it’s your firm’s take on the topic that’s the one everyone’s digesting, rather than anyone else’s.”

This is also where a good visual comes in to its own of course.  As Julie says, a picture really can sometimes paint a thousand words and a well-designed infographic can be just the sort of 30-second download that a busy scroller will prefer.   

Julie gave me these pearls of wisdom in the context of an interview for Kysen’s joint study with New Law Journal into how the rise of social as a mainstream channel is impacting the law firm marketing mix.

“There’s no doubt the shape of my marketing budget has changed entirely in the last 10 years or so, thanks to the rise of social media”, she tells me.  “Where once the dominant spend was on printed material, after a while shifting to expensively designed e-mailshots, now all you have to do is to Tweet a link to a soft copy and, if you have been diligent in making the right connections on social media platforms and listening to what people say they want in terms of content, it will be downloaded hundreds of times within minutes.  We had this experience with our Recipe Book recently: 2,000 downloads in just a day-and-a-half.  No need to spend tens of thousands on hard copy print runs.  No need to check email addresses.  And of course with GDPR coming down the line this May, releasing material on social platforms is a brilliant way to get around the new restrictions on direct mailing people.”

Does she think that press coverage still has an important role to play in the marketing mix, given how easy it is for firms to push material out themselves, on their own terms, with far less restrictions on what they can say and far more control over when they can say it?  “A strong press profile is still incredibly important”, she says, “because it’s the one channel that carries with it a built-in Third Party Endorsement, which is incredibly valuable; it counts for a lot when The Times chooses one of our lawyers to be their authoritative expert voice on a new legal development.  What we may lose in control, compared to putting out our own stories, a good press profile gains us kudos and influence. What I will say social is brilliant for is extracting more value out of your press cuttings, or other marketing material, once the initial news moment has passed.” She explains how you can tweet a repeat days or even weeks after initial publication with a simple message of “in case you missed it…”  This is a good example of how Julie talks of using social platforms as “glue” between all the different strands of her marketing mix.  “Only a few years ago it was the website address that was the central pin linking everything together.  Now it’s the social media activity… the ability to mention on social platforms the event you attended, the roundtable you hosted, the press article you appeared in, etc etc.  For our Lexcel accreditation we are asked to detail our social media strategy and plan, but I have to say I think this is the wrong way to look at it; I don’t have a separate social media plan, instead seeing it as just one thread that’s integrated into everything we do.”

Another interesting observation Julie shared with me is the key role social media plays in the life of firms whose business opportunity is to a large extent bound up with their standing and influence in local marketplaces.  Having one of the biggest Twitter followings amongst the main players in the Herts/Beds/Bucks region where the firm has its roots, confirms SA Law’s place as a centrepin of the local community.  “Being linked in with the key influencer groups in our locale, and regularly retweeted and endorsed by them, increases the value of our own retweets and endorsements of other people’s material.  In other words it increases our own stock as influencers.  And the strength of our engagement with the local marketplace being so visible in this way has been very important in demonstrating our continued commitment to the region, particularly at a time when we have been busily expanding into London markets.”

You’ll see as I post more survey interviews that Julie really is in the vanguard, amongst the best of the legal marketeers. She made sure that her firm was one of the earliest adopters amongst professional firms of Instagram.  My word, this firm even has a Spotify account to communicate elements of the SA Law brand that only their taste in music can express! No wonder she was one of the first (we think possibly the very first?) non-lawyer marketing professionals to make partner when Legal Disciplinary Practices first came in. Thanks for your insights Julie! Valuable as ever.

If you would like to take part in the Kysen / New Law Journal study into the impacts of social media on the law firm marketing mix, do please send me your contact details using the comment box below, and we can start a conversation. 

We are in the midst of a series of one-to-one 'qualitative' interviews, some of which (like Julie’s) we are publishing on this blog over the next weeks and months. In addition, NLJ will soon be conducting a 'quantitative' survey amongst their readers. Do get involved!  We look forward to hearing from you!
On the subject of the new digital lingo, I just have to share this wonderful "Digital Terms Deciphered" glossary, that our good friend Simon Marshall has created.  It tells  you everything you need to know about the trendy new digital terms constantly being bandied about these days, but might be too afraid to ask.  Do you know your rich snippets from your alt tags?  Your backlinks from your iframes? The difference between agile and waterfall platforms?  As Simon says, it can be as confusing as knowing your lattes from your flat whites - but the good news is we did all eventually master ordering a coffee, didn't we!  

You may know Simon from his time as an in-house marketeer at Osborne Clarke and then Burges Salmon.  You may also be up to date with the news that he's recently set up his own legal marketing consultancy called TBD (To Be Determined).  If you don't know Simon, take it from me he is one of the best social media sages for professional firms around.  You can connect with him here on LinkedIn.
Everybody’s talking about Slaughter & May’s gender pay gap news: one of the most iconically ‘City’ of the magic circle law firms is paying female associates more than their male counterparts. This story is one of those watershed moments for the profession, not so much because of the stats themselves, (see below), but because when a firm like this considers gender equality something to be proud of and integral to their brand, then other firms will surely follow.  And this is precisely the claim Slaughters has been making: their publicity machine has been explaining how their “one-firm culture ... values remunerating employees in a less differentiated and more egalitarian way”.  (*waves* to ex-Kysenite, now Slaughters communications manager, Ollie Hibberd).

Yes it’s true that digging in to the stats arguably raises more questions than this story answers, (not least whether paying women more than men can actually be considered achieving equality; also whether the firm was justified in excluding their all-female secretarial pool from stats they publicised about pay for business services staff). And yes, I know this new-found interest in promoting equality is only happening because of the gender pay gap reporting legislation. But however we’ve arrived here, all firms are now suddenly interested in addressing inequalities in their own workplaces. This is definitely a moment to celebrate.