Friday, 19 March 2021

Matt Kay

Vario managing director Matt Kay is missing the randomness of office chat and thinks our professional life risks being the poorer without it.   

 I took the opportunity to speak to Matt as he settles into his expanded role as head of Pinsent Masons’ new professional services practice group, Vario. He has made such a success of the firm’s contract lawyer resourcing arm since taking over the lead five years ago, that he has now been given a key role in the wider firm’s  journey to transition from a law firm to a ‘professional services business with law  at its core’.  As Matt is a leading expert in workforce dynamics and resourcing teams for best effect in all sorts of different and changing circumstances, I was keen to hear his insights. 

“In Lockdown our days have become far more structured now that most of our meetings are conducted online”, he told me.  “On the plus side, this has proved to many more bosses that employees can be trusted to be more, not less, productive when working remotely.  But on the other, in a different sense people’s output is in danger of being watered down because our interactions are so much more formal, narrowly task-oriented and to that extent straitjacketed.  We no longer bump in to people, have unexpected chats that spark new ideas which we might then set up a meeting to explore.  Everything is far too scheduled and pre-booked to allow for this serendipity.  Yet we can see now that pre-Lockdown this was so often the way new ideas and initiatives got started.  Teams and Zoom are great for allowing us to carry on and get done what we need to do to keep things going.  But little happens outside of that.   

“Also”, he continues, “We spend a lot of time online with the same people. The professional bubble of people we interact with is a lot smaller, ie only the collection of people we need to interact with directly to do our job. What’s being lost is the ad hoc interactions that normally just happen by chance in the office.  The opportunity to bounce ideas off someone as you have an unexpected conversation. This is part of the everyday process of operating in a large office environment.  Indeed modern offices are designed to encourage exactly these sorts of random interactions, because experience has shown how valuable they are to businesses: open plan, comfortable seating around coffee areas, breakout spaces.  The challenge for us now is to rediscover this in the virtual environment. The answer? To build more casualness in to our scheduling.” 

We often talk about the importance of business certainty. But Matt has given me a completely new perspective on the value of unpredictability and uncertainty. Vario is a brand known for turning established business practices on their head, doing things differently and leading where others follow.  Every time I speak to their managing director he makes me think again about business norms I’ve accepted as a given. I’m looking forward to the next chat Matt! 

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Complex personal injury specialists Bolt Burdon Kemp claim to be “Champions” for their clients … and rightly so! They have just conducted a study that reveals only a paltry 2% of British civil and criminal courts are fully accessible. Why haven’t we heard more about this before? Credit to BBK for bringing this to our attention. This clearly needs to change. 

As they say in their report, “for many people, going to court is seen as a necessary evil…a way to help them gain justice or get redress for crimes committed against them or negligent behaviour that has adversely affected them”. Its’ a daunting process for anyone to go through, we know. But even more so for clients who have issues with their vision or hearing, or those with mental health issues or childcare responsibilities. In 2019 the Government admitted that 31 out of 56 courthouses in the Greater London were inaccessible. Did BBK find anything had improved one year on? You can read the detailed results of their investigation here. 

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Regular readers of this blog will know we are all fans of award-winning freelance journalist Catherine Baksi hereI just love her totes minx style, and her humour. We spotted on Twitter that she was preparing a talk this week to the Westminster Legal Policy Forum about the state of legal aid and to sum up her thoughts on the matter she created this brilliant graphic (with a little technical support from @LegalCheek_Tom, she tells me). Genius!   

Friday, 12 March 2021

Arpita Dutt Talks to Adele Baxby Meehan

This week, our Content and Creative Director, Adele Baxby Meehan takes over The Conversation

Childcare is as essential to this country’s infrastructure as roads and bridges. It’s time government recognised this. This latest budget was a missed opportunity.” This came from Arpita Dutt, a leading equality and whistleblowing lawyer,  ELA Legislative & Policy Committee member and Lawyer Hot 100 alumnus, in our recent conversation. We were talking equality in the workplace and what might really change things for women. Arpita then quoted a stat which floored me – an investment in good quality childcare would produce 2.7 times more jobs as an equivalent investment in construction. Real action is needed to ensure women reach senior positions, especially in light of the pandemic and the step backwards equality has taken. And it’s not about paying lip service to the problem but taking real action. We don’t all need mentoring. Women generally know what they’re doing. They just need the space to do it”, Arpita said and I couldn’t agree more.

In relation to this, Arpita pointed to a positive trend she’s noticing in law – the rise of the boutique firm led by women. We’re seeing more and more niche boutique employment firms established by women. Karen Jackson’s didlaw, Farore Law established by Suzanne McKie QC, CM Murray founded by Clare Murray and Workwise Legal from Alison Humphry and MadeleineHughes, for example. No one is treading on anyone’s toes in this market as they all operate in their own niche practice areas. I think we will see more firms like this emerge and that should be celebrated.” Arpita expects to see more female legal entrepreneurship too and when asked why, she said: “The traditional law firm reward and recognition structure doesn’t suit women and women often aren’t encouraged to express their own vision or voice in some firms.” Speaking of the pandemic’s impact on workplace cultures, Arpita thinks that although working flexibly and working from home might be more accepted when we get back to ‘normal’, part-time work is still resisted by many firms, especially litigation teams. Forging their own way is a path increasingly explored by female lawyers who find the traditional law firm unsupportive and stuck in the past.

It was enlightening to speak to Arpita – her observations of the legal market are made through a particularly clear lens. She has recently deliberately taken some time out to reflect and this act of slowing down, she says, has allowed her to see where the legal market is heading. After helping to establish the employment firm BDBF, Arpita has decided to chart a new career. For now, she has a renewed focus on charity work and has also taken a step towards front line work again, volunteering for the Rights of Women workplace sexual harassment helpline and sitting on the advisory committee. This, she told me, has been eye-opening as many of the women calling the helpline have strong cases of discrimination or even sexual harassment and physical abuse but still feel too vulnerable to take legal action because they don’t want to experience retaliation and be out of work. Another example of the long-lasting impact COVID-19 could have for women.

In light of International Women’s Day this week and the worrying statistics around how the pandemic has impacted equality, Arpita, who speaks so passionately about the issue, left me feeling hopeful. There is still a way to go but I am confident with individuals like Arpita at the forefront, the conversations will continue to go in the right direction.

Please consider supporting the Rights of Women cause here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/rights-of-women/

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This week we enjoyed seeing the number of businesses celebrating women in recognition of International Women’s Day. One of our clients, Brook Graham, gave a lovely shout-out to some of the women who have helped shape their business (including our own Clare Rodway).
Since working with Brook Graham, after they became part of Pinsent Masons Vario last year, we have learnt so much from this team of expert diversity and inclusion consultants. From conversations with the team, I know much more about intersectionality for example and how gender and race e.g. can combine to create a particular type of discrimination, and how much businesses need to wake up to this. And Brook Graham’s ethos of taking a meaningful approach to culture change is so important – in this day and age it’s not enough to talk about D&I issues. What’s needed is meaningful change. So, consider this a shout-out back at you, Brook Graham – keep up the great work!

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Favourite news story of the week easily went to the announcement that Terry Boot is replacing Peter Foot as the Finance Director of ShoeZone. This highlights the brilliant phenomenon of nominative determinism – the idea that you lean towards a job that fits your name. Indeed, when I was a teenager, I worked for a bookbinder and bookshop owner who went by Scrivener. In law, Corporate Counsel wrote about nominative determinism in 2009 and highlighted that in 2002, 0.002% of the population had the surname Counsell or Councell but three people of this surname were listed as barristers - over 1,000% more than might be expected based on statistical probability. And of course, there was Lord Judge, LordChief Justice, who served from 2008 – 2013. It’s clear – there’s more to your name than you might think.

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Amelia Jones, Senior Account Manager at Kysen PR writes about IWD and the real issues businesses need to think about

A Mumsnet survey for IWD highlighted 1 in 5 working mothers during the pandemic have had to slash their hours in order to cope with the increased childcare, and most frustratingly of all “more than a third said their careers had been affected in a way that was not true for their partner”. 

Do businesses need to be alive to these issues? I think so.


Women taking on more caregiving responsibilities than their partner, despite working full-time, sadly isn’t a shocking statistic, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this problem due to school closures. We can’t change individual family dynamics, but what businesses can do is create more support and opportunity for women, taking into account what their personal circumstances might be.  

Despite the lack of good quality investment in childcare by the government, companies can do more to support families with their childcaring responsibilities. The ROI highlighted by Arpita could do much to help women flourish in their careers – giving them the space, time and opportunity to do so. The alternative is that we continue to lose talented and skilled women in our workplaces. 

Steps should be taken to improve equality for women at work, taking into account the responsibilities and pressure in today's society. Although it’s frustrating - we can’t change cultural expectations and socially constructed roles overnight - companies could take more of a tough approach in challenging why women’s careers are negatively impacted by the pandemic. As in the end, our industries will lose out the most.  

Friday, 5 March 2021

Tania Hemming

Tania Hemming thinks the word ‘innovation’ is overused. Morton Fraser’s Marketing & BD Director believes expectations and clarity around when the word innovation should be used needs to be challenged more often. The word 'innovate' is to make change, do something in a new way, to introduce as or if new - not all innovation needs to be monumental or life changing. And are we talking innovation or differentiation?

We’ve all been there, when you are asked to promote something as "ground-breaking" yet it is essentially a "seen before” initiative. Whilst these developments by a firm may be important to promote in some form or other, dressing them up as innovations runs a very real risk of undermining credibility in what the firm says and how it is perceived by its clients.

Tania believes the answer is in being far more precise about what we mean by the term innovation, rather than using it glibly as a buzzword: are we talking radical change? True market disruption? Or just incremental progression of a market idea? The lines may be blurred and that's ok, but let's be clear and communicate that by using the right language and label.

I met Tania at The Lawyer’s Marketing Leadership Summit last November, when she took part in a roundtable discussion we hosted entitled “When every law firm is an innovator, how do you differentiate your innovations?” Her contribution was insightful, particularly around the use and misuse of the term innovation, but sharing the floor with a dozen other top law firm marketers meant it could only be short. So I invited her to a one-to-one over Zoom to hear more.

“Our understanding and expectation of what a new idea or initiative can do needs to be crystal clear”, she told me. “When we first think of innovation we probably think of radical change but it doesn’t need to be seismic change to be of value. Incremental changes can be just as important in moving everybody and the market itself forward. But you need to present developments as they truly are, because exaggeration undermines credibility. We need to challenge our perception of what we are seeing as being innovative, we need to be clear about the level of change you are talking about and can we truly say they are disrupting the market? Is the change architectural, or is it radical? Is this something entirely new? Or a development of an existing idea or taking a concept from one market into another?"

Tania also pointed me towards a survey conducted by Altman Weil last year (Spring 2020) called “Law in Transition”, which revealed shockingly that 70% of law firm partners see themselves as the main obstacle to change … and 60% of those are unaware of what they need to do differently.

Tania is keen to ensure that innovation is not seen as a one-off initiative but should be a strategy within the firm and an evolutionary process. She also said, "The question is how to embed that into a professional culture that is often seen as conservative. With law as a cornerstone of society how brave do you want to be, what risks are you prepared to take, and are you prepared to fail". She continued, "These factors aren't something that comes naturally for law firms. I am fortunate that my career in professional services has been with law firms that look to push the boundaries and 'put their head above the parapet', what is radical change for one person is often incremental for others. If we are going to speak "innovation" to our clients, we have to understand what their perspective is and what the value is to them."

The importance of “Client-centricity” is a topic that comes up regularly in this blog as I interview leading legal marketeers on a wide range of topics. Lawyers need to communicate in their clients’ language and they need to understand the value they are adding in the context of clients’ own business worlds, and as they see it. Law firms need to distinguish between radical and incremental change from their clients’ perspective. Let’s take a good hard look at the word innovation in our press releases and marketing speak and challenge ourselves to be realistic about what the initiative can really do. Let’s focus on describing it accurately, promoting the benefits and value-add that will give clients true advantage, but let’s not bury their true value under meaningless buzzwords.

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Our good friend Catherine Baksi, award-winning legal journalist and all-round dudette (remember her rocking up on Sky News sporting a leather bomber jacket and in her cut-glass British accent quoting a Clash lyric to explain the Supreme Court's prorogation judgment?) told us this week about a campaign her father @ArunBaksi is leading.  He is working tirelessly, she says, to point out the inherent unfairness in how social care is means-tested, but health care isn’t. It's a no brainer when someone brings it to your attention so right away we signed his petition to bring about change.  You can read about the campaign here and sign the petition. Please do also share on social media and help us put the word out far and wide.

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My home town of Reading was all a-buzz this week after the sudden appearance of a very cool piece of graffiti on the side of the old Reading prison wall.
  "Is it a Banksy?", tongues wagged on Facebook and in real life?  It looks like one". It certainly does, the image depicting a convict escaping down the outer prison wall on a rope made of bedsheets weighted down by a typewriter.  Is it supposed to be Oscar Wilde, famously interned in Reading Gaol for gross indecency in the 1870s?  (Reading is very proud of this history.)  The face looks more like Robert del Nadja to me, founding member of the band Massive Attack and Bristol graffiti artist, often rumoured to be Bansky himself. But maybe it's just the rock star sunglasses...

Sure enough a few days later Banksy claimed the artwork was his.  Just love this video s/heposted on Instagram showing how s/he did it, with wonderful art direction from the US's famed Bob Ross, presenter of The Joy of Painting.  Enjoy!  


Friday, 5 February 2021

Vanessa Ugatti



I had a fascinating discussion recently with a woman who describes herself as the “True Worth” expert, and knowing so many lawyers who work themselves into the ground at times, run ragged by client demands and huge workloads, I had to share what I learned from her on this blog.  Quite simply, Vanessa Ugatti believes too many conscientious lawyers are not getting a fair return on their hard work and the value they provide.   

Clients come to Vanessa overworked and underpaid because they have difficulties around pricing and billing, and because they so often find it hard to resist pressure from their own clients to over-service.  The good news is she has solutions that can turn this around for them, for good. Her service is something I believe every lawyer should know about! 

From my days working in-house in law firms, I remember the levels of anxiety I would see when talking to lawyers about their approach to billing clients.  So many times I saw intelligent professionals avoid talking to clients about money, then drop an unexpected bill and duck for cover! When the client responded in shock and horror, the lawyer would be quick to discount the bill, writing off hours of valuable work they had done.  And of course this negative experience then created a perpetual cycle, as they were even more nervous about approaching the topic of billing the next time around.  And this doesn’t even touch on the subject of the swathes of Work-In-Progress that never gets billed.  This type of behaviour around billing is not only a disaster for the individual lawyer, meaning they have to work doubly hard to meet their financial targets, but it makes financial management and capacity planning a nightmare for firms.  So I started to run coaching sessions to encourage better behaviours around billing: open and up-front communication with clients at the outset to manage expectations around costs and payment stages, and then again at the time of billing, so clients would know what to expect before an invoice hit their desk or inbox. In talking to lawyers about why they were so shy to talk money, I soon learned how tied this was to their level of confidence in the true value of their own work and their standing as professionals. 

Vanessa takes this to a whole other level.  She digs deep to unearth the psychological blocks that get in the way of people seeing their own worth and the value they add in their work for their own clients.   

“My clients are clever and self-aware”, she tells me, “But it can be hard to see, acknowledge and tackle these sort of issues by yourself.  In theory it’s a no-brainer: better billing practices mean generating more revenue ethically without having to get more clients, do more work or compromise value (or personal values) simply by lawyers charging what they’re really worth and getting it.  But in practice, it can be a whole other matter, impacted by some very personal issues people carry with them about where their identity comes from and the strength of their own self-worth.” 

Through consultancy, in-house workshops, one-to-one coaching and motivational speaking, Vanessa gets to the bottom of what’s really happening in people’s minds to make lasting changes to their attitude about themselves and their worth, and their behaviours around pricing their work and billing.   

Given the legal profession is working so hard to address mental wellbeing in the workplace, and challenging unhealthy but long-entrenched work patterns and cultures, surely it makes sense for more focus to be placed on why they are so often keen to write off WIP and discount bills.  Making sure lawyers see the value in their own work and encouraging them to bill properly can short-circuit the need to over work and make a big difference to their mental health.  A subject close to Kysen’s heart, and that of many of our friends-in-law.  (If you missed Emma Cessford’s guest blog last month, interviewing RPC’s Ed Fitzgerald on the topic of mental wellbeing, you can access it here.)  Thanks for the insights Vanessa! 

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 The debate continues about how to clear the backlog in criminal trials that’s been created by 
social distancing requirements (although many believe the crisis is rooted in the withdrawal of funding from this part of the justice system over decades).  The numbers are alarming: there are now 54,000 criminal cases in the queue, which is a record, and means defendants are being held for longer without trial, and victims and their families are having a long wait for justice. 

The Labour front bench has called this week for a reduction in the number of jurors from 12 to seven and we are being told that the Justice Minister us ruling nothing out… including the idea of judge-only trials for less serious cases.  But as a top trial lawyer, 7BR’s Collingwood Thompson QC, told me last summer and wrote in The Times, trials without juries MUST be the last resort.  He came right off the fence in expressing his views that this would be very bad for justice, as for a number of reasons judges are far more likely to convict.  If you have a subscription, you can read his full article here.  

So what’s the solution?  Answers on a postcard please...

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The news that the
Lawyer’s Hot 100 has recognised Fred Banning made us all smile this week. It’s highly unusual for the legal title to recognise marketing specialists in their annual list of the profession’s most excellent and relevant movers and shakers. However, Fred, Head of Corporate Communications at Pinsent Masons (and with great pride, a Kysen alumnus) is not just a stand-out marketer but also this year, a campaigner who has made a huge splash nationally. Diagnosed with cancer, Fred has been tirelessly fighting for the terminally ill to receive the Covid vaccine, appearing on the Today programme and across many other outlets, attracting support from NicolaSturgeon amongst others. We’re behind Fred 110% and so pleased to see his well-deserved Hot 100 inclusion.

You can ask your local MP to support Fred’s Early Days Motion here: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57850/terminal-illness-and-covid19-vaccination

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Ed FitzGerald

In this edition of The Conversation Kysen account director Emma Cessford talks to the RPC director of brand, marketing and sales Ed FitzGerald.

“I really don’t believe you can typecast people on the topic of mental health awareness and make assumptions about their attitudes simply according to age, gender, seniority or social background.  Different people bring a whole host of different life experiences to how they think and feel about mental health. I’m Gen X, but for personal reasons I am very alive to the issue of mental wellbeing.” 

I recently spoke to RPCs Ed FitzGerald on a subject close to my heart: mental health. The three things that particularly chimed with me throughout our conversation were the need we all have for community in our working life; the importance of law firms collaborating with clients if they are to address unhealthy working practices; and the truism that mental health issues don’t discriminate and can affect anyone.  

“You can’t parcel people up into boxes when dealing with mental health. This is why firms need to offer a variety of mental wellbeing initiatives, as different people engage in different ways and have different needs”, Ed explains. Indeed, it seems that RPC have done just that over the last couple of years, from offering counselling sessions to all staff across the firm with a clinical psychologist from Hello Self, to training specialist mental health first aiders. Are these good initiatives being used? And who within the firm is using them? Ed explained that take-up over the last couple of years has grown consistently, with large numbers of people across the firm taking advantage of them enthusiastically.  Importantly, all levels of seniority use the support available, which promotes an important point that even the most successful professionals have issues with mental health from time to time.  Old stigmas are thankfully fading, (ie that mental health issues are for the mentally weak), and are being replaced with a much healthier attitude that the mind, like the body, needs care … and fixing from time to time.   

Without the buy-in and support of clients, firms can only progress so far in promoting healthy working practices, such as calling time on a long hours culture.  This is why the Mindful Business Charter is such a unique and brilliant initiative.  RPC have recently signed up to the Charter and I was keen to ask Ed all about it.  “The Charter is based on the idea that true cultural change is most effective when clients and firms work together and have the same expectations. It recognises that one of a law firm's greatest commodities, ‘brain power’, needs taking care of, which means firms and clients alike have a vested interest in avoiding burnout.” As one big bank GC famously put it, “If I’m paying top dollar for a lawyer’s clever thinking, I want to know I’m getting the best of their brainpower.  A strung-out, stressed professional is of no value to me.”   

Ed outlined that RPC were thoroughly supportive of the Charter and “are currently working internally with each team as to how to implement it meaningfully”. He believes the number of firms committing to the Charter tells a positive story, that real, long-term change is starting to happen in the legal sector.  

“Sense of community” is a recurring phrase used by Ed throughout our conversation, as he sees it as a key part of fostering mental wellness. Of course, it’s a commodity we are all valuing more than ever this year, thanks to our Lockdown experiences…and it’s captured perfectly in John Lewis’ new Christmas advert. Whilst ‘sense of community’ is nothing new to RPC, (its culture is rooted in this), Ed admits that the firm has had to work harder to ensure people maintained their feeling of community during lockdown and sustained periods of working from home. This is not a unique challenge with many companies having to get inventive to keep that spirit going – albeit virtually. For RPC, Ed explains that they’ve been “running creative projects to keep people connected, from coffee roulette to exercise challenges on Strava" to, see how far people can run, walk, cycle or swim during lockdown, with the added benefit of encouraging people to leave their desks and get physically active.  “We wanted to make sure people still felt that sense of collective purpose which comes with working at RPC.  It’s important for everyone to maintain their presence within our community,” he says. 

I asked Ed if one of the positives coming out of Covid-19 was a greater awareness and compassion for mental health and whether the sector would keep the conversation going post-pandemic.  His response was interesting:   

“Without a doubt, awareness of mental health issues has increased during this year with more conversations taking place to ensure people are being looked out for and the right level of support is being provided. This is a conversation that needs to happen a lot more across all sectors – and society in general – during normal times. There is a greater need for compassion and to be more accepting of people’s individual circumstances and the challenges they might be facing in their personal lives.”  

Our conversation inevitably turned to the future, to which Ed hopes that the “conversation around mental health continues until it becomes part of everyday discourse and that people are as comfortable talking about it and seeking treatment for it in the same way they are for physical issues”. Now, I’m sure this is a sentiment we can all get on board with, so take five minutes out to ask a colleague, a friend or a family member “Are you OK?” and keep that conversation going.  


Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Julie Mortimer

Profile photo of Julie (Murphy) Mortimer

Julie Mortimer is very pleased her firm had been investing so heavily in its wellbeing and flexible working programme before Lockdown.  It couldn’t have been better preparation as the infrastructure and the team to manage it were all in place.   


Mills & Reeve is regularly listed in The Sunday Times’ Best 100 Companies to work for, and last year was voted top UK firm in a RollOnFriday poll for work-life balance and flexible/remote working. “We’ve always been pretty good on flexible working, with the technology in place to support it. So when Lockdown hit, the firm was able to press the button on increased remote-working and have it in place across the entire business – so 1100 people – overnight”, Julie told me.   “And our market lead in the field of staff wellbeing meant we were able to anticipate what the issues might be in Lockdown and take a highly nuanced approach to looking after our staff.  We had the basics covered already, so next the challenge was to think through how support might need to vary to suit different groups: eg how the needs of people living with children, or with other responsibilities in the home, might differ from those living on their own, who might need more communication or more or different IT kit or furniture for example.  And how they might differ again in the case of young professionals in shared accommodation with less space to themselves and perhaps no garden.”  The firm’s HR team was already well used to working closely with the tech team and the firm’s management, to deliver the excellent working environment it is famous for.  When we spoke (over Zoom rather than coffee of course), Julie was full of praise for her colleagues and the brilliant job they did identifying the varying needs of different people and making sure the firm customised its response in supporting all of them.  “In fact they did such a good job, that some of our clients asked us to help them fathom this challenge in their own businesses.”  Impressive.  “A number of our clients didn’t have the resources and skill-sets to approach this challenge in the same way or they just needed something to get them started, and we were able to help by sharing content and materials with them.  They saw this as a significant value-add and it was nice to support them in a different way in these difficult times.”   

Julie and I chatted about what the future holds post-Lockdown and the permanent changes we all expect to see, if we ever do get back to “normal”.  Most firms I talk to are saying they are planning a hybrid model in the post-Corona era (whenever that might be), offering most staff the option to work a portion of their time in the office and a portion from home.  However Julie was particularly mindful of the Government’s keenness to encourage workers to return to the office this Autumn if they can, because office working is such an important stimulus for the economy. “It will be interesting to watch the trend in the wider business world.  We don’t expect to ditch our offices any time soon, but we do expect our centre of gravity to shift towards more homeworking. We’ve been piloting returning to office based working and it’s gone well. Our people felt confident we’d made the office environment Covid-19 secure and it was great to see some different people face to face.”

Given Mills & Reeve is one of the handful of firms that lead best practice on staff engagement and satisfaction in the profession, it’s safe to say all eyes will be watching what they choose to do and how they go about it.   

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Is TikTok Banned in the USA? Trump's Order, ExplainedThanks to Lockdown, TikToK has come out of nowhere to become one of the biggest names in business, and is expected to be bought any minute by Oracle, Microsoft or some other tech giant.   (By the time you read this, it will probably already have happened!)  And don’t we just love it!  So much creativity and humour in so many ordinary households! It’s definitely been one of the major Lockdown silver linings for me.    
Here are a few of my favourites:   
How about you?  Do please share yours in the comments section below. 

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KEEP CALM AND WELCOME BACK TO THE OFFICE - Keep Calm and Posters Generator,  Maker For Free - KeepCalmAndPosters.comAnd from next week, we’ll be subjected to a Government and campaign to get us all back to the office. Although we will be staging our return gradually, you can bank on us to be doing our part to support the local hostelries, cafes and bars in and around Mayfair and the City.  We are PRs after all

Monday, 10 August 2020

Kate McMahon






Kate McMahon thinks our new Lockdown work habits make us miss out on creativity and that lawyers need to take care to find other ways to bring it in. 
Kate is onothe founding members of private prosecutions specialist firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon (EMM), which was set up in 2012 and has been phenomenally successful since then.  The firm handles cases that the police and CPS don’t have the resources to pursue, (online fraud being the classic example), providing a private service alternative.  We’ve all heard the stats on the meteoric rise of online fraud in Lockdown.  Needless to say, Kate’s firm is having a bit of a moment. 

EMM has long promoted remote working, most of its lawyers working from home one day a week.  So it was  in a good position compared to most to cope with the challenges of Lockdown. Still, she has a lot to say about its limitations.  “We all know that remote working has been brilliant for efficiency and that generally speaking productivity levels have gone up as lawyers and staff don’t waste time travelling to the office or client meetings, and every Zoom is governed by an agenda which keeps everyone much more focussed.  Of course this is good news, and no wonder many firms and chambers are rethinking their property requirements and how they expect lawyers and staff engage with the business once Lockdown is over.  But there is often a spontaneous creative flow that happens when people are sitting across a table from one another in real life, throwing ideas around in an organic way, and this is missing in the new [mew] Zooms and Teams environment." 
“Strict timelines and a focus on efficiency can be the enemies of creativity”, Kate continues.  “Lawyers love procedure and often place more emphasis on this than on creative thought even in normal times.  Lockdown has only made this worse.  Of course procedure, process and consistency are all vital when it comes to implementing a legal strategy, but there is no point in following procedure if the initial idea you are attempting to put into practice is not right.  We take great pains to find ways to put the creative back in to our work.” 
“Another limitation of Zoom communication we’ve found is the way it tends to silence the more junior members of our team.  We need to make sure they are included properly in discussions because they may have a perspective that no-one in the senior team has.  But the nature of video conferencing makes it harder for people to interject in the flow of a conversation, so the less experienced won’t push themselves forward in the same way they would in a physical meeting room environment.  In a small video conference, our senior team makes a conscious effort to watch for people who look like they’re about to say something, then clam up.  They may open their mouth, but close it again before saying anything.  And when you know someone well, you know they have something valuable to say, so you can invite them when you see that happen. It can be difficult to observe non-verbal signals on a screen.” 
Kate describes a similar issue that happens in her work for clients. “With clients in particularly tricky situations, or who are going through a legal process that is very unfamiliar to them, the job for us as lawyers is not just about “doing law”.  There’s a big handholding element too.  And this is difficult to do in a digital environment.  You need to be able to pick up how your client is feeling at any one time and spot where they look confused so you can make sure they are understanding what is happening to them and what your advice is, and give them the right support.  As a legal advisor you have to be extra vigilant in a digital set-up to pick up the cues.” 
But what Kate misses most of all she tells me, is face-to-face communication with colleagues.  “As we’ve grown since we first began in 2012 we have been incredibly selective in our hiring, picking people we really want to work with professionally and personally.  I miss seeing them in real life!” 
Let’s hope a return to near-normal is just around the corner. 
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I just love The Family Law Company’sOnly Human” campaign that launched this week. It’s carefully crafted to run across multiple channels - video ads, client guides, website, social – and is such a powerful way to put across the culture this firm is most famous for: driven by empathy for clients much more than by fees. I’ve always said that the best forms of communication are about ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’.  This campaign is such a good example. Do take a look.

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Without doubt this is the year of the staycation.  For some reason nearly everyone I know is planning a visit to Hayling Island, so right now I’m hearing the name on a daily basis, having not thought about it for decades since childhood holidays there myself.  Seems we are all exploring long forgotten corners of our own country… and we’re loving it!  I’ve long been a fan of being a tourist in your own back yard.  It forces us to notice the wonderful things right under our noses.  Silver linings of Lockdown, see….