Friday, 15 April 2011

Fay Gillott

Good to catch up over lunch with Fay Gillott, Chief Exec of multi-practice set 7 Bedford Row. A brilliant strategic thinker and planner, she is an excellent person to talk to about the pressures and challenges facing the modern Bar, and to hear how the best of the crop are responding positively.  Change is not an option: it's an imperative.

Not only do barristers need to take account of the likely impacts of the Legal Services Act, as do their solicitor peers, in addition those involved in criminal  legal aid work have to contend with seismic changes to the system of how the work is meted out and costed.

It is the sets with strong leadership and members who are used to collaborating well together for business that will prosper in this era of change.   In this regard, 7 Bedford Row is excellently positioned.

To some ears, this may sound like a statement of the obvious, but those familiar with the inner workings of barristers sets will recognise the reality that there are still many sets out there who, quite frankly, still don't operate as a collective, but a conglomeration of sole practitioners; the 'independent mindset' of the advocate spilling over into how they behave in business with one another.  I was even told in a meeting with one set, who shall of course remain nameless, that in their view  their barristers competed against one another for work, so how could they possibly work together on a business plan or pool resources for marketing and promotion.

Refreshing to talk to Fay about how her set is gearing up for change, about the level of engagement in the internal discussion and their ideas for evolution.

* * *

Oops!  Who noticed the apology in yesterday's Times to Simon Cowell, currently accused of helping a tycoon friend hide his wealth from wife Michelle Young (accusations which Cowell strongly denies).  The apology relates to a reporter's mistake in saying that Cowell's own ex-wife was suing him.  Now there's a man I wouldn't like to cross! 


Saturday, 9 April 2011

Laura Hills

We had a visitor to our office this week, Laura Hills from top immigration law boutique Gherson.  Laura has a fascinating role, combining her work in the firm's 11-strong translation team (she is a fluent Russian speaker) with marketing activity.  This size of the translation team is pretty unique for an immigration firm, but founder Roger Gherson believes it is essential to the responsiveness of their work for clients, compared to outsourcing this aspect.

We invited Laura to spend a day at Kysen to see how a specialist legal PR team approaches its work.   Among the many things she discussed with us were the practicalities of running SEO programmes for her firm's Chinese and Russian version websites and how best to develop social media campaigns for overseas audiences generally.   Interesting challenges!

* * *

So what did we think of the news this week that Quality Solicitors are teaming up with WH Smith to provide 500 'open access legal points', with legal desks in store manned by QS representatives? Innovative for sure.  But who will ultimately control this brand?  And do we think QS has chosen the right brand on which to piggyback?  On the one hand WH Smith has an excellent reputation and is considered by British shoppers as something of a 'national treasure'; on the other hand, book and CD retailers have their own challenges responding to the threat posed by internet downloads and changing buying patterns.  Who'd have thought that they would start turning to legal services to plug the gap!

Share your thoughts in the comment box below..

* * *

Other news that caught our eye this week was the story on Friday of News International's surprise 'unreserved apology' to victims of phone-hacking by News of the World.  The corporation has set up a compensation scheme for 'justifiable claims' but also now faces possible criminal prosecution. Its bid for BSkyB is now also under threat.

Celebs and politician victims of the scandal include Sienna Miller, John Prescott (who called News International's conduct 'mass criminality'), Tessa Jowell - and disgraced football presented Andy Gray, sacked by Sky Sports last year for sexist comments about the offside rule, for whom some are suggesting this could be payback time.

To catch up on the story, see ITV's news video here.

* * *

And being British, we have to mention the weather...
How fantastic has it been! 

Loved this tweet from @lawyercatrin on Friday afternoon - under the hashtag #bestpressdayever

Look forward to reading Monday's edition.


Friday, 1 April 2011

Bribery Act

No buses, then three come at once. Having waited and waited for the long-promised Government guidance on the Bribery Act, suddenly we heard the MoJ was publishing its final form Guidance this week - the same week it chose to publish its formal backing of the Jackson report on civil litigation costs, and the same week the Supreme Court decided to deliver its landmark judgment overturning immunity for expert witnesses.  Phew!  It was all systems go at Kysen.  We all got a huge buzz out of it.

* * *
Two lighter legal stories that caught our interest this week.  First, the news courtesy of @TheTimesLive that American country star Willie Nelson was being offered the chance to avoid a jail term for marijuana possession by singing in court - apparently "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" was requested specifically.  Wonderful! Although prosecutor Kit Bramblett later clarified it was just a joke. 

Second, the rather disturbing news that George Clooney has been named as a possible defence witness in Silvio Berusconi's forthcoming sex trial, allegedly having attended one of his notorious bunga bunga parties.  Please, no!  In later reports however, Clooney responded to the news saying "It seems odd since I've only met Berlusconi once and that was in an attempt to get aid into Darfur."  Middle-aged women around the world breathed a huge sigh of relief: hopefully the fantasy can remain intact.

Feedback from Farrer & Co on our Social Media Update prompted us to highlight a couple of articles they found particularly useful, in case they are of broader interest to readers of this blog.  Cara Rowell, in-house marketing executive at Farrers (and much-loved former Kysen employee) said she and the marketing team found the following particularly interesting: a couple of news items referring to private banks' use of social media; an item on whether law firms need social media strategies at all (I'll tell you the answer now: Yes!); and a piece on the growing use of "tweeting" direct from Court.

If you don't receive our Social Media Update already, please do use the comment box below to let us know if you would like to be added to the e-mailing list. 

* * *
Some conversations stop you in your tracks and put your daily strife into perspective.  This week, my conversation with Chris Moon MBE did just that.  Chris is an achievement consultant and keynote speaker, whose credentials for the job consist of not only surviving being kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge while clearing mines in Cambodia for the Halo Trust, but maintaining an impossibly positive attitude after losing two limbs in a landmine-clearing accident - and today, leading climbers to the summit of Kilimanjaro and personally running the length of Cambodia to raise funds for charity. His website says he 'challenges the concept of limitation'.  And how!

When I met Chris for tea this week, he said he had only just recovered from a 1,000 mile charity run for the Post Office  to raise money for Barnardo's last Autumn.  He ran an unbelievable marathon-plus of 36 miles a day.   Here are links to the Post Office 1000 Facebook page and a YouTube video if you are interested in learning more.

If you are looking for a motivational or after-dinner speaker, there are few more colourful or inspiring than Chris.   For contact details, see his website.