Friday, 20 May 2011

Louise Restell

catching up with Louise Restell this week was a revelation.  Louise has been involved with the legal profession for a number of years, her interest beginning when she worked for consumer organisation Which? and had a key role in the consumer working party pushing for legal reform that ultimately led to Legal Services Act. When I caught up with her this week, she had just started her new role at The Law Society, on a project exploring the profession's interaction with its various stakeholders. 

Over coffee she took me through the detail of a lunchtime talk she was about to give staff at the Legal Services Board.  She had been invited to share her thoughts and experience of the profession, and how it interacts with consumers in particular.  Phew!  She wasn't holding anything back!  She has strong views about lawyers' delusions, particularly at High Street firm level, that they are intrinsically better at 'quality of service' than any of these newfangled, Legal-Services-Act-enabled, alternative legal-services-providers could ever hope to be.

On the way back to the office I tweeted Louise wouldn't be pulling any punches in her talk to LSB staff, and the inimitable Jon Busby immediately tweeted back:


Legal 2.0
@ClareRodway @Louise-Restell Uzi 9mm would be my suggest ;) rather than punches
18 May


A story that shocked us all this week
was Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's incredible PR gaff discussing the concept of rape sentence reductions for early guilty pleas on BBC Radio 5 LiveImpossible position to defend, trying to describe a supposed line between serious and non-serious rape. What with the Strauss-Kahn fiasco in the same week and the Berlusconi trial coming up.  Judging by these astonishing attitudes to women crawling out of the woodwork, from educated men who should know better, I did wonder at one point this week whether I had suddenly been transported back to the pre-1970s.  All quite depressing really...

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Super injunctions continue to dominate our headlines.  A new aspect each day - not least today's publication of the Neuberger Report - but even so it's astonishing the media hasn't bored of this topic yet.  Could it be because it's press freedom that lies at the heart of the debate?  Or is it more the fact that talking about superinjunctions is a far more pallatable way to present salacious stories about celebrity affairs and other peccadilloes, to an audiences that wants to pretend it is above such things!

If you haven't caught the Neuberger Report yet, you can find links to some excellent Guardian material on it here.

If you're after something more light-hearted about the role of social media in litigation, thought you might enjoy this (courtesy of @ChristianUncut via twitter)...

Friday, 13 May 2011

Jonathan Frewin

Chatted with the BBC’s Jonathan Frewin over  coffee at The Hospital Club this week.  Jonathan has worked for six years as a business features editor at the BBC’s World Service, but is currently setting up the Beeb’s business and economics social media platform.

Interesting to hear how he uses twitter and Facebook not just to push out news and stories, but to ask audience members what they would like the Beeb’s radio and TV interviewers to ask certain guests.  Apparently this is a popular value-add of BBC Business’s social media platforms from the audience’s point of view. 

Jonathan described an interview last month with Tesco’s CEO Philip Clarke.  The business Facebook page and Twitter feed invited questions from viewers to put to Clarke; the interviewer posed several of these to him; the best were included in the final cut of the website interview; and the full list of Facebook and twitter questions remains on the internet.  Interactivity with the audience on a totally new level.

Of course the most exciting breaking news that Jonathan shared with me is his excitement over the imminent arrival of his first baby, due any day now.  Congratulations!


The Apprentice returned to our screens this week and The Lawyer magazine had the brilliant idea to invite twitter-literate employment lawyers to tweet live from their sofas during the show.  Excellent fun!  Our client Rachel Harfield of Russell Jones & Walker’s Cardiff office is relatively new to twitter, but she lapped up the challenge and thoroughly enjoyed herself, tweeting under the hashtag #lawyerapprentice.  She raised more than a smile or two as I read her tweets appearing on my laptop screen, watching the programme on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.  Not only was she speedy in pinpointing the legal issues...

Rachel Harfield
#lawyerapprentice  boys' slang app - place your bets how many of the protected characteristics are they going to offend?
                11 May

...but she also had a real nose for the issues that the non-legal world was focussing on:

Rachel Harfield
#lawyerapprentice  can any one explain the purpose of the black gloves?
 11 May

(Did you see Daira O Briain’s pair in the aftershow?)

She also wrote a blog on the subject, asking whether the producers’ decision to switch the prize from a job to a £250,000 investment and partnership in a new business was a deliberate attempt to avoid Britain’s-Got-Talent-style discrimination claims.

The Lawyer joined in the conversation on both evenings, retweeted the best of the tweets (and the blogs) and used them in their own Apprentice blog.  

The drama continues over the next 10 or so weeks.  Tune in and log on 9pm on Wednesdays.


Loved the story this week of the 12-year-old boy who wore his sister’s skirt to school in protest at the school’s ban on shorts, even in hot weather.  They couldn’t stop him from a wearing a skirt, as that would have been discriminatory – and he used this loophole to make a point. He says that insisting boys wear long trousers throughout the summer can adversely affect their concentration in the classroom and their ability to learn. 

Impressed as I am at this young man’s ingenuity and courage, as I tweeted at the time I have to say that my two boys would think wearing a SKIRT to school would affect their concentration in the classroom!

See this brave young man interviewed on CBBC News Round.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Linda Cheung

Such a pleasure to meet Linda CheungCEO of Connectegrity for tea at the IOD and hear the story of the launch of this new business.  Linda is a well-established member of the legal twitterati (click here to follow her on twitter) and is soon to launch an innovative new software product to help law firms get the most out of their social media activity.  However, she started life on the other side of the table, regularly instructing magic circle firms as a special projects manager at Morgan Stanley.

Linda told me the story of how working on the launch of Morgan Stanley's first ever credit card gave her a taste for managing projects centred on evolving markets and 'change'.  Numerous other 'transformative' projects followed at the bank, before she decided to step out and apply those skills to a sector in desparate need of innovation: the legal profession.  

She describes her excitement preparing to attend her first legal IT conference at the start of last year, an event focussed on the Legal Services Act and how it would fundamentally change the market for legal services, forever.  She looked forward to discussing the challenges of change and innovation with legal businessmen and women, and exchanging ideas about how to turn that challenge to advantage.  Imagine her surprise and disappointment when the typical response of the day was "Oh I don't really think the Legal Services Act will affect me.  We're not in that part of the market."  Sorry?  Exactly which part of the market isn't going to be affected by this seismic change?  A rude awakening to the world of legal business!

At tea this week though, we both agreed that awareness within the profession has changed dramatically since then.  Today firms have a much better grasp of what the Act means for their business, in terms of both threat and opportunity.  It may not be obvious precisely how the Act is going to affect some firms, but management teams throughout the profession understand that keeping a watching brief is essential.

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What a week for news! - at the weekend we were still celebrating the sublime of the Royal Wedding, but by Monday we had moved on to the macabre spectacle of the Bin Laden shooting.  And who would have thought that the ruling on the 7/7 bombing inquest would take place against the backdrop of Bin Laden's recent death. Clifford Tibber of Anthony Gold solicitors, representing seven bereaved families at the inquest, writes here in The Times of the emotional as well as legal and logistical challenges of managing the case.  Quite an insight into what it means to take on a case with such emotional charge. 

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I just love being a fair weather cyclist!  As my twitter chums may have spotted, I have recently become a fan of the Transport for London Cycle Hire Scheme: total permission to cycle to work in the sunshine, then decide to tube it home if you just don't feel like the exercise at the end of a busy day, or because the weather is a bit cloudy. And it's so cheap!  Brilliant!!