Friday, 16 December 2011

Father Christmas

Felt privileged to catch up with Father Christmas this week, as we know what a busy time of the year this is for him. He was in surprisingly good cheer, considering the stories he was telling me about all the red tape and regulation he has to cut through these days.

“The job is certainly not as straightforward as it used to be” he chuckles. “Just as well I have magic on my side! It’s you mortals I feel sorry for, having to cope with all this without.”

He talks to me at length about the layers and layers of Health & Safety legislation he now has to comply with, given he’s taking (at times quite unpredictable) animals up into the sky, flying at high altitudes in an open-top vessel, not to mention landing his sleigh and reindeer on roofs of varying construction designs and strengths across the globe. Then there’s the tussle he’s had this year with the Aviation Authorities over additional security checks they now insist on. “Every present has to be scanned now, which of course adds quite a few hours on to an already long night’s work. But heigh-ho!”

He’s also being forced to rethink the diversity of his workforce, no longer able to insist on only using elves to help him. “It’s actually been a very happy development, this” he chortles. “Magic being such a big part of the job description for any of my helpers, I’d long thought only elves could ever fit the bill. But being forced to look further, I’ve discovered there’s a merry band of professional services marketeers who are required to work magic everyday, so we’ve brought some of those on board too now and I’ve made some lovely new friends.”

One piece of legislation he’s particularly delighted about this year though, is the end of the default retirement age.

“I thought I was going to be forcibly retired this year now I’ve reached the grand old age of 350. But now the default retirement age has been scrapped in the North Pole, I’m happy to say I’ll be bringing Christmas cheer all over the world for a good few years to come.”

I had to put up with a bit of stick from colleagues when I relayed this conversation with Father Christmas. A definite lack of respect – they even suggested that perhaps he might not be real. I pointed out that they needed to watch their step: a belief in Jedis has been deemed protectable under anti-religious-descrimination laws embedded in the employment legislation, so I’m sure a belief in Father Christmas would be similarly protected.

Besides, if they’re not nice about it, clearly they’ll end up on the Naughty List and won’t be getting any presents!


We’re all looking forward to our Christmas party next Wednesday – an afternoon out at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It’s been a fantastic year at Kysen: a move to Covent Garden, and into the Cloud, plus a new website showing our renewed confidence and excitement in who we are and what we do. Lots for us to celebrate!

Merry Christmas everyone and a very Happy New Year!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Jane Dudman

Jane Dudman is looking back at a fantastic year of journalism at The Guardian - and looking forward as well, continuing to lead the pack in digital news publishing. This week the editor of the paper's ground-breaking PublicLeaders Network was addressing a small celebratory party announcing a new advisory board. The PublicLeaders Network is a highly influential digital forum for senior leaders of public services to exchange ideas and practice notes as well as discuss the issues at the top of their professional agendas. 

In conversation she tells me "Having built up a phenomenal following of senior public sector managers over years in hard copy, I have to say that I was extremely nervous when we took the bold decision to switch to online only. But our loyal following switched with us and the Network has gone from strength to strength. Ours was the first of the Guardian's 13 online business hubs, so as such we created the mould for one of the paper's biggest digital successes."

Jane talked of her pride in watching the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, knowing it was her colleagues who first broke the story of the phone hacking scandal. She could also have mentioned the fact that the paper is already Newspaper of the Year and Digital News Service of the Year, second only to the Mail Online in terms of online newspaper readership and renown for 'constantly raising the bar by which other newspaper websites are judged'. 

It is these twin strengths that impress me the most at The Guardian - on the one hand its reputation as among the best for investigative journalism and old-style journalistic values; on the other, its reputation as leader in digital news publishing. 


... But for coverage of the professions, The Times is still my favourite personal read, I have to say.  So it was delightful this week to catch up with all my friends at The Times' Christmas party at the Reform Club: Frances GibbEdward FennellClare HoganLinda TsangAlex SpenceJonathan Ames, as well as the amazing Karen Snell, PR Head at Lovells - sorry, Hogan Lovells she keeps reminding me - and freelance public affairs supremo Louise Restell.  It was a far later night than I intended, (I blame you, Karen >:S) but brilliant fun!


News that IT giant Atos is banning email in the workplace for internal communications and replacing it with instant messaging, Facebook and other social media platforms, set me thinking this week about how long it took some professional firms to embrace email in the first place. Obviously many firms have proud reputations as early adopters, keen to grasp new technology and see if/how it can be intelligently applied to their business - and we are lucky that our clients tend to fall in this category. But to be honest these firms are the exception rather than the norm, in a section of the business world famous for its conservatism. 

The most extreme example I recall - and of course I wouldn't dream of naming names - was a firm whose fee earners would dictate email to their secretaries, who would then type them out in hard copy with a special header reminiscent of old fax headers saying 'ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION', hand back to the fee earner for signing, and then scan and email the document as an attachment! You couldn't make it up!!

The legal world may be catching up these days. Trouble is, the rest of the world keeps moving on even faster.  

Can you come to my party? Wonderful news this week that members of Massive Attack and Radiohead played a surprise gig at Occupy London's Christmas party. The gig took place in the basement of an abandoned UBS building renamed The Bank of Ideas. Whatever you think about our anti-capitalist protesters they clearly have good taste in music - might even be better than most bankers'... 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Edmund Parker

"I never used to have much to do with my colleague Edmund Parker until 2008..."
This was David Allen's opening gambit at a meeting this week with Edmund and a BBC Business journalist, set up to take the broadcaster through the background on some derivatives cases coming up over the next weeks and months.  David is one of the global heads of litigation at Mayer Brown and Edmund global co-head of derivatives, but pre-2008 David says, he had more to do with his US and Asia litigation colleagues than the derivatives regulatory team working in the same office as him in London.

It all changed when the credit crunch hit.

"All of a sudden, on receiving our third or fourth derivatives litigation instruction in a row, we clocked the pattern developing. A lot of people's positions changed pretty much overnight and unexpectedly. So suddenly a hedging, options or futures deal done just months before started to look a lot less attractive. We were inundated with parties looking to see what they could do to set a transaction aside - or stop the other side from doing exactly that! It was at this point that Edmund and I started to get to know each other very well."

I've always liked this 'matrix' approach of Mayer Brown's - pulling together cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional teams in response to big global stories - a global business defaulting; a global bank in trouble. The firm set-up is designed specifically to field bespoke teams according to the needs of a particular task/job/case, eg bringing an in-depth understanding of complex financial instruments together with top-notch litigation expertise (this is the team that ran some of the first cases in the Supreme Court as it opened), and fielding regional experts in a particular jurisdiction as needed. But whereas some firms merely talk the talk - we all know how the wording goes on any big law firm website or credentials statement -  Mayer Brown really walk the walk.  The simple reason being that these guys have been working across their various offices around the globe for a very long time and cross-team working is part of the firm's cultural fabric - unlike some firms whose transatlantic or global capabilities have been forged much more recently. Remember, the Mayer Brown Rowe and Maw merger was a very long time ago back in the '90s. 

The collapse of Lehmans was a case in point. Mayer Brown pulled a rapid response team together in hours, working as one unit but covering three different jurisdictions - in New York, London and Hong Kong.

This is my favourite kind of PR job - a firm that has an excellent story to tell, but just needs a platform to tell it. No need for smoke and mirrors here. Mayer Brown are the real deal.

There but for the grace of God... I was lucky enough to be invited to National Brain Injury Charity Headway’s Annual Awards Luncheon, courtesy of Prolegal. As a member of the Brain Injury Group, an organisation that promotes the use of dedicated brain injury lawyers to handle personal injury claims involving head injuries, Prolegal supports Headway to help promote awareness of the reality of life after such catastrophic and complex injuries.

I read the booklet beforehand: awards would be given out for Volunteer of the Year, Campaigner of the Year, Achiever of the Year, Outstanding Contribution to Headway, as well as Carer of the Year. I was expecting to hear some moving stories. But what I wasn't prepared for was the fact that so many of the nominees and winners were individuals who had suffered brain injury themselves, and having been so brilliantly supported by Headway throughout their journey to recovery (or at least some semblance of a normal life), they wanted to give something back. This really stopped me in my tracks.

Well, I'm truly in the Christmas spirit now. Have to say, Covent Garden really knows how to do Christmas! This being our first Winter in our new neighbourhood, it has been such a welcome surprise to see how everyone in Seven Dials and Covent Garden more widely works together to get the area ready for Christmas. Almost makes up for the passing of the Summer and the fact that we can't use our wonderful roof garden at the moment! As many of you know already, I am the very proud owner of an I Love Covent Garden discount card. Back in November the organisers advertised a 20% discount day to take place on the 1st December - and I promptly booked the whole day off! So now I can smugly say most of my Christmas shopping has been done. But most fun of all, was just to enjoy the community spirit. How nice to work in a district in Central London with such a strong sense of community.