Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Graham Coy

Graham Coy must know more about matrimonial disputes than anyone else I know. I say this with confidence because he leads a family law team at Mundays that is made up of not only litigators and mediators, but collaborative law experts (there aren't many of those) and now an arbitrator (even rarer). Regular readers of this blog will know that I have an ongoing interest in new ideas on dispute resolution. Speaking to Graham this week I was interested to know if his experience across these different forums gives him any fresh insights into the anatomy of disputes and how to unlock them. 

"Each of the four dispute resolution areas we work in requires a completely different mindset, which is both the challenge and the excitement of working across such a range. With classic litigation, you start off trying to reach agreement between the parties, often by means of correspondence between the lawyers, which may or may not be easy or productive, then if this fails you go to court. In contrast, collaborative law starts with an agreement that no-one will take the matter to court and a commitment by everyone to sit through as many meetings as required to reach a consensus. For lawyers, this can be a challengingly different dynamic. Mediation is different again: as a mediator you sit down with two clients, often represented by two different law firms, your role being that of an honest - and neutral - broker helping them to reach agreement. In arbitration the lawyer's role is different again, much more like a judge, your decisions having similar authority in terms of weight enforceability."

I am aware how Graham and his team help clients weigh up the options and decide which of the four approaches is most suitable to their needs. But what I wanted to understand more was whether and how working through disputes in such a variety of ways had changed his outlook.

"I do remember the sea-change in my thinking when I first did mediation training in 1997. It teaches you to look beyond what is being presented to you on the surface, to see the real drivers behind people's words and the positions they take. You develop a much better understanding of where people are coming from: I have long maintained that all lawyers have a responsibility to avoid being led down blind alleys, to always keep the bigger picture in mind and be prepared to remind their clients and others involved in a case of this. Divorce lawyers have a particularly heightened responsibility in this regard because the clients they are advising are often in their most vulnerable states ever. Understanding where all the parties are coming from is a big part of this, using that knowledge to direct them all to a more positive outcome. Mediation training makes you think about yourself, your own behaviours and also prejudices, in a totally new light. I honestly believe this has improved my ability to understand clients and be a better adviser to them as a result.

"Without wishing to sound too evangelical about it, I think mediation training should be compulsory training for every lawyer at the start of their career, not just an option later."

Now there's an idea...
Are we ready for Rebekah Brooks phone-hacking trial? We have quite a few friends-in-law involved in the case, but will we be reading anything about their involvement in our daily papers? Reporting of the trial is unusually tightly restricted. Apparently even the verdict is not going to be published immediately, as there is such a long line of journalists queuing up to be tried subsequently, and this decision of course musn't prejudice their trials. 

By curious coincidence, this is the same week the Government has set its deadline for the Queen's approval of its Royal Charter on press regulation. This inadvertent clash must have skipped the notice of the powers-that-be. I am sure they are gutted it falls in the same week. We may be witnessing more atrocious stories of a media out of control and this may dampen the public's reaction to the proposed regulation. When otherwise they might be outraged that their democratic right to a free press is being curtailed, this is the one week in which they may be uncharacteristically accepting of the idea.

Bet Government kicked themselves when they realised their mistake. 
I know I know. It's not even Halloween and already we are talking about Christmas. The festive lights are in place in Oxford Street. I had an eerie evening's walk earlier this month, the road closed off, just a few pedestrians in the dark watching cranes lifting giant white raffia balls into position, necklaced above the street. The "snowstorm"  theme is a marked contrast to last year's Marmite-sponsored theme (either you loved it or hated it), the result of a competition run by the New West End company. We'll have to wait until 12 November for the star-studded "switching on" spectacle. See you there? 

In the meantime we are busy dreaming up some novel Christmas-themed editorial ideas. It's not our fault - it's the media that plans so far ahead! 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Beverly Landais

"Highly poachable" is how The Lawyer described  Beverly Landais this week. Her planned exit from Devereux Chambers(in fact from the profession altogether as she is moving to the financial sector) became public, some saw this as evidence of the Bar's inherent problem holding on to these talented, hard-hitting senior managers brought in to transform their practices. Others see the positives: that honing their skills and succeeding in such a "special" environment makes these strategists even more desirable as senior managers and leaders. A challenge for the Bar of course, but one you might characterise as a "nice problem to have".  After all, if you can hold your own in an organisation filled with highly practised advocates paid to argue for a living, and get them to follow your lead, you are clearly working some magic.  As The Lawyer's Kate Beioley  put it, "Chief Executives who successfully grapple with the challenges are eminently poachable by organisations beyond the Bar".

Beverly was kind enough to share her thoughts with me on the matter, and how she feels about this big career change. She leaves Devereux at the end of next month after a hugely successful four-year period during which she has overseen the modernisation, rebranding and repositioning of the set.  

"I have to admit I am leaving the set with sadness because they are a fantastic set and I have enjoyed my time here.  I have many friends amongst the barristers and the staff.  I am proud of Devereux and it has taken a very special opportunity to tempt me away. I have worked in Legal Services for 15 years and I know that I will miss it.  Yet I have previously worked in Financial Services and Insurance and enjoyed that too. I have always taken the view that I am able to add more value because of the breadth and depth of my sector knowledge across a range of Professional Services."

Head of Chambers Ingrid Simler QC  credits Beverly with modernising the set and raising the profile of Chambers as one of the UK's top commercial and civil sets. She even goes so far as to say it is thanks to Beverly that Devereux is now synonymous with excellence at every level.  How does Beverly respond to such high praise? Answer: she is quick to emphasise it's all about other people:

 "A key for me at Devereux has always been to think beyond what I personally can do. That's the job of a senior manager after all isn't it, to focus on enabling others? Most people want to do a great job and in my experience there are four vital ingredients to achieve this:  clear and consistent communication; appropriate levels of resource;  good processes that focus on outcomes; and training to provide the skills to do the job as well as stretch and challenge to even better performance.  I try to focus energy on getting the optimum blend of these ingredients."

Beverly also says it is about making sure the change you implement is properly embedded in the organisation, that it is firmly planted in the collective memory. "Part of this is recruiting talented people  around you and encouraging them to take responsibility and think for themselves. I have been extremely fortunate to recruit in some brilliant people - like Vince Plant, Head of Clerking Services, who is one of the most client focused and business development savvy person I have met at the Bar."

Beverly has just been elected to the Board of Trustees of the Chartered Management Institute (announced at the CMI Annual Meeting last week). The vision of the CMI is to support "Better led and better managed organisations", something we know Beverly pioneers in the professions. It is the only chartered professional body dedicated to raising standards of management and leadership across all sectors by setting professional management standards – built into their qualifications, membership criteria and learning resources. I was curious to know more about this new role: 

 "I completed the Chartered Manager accreditation in February and found the experience incredibly valuable. I wanted to give something back and, as I believe better managed organisations lead to more satisfied employees, owners and clients, it seemed logical to put myself forward for consideration by the Nomination Committee.  There were 5 candidates and 2 places, the term is for 3 years and I am delighted to have been selected."

The past few years have seen Devereux gain numerous prestigious awards that prior to her arrival simply didn't happen. Indeed on the day of our exchange the set had just been short-listed as "Chambers of the Year" for Legal Week's British Legal Awards. There is no doubt about it: Beverly leaves a strong legacy and an uncompromising belief that success lies in providing superb levels of client service coupled with the highest quality advocacy and advice.

Beverly Landais is going to be a hard act to follow.
Did someone make up this "living dead man" court story especially for Halloween? Have you seen this?? An unbelievable story of an Ohio court refusing to reverse a declaration that Donald Miller was legally dead, even when he turned up in court clearly alive and well. He absconded in 1986 after losing his job, and wasn't seen for 30 years by his wife and family who sought a declaration he was legally deceased so his "widow" could claim Social Security death benefits. Ohio state law has no mechanism for reversing the declaration once three years has passed so the man walked out of court still dead as far as the law is concerned. You couldn't make it up.
How could I have got Lowry so wrong! A trip to the The Lowry Galleries at Salford Quays, when visiting friends at the Manchester office of Weightmans, put me right.

All my life I had thought all Lowry ever did was paint matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs against industrial backdrops. How wrong I was! All manner of genres is covered among the 400 items on show, from seascapes, landscapes to portraits, many rendered in minute, life-like detail a far cry from the crude simple figures he is most famous for.

Why is the breadth of his work not better known? Brian and Michael, you have a lot to answer for!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Amanda Illing

Amanda Illing is famous for tearing down walls in Chambers. When she joined Hardwicke as Practice Director in 2009 (from Matrix Chambers) one of the first things she did was to rip down the partitions separating the different members of the admin team, so that managers, clerks, marketers, finance bods, fees collectors, could all see one another, hear one another and work as one team. She has strong views about where corporate success comes from that have stood her in good stead: giving individuals clarity about what their role is, how they fit into the bigger picture; giving them appropriate support, training  and motivating them to perform to their very best; and a cultural emphasis on getting relationships right, both externally and internally, pulling everyone together in the same direction. Three years into her job at Hardwicke and she lands the CEO role when her predecessor leaves. Given the impact she had had at the set, this is no wonder. 

I caught up with Amanda just as she was celebrating her award win at the Modern Law Awards this month, as Non Lawyer of the Year. I wanted to know the secret of her success, especially as her award win coincided with a number of stories of high profile exits at the Bar, CEOs leaving not just their sets but the profession as a whole, so dispiriting was their experience. Only a few years ago it seemed something of a fad for chambers to appoint Chief Execs or other strategists with similarly grand titles. Yes we may be seeing some fall out, but perhaps it’s more about a separation between the wheat and the chaff, the good and the bad, the effective and the ineffective. I put this to Amanda when we met up over breakfast. 

“I would say a lot of the stories you read of Chief Execs being parachuted in to Chambers and pressing the ejector seat button only months later probably has more to do with a mismatch of expectations. I have been very lucky both at Matrix and Hardwicke to have heads of chambers and other senior members very supportive of the need for change, and this makes all the difference. In fact Hardwicke employed its first Chief Exec an unbelievable 20 years ago. So I didn’t have the burden of being a complete trailblazer.” So is she saying they were ready for her? I ask. “Heads of Chambers Nigel Jones QC and Paul Reed QC are two of the most forward-thinking, business-focussed and strategic barristers I’ve worked with.  I’m very lucky to have a great relationship with them.  But I have still managed to give them some challenges and surprises!” she grins.

I was keen to know her thoughts about the role of the traditional clerk in an age of business developers, marketers, practice directors and chief execs at the Bar. Was there space for them still? I have long been of the view that barristers clerks have something very special to add to the marketing mix, often being much closer to the coalface, knowing exactly what happens at that moment when legal services are bought and sold, than most legal marketers in the swankiest of City law firms could ever hope to be. But how do they fit in to the new landscape at the Bar?

“The clerking role (or I prefer the title practice manager to make it more accessible to the client) remains absolutely key to any chambers, but I wouldn’t call it a traditional one anymore. The role has changed almost beyond recognition and there are plenty of excellent examples of long established clerks who have made the transition highly successfully. The expectation around the role is very different today. Being out in the marketplace no longer means having the odd beer with your solicitor mates in The George in Fleet Street. It means travelling to your solicitor clients perhaps at the other end of the country (or even the world) and investing in time for professional, strategic conversations about scoping work, getting feedback about chambers’ performance, taking the time to find out what your client really needs from you and how you can improve your service to them. I believe that the job title attached to this role is far less significant than what people actually do. All sets are facing challenges and need to update their way of doing business. All are having to rethink their approach to service delivery and how to market their services to a solicitor client base that rightfully expects a lot more from the Bar. Any barrister who thinks they can stay tucked away in their ivory tower, stepping outside to advise a client when it suits them, at a timetable that suits them, needs to understand the story has changed. We are running businesses now and chambers need people who can help with this transition, in terms of how to structure the business, cost the work, present the services, and coach and manage the people in the business so they are properly equipped to operate in such a changed environment. These people could come from any background, eg clerking, practice management, business development, you often see former litigators and also former military personnel making a great impact in these roles! The key is to gain the trust of those around you, ie the head of chambers, the management board, the clerks room, all the members and the support staff, because the job is to marshal your troops and lead the organisation forward into new territory. Relationships are key to this because a leader is nothing if nobody follows them!”

I’m glad Amanda is at the helm of Hardwicke. It is great her very special skill-set has been recognised by the Modern Law Awards, but I am well aware that her colleagues at Hardwicke know already how lucky they are to have her. 
We had fun creating Kysen's first Flipboard magazine this week. Our latest Social Media Update (designed to keep the professions updated about business use of social media) was distributed in the usual way earlier this month (email link to a PDF on our website). Shortly afterwards, we released it on Flipboard, its faux-magazine format and high visual impact designed to make browsing online easier and more enjoyable, especially viewing material on iPhones and iPads. We're keen for feedback. Which format works best for you and the way you use our update? You can compare the PDF with the Flipboard version here.

It was only this Summer, that Flipboard launched the ability to create your own magazines to share with people who don't have the app, so this medium is very new. Just after we released ours, the FT launched a brand new MBA magazine on the platform. At Kysen, we do like to be #OnTrend you know ;)

Proud to be a friend of Claire Dyer whose first novel, The Moment, has been published by Quercus Books this month. it's about a couple who meet again at Paddington station after 25 years and think of the lives they've lived and what might have been. Following a launch at The Paddington Hilton, the major highstreet bookstores promoting Claire's debut are Waterstones, Tesco and Asda among others, but I noticed that the WH Smith on Paddington station concourse is pushing it particularly enthusiastically. I commute through Paddington station every day so am thoroughly enjoying The Moment, being able to see the scenes Claire describes so well not just in my mind but In Real Life.

I also love Claire's social media campaign. Fans are being invited to tweet about the book on their daily commute with the aim of reaching the attention of @railbookclub and getting an endorsement. Quercus is also running a "share your own moment" campaign primarily through Facebook, inviting people to share their own experiences of key moments that changed the path of their life from what might have been. 

For the record, Claire says her personal "moment" was when she met her husband of 25 years and her life became charmed. Aaah.