Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Jan Miller

Jan Miller

Talking to New Law Journal editor Jan Miller, I learn that Fake News is proving to be Good News for some. A topic I’ve visited a number of times on this blog, Fake News is something that to date I’ve only understood as a threat and a negative. Indeed earlier this year Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge tutored us on its origins as a dubious propaganda activity at the time of the US election and the rise of Trump; explained to us the explosion in fake news "factories" - websites that specialise in disseminating deliberately false stories e.g. to sway low-IQ voters who don’t question what they read, or to serve as “click-bait” to boost reader numbers (and therefore advertisers on the back of this) in a way that properly researched, accurate stories simply can’t compete with. The famous Mark Twain maxim “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” never had more relevance! Depressing isn’t it, to see journalistic standards plummet with the rise of so many dubious web and social based news outlets - and the reading public supposedly ok with that as long as they are entertained. 

So I was encouraged to learn from Jan that she is seeing a positive impact of Fake News. What she talked to me about is in essence a flight to quality, with readers and contributors alike being attracted more than ever to reliable and trusted content.

“We have noticed the Fake News phenomenon having actually helped boost interest and demand for our news services in some areas, as lawyers are increasingly keen for news sources that are accurate and authoritative. The stock value in trusted news and comment has risen; what was once give-away (and taken for granted), is now seen as a valuable asset. In their concern to avoid ingesting unreliable information, our experience is that customers are becoming more discerning in regard to the news sources they choose and are demonstrating that they are prepared to invest in, and pay for, trusted and responsible sources."

“Contributors also want to be seen as authoritative commentators. They recognise that it’s easy for their comments to be misused, twisted, taken out of context etc, particularly on social media channels. Some firms are closing Twitter accounts that previously they were quite relaxed about, so concerned have they become about control of message in such an anarchic environment. Others are tightening up their monitoring and managing procedures on social channels, setting clear policies and standards for staff posting and making people accountable. The more social activity becomes mainstream for lawyers, as a way of reaching out to clients, referrers, influencers and peers, the more they realise the need for a professional, even ‘corporate’, approach.”

Jan and I also discussed at length how the rise of social as a mainstream channel is impacting the law firm marketing mix more generally. Now that firms, chambers and lawyers can so easily publicise their own news and opinions, on their website or elsewhere online, and now that they can communicate direct with their target audiences on eg LinkedIn or Twitter, do they still see a need for publicity through “traditional” media? How do they assess the value, influence and reach of the channels they pick for their marketing output? How do the different channels compare in terms of ability to control messages on the one hand, and on the other hand the influence they confer? And how far are lawyers engaging with newspapers’ and magazines’ own new formats, such as video content, webinars etc.? These are just a few of the questions we have been asking. We’d now like to invite you into the discussion...

Over the next few months New Law Journal and Kysen will be working jointly on a study looking in to the impacts of social media on the legal marketing mix. We are planning a series of one-to-one 'qualitative' interviews, some of which we will publish on this blog. Early  in the New Year NLJ will be conducting a 'quantitative' survey on certain aspects as well, amongst their readers. If you have strong views on this subject, or interesting stories to tell, or for any other reason would like to take part in this study, do please send me your contact details using the comment box below and we can start a conversation...

Image result for woman in lawI felt very privileged to be invited to attend the Women Leaders In Law conference on 8 November (thanks for the invite Catherine), not least because of the impressive line-up of speakers.  To name just two: Lord Neuberger provided the best example of a HeForShe moment that I have seen to date, tipping his hat to Supreme Court president Baroness Hale in explaining why there is no logical reason to think women are any less capable professionally than men; and Law Society president-elect Christina Blacklaws took the opportunity in her opening address to announce the launch of a new study aimed at achieving gender parity and equality in pay and partnership statistics in the legal profession (working with the Bar and Lexis Nexis too).  

The conference was hosted by Spark21, the charity that "celebrates, informs and inspires future generations of women" and that owns and manages the pioneering “First 100 Years of Women (2014-2019): Women in Law” campaign, marking 100 years since women have joined the profession.  

At the conference I was shocked to learn that the legal reason women were not allowed to enter the legal profession prior to 1919 was, according to case law, that they were not considered "persons" within the meaning of the Solicitors Act 1843 (Mr Justice Joyce's judgment in Bebb v The Law Society in 1913).  It was not until the Sex Disqualification Act was passed in 1919 that women were allowed to practise law.

We've come such a long way since then, we might think.  But have we really?  Looking at the persistent gender pay gap in the profession today and the high rates of attrition for female lawyers - women have made up over 50% of law graduate intakes since 1993, yet they account for only 27% of law firm partners - clearly Ms Blacklaws' study comes not a moment too soon.

Image result for christmas decorations in officeIt's that time of year again where every topic we are working on seems to have a Christmas theme.  "Legal reforms that every lawyer wants for Christmas.."  "The health & safety risks of staff plugging in their own non-Pat-tested Christmas decorations at works..". Even that old chestnut (roasting on an open fire) "The dangers of the office Christmas party".

Especially for the lawyers who read this blog, we have scoured this year's selection of Christmas-themed legal issues to bring you our personal favourite.  The prize for the best Bah Humbug! story so far has to go to the neighbour who took steps to force the family next door to turn off the 350,000-bulb Christmas decorations covering their house, despite the fact the display is used every year to raise money for a children's hospital.  The spectacular over-the-top display (see the pictures here) draws tens of thousands of visitors.  It is this in part that prompted the Scrooges next door to start a petition asking law enforcement agencies to do something about the "significant public safety and nuisance concerns" this raises.

No legal angle to this next story, but we just had to share this cute news snippet about the West Country publican who's turned his hostelry into a gingerbread house.  Click on the link to enjoy the pictures!