Friday, 27 September 2019

Catherine Baksi and Jessica Learmond - Criqui

Didn't you just love Catherine Baksi's Sky interview on the Supreme Court prorogation judgment this week? This award-winning legal journalist, (regular contributor to The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian to name just a few of the top titles she regularly writes for), has been a regular on Sky News over the last couple of weeks, dissecting the issues in the prorogation drama and especially this week's shock Supreme Court judgment that our Prime Minister broke the law in suspending parliament. She has succeeded in explaining to viewers some very complex legal issues in terms beautifully concise, clear as crystal, perfectly delivered in a cut glass British accent - whilst sitting in the hot seat dressed in a leather bomber jacket. Choice quote: "I'm reminded of that song from The Clash - I Fought The Law and The Law Won". Don't you just love her style!

We first introduced Catherine to the Sky team a couple of years ago when they approached us for help finding a female Joshua Rozenberg, (you should take this as a compliment Joshua!). If this last two weeks is anything to go by, they have certainly found her. :)  You're welcome!


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Employment law guru Jessica Learmond-Criqui never disappoints. One of Kysen's first ever clients in 1999 (when she worked in Big Law, before setting up her own boutique Learmond Criqui Sokel), she always stretched us with her original twist and unusual take on legal topics. 

Back then she got everybody's attention with the concept of "love contracts": HR professionals can manage potential fallout from workplace romances by getting both parties to sign legal documents saying the relationship is consensual.  This can flush out any issues of "imbalance of workplace power" in office romances that may need to be managed (even more relevant now in the post-Harvey-Weinstein age) and also avoid problems where perfectly balanced relationships end sourly. 

She has taken up her pen again for the press recently and gave us this gem for The Times - "Facebook users should be classed as workers and paid" (£).  Here's how the argument goes: given they make money from our data, we are all effectively their data-inputters when we're active on the site. And they haven't been paying us, so they owe us our money in arrears.  She even calculated how much they owe: " if 42 million users claimed an aggregate of £853.84 over two years, that would mean a very large bill for Facebook", she says.

Jessica! We've missed you! Glad you're back!


Image result for gc summit 2019Talking to General Counsel and other in-house lawyers face-to-face, I can tell you for sure just how important the legal trade press is to them.  For years I’ve been impressing on our law firm clients that the leading legal titles don’t just reach private practice lawyers, but a large community of in-house lawyers as well – and of course these are often the people in large corporates who choose which law firms to instruct.  Our PR programmes focus heavily on national and broadcast media, (The Times, FT, BBC, etc) and the leading sector trade titles (Estates Gazette and Property Week for the property sector, Retail Week for the retail sector, Spear’s for private clients etc etc and so on and so forth).  But we almost always include a strong thread of legal trade press in the mix, depending on the target audiences for our campaigns.Very often lawyers will challenge us, saying: “Why do we want to be in the legal press? We don’t want to talk to our competitors! Where’s the value in telling our story only to other firms?” But this misunderstands the audiences of the top legal press.  Yes they are read avidly by law firm partners, fee-earners and staff (and our barrister clients love them for this, as private practice solicitors are primary work-givers to the bar).  But a good 30-40% of the readership will actually be lawyers in in-house legal departments.  Each of the main legal trade titles has invested hugely in developing this part of their audience and their knowledge and contacts go deep.

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend three days on a residential GC strategy conference in Spain in the company of about 50 or so top-ranking in-house lawyers, thanks to The Lawyer who were hosting the event and a US client of ours UnitedLex who were headline sponsors. They specialise in large-scale business transformation projects for the in-house legal teams of big corporates, and have recently come over from the States, taking the European legal market by storm. I made the most of this golden opportunity - of course, I hope you’d expect nothing less of me! - to find out what really makes in-house lawyers tick, what their pressure points are and what keeps them awake at night.  Here’s what they had to tell me.

A recurring theme was ‘commoditisation and disruption’. Brad Swann, Senior VP at Inmarsat, called these ‘the two major factors’ in business today. GCs have a challenging role advising their business on how the risk matrix changes as their organisations change structure and shape. Moreover, in-house legal departments themselves are being challenged to go through their own business transformations, perfecting how human lawyers, AI and other technology are deployed alongside one another, seamlessly and to best effect.

I had expected this to be a big theme for GCs, I have to say, especially as our client and event sponsor UnitedLex had helped to put the conference agenda together; we knew the delegates were interested in the large scale business transformation projects they had run for large corporate legal departments. What surprised me more, speaking to GCs, was the emphasis they placed on the people issues in their businesses. As one Europe GC put it, ‘our business involves the gathering of thousands of people in one place and, whilst we take security and health & safety very seriously indeed, there is always the prospect that something might go wrong – whether that is due to mechanical failure, human error or bad actors.’ When you put it like that, you can see exactly why a GC would have sleepless nights! Even more unexpected though, was the emphasis that almost all of them placed on the management of their legal teams. For example John Abramson of Travelers stressed to me the benefits to the wider business that stem from the stability in his legal team. Having a group of lawyers who’ve worked in their respective roles for a long time, so have a deep understanding of the business and its issues, and who are well practised (efficient, effective), at working together, is invaluable he says. So one of his biggest preoccupations is how to keep them engaged and enjoying their work, so they continue to stick around. And how best to manage the workflow to make the most of the team’s potential in delivering what’s needed for the business.  Others I spoke to agreed with this and talked to me about the positive difference a well managed team can make and the importance of giving this sufficient focus. They also spoke about being mindful of issues outside of work that can affect how an individual feels and performs in their role. 

It was such a privilege to be part of the UnitedLex team and get a hot ticket to this event, to be able to speak to these GCs direct.  I was extremely lucky to have these conversations in person and glean these insights face-to-face, but my point is that the leading legal trade titles are communing with this GC audience all the time and are exceptionally close to how these professionals live, work and breathe. They know what’s most important to them and they know intimately their likes and dislikes when it comes to selecting and working with private practice firms.  Don’t leave this element out of your marketing planning. It has huge value.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

The Ambassador

We’re at a champagne reception for in-house lawyers, and The Ambassador tells me (over a Ferrero Rocher of course 😉) how hard he works to promote his chosen law firm advisors to the rest of his business - and why. ‘I choose my law firm advisors very carefully, looking both for technical excellence and commercial astuteness, so once they’re on board I’m keen to recommend them actively to colleagues. That way I’m upping the quality of advice the business as a whole is getting. And it also consolidates their position on our supplier panel, which gives me security in my own supply. And if all this increases the workflow for the law firm concerned, well that’s a bonus for them, isn’t it?”

It was my good friend, legal marketing sage Liz Whitaker, who introduced me to The Ambassador on this evening and started the conversation about in-house lawyers’ attitudes to instructing private practice firms. I was fascinated to learn just how different people’s approaches are. For example, a colleague of The Ambassador came over to join the discussion, let’s call her The Assassin (you’ll see why, in a moment). She told us over canapés her very strong belief in the importance of holding herself at arm’s length from her external providers, to keep an objective view. She didn’t want to get into a close relationship and she didn’t want to take responsibility for anyone else’s relationship with them. Another in the same team was different again: a junior lawyer, nicknamed by colleagues the Eager Beaver, because he’s ambitious and rising up the ranks fast, talked openly about working his relationships with private practice lawyers to help skill himself up and get on.

Liz's observations on these different personas was interesting. She said it was perfect evidence of why a customised marketing approach is required for each person you’re dealing with. “If you’re looking for a good return on your marketing investment, the Golden Rules are: be sure that investment is in personal relationships. Forget the One Size Fits All Approach. Jettison marketing plans that focus on talking to thousands when it’s obvious your best opportunities lie with ten individuals, whom you already know by name.”

I’ve written before in this blog about Liz’s book The Power of Personal and I’m delighted to say it’s now out. The central premise of the book is about tailoring your marketing approach, taking time to get to know the personalities you are engaging with and adjusting your tactics accordingly.

My favourite chapter is the one on The Characters, which is in truth where I really met The Ambassador, The Assassin and The Eager Beaver. Its entertaining to spot the ones you recognise from real life!

Liz organises these character types across a Royalty–Loyalty matrix which is enormous fun to work through: she pinpoints characters with both High Royalty (importance) and High Loyalty, such as our Ambassador friend; those with High Royalty but Low Loyalty, eg our Assassin; and those with rising Royalty and fierce Loyalty such as our Eager Beaver who we’ve met already. These persona types are just three of many. If I’ve whetted your appetite, you must read the book! (click here!)

What I love about Liz’s writing is how she uses humour to get her readers focussed on the right issues: honing in on the handful of personalities we need to manage for business success. And how she’s developed a ‘manual’ for handling them all; each character she describes comes with a helpful guide as to “how to spot them”, what your “mission” and “game plan” should be with each, and also some handy “health warnings”.

This book should certainly be required reading for anyone studying the Professional Services CIM course, (can we campaign to get this on the syllabus please?) and it should also form part of the induction for anyone stepping into a professional services marketing role for the first time.
Image result for first 100 yearsI have been enjoying the First100 Years project’s monthly “centenary countdown” parties since the start of this year, 2019 marking the 100th anniversary of the first women lawyers being accepted into the profession.  I have mentioned in this blog before that each party celebrates a particular decade of achievements and milestones of women in law. 
This month, the event was hosted by White & Case and we were treated to the video history of one of the firm’s partners Jacquelyn MacLennan, as part of the Project’s series celebrating extraordinary women in law. Jacquelyn acted on the 2018 ECJ case that established same sex marriages must be recognised across the EU, regardless of whether gay marriage itself is allowed in that country.  A brilliant example of women lawyers bringing in significant and important change. Why were they ever refused entry to the club? 
The film was created by a very talented team including award-winning documentary maker Angela Holdsworth who’s been profiled in this blog before.
Image result for women in lawIt’s also been fascinating to compare our own experience of women in law with the story of our US cousins, who this year celebrate 150 years since being allowed entry. 
I’ve had the pleasure recently of working with AmLaw’s Corporate Counsel editor Heather Nevitt, who runs a series of excellent and inspiring initiatives across the pond, celebrating exceptional women in the profession: most notably  AmLaw's "Women, Influence & Power in Law (WIPL) Awards" and also a women’s networking group that’s coming to London this Autumn (you heard it hear first!).
I had to put the women behind these two parallel sets of initiatives in touch, so had great pleasure in introducing Heather to First 100 Years founder Dana Denis Smith. Now just watch this space...! 

Friday, 24 May 2019

John Petrie

John Petrie

Serle Court CEO John Petrie believes measurement of Return On Marketing Investment needs to be approached in a holistic way and over the long term. 

I was talking to John over lunch at The Law Society's 113 restaurant (if you've never tried this establishment you really must!) for the first in a new series of investigations into how legal managers and marketing folk measure the success of their programmes. As a sequel to last year's joint study with New Law Journal on the impacts of the social media mix, this year we are working together again to explore the topic of ROI. As before, we are devoting the first few months of our study to a series of in-depth, one-to-one interviews, some of which we will publish in this blog. From this we will draw out some common themes which we’ll test at the end of the summer with a statistical survey of NLJ's readers. The final report will appear in the pages of the NLJ at the end of the year.

“When the barristers ask me 'what did we get from this or that event?" John says, “I'll politely respond that I don't think it is the right question. Yes, we have many circumstances where one of our barristers will get a new instruction on a big case just by sitting next to someone at an event dinner, but that's just a bonus and it doesn't mean anyone else will have the same luck. Far more important is the role that event plays in our growth of instructions across the board over a concerted period. At Serle Court, we have a number of long term initiatives aimed at developing instructions from new jurisdictions and increasing work in existing jurisdictions. So we need to look at all the marketing we do in the context of our broader brand building in that region, so how the combined effort of profile-raising and establishing a regular presence on the ground, through events, face-to-face meetings, PR, social, is effective in positioning our set for the right type and level of work. 

"Success of a marketing programme needs to be judged by how the different elements all work together to build recognition in our name and increase opportunities for face-to-face conversations, to capitalise on that increased profile and turn interest in what we do into concrete instructions. So it follows that return on that marketing investment in a specific jurisdiction is not to be judged one event at a time, but rather seeing how the pattern of instructions in the region changes in the medium and then the longer term."

So holistic is the holy grail. Wise words. Thanks John. 

If you have strong views on this subject or interesting insights to share, then do please volunteer to take part in this study. You can send me your contact details, with a brief note if you like, using the comment box below.
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Did you get to see Anthony  Gormley's "Lunatick" exhibition while it was still in town? I managed to snare a couple of the very last tickets so my good friend Helen Obi and I were able to go. I can honestly say it was out of this world. Literally! We donned our VR headsets and found ourselves on a beach modelled on a Pacific island  before being lifted up into the sky past the clouds and into space, then landing on the surface of the moon. Gormley collaborated with space scientist Dr Priyamvada Natarajan to use actual NASA images from space and moon missions to create this amazing virtual space journey.

I’m starting to see VR tech popping up everywhere.  It’s definitely becoming mainstream. A new property makeover show recently started on BBC Two using VR to help homeowners choose which design to go for, and a new history programme on BBC One uses VR to uncover the hidden history of Italian city life. So how long before law firms and barristers start to use VR? One use could be to offer VR recordings of seminars and conferences for clients who miss out on the day. 

If you haven't had a chance to try out this new medium, do find an opportunity as soon as you can. It’s coming our way!

Image result for Ben ShapiroThere’s never been a more pointed lesson on the importance of preparing properly for media interviews  than Ben Shapiro's disastrous-hilarious interview with Andrew Neil. The US conservative political commentator ended up storming off the set, the interview went so badly - and entirely the fault of Team Shapiro. He’d clearly been briefed to expect an easy ride, indeed even an opportunity for a PR moment. But his cry of "[this] is a way for you to make a quick buck on the BBC off the fact I'm popular and no one has ever heard of you" baffled viewers as for them, Mr Neil is one of the most recognisable faces in UK news. More puzzlement was to come when Shapiro accused the famously right wing journalist of having a left wing agenda. Oh dear. If you didn’t catch the interview at the time you can watch it here. But it comes with a health warning: this clip may cause serious toe-curling.