The Rise of SocialHuman Lawyer – Part 2

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article was first published in the Global Legal Post 30th June 2015 titled ‘Knowing me, knowing you’ and is reproduced with kind permission.

Knowing me, knowing you…

Whether you’re a sololawyer or a NewHuman lawyer in an international behemoth, to future-proof your career you will need to embrace the evolution and rise of SocialHuman Lawyer.

The question you ought to be asking yourself with regard to future-proofing your livelihood, career and/or business, like the David’s (some of whom I will share with you in a moment) and the Goliath’s (one of which I will share in a moment), is: ‘should we be reinventing our entire marketing, sales, PR, and business development approach to embrace, involve, and engage all of our lawyers in SocialHuman activities?’ The answer is obvious. If it is not, perhaps the knowledge that the Law Society of England and Wales has already laid down social media guidance for solicitors and the New York bar is currently mulling over proposed “social media rules for lawyers”  ought to give you a clue.

The real challenge therefore for ‘the firm’ and every lawyer, you, is to embrace the SocialHuman revolution for the benefit of the potential client and existing client; ultimately the business of law will benefit and (hopefully) you will too. In order to do this you must truly know yourself (for  “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle), adapt, innovate, and defy your comfort zone. Take a risk. If needs be, you need to take the lead – and be the captain of your own mothership – rather than follow. To give you comfort, and a nudge, it is widely accepted that great leaders tend to understand the human side of business. It’s time for you to ‘get naked’.

Brand Me 

The single most important career decision you’ll ever make is to niche and create your personal brand. I am living proof of this statement. You have ‘my story’ and HOW to do this in The Naked Lawyer, but permit me to share with you sterling examples of three SocialHuman lawyers who have followed this advice successfully, the David’s of the legal eco-system (and there are many more) who have already boldly gone in future-proofing their livelihoods by marketing themselves in readiness for the Robotic Age, where the Goliath’s feared to tread, until now: Gary Assim, Mike Willis and Sinead King.

Gary Assim – The Image Lawyer

Gary Assim is Head of Retail and Intellectual Property Group Leader at Shoosmiths LLP. His area of expertise is Intellectual Property – image and design rights in particular – and his niches include fashion, retail and the creative industries.  His personal brand is ‘The Image Lawyer’ (no-brainer), devised back in 2012 once he’d worked on his EI, got creative, and worked out his niches.

As celebrity culture has grown in recent years so has the sophistication of public figures in protecting and exploiting their images and personal brands to yield significant financial returns. Gary spotted this niche and now advises across all areas of the protection, exploitation and enforcement of image rights from challenging the misuse of an individual’s image and reputation, to preparing product endorsement agreements. Gary and his team’s experience includes advising a photo licensing agency on the acquisition of images of David Beckham at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Although the UK does not currently have any established law on image rights other parts of Europe certainly do and Guernsey pioneers in actual Image Rights Law. Albeit the law in this area is still developing in the UK and elsewhere, Gary works closely with colleagues abroad to ensure that his clients always have the necessary safeguards in place to be compliant wherever they operate. Gary Assim has managed to cut a real niche and name for himself as the ‘Go To’ lawyer for this kind of legal service.

Mike Willis – The Professional’s B(r)and-Aid

Mike is a professional risks lawyer who specialises in curing problems for professionals who are facing claims, internal disputes, insurance issues or regulatory issues. He is clearly pioneering in an area which is largely untapped here in the UK at present. Albeit there are lawyers and consultants ten-a-penny who niche and specialise in compliance and regulation, and technology companies such as RAVN with one of its four products – RAVN Govern – within its RAVN ACE platform that specialises in policing, compliance and risk analytics which is powered by their Applied Cognitive Engine bringing together different technologies from the fields of Information Retrieval, Cognitive Computing and AI in a coherent, enterprise ready solution, Mike niches in a human service for professionals at that painful point of ‘Uh-Oh’; that is, the point of no return when the **it has totally hit the fan regardless of how many human and machine systems are in place to mitigate that awful circumstance.

Understandably, his personal brand is ‘The Professional’s B(r)and-Aid’. You may recall a piece he wrote in the Global Legal Post recently about costs risks? In a Digital, AI and Robotic world, with cyber exposure a constant threat and problem, for example, increasing new account fraud  and cyber-crime on the rise, a legal world where law firms are culling lawyerly insurance roles by the tens per firm and an insurance world where insurance companies are convinced they need to invest in tech startups to avoid extinction  with the very real fear that insurers will disappear amid the tech revolution, I can confidently predict that there will remain many Uh-Oh moments ahead for professional service firms and employees. To err is human. Mike can help us when we have to make critical decisions confronting our business… decisions like:

• Should I sue on a bad debt – or am I vulnerable to disproportionate retaliation?

• How do I tell insurers of my peril in a way that transfers the risk without scaring them to an extent that endangers next year’s renewal, or at least inflates the insurance premium?

• Do Insurers in fact have to be told, and how should I treat with them once they have been told – especially if I’m uneasy about what they’re doing,  or the terms of my cover?

• What action or measures can/must be taken meanwhile?

• How do I deal with an exposure that is not insured/able?

• What are the commercial priorities of the business and do these conflict with others?

• How do I manage our conflicts of interest?

• What and how do I tell our professional regulator?

• What and how do I tell Partners, investors, bank, staff or other stakeholders?

For as long as human nature, at its best, seeks to continually improve and explore, for example, to press on with technological development and enhancement in every respect, and at its worst extols the seven vices of mankind, particularly in our digital world full of fraudsters and hackers, the humans and machines involved in delivering legal services throughout the legal-ecosystem will certainly be needing the likes of Mike Willis and his company.

Sinead King – The Entrepreneur Advocate

Sinead is a barrister at 36 Bedford Row, London. Taking swift action and using her initiative with the opportunity handed down by Direct Access – where, in theory, SME’s can now get a barrister on their side and lower legal costs  – Sinead used her imagination, applied herself creatively, took a risk, and immediately branded and positioned herself successfully as a barrister, business strategist and non-executive who works with entrepreneurial, pragmatic and bright business people within a range of organisations across a handful of niches and sectors. When I interviewed Sinead for this article I asked her what her real forte and USP (unique selling point) is. To which she replied: “Solicitors have used barristers for many years to give a swift assessment of a legal issue before matters hit the buffers, but the public has been far less aware of the role we can play – largely because as a profession we’ve been pretty slow to embrace marketing.  But we’re purpose built to advise, and because we’re the ones fighting in court when things go wrong, we’re in a very good position to anticipate obstacles before they do.”

She continued:“My focus is to work out a solution that gets the client as cleanly, swiftly, and cost effectively out of whatever mess they’ve got themselves into before proceedings kick in.  That said, I work with Starts Ups and SMEs, and their size makes them vulnerable to attack by much larger players, who don’t always fight fair: strategic use of a direct access barrister can really level up the playing field when your opponent can command much larger financial resources, and is prepared to deploy serious money in order to bully you into submission, just because they can.”

I must say, it’s rather refreshing to meet a barrister that actually wants to help a client negate costly proceedings rather than light a match under a box of tinder! I’ve met many solicitors and barristers who fuel litigious matters, for obvious reasons. However, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here that the smart barrister now, such as Sinead, will recognise that future-proofing one’s career lies in being totally client-centric and empathising with a client.

It was clear when I first met Sinead that she deals primarily with positive minded entrepreneurs: “I don’t frown on professional grudge holders or victims – I just don’t want to work with them. Some clients see their lawyer’s role as client appeasement, I don’t: it’s not my role to keep litigation going when it’s abundantly clear that my client doesn’t have an argument. I see my role as helping SMEs and Start Ups get on with business without being tied up in legal knots along the way.”

I reckon it’s commendable that a barrister desires to help clients before the damage-limitation stage; that is, Sinead has positioned herself to the marketplace as someone who is willing to help the client earlier so they don’t fall into the bear traps in the first place, even though she has a complete toolbox of skills to deal with the ‘Uh-Oh’ moment, just like Mike.

After spending a couple of hours in her company it was abundantly clear Sinead holds a glowing candle for helping either respondent or claimant entrepreneurs (serial / women / young), board members, executives and strategic decision-makers primarily in the technology, gaming, media and creative sectors; the kind of sectors that will grow in the future and no doubt supply a steady stream of enquiries in the months, years and decades to come.

You will not be surprised to learn that Sinead’s personal brand is ‘The Entrepreneur Advocate’. Sinead wrapped up our meeting with a touching comment which I shall share with you: “Whether it’s about saving the world, or just saving a bit of sanity for us all with solutions to first world business problems, a good innovation and a positive mindset is a source of joy for me”.

Dinosaurs welcome meteors

Up until very recently I would have been inclined to agree that “Large corporations welcome innovation and individualism in the same way the dinosaurs welcomed large meteors.” (Dilbert).  But I am pleased to be proved wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by the open-mindedness of the delegates and management, and innovative nature of the work environment at last weekend’s partner retreat at A&O in Amsterdam. The ‘futuristic’ layout of the conference room had a space-ship feel about it complemented with comfy sofas and ‘robot’ cushions; I’m confident the head of JLL legal sector services, Alexander Low, would have been rather impressed also with the work-room design. Even the question and answer session was innovative, by law firm standards, with the microphone being an orange ‘catch box’ (soft foam square object) that the presenter hurled at the delegate when (s)he raised a hand to ask their keen, curious and/or probing question.

After my thoroughly fun and enjoyable, albeit somewhat challenging, experience at A&O – for as in the majority of law firms the range of personalities stretched from doubting Thomas nayser to pioneer ready to martial a revolution – it is fair to say that traditional lawyering together with traditional technology and traditional methods of marketing and networking can (and will no doubt) blend and exist harmoniously with SocialHuman lawyering together with NewTech and NewHuman, as they evolve.

As an outcome of my speaking at the partners retreat event at A&O’s office in Amsterdam last weekend, the fact that the partners are now fully aware of the Naked Lawyer series, messages and insights and the possibility that all of their lawyers at A&O in Amsterdam may now read either the The Naked Lawyer and/or Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer can only be a positive.

The rate of acceptance in this Digital Age in embracing technology, AI, and robotics and the transition toward an AI and Robotic Age may vary incrementally across jurisdictions, nations, cultures and individuals, but one thing shall remain constant: the human spirit. The world and the legal eco-system will remain human and social from sololawyer David to international Goliath. Our human spirit will differentiate man from machine, in whatever guise. Although it takes courage to be creative, to dare to be different, to think and act differently, and to run to the other way when the herd is ambling along towards the edge of a cliff, and it’s much easier and safer to conform, remember this:

Little engages the human mind more than a mystery. 

Little draws the human heart more than a call to be true. 

Your spirit wakes up when it discovers a mystery that shows you a way to be true.

Your awakening will only be one choice away. 

Make the choice to go that way. 

Follow it through and embrace your Awakening.

(Jazz Rasool)

Chrissie Lightfoot is author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045. (published Nov 2014 ), and its prequel bestseller The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell You! (Nov 2010). You can pick up her latest book today by emailing publishing@ark-group.com or call +44(0) 207 566 5792

The Rise of Social HumanLawyer Lawyer – Part 1

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The Rise of SocialHuman Lawyer – Part 1

Posted on June 29th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article was published in the Global Legal Post 29th June 2015 and is reproduced with kind permission…

Whether you’re a sololawyer or a NewHuman lawyer in an international behemoth, to future-proof your career you will need to embrace the evolution and rise of SocialHuman Lawyer…

For those of you familiar with my futuristic work it will come as no surprise to you that it is only now, in mid 2015, due to the infiltration and movement of the ‘rise of the machines’ potentially threatening our cosy jobs in the legal world – which I predicted and have written at length about in numerous articles and my two books these past six years – that, at least, one Goliath in the legal eco-system has woken up to my message – We, as individual lawyers in all law firms, need to ‘get naked’ (a metaphor for ridding ourselves of the corporate veil, stripping bare, then clothing ourselves with a personal brand which extols one’s authenticity and pure humanness), tap into our emotional intelligence, differentiate ourselves with our niche(s), devise our unique personal brand, be creative – become entrepreneurial, innovative, imaginative and dynamic by harnessing support technologies – ‘be social’ (embrace social networking and social media etc), be a rainmaker and constantly skill-up and adapt in our roles, in a bid to future-proof our livelihoods, careers and businesses.

Ultimately, we need to become all of what I describe here – SocialHuman Lawyer.

NewHuman and NewTech

You may recall earlier this year the feature ‘Legal avatars could soon be reality in the Global Legal Post, wherein, citing from my latest book, Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw I say that in the very near future it is ‘perfectly possible and probable that blue-collar & white-collar robot legal staff will work alongside ‘pure blood’ lawyers and ‘hybrid humans’ (NewHuman).’

Let us not dismiss the reality that the use of AI in the legal ecosystem is already widespread and the world already has robot bricklayers, robot nurses, robot waiting staff, robot receptionists, robot saleswomen and humanoids. It’s therefore inevitable that robots will infiltrate the legal world, and much sooner than we may like to believe or imagine.

The businesses of law are increasingly relying on NewTech to bring about legal efficiency – a term I coined to describe the culmination of cloud-based systems software, cognitive computing, artificially intelligent machine systems and robots – and cannot be under-estimated or understated in relation to its likely impact, for better or worse. This trend is only going to continue and amplify as we advance into a Robotic Age with AI technology and legal businesses becoming ever more tightly connected. Accordingly, with all this NewTech take-up, AI in play, avatars, iCyborgs lawyers and Robot Lawyers in the wings, we need to concern ourselves with what it means to be ‘human’ and what our role(s) will be.

The roles that I envisage ought to be here now, and are likely to evolve very soon – read here if you wish to learn more  – are roles that I have been espousing since 2009 that require creativity, imagination and EI – the talent realm of the ‘pure blood’ SocialHuman lawyer. Until AI evolves to harness EI and creativity (which I have no doubt it will within 30 years), these two things will be the human lawyer’s domain and unique selling points; 2009 -2045.

What the profession and clients regarded as top lawyerly talent in the past is not the kind of talent required or expected currently or in future. Lawyers will need to be creative about who, what, where, when, why and how they provide legal services and products. For example, this means being creative about how you market yourself.

I shared these views in at least three articles in Managing Partner magazine, the first as far back as 2011 titled iCyborg Lawyer; then Robot Law (Feb, 2015) and finally Machine v Human (Apr 2015)), along with my musings in The Naked Lawyer (2009) and then Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer (2014) that the relentless march of industrialisation, wearable technology, AI and robotics will push the boundaries of what it means to be human, social and a lawyer in the next 30 years.

The entrepreneurial lawyer ‘David’s’ woke up to the potential threat of the machine back in 2010/11 and gradually throughout the next four years the small and mid-size firms began, slowly, to take note too, albeit piece-meal; usually individual lawyers taking the bull by the horns for themselves rather than the firm investing in them – with some exceptions.

Tipping point

But I am delighted to announce that I believe we have actually reached the tipping point, a la Malcolm Gladwell style (author of The Tipping Point).  Last weekend I jetted off to share my current and future vision, insights and suggested solutions with the partners of Allen & Overy who asked me to join them at their retreat conference in Amsterdam. After spending the day with the lawyers and support staff in the A&O Amsterdam office I am of the opinion that they are ahead of the pack in their thinking and grasp of the opportunities for their future, in no uncertain terms.

A goliath of the legal world is now well and truly awake. But will it be too late?

Pamela Bucy Pierson, the Bainbridge Mims Professor of Law at The University of Alabama School of Law, expressed in an article that  the legal market was tipping in favour of solo and small firms. In the piece,  Pamela discusses five market conditions that spell hardship for large and medium-sized law firms and opportunity for small firms, boutiques and solo practitioners. I shall share one with you here:

“Clients, especially large business clients, are moving more of their legal work from large law firms to smaller firms. Corporate Counsel, a publication by and for corporate counsel, reported on this trend, noting that corporate counsel had “come to think that they were throwing money away by sending all their work to big firms.” [Corporate Counsel, April 1, 2012]”

Whether you are reading this as a sololawyer, a lawyer in a boutique, small, mid or large ‘traditional’ law firm or (GC in a) corporation, or an employee (lawyer or non-lawyer) in one of the ‘new-breed’ businesses of law, remember this:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” (Maya Angelou).

Accordingly, if you focus on nurturing your EI and creativity, the chances are you will survive in whatever business of law exists currently and what lies on the Robotic Age horizon.

Watch out for Part 2 tomorrow !

Chrissie Lightfoot is author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045. (published Nov 2014 ), and its prequel bestseller The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell You! (Nov 2010). You can pick up her latest book today by emailing publishing@ark-group.com or call +44(0) 207 566 5792.

 

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The price and risks of costs budgeting

Posted on June 23rd, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Guest post by Mike Willis, The Professional’s B(r)and-Aid, is Director of F Mike Willis Ltd Solicitors, specialising in professional risks. 

This article was first published in the Global Legal Post 19 June 2015 and is reproduced with kind permission:

Few topics have been more controversial in the past few years in English legal practice than the Jackson reforms of litigation introduced in 2013 pursuant to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012; and few issues have attracted a more polarised range of views and comments than costs budgeting. Litigation in England continues to be respected for the rigours of its systems and procedures for testing evidence and facts. London has long been a popular forum for international legal disputes and the volume of cases it receives does not appear to be slowing.

Expensive

But it is notorious for being expensive by comparison with most European countries, and although costs are much higher in the US, often exceeding what is at stake, there is no ‘loser pays’ rule or one-way costs shifting to aggravate the scale and risks of making or defending a claim. It is unsurprising therefore that in his own Harbour Litigation Funding Lecture in May 2015, Sir Rupert Jackson acknowledged some of the current problems with costs budgeting as ripe for review and adjustment – specifically judicial inconsistency, delays, and lack of effective mechanism for dealing with costs already incurred. – But he gave robust reasons for his general satisfaction with how it has worked out so far:

  • Both sides know where they stand financially.
  • Costs forecasts encourage early settlement.
  • Costs are controlled from an early stage.
  • Attention is given to costs at the outset of litigation.
  • CMCs are now more effective.
  •  Budgets promote fairness in that they allow each party to know what is being claimed.
  •  Losing parties are protected from being destroyed by costs.

These have been broadly endorsed by comments at the same event by the current Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson to effect that costs budgeting is here to stay.

The need to control costs

Jackson LJ has by no means been the sole driver for the reforms. In his lecture to the Association of Costs Lawyers on 11 May 2012 Lord Neuberger, then Master of the Rolls, had plenty to say about the need to control costs: “Excess litigation cost has for too long been an endemic and unwelcome feature of our civil justice system. Hourly billing … simply does not reflect the value of work. An approach to litigation costs based on value-pricing rather than hourly-billing is one which urgently needs to be worked out and applied…The Jackson reforms represent the boldest attempt to cure our costs problem yet attempted. Should they fail to reduce costs, it seems to me that we will face a stark choice: the rejection of the English costs rule and the adoption of either a US-style costs rule or a German-style fixed costs regime.”

Exposure to challenges

Lawyers have never found budgeting easy, and still don’t. According to a survey by Just Costs Solicitors of 912 commercial litigation partners at the UK’s top 200 law firms, more than two-thirds report incurring costs above agreed budgets, exposing themselves to clients’ challenges of their unrecovered fees. They also face potential negligence claims if or where the client’s prospects of a good result, or more particularly their chance of a negotiated settlement, are caused to be damaged by unnecessary or disproportionate costs estimates.

Negligence claim

One of the biggest practical downsides is the hassle of producing ‘Precedent H’ costs estimates. Forecasting expenditure of money, time and human resources sets a challenge for clairvoyants, never mind busy practitioners, and it is harder still to estimate the value of skills and services required for a given set of circumstances. Yet faced with the risks and burdens of their duties of care as currently applied by the courts,  lawyers need to price every case against the most cautious forecasts if they are to ensure that a negligence claim is evaded.

On the other hand, there is intense market pressure to do the opposite. Firms who pare their budgets and confine their predicted tasks to a minimum may be reckless, but make themselves more economically attractive to clients and stakeholders.

Hence lawyers are being driven to race to the bottom – again, and their value and role as a profession will be further eroded. There is some irony that the most recent comprehensive commentary on that process has come from none other than Sir Rupert Jackson again, this time in his Peter Taylor Memorial lecture to the Professional Negligence Bar Association on 21 April 2015: “The common law no longer sees the professions as somehow sacred or as fragile assets of society, which merit special protection. … The privileged position of the professions now seems to have become an unconscious driver in the opposite direction. It leads courts to extend the liabilities of professionals beyond their natural bounds.”

In March, a senior Cost Master, David Cook, told a seminar at 7 Bedford Row chambers that Sir Rupert’s vision of a gradual implementation of costs budgeting ‘did not translate into reality’: the litigation system will ‘cease to function’ unless radical changes are made, and the entire process needs to be re-drawn and Judges and parties given detailed guidance about what is expected of them.

Comments published in various journals include: 

– Litigation is adversarial… One may as well ask the battlefield general what “the butcher’s bill” will be, before battle is joined. Other professions generally do not have others seeking to beat them.

– On a broad brush approach the cost of cost budgeting isn’t worthwhile when compared with the good it does on those cases where it works.

– Scrutiny of one party’s costs after the event must surely entail less expense of time and money than scrutiny of two beforehand.

– Cost budgeting is a pain and mainly consists of making up figures and then increasing them to cover unforeseen circumstances. It adds costs and saves nothing and encourages people to front load work. I don’t know why a simpler method can’t be implemented.

– Personally I’d prefer a more American system of everyone pays their own costs save for cases of obvious abuse of process. Then litigation would be more about the merits than the risk of losing and having an unaffordable bill for the other side’s costs in addition to your own.

– I am now more sympathetic with the system in USA where each side pays its own costs plus contingency fees.

– When the first negligence claim against a solicitor that cocked up the costs budgeting because he is not Mystic Meg goes to the CA, I wonder if Jackson will recuse himself…

A sub-committee of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee chaired by Coulson J has been established to review the extent of the problems and to make recommendations for improvement. It’s hard to see how they can all be resolved until at least three things happen:

– First, there needs to be more cultural adjustment by parties and their lawyers, incentivised by the courts’ management and Procedure Rules, towards agreeing costs budgets before they are submitted to court. Lord Jackson and others have encouraged introduction of practice directions for budgets to be exchanged amply (two weeks) ahead of CMCs, and preferably agreed. Budget agreements may themselves be prey to client criticisms and even claims if they unnecessarily disadvantage them; but scope for downstream complaints will be reduced.

– Second, the courts need to be more considerate as to when not to impose costs budgets or costs management directions. Some cases are simply unsuited to them. Clinical negligence claims are a class that has been identified as such, but there are plenty of others.

– Third, there should be standardised price dimensions for the various stages, case values and geographical areas, for which lawyers can’t be criticised if they keep their time and service supply within them.

Lord Jackson has lamented that so far neither Government nor professional institutions have been prepared to put up the money for sufficiently thorough surveys from which to make a table even for fixed costs for lower value cases (never mind more comprehensive guidance, or prescriptions for the values of the various tasks entailed in mainstream disputes which Lord Neuberger hoped for).

Dynamic businesses

There is at least one sector however for whom the investment in a comprehensive survey and published tableaux of values may be worthwhile. A lot of the recent commentaries and dialogues have been coming from the niche firms of costs lawyers, such as Just Costs Solicitors or Horwich Farrelly, and specialist counsels’ chambers. Along with specialised departments in the larger litigation practices, and firms of costs draftsmen, they have been developing dynamic businesses in the supply of outsource advice and court advocacy on costs management issues. There are enough of them that a coordinated collaboration to produce some standard costings and values should be expected to be within their collective resources.

Guidelines 

A set of guidelines and software packages for Form H and tabulated values, whether produced and published privately or by public institution(s), would rapidly become adopted by the courts and users alike, in similar manner to Ogden tables for personal injury, or child-care awards in family cases. The regrettable downside consequence however, both for Justice and the reputation of the English court system internationally, will be that the credibility and integrity of the English litigation system will be further diluted: access to justice and protection of rights will be replaced by a grooved ‘set menu’. But hey, not every case needs to be ‘a la carte’ –  Or does it? The Court of Appeal in the recent Procter v Raleys (2015) decision allowed no lesser standards of care for commoditised or pro-bono supplies than apply to full-priced bespoke services. Something will have to give…

Mike Willis, The Professional’s B(r)and-Aid, is Director of F Mike Willis Ltd Solicitors, specialising in professional risks. 

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Three business lessons for the house of law

Posted on April 16th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article originally appeared in the Global Legal Post 16th April 2015 and is reproduced with kind permission

The media is presently buzzing about the general election and one of the hot topics being debated within social media is how the property market is going to be affected pre and post 7th May. Listening and engaging in some of these conversations really got me thinking about what the ‘house of law’, aka the legal world and businesses of law, could learn from the property world and subsequently inspired me to share my thoughts with you.

It’s fair to say that professionals involved in the property market continually ride the highs and lows of the property world, not unlike us lawyers in the legal world; the last decade was particularly turbulent and painful, and we’re in a new decade with similar challenges juxtaposed with opportunity. There is an obvious correlation with the property world and legal world where lawyers and law firms face similar ups and downs, challenges and opportunities in business.

I observed (at least) three fundamental things that companies in the property sector did (and do) in order to continually deal with the ups and downs. They:

  • Think outside the house;
  • Act outside the house; and
  • Reinvent the house, where necessary.

Here’s how three companies did exactly the above and successfully steered their way to success.

Thinking outside the house

The founders of Cogress UK Limited thought outside the house / box and came up with a pioneering new investment model to help bridge the gap between the property world and investor (both sophisticated and Clapham Omnibus rider), at a time when the market needed new ways to ensure development build without traditional institutional support. Cogress came up with a solution by creating a property development platform for people to invest their savings with a chance of a higher return than can be found in a depressed stock market, and more.

Effectively, Cogress’s new model enables people with a small investment amount to access a big investment opportunity. This is not crowdfunding, I hasten to add. My understanding is that crowdfunding usually entails huge number of investors dealing in small amounts of £100 onward. But Cogress effectively underwrites equity for the developer where the minimum investment is £20K by an investor from within the vetted community of 17,000 people who choose to invest in a particular development opportunity.

I believe Cogress uses the word ‘community’ because it appears the company is inclusive; in essence they have come up with a winning formula business model to enable developments to go ahead by giving the opportunity to anyone with funds of £20K or more to be part of the property world and develop an interest in a portfolio of properties in prime locations.

Every project Cogress handles goes through a thorough due diligence process, with Lord Mendelsohn residing as chairman of the advisory board which carefully vets each option to ensure the needs of both the investor and developer are met.

Since 2009 the Cogress management team has invested in more than 150 projects globally including UK, US, Canada, Germany, Cyprus and Israel, with over £900 million of asset value.

Interestingly, the people who started Cogress did not come from a professional financial background. They came from a legal and property development background, the staff have a grounding in estate agency and the founding father, Tal Orly, is actually a qualified lawyer. Orly studied LLB law at East London University, qualified and practiced in Israel for 5 years and has been developing properties in London since the 1990s.

Clearly a lawyer with an entrepreneurial streak, Orly also possesses business savvy, not only in creating a new business model but also in his creative, smart and daring approach to spot opportunity.

Curious in identifying value real estate, Orly has a talent for identifying up and coming neighbourhoods aka post-codes of value. He says: “when you think of beggars, you probably think of run-down areas, but the opposite is true. Beggars want to target areas where they know people have money so that they can get pounds for their time.”[1]

Last Thursday Cogress announced it had completed 14 UK deals within a 12 month period, reaching a GDV (Gross Development Value) in excess of £200m albeit the company had only launched in the UK in 2014. The company aims to complete on 20 more deals before the end 2015. The figure reflects the ambition of Cogress and underlines rapid growth in the market. The announcement comes at a time where some analysts are suggesting a potential slowdown in UK property, with the ONS’ January House Price Index revealing annual price increase in retail property is at 8.4%, down from 9.8% the year before. However, Cogress’ rapid growth to date reveals investors aren’t perturbed and still see the market as an astute option.

Tal Orly, chief executive officer at Cogress UK, commented: “Our growth has been driven by the continued attraction of London residential property which, according to ONS figures achieved 13% growth in the last year – an extremely strong performance. We expect this trend to continue, but also for mixed-use and commercial property to improve throughout the year, including our own progress alongside the continued growth of the market”.

Worldwide, Cogress senior management team has completed 170 deals – worth a cumulative £900m – and intends on launching into mainland Europe this year.

We may think Cogress’s approach and ambition beggars belief, but it’s creative and has proven lucrative for all involved. Maybe the house of law can learn from the kind of creative approach taken by this private equity company?

Similarly, businesses of law could bridge the gap between the legal world and the business world by investing back into the house of law, being smart re. gathering investment, devising a new business model and being creative in how to find new opportunities and/or clients.

Acting outside the house

JLL, named recently to FORTUNE Magazine’s 2015 Most Admired Companies List, came up with a strategy to deal with the ups and downs in its market, and its target markets by ‘acting outside the house’. It diversified whilst at the same time began focusing on prime sectors of interest and need.

Rather than being ‘all things to all men’ JLL identified 9 key sectors to serve; the house of law is one of them. There may be a common perception that JLL only acts for Landlords or large Corporate Occupiers in just an agent capacity; there is in fact much more to what JLL can provide including an entourage of consultative services for corporates, investors, developers and residential.

In essence, if we take the legal sector and only a handful of examples JLL’s diversified service offering includes:

  • Deal-maker – taking transactions to the law firm;
  • Helping with pre-merger and post-merger – looking at the buildings involved;
  • Evaluating risk at the start of M&A service – identifying the items and coming up with a strategy; and
  • Consultancy in relation to reconfiguring the workplace and cost of floor space – for example, can you drive better cost efficiencies out of your floor place whether downsizing, sub-letting or growing? JLL helped Baker & McKenzie secure a 237,000 s.f. lease with superior economic advantages, saving them more than 35% on occupancy costs as compared to the earlier transaction.[2]

The law firm sector is faced with just as many business pressures as economic tensions, including fluctuating demand, intensified competition, commoditization of legal work and client demands for more flexible pricing and innovative solutions. Alexander Low, Head of JLL’s Legal sector comments:

“As a result of both these macro and micro influences, many law firms have responded by placing productivity, efficiency and innovation at the top of their agenda. Real estate is increasingly a key ingredient to overcoming these challenges with firms structuring, operating and using real estate to achieve their business objectives ahead. And real estate will be even more critical ahead; firms will need to focus intently on real estate strategies over the next 12 to 36 months as the global outlook only improves for the economy and landlords across the world. Firms will need to counter that momentum with creative solutions and strategies for their real estate needs.”[3]

Accordingly, JLL diversified to accommodate their client needs. Maybe your house of law could diversify to accommodate yours?

Reinventing the house

Founded in 2000, X-Press Legal Services Ltd., a Warrington based family business, supplying solicitors, licensed conveyancers, property developers and auction houses with a full range of property related searches and risk reports to aid the house buying process, had to re-invent its service offering and come up with a new way of selling its prime service as a result of the changes occurring in the legal sector.

David Lister (Managing Director) and his wife Lynne Lister founded the business on three main principles:

Only use good corporate disciplines (no office politics);

Be a bespoke provider (over service the clients); and

No bank borrowings (use available cashflow).

Today, they have grown their business into a respected player in the legal sector and in 2014 produced in excess of 325,000 reports on behalf of 480 solicitors practices, distributed via the Xpress network of 32 regional franchised offices located throughout England and Wales.

Although Xpress is doing exceptionally well as a group, this has not always been the case. As you can imagine the slump the property market experienced in 2006/7, the Government deciding to launch the much maligned Home Information Packs (HiPS) which totally distorted the market, the global recession of 2008 to 2012/13 combined with the Legal Services Act 2006 and competition squeezing the high street law firm client meant that Xpress’s turnover was hit hard and it was challenged to innovate to survive.

Radical thinking culminated in a pioneering and innovative course of action back in 2011. The X-Press social media campaign began, closely followed by a very soft launch of its new bespoke website, www.lawplainandsimple.com in 2013. 2014 arrived and X-Press launched Law Plain and Simple with a social media campaign combined with a sports marketing campaign that goes out on Sky Sports.

Law Plain and Simple, a home-grown website and legal service, was launched as a response to legislative reforms, the demise of legal aid, and the imported challenge to help consumers, businesses and law firms.

It is an online legal information and advice service linked to 400 law firms in England and Wales. The website explains the fundamentals of the law and its standard processes, as well as translating its terminology. It has step-by-step guides covering 39 of the most common legal categories, ranging from property law, bankruptcy, wills and trusts, and business law to guidance about social media and social networking and even image rights.

David Lister commented: ‘We wanted to take the mystique and fear out of the law for ordinary people. The website avoids legal jargon and has been written in very basic English to help people understand the law and how it might affect them in particular circumstances.’[4]

Law Plain and Simple has been written by qualified solicitors. The idea for the website grew out of enquiries from members of the public directly to X-Press Legal Services Ltd. about legal terminology, particularly in the housing market. Co-director Lynne Lister commented: ‘We recognise the importance and value of professional solicitors with their extensive experience and knowledge so we are keen to enhance the service they can provide – not detract from it.’[5]

With the numbers of users (consumers and businesses) visiting the website set to increase significantly due to publicity and awareness raising through offline and online activity by X-Press HQ, its 40 franchisees and 400 law firms in the network, and deals being struck with high traffic websites, this radical new business model and service is a win-win for all concerned – consumers, businesses, law firm clients of X-Press who are in the directory and providing legal articles on the website, and X-Press itself.

Perhaps what the house of law could learn from this property world company is that lawyers who, and law firms that, wish to succeed must possess these three things:

1) The ability to see around corners – to anticipate the radically unexpected; and

2) Create a service or product in readiness for the unexpected; and

3) Embrace a truly customer-centric business model which includes marketing to and providing for (and helping) your clients’ clients.

To conclude; three things the house of law can learn from the property world:

  • Think outside the house; invest in (and with) a new model and be hugely creative and smart to make things happen;
  • Act outside the house; diversify. Introduce new services to compete and stay relevant; and
  • Reinvent the house, if and when necessary; innovate. Find a new way of marketing and selling the same service to be a front-runner.

Taking on board some of the above just might help you prevent your house of law from crumbling or disappearing completely down a sink hole.

Chrissie Lightfoot

Chrissie Lightfoot The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045 (Dec, 2014)

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell YOU! (Dec, 2010)best-seller.
[1] Mar.17, 2015 Cogress Limited blog post, ‘Signs that a London neighbourhood is on the rise’

[2] http://www.jll.com/services/industries/legal/legal-case-studies

[3] http://www.jll.com/research/119/global-law-firm-perspective

[4] Interview by Chrissie Lightfoot with David Lister and Lynne Lister, 2015.

[5] ibid

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Going One-On-One With The Naked Lawyer

Posted on March 6th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Guest post by James Bliwas

So far, 2015 is off to a roaring start for Chrissie Lightfoot.

Today, LinkedIn honored her for “leading the list of most engaged women in the legal sector” and for making the “Top 5 list of overall engaged women on LinkedIn” as well as being one of the most-connected women in any business sector.

She was named an advisor to the Technology Advisory Council in Britain, which shapes the development of the legal profession’s cognitive decision tools such as IBM Watson, and using thought leadership to alert firm management to the people implications of the technology.

Even better, the UK solicitor and leading futurist on the business of law just published Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer to rave reviews. It is a sequel to her best-selling 2010 book.

In the new version, Ms. Lightfoot provides an overview of the dynamics that are forcing a fundamental change in the business of law. She also predicts how they will impact lawyers. In the book, she writes at length about the skills lawyers and their firms will need to brand, market and sell in the most-disruptive period of the profession’s history.

Naked Interview

On Thursday, I had a chance to e-speak with Ms. Lightfoot, going one-on-one with the “naked lawyer.”

Me: What drove you to write the original Naked Lawyer, and now the sequel?

Chrissy Lightfoot: I had a desire to help bridge the gap between the legal world and business world. I felt sheer frustration at the lack of entrepreneurism and dynamism by lawyers to serve their clients fairly and provide extraordinary client service through tapping into their humanness.

I could see that lawyers increasingly would need to market, brand and sell themselves to future-proof their livelihood. As long as 15 years ago, I could envisage a time approaching when their roles would evolve and change as the rise of the machine intelligence would compete and win for their current role.

Me: Why do you think law firms have been so slow to recognize the changes in the business of law, and to do any serious, strategic thinking about how to adjust their business model?

CL: I honestly believe they recognize the changes but most ignore it and pay lip service to doing anything about it.

Let’s just be blunt, shall we? Bottom line, it is the complexities of the corporate governance and partnership agreement, the equity structure of most firms, the culture and mindset of partners coupled with greed which is preventing the change required.

Too many partners with the equity and power are too self-interested. They certainly do see the future. They are well read and advised and bright enough to realize what they need to do to prepare for change.

Unfortunately, they are not prepared to invest in it. They want to continue taking out as much money as possible because, in their own words ‘I don’t care because I’m retiring in one or five or 10 years.’

With this mindset it’s highly unlikely that any positive strategic thinking is done at all. You can’t achieve strategic alignment and buy-in of a new business model when the majority of the partnership is pulling in the wrong direction.

Me: In the book, you talk about the skills that are needed to brand, market and rain-make in a disruptive era. Can you elaborate on what, to you, this means law firms and lawyers ought to be doing – or at least thinking seriously about doing?

CL: Every lawyer needs to become what I call ‘Social Human.’

That is, they and their firm must recognize the value of Social Capital and Human Capital foremost. This requires each lawyer to tap into their Emotional Intelligence, find their true niche, devise the correlating personal brand identity and get involved in social networking offline and in particular online in a big way.

In essence, lawyers will need to be more entrepreneurial, intrapreneurial, creative, collaborative and totally client-centric in order to succeed in the digital, artificial intelligent, robotic and interstellar ages and era.

Ultimately, whether we lawyers like it or not, we will be better off embracing technological developments, the rise of artificial intelligence and robotics rather than fight a losing battle. Machine intelligence can and will help unburden us lawyers from the mundane laborious process-driven tasks that they bill a lot of time doing, and free us up to focus on what really matters and will differentiate us from one another in the eyes of the client and prospect – our creative humanness.

Me: The so-called BigLaw firms seem to think they’re immune to a lot of the changes that are happening in the sector. Do you think they’re right, or is this wishful thinking?

CL: The latter, definitely. You only have to read a recent survey which finds that the UK’s Top 50 law firms lack social media clout to realise that they will come under increasing pressure and competition from SMEs and boutiques that actually ‘get’ what the ‘new normal’ and ‘NewLaw’ is all about.

The new sexy players, new starters and switched on mid-tier SME businesses of law are lean, efficient, determined and hungry to provide the ‘faster-horse’ solution, or even the Holy Grail to the new kind of legal service provision that the legal buyer craves. No business will be immune to the march of Robot Lawyer, Robot Client and Robot Law.

Me: What do you think the profession will look like 5-to-10 years from now?

CL: Very different from what it is today. For starters the who, what, where, when and how legal services are provided will change dramatically.

We will witness the rise of the legal avatar, icyborg lawyer or part-human robot and robot lawyer. That is, we will experience ‘pure blood’ human lawyers working alongside machine intelligent workers in the form of machine or avatar or icyborg or robot within the next decade.

Me: So what questions should managing partners be asking themselves, their partners and the outside advisors they bring in to help them with this?

CL: Quite simply, ‘Will we be around in the next five-to-10 years if we don’t take immediate steps now to future-proof the business and ourselves personally?’

They also need to ask, ‘Are we equipped to deal with the implications and growth of artificial intelligence and robots infiltrating our society, leisure, home, family and working lives?’

‘Are we ready?’

‘Do we want to be ready?’

If they don’t ask and answer these, then they need to be thinking about something else to do with their time.

The XXX Kiss

In the book, Ms. Lightfoot focuses intently on social media and how it is being misused or not used at all by law firms. Looking beyond Twitter, Facebook, even LinkedIn, she insists that the next big thing in social media will be resonance.

She writes, “It’s going to be about context, deep personalization, relevance, resonance, vibe tribes, vibe communities and vibrational intelligence.”

B2B law, short for Business-to-Business, will be replaced with H2H – human to human in the words of Ms. Lightfoot – and H2R (human to robot). I almost scoffed at the notion of “robot lawyers” until I remembered working at a law firm where numerous partners – including some younger ones – objected to having voice mail installed. They insisted their clients would never leave a message with disembodied voice on a machine.

Like sex, it is obvious that she is intrigued by the ability of AI to dramatically improve both business development and client relationships, and she has made bold, intentionally provocative statements.

For example, she predicts that 21st century lawyers need to be sociable and intimate with their clients, or as Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer puts it, the “XXX KISS” referring to what she sees as the three kisses: “Keep it Sexily Serendipitous,” “Keep it Salubriously Serene” and “Keep It Socially Savvy.”

Mitch Kowalski, who writes about law firm matters for Canada’s National Post, was disarmingly enthusiastic in his praise: “It is quite unlike anything I have ever read about the legal industry – or any other industry for that matter.”

Likewise, Stephen Denyer, who chairs The City committee for The Law Society of England and Wales, insists, “… it will have a positive impact on thinking in the legal sector.” And Richard Chaplin, who created and runs the Managing Partner’s Forum, accurately sums up the potential impact of her book by noting, “Lightfoot’s ideas and style will be inspirational for some and totally incomprehensible to others.”

Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer is available through her publisher in the UK.

 

James Bliwas: Strategic Management And Marketing To Help Firms Practice Leaner Law Without Dieting.

James has spent most of his career working in and with law firms on management, marketing, business development and communications issues.

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Robot Santa: do you believe?

Posted on December 18th, 2014 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Chrissiemas message

“In the Christian religion and calendar, Christmastime is a time for the blended embracing of tradition, magic and miracles. Just as children ask their friends the question ‘do you believe in Santa?’ perhaps you should quietly now muse…’Do I believe?’

Not in Santa (no disrespect intended Santa if you do exist, I hasten to add) but in the possibility of magic and miracles pervading our homes, offices, relationships, and lives at any time of year. If tradition and magic can sit comfortably together in the celebration of Christmas, then it’s perfectly feasible that tradition and magic can sit comfortably in law law land, do you reckon?

Traditional lawyering and law together with traditional technology and traditional methods of marketing and networking can blend and exist harmoniously with SocialHuman lawyering together with NewTech, NewHuman and NewLaw as they evolve.

The rate of acceptance in this Digital Age in embracing technology, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics and the transition toward an Artificial Intelligent and Robotic Age may vary incrementally across jurisdictions, nations and cultures but one thing shall remain constant: the human spirit.

The world and law law land will remain human and social.

Our human spirit will differentiate man from machine, in whatever guise.

Graham Green once said: ‘Eventually we have to open the door and let the future in.’ Are you ready?

Abstract from Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045
(released today)

 

As you share the festive holidays with your colleagues, friends and family, don’t forget to take a little bit of time out away from the hustle, bustle and noise for yourself too. For it is in the peaceful, uninterrupted and still moments of calmness when we can draw comfort from our personal intimate thoughts and experience true humanness.

Simply be.

Reflect on all the wonderful and positive things that have happened to you throughout 2014 and realise how special it is to be human and to be truly alive. Only when we realise how fortunate we are to have the gift of life can we then help our loved ones realise it too. You must believe in yourself before you can help those you love and care about believe in themselves too.

This Christmas eve, when the children have gone to bed, when your guests have departed or you are returning home after partying or visiting friends and family, switch off all the main lights and sit quietly in the darkness, save for the twinkling of your Christmas tree lights and look deep within them.

Imagine they are sparkling stars and look beyond the light, yourself and into the miraculous universe. And gently muse ‘do I believe?’ …
‘Do I believe in me?’

For tomorrow’s world will be so different to yesterday’s and today’s that the contrast will be psychologically and organisationally disruptive for us all. None of us have been prepared for it.

That is why I wrote my latest book.

2015 and beyond will be all about how to be SocialHuman, sounding human and being truly human when compelled to embrace NewTech and NewHuman once artificial intelligence, avatars, icyborgs and robots infiltrate our lives and impact our home, family, leisure and working lives, mainstream.

I dare say it will not be too long before the first robot santa pervades our world capable of doing and thinking things that we can only describe as magic.

And so, if you desire to live a truly fulfilling and successful life, whatever you deem that to be for yourself, beyond this Christmas time, I pose the question: ‘do you believe in you?’

I do… for the human spirit is strong.

It’s time to let the future in. Don’t be afraid.

It’s time to search your soul and ask yourself those uncomfortable and challenging questions. Don’t fight it.

It’s time to do something positive.

It’s time for more change.

It’s time to embrace the opportunity that our human evolution is presenting us with.

Are you ready to change your world, or change the world in 2015? For in this ‘age of magic and miracles’, nothing is certain – but anything is possible.

 

May I wish you all the most precious holiday season. Thank-you for your friendship and fellowship during 2014 and I can’t wait to dance with you in 2015!

Warmest as ever  :-)

Chrissie Lightfoot

Chrissie Lightfoot The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045 (Dec, 2014)

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell YOU! (Dec, 2010)best-seller.

 

 

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Legal Technology Wisdom Rules!

Posted on October 15th, 2014 by Chrissie Lightfoot

A version of this article with the title “How Smart Marketing, Networking & Technology Can Grow Your Firm” originally appeared in Clio -Themis Solutions Inc – October 14, 2014.

In my previous blog post – The Age of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer – I shared with you LexisNexis’s Bellwether Report (2014), Brave New World and its findings that the most successful lawyers (and law firms) are those which focus on building their business through the smart use of marketing, networking and technology.

No-brainer.

It took five years and a heap of legal research time and green notes to prove what my gut and intuition told me five years ago; that the ROAR model IS the solution for success and growth, no matter whether you are a solo lawyer, an ABS UK legal purebred or an ABS international conglomerate mongrel providing a full range of legal, accountancy, tax, insurance and/or business services.

It has now been proven, through MANY research reports in the legal world and beyond (feel free to contact me if you wish to know more) via case studies relating to the bold activities of entrepreneurial lawyers and their businesses of law; epitomised in their bountiful financial results.

Bottom line:

• if you don’t market, brand and sell yourself, aka get marketing, networking and using technology and the internet, you won’t experience the growth your peers are enjoying;

• if you don’t have a voice on the internet, you won’t have a place in the future of law; and

• in an increasingly technological, digital, silicon and robotic legal world, if you don’t embrace technology, you will indeed be committing professional suicide.

Was it Shakespeare who wrote “Let’s kill all the lawyers?”

I predict if he were alive today he wouldn’t need to. If you don’t get a grip with technology per se, you might as well dig your own grave.

I can see the epitaph now: “I wish I’d done more IT Training.”

IT skills are paramount for a lawyer, currently, presently and undoubtedly in the distant future. Very soon, saying NO to technology won’t even be an option for lawyers in Canada.

Even the great man himself, Richard Susskind, renowned for his technological knowledge and crystal ball gazing in the UK and USA, predicts a new role for the lawyer – The Legal Technologist – in his latest book Tomorrow’s Lawyers (published 2012). This kind of role has been happening, by the way, for many years.

As far back as 2008 I have known of many lawyers that have re-invented themselves and transited their role from lawyer to IT trainer, IT Manager, Knowledge Manager, Social Media Manager etc in law firms in the UK, Europe, Scandanavia, USA and beyond.

Significantly, things are progressing at a rapid rate with at least one Magic Circle firm here in the UK hiring its first Artificial Intelligence graduate.

I first wrote about the subject of artificial intelligence and the iCyborg lawyer in the legal world in September 2011. Things have moved on rapidly since then, to such a degree that I feel confident to predict the first Robot Lawyer will be released into the world by 2020. It’s what my research, reading, instinct and gut tells me; reading between the lines of what IBM and Google have shared in the public domain, or more importantly, what they haven’t…

For, as it is in law, so it is with technological advancement. It’s not what we can see that matters. It’s what we can’t.

Truly, we are in an Age where Legal Technology Wisdom Rules!

Period.

I can certainly envisage a time when we will say: “The robot has left the building. Will the last robot out please turn-off the lights.”

Until such time, I have to say that I remain ashamed (as an entrepreneurial lawyer), frustrated (as a consultant and legal futurist) and disappointed (as a legal service buyer) at the slow take-up rate in which law firms (usually hindered by lawyers and ‘support’ staff in power with ulterior motives) embrace the quality and quantity of legal technology available in the global marketplace.

I read recently in Real Business that financial companies are set to increase IT budgets. Are businesses of law, I wonder? Not from my experience these past few years; and certainly not at the rate or scale to keep up with the accelerating technological changes outside of the legal world and expectations of existing and potential clients.

If Millennials are ready for a new financial system, and Stellar might just be it, I dare suggest that Millennials are no doubt ready for a new legal system too; one that operates globally, seamlessly, online and in the cloud.

Perhaps it’s time for a new (global) legal system? If it can be done for global finance, why can’t it be done for law?
I’d love to have a crack at The Law Manifesto for the Digital Age. Wouldn’t you?

Chrissie Lightfoot

The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!

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Lawyers Tick: Mischon follows Branson

Posted on October 4th, 2014 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Yesterday The Lawyer rag (online) reported on Mishcon de Reya’s three-day week revolution.

“Managing partner Kevin Gold has approved three-day weeks and has told lawyers to take unlimited holidays as part of a new agile working programme. Gold has bet on brainpower rather than round the clock working, allowing lawyers unlimited flexibility as long as it doesn’t affect their clients. The programme is aimed at improving gender balance, and the stats show that this seems to be working.”

My immediate thoughts were both positive and negative.

On the plus side, I’m all for innovating (and re-inventing even) when things need improving. Many of you who know my work understand that it focuses on ROAR (Reach Out And Relate) and places the client and extraordinary customer service at the heart of everything.

Accordingly, it seems to me that a new initiative/programme which could in principle benefit clients and lady lawyers, in particular, who yearn to balance their commitments by taking personal control over managing their work (clients), family, leisure and holiday time (ergo requiring flexible working), could potentially mitigate the legal brain drain and effect an increase in productivity, ‘love my job’ feeling and client service excellence.

‘Presenteeism’ sucks, it always has by the way, and it’s about time law firms realise that lawyers (at every level) are grown-ups and are quite capable of working away from the ivory tower desk in this Digital Age and liaising with their clients remotely and/or virtually. An anonymous commentator on The Lawyer‘s report states:

Clients don’t give a damn where you are sitting when you work, what you are wearing, whether you have music on or not blah blah. They pay you for your brain and talent, or not, as the case may be.

In this ‘me,me,me’, client-demanding, client-centric, global commerce, non-stop 24/7/365, ‘must have immediately’, mobile world where we’re all expected to be constantly ‘on’ and available (via telephone, emails and social streams on multiple digital devices anywhere in the world at any time of day or night, weekday or weekend), the work / holiday-leisure divide has been sliced and diced through with a samurai sword for many years.

The concept / initiative / programme (or whatever you want to label it) of unlimited holiday leave is an example of the law needing to catch up with the real world lifestyle change that has already occurred; in business, in law law land, and in life.

IMHO, employment law per se (in the UK or any other jurisdiction for that matter) has not caught up, yet, with how our clients kick and lawyers tick.

On the down side, it could be argued that some partners in law firms have been operating on (and delivering) the equivalent of a three day week for years i.e. underperforming (in real terms), not even justifying their existence on a five day week, let alone three.

I know of some firms (and I am sure you do too – lawyers and entrepreneurs) where they continually ‘carry’ underperforming partners, some of whom also may not be particularly good with client care and/or service, but for a variety of reasons the firm is reluctant to ‘move them on’.

I’m pretty sure that where this exists the morale of the lawyers who are pulling their puddings out is severely affected. No doubt the firm will eventually suffer as these stalwarts inevitably kick-on in a vote of no confidence with their feet, at some point in the near future taking key clients with them.

Call me cynical but perhaps Mishcon is guilty m’ Lord of the Branson effect, that is, a PR coup to simply piggy-back on Virgin’s successful media hype and glean loads of law law land media fuzz and buzz.

For example, is it a ruse, perhaps, for going on a gender bender rampage so that Mishcon can be perceived as the Go To law firm for lady lawyers and at the same time tick the gender diversity box to please their clients and City panels?

Or, maybe, in this over-lawyered (too many lawyers, too many law firms) era of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer, it’s simply The Next Big Idea, to purge the ivory tower of slackers?

For therein lies the nub and rub:

“as long as it doesn’t affect their clients.”

Encouraging their lawyers to take unlimited holiday leave may in fact be the perfect programme for the firms and/or clients to agilely kick the slackers into the long grass to enjoy a permanent holiday with their shiny desk lamps?

Of course, the jury is still out as to whether any number of Branson’s employees and Mishcon’s lawyers press the pilot eject button by seriously taking the mickey. For most conscientious employees and lawyers will be sensible and discerning about their new found freedom of choice with the client rope their pioneering employers have tossed in their direction.

I reckon the message is rather clear:

“Your career and your life, literally, is now in your hands.”

One thing’s for sure, I’m going to lurk in the background in anticipation of reading the first legal dispute case to come to light on this hot PR topic.

Let’s just see how long it takes before other law firms and businesses follow suit, shall we?

Chrissie Lightfoot

The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!

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The Age of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer

Posted on September 29th, 2014 by Chrissie Lightfoot

A version of this article originally appeared in Clio 13th September 2014.

Entrepreneurial lawyering has come of age. Not fiction. Fact.

I’ve just come across LexisNexis’s Bellwether Report (2014), Brave New World,which focuses on sole practitioners, independent lawyers and small law firms and the extent to which they are rising to meet the industry, economic and business challenges in the present and future.

The report identifies new working practices, increased optimism and the emergence of a new breed of entrepreneurial lawyers: “Practitioners are emerging business-savvy, resilient and fiercely independent, with more confidence in the future of their practice than ever before. Rising above the pack, a new breed of entrepreneurial lawyers are embracing the emerging opportunities – and achieving impressive results.”

In relation to performance, growth is higher (55%) amongst the “emerging breed of dynamic entrepreneurial lawyers with top tier pedigree” (13% more than the average respondent.)

It looks like the dynamic independent lawyers who are really shaking things up are focusing on building their business through the smart use of marketing, networking and technology:

“These entrepreneurs are networked, dynamic and ambitious. Often niche specialists with superb credentials, they’ve set up their businesses to compete directly with the major industry players, and they’re frequently winning due to their agility and top-class customer service. Always thinking at least one step ahead, they’re utilising every tool at their disposal to hone their competitive edge – from strategic partnerships and gaining ABS status, to outsourcing for increased efficiency, to harnessing the latest technologies to run their firm and connect with new clients.”

IMHO Cloud-based Law Practice, Legal Case Management Software and CRM systems for Law Firms & Lawyers is one of the best innovations (and latest technologies) in recent years and the ideal choice for entrepreneurial lawyers.Clio and Kulahubare certainly worth a sneaky peek for the aspirant and established entrepreneurial lawyer and business of law.

My personal entrepreneurial lawyer journey began in 2008 when I devised the ROAR sales model befitting for an ambitious and dynamic lawyer in this digital age; it involved honing my niche, the creation of my personal brand (Chrissie lightfoot – The Entrepreneur Lawyer), building a referral network online and offline and delivering extraordinary customer service using technology and the internet. I danced into the offline and online legal and business worlds and online social network scene as an entrepreneurial lawyer serving the entrepreneur of tomorrow, today.

The activities I undertook resulted in a global sales success story. I quickly realised that I had to share the secret; the world (and not just the legal world), after all, in 2008 Q4, had just taken a nose dive off Mount Everest with no financial safety net. We were experiencing a global recession of the kind we’d never seen or felt before.

And so, in 2009 I wrote a series of blog posts and articles suggesting that we lawyers need to become more entrepreneurial and to ‘get naked’. The release of my best-seller book The Naked Lawyer in November 2010 covered exactly this; HOW we lawyers can become entrepreneurial with a step-by-step guide in how to get more clients (and more from existing clients) through mindset-shift, self-awareness (emotional intelligence), devising a niche, creating a personal brand, networking (by building a referral network and via social media and social networks), providing outstanding customer service, possessing business savvy, smart use of technology in the marketing and sales process and constantly innovating.

I have been so very touched and feel hugely blessed and privileged to have received (and still continue to receive) many messages of appreciation, thanks and enquiries from a wide range of readers across the globe who expressed how The Naked Lawyer (together with my articles, blog posts, EntrepreneurLawyer website – and company, EntrepreneurLawyer Limited – and consultancy) has helped them.

Invariably it has culminated in prompting and influencing law schools, universities, associations, legal publishers, consultants, IT/Practice Management/CRM suppliers, law firms and lawyers around the globe to innovate in lots of areas; for example, legal entrepreneurship; legal education; law firm operations; marketing; sales; customer service, finance; pricing; business planning & strategy; legal IT; artificial intelligence and robotics in the legal world.

It has been a pleasure and honour to be asked for the 4th year running to be an entrepreneur mentor and advisor to the brightest, most ambitious and innovative legal minds in 20+ Universities (and law schools) across 20+ countries as a member of the Law Without Walls (LWOW) initiative.

LWOW sprang up in 2009/10 as a community of entrepreneurs, legal practitioners, law professors and law students which focus on innovating in the legal sector. Student participants work together on teams with the guidance of the LWOW community on projects aimed at innovating legal practice and education across the world. It has been featured in Time Magazine, The Financial Times, Forbes, The National Jurist, and more.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the LWOW’s entrepreneurial essence pervades the psychy and influences and motivates the actions of the new breed of entrepreneurial lawyers graduating from its dynamic law schools thereby influencing legal service provision and innovation in this field throughout the world in years to come.

I also recall being interviewed by Preston Clark, A New York based attorney, business consultant and creator of TheLawInsider.com law blog (Top 15 Most Influential Law Blogs.) who wished me to share some of the content of The Naked Lawyer with his readers, and to convey my thoughts on what lawyers need to be doing to ensure their livelihood in the present and future. This was my advice:

“… to develop key entrepreneurial, intrapreneurial (being entrepreneurial within the workplace), technological / digital, commercial and rainmaking skills as quickly as possible.”

In the current brave new world for independent lawyers and sole practitioners, assisting entrepreneurial lawyers to navigate powerful competition and regulatory upheaval with agility, I feel hugely privileged (no doubt alongside many of my friends, colleagues, clients and thought-leaders in their fields of expertise) to have been involved in this new wave of re-inventing lawyering; obviously for the better since these dynamos are out-performing and tearing strips off their peers (research and report here again in case you missed it, courtesy of LexisNexis).

Here’s a HUGE thumbs-up to you if you are reading this and you are one of them. Your clients will love you, as will Uncle Sam and UK PLC…

The UK economy and that of Europe is predicted to be strong throughout this year and next. Similarly, the USA economy is looking positive along with China, predicted to grow over 7%, meaning global growth of 3.5% overall.

Arguably, never has there been a better time for the entrepreneurial lawyer to start-up, whether within a group of like-minded souls or solo, particularly from home using some of the entrepreneurial techniques and technologies described herein. There are Government backed initiatives to assist too. Here in the UK there’s a plethora of entrepreneur success stories, particularly with regard to home-based businesses; so much so we contribute £300bn to our economy. If you hadn’t already guessed, yes, I am one of them…

Yesterday/year (September 2008) I was a lawyer, serving the entrepreneur of tomorrow, today, in a traditional mid-tier law firm ivory tower in Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

Today (September 2014), I am an entrepreneur, serving the lawyers of tomorrow, today, from my luxury apartment home and globe-trotting around the world.

Since my journey began, five years ago, we appear to be witnessing a tsunami of entrepreneurial lawyers throughout the world. The Age of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer has arrived.

Albeit back in 2010 I wrote in The Naked Lawyer that “Entrepreneurs are from Venus and lawyers are from Mars,” I am delighted to be proved wrong…

Lawyers are from Venus and Entrepreneurs are from Mars, says Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer. Agree?

 

Chrissie Lightfoot

The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!

Please note: A version of this article originally appeared in Clio 13 September 2014.

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Re-thinking the LSA & Lawyer Role

Posted on September 13th, 2014 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Re-thinking the Legal Services Act

I’m sat here wondering if every rose truly has its thorn? It appears so…

Hot off the press is Neil Rose’s LegalFutures newsletter in which he says “The Legal Services Act is never far from my thoughts, exciting chap that I am, but in recent days I have not been alone. According to Professor Stephen Mayson, the Act is heading for the regulatory equivalent of the knacker’s yard, while for new Legal Services Board chairman Sir Michael Pitt, it is a “job half done”.”

This sounds more like prose plucked straight from The Naked Lawyer; more provocative thorn than Rose.

But hey, I have to agree with Rose, Mayson & Pitt!

Not a bad name for a proposed new business of law (aka law firm) here either, n’est ce pas? :-)

Moving on…

Re-thinking the role of the lawyer?

There’s been a LOT of stuff written about the changing and evolving role of the lawyer in numerous media these past few years. Accordingly, for my latest musings on the subject (and as my latest blog post) check out:

The Age of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer

But before you do, I recommend you dip your fingers & toesies into the following in this order:

The Naked Lawyer, by yours truly, 2010. Best-seller book in how you can become entrepreneurial with a step-by-step guide in how to get more clients; and more from existing clients.

When Inexperience Is an Advantage, by Richard Branson, 2011

Tomorrow’s Lawyers, by Richard Susskind, 2013. His latest book about the future of legal services and the role of aspiring and young lawyers within it.

The New World of Legal Work
, report by Jordan Furlong, 2014, in collaboration with Lawyers In Demand (BLP),in which it is suggested that entrepreneurs are the future of law.

Brave New World a Bellwether Report by LexisNexis, 2014, identifying new working practices, increased optimism and the emergence of a new breed of entrepreneurial lawyers achieving impressive results.

And THEN…

The Age of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer, blog post by yours truly, September 2014.

Entrepreneurial lawyering has come of age. Not fiction. Fact.

I shall leave you to join the dots :)

Enjoy!

 

Chrissie Lightfoot

The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!

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