SocialHuman: a leap of faith

Posted on August 13th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article originally appeared in Professional Marketing magazine, volume 23, issue 1, summer 2015, and is reproduced with kind permission.

In a controversial extract from her new book Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer, Chrissie Lightfoot believes that branding isn’t everything. But everything is branding.

As I say in my book, I believe marketing to be dead. But branding isn’t… It’s time to share my thoughts, ideas, successes, and examples and start bringing together what I’ve shared with you thus far (and in the three sections that follow) with regard to a critical subject with reference to companies, ‘things’, and people across the globe, and no doubt a topic which perplexes and, sometimes vexes, the majority of businesses of law and lawyers; namely, branding.

We’re going to look at company brand (‘Brand,Firm’), personal brand (‘Brand,Me/You’), and product brand (‘Brand,Product’).

You may be asking yourself, ‘why these three?’ Well, many people have asked me in the past few years:

‘Chrissie, how did you do it? How have you gone from a no-body into a ‘somebody’ who works with top companies all around the world?

How did you do it from a standing start with no money, no network and no connections at the start of the worst recession the world has ever experienced?

What’s your secret?’

‘My secret?’, I reply, ‘It’s a leap of brand.

The secret lies in the brand trio, and the order in which you build the brand in this Digital Age.’

So here’s the trio and here is the order in which I built a viable, feasible and sustainable six-figure company and lifestyle these past few years, from absolutely nothing:

Brand,Me;

Brand,Product; and

Brand,Firm.

Why did I do it this way and why does it work?

  • ‘Brand,Me’ and ‘Brand,Product’ build the profile and reputation of ‘Brand,Firm’ by volume and in stages giving depth and breadth to the power of THE BRAND, the SOCIAL BRAND, and SOCIALHUMAN;
  • It’s highly cost-effective and has the most impact this way, fast;
  • ‘Brand,Me’ and ‘Brand,Product’ generate the income (provide the funding) for creating ‘Brand,Firm’ and/or re-branding ‘Brand,Firm’. This is hugely important for companies with limited financial clout, which is the reality for the majority of businesses of law that simply do not a have a Daddy Warbucks Branding War Chest; and
  • It’s because THIS is the ORDER your clients and prospects relate to your company. It’s what clients/customers/consumers want in this Digital Age and Robotic Age. They buy due to emotion and justify the purchase with logic. It therefore seems logical that you focus building a brand starting with humanness (‘Brand,Me’) and share something of benefit/value with the customer (‘Brand,Product’) whereby ‘Brand,Firm’ is naturally borne from these two.

This is not pie in the sky theoretical waffle, or mumbo-jumbo. This brand trio order works. It works extremely well. It worked for me. It works for my customers. It will work for you too.

And now that various highly credible reports and research have provided proof of what my gut, logic, and entrepreneurial spirit told me, no doubt there will be fewer naysayers and more of you willing to take ‘a leap of brand’.

Every interaction you have with someone outside (and inside) your company is an instance of ‘relating’ – or, if you prefer, ‘branding in lights’. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is each interaction good, bad, or indifferent?
  • Effective or ineffective?
  • Positive or negative?
  • Brand-building or brand-destroying?

These are important questions – because branding is not everything, but everything is branding. Do you have what it takes to make ‘a leap of brand’?

‘Brand,Me’, ‘Brand,Product’, ‘Brand,Firm’

This brand triage is like magic. It’s not about which trumps which, btw, it’s about making sure you work on all three ‘brand horizons’ at the same time; a bit like your company-wide strategy and operational focus: horizons 1,2, and 3.

Brand,Product

Do your colleagues have a choice word for you? If not, here’s why you want them to. Sometimes one word can make all the difference. It’s how people will instantly recall and remember you. For example:

  • Iron = Margaret Thatcher (the ‘iron lady’)
  • Dream = Martin Luther-King (‘I have a dream’ speech)
  • Best = Mohammad Ali (‘I’m the best’)

But you don’t have to be a celebrity, mega sports star, a leading politician, or any guise of famous for that matter. Let me tell you a wee story…

I was at an awards dinner (legal conference) recently. It was coming to a close and I had wandered into the reception area arm in arm with my fella. We collected our coats and then I popped to the ladies while he wandered outside to make a phone call in peace away from all the noise and hoi polloi to hail a taxi. On my returning to the spot where we had parted a rather tall, handsome, suave-looking guy walked confidently toward me with hand outstretched in readiness to greet me, bellowing an enthusiastic ‘HEY…NAKED!’

Co-incidentally, while this scene unfolded, my fella had just entered the reception area and was making his way back to me; only a few meters away, he would have definitely heard the shout of ‘hey…naked’. Everyone else in the room did. 90 per cent of the gathering turned and glanced toward me and ‘Mr Handsome’.

Now, most of us would be embarrassed/curl up and die/hope the ground would open up and swallow us whole, if this situation was unfolding, but I smiled sweetly and duly pressed the flesh when he sidled up beside me and planted a kiss on my cheek, beaming like Top Cat. The gentleman (I still didn’t have a Scooby-doo of an idea who he was) continued with ‘How are you? Great to see you here. I saw you last at the Claims Conference where you went down a storm and gave a really stunning speech about getting naked’[i].

My guy arrived at this point, placed his arm around me and held out a hand to ‘this guy’ and the usual pleasantries occurred. Phew.

In all innocence, I didn’t know the gentleman at all. He was a delegate at one of the many conferences I attended this year. Turns out he was an employee of the event organiser company when he explained himself further to the both of us during the short conversation. But he felt he knew me, through my message, and the one word… NAKED… resonated with him. (And now, 90 per cent of the 500+ delegates attending the dinner that evening do too!)

The lesson here is, authentic positioning and just one word matters – especially for individuals. ‘Mr Handsome’ couldn’t remember my first and last name, or the name of my company, but he remembered the brand essence of the message I live, breath, and teach (and the brand product book catchy title of the naked lawyer). That is, we need to get: NAKED.

This dovetails nicely with helping you understand, no doubt, the importance of having a powerful ‘Brand, Product’, such as a book, or equivalent. If you share something of benefit/value with the (potential or existing) customer, such as, the naked lawyer book and achieve conveying your message powerfully with one word, the likelihood is that your SOCIAL BRAND will be amplified through your personal brand and product brand. Meaning, there is no need to market, in the traditional sense. The power of the word, the association, the resonance, does it for you.

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

[i] March 13th 2014 – Claims Conference I was a speaker at the The Art of Reinvention conference, Manchester, UK, delivering a provocative presentation onThe Future of The Law”

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Extract from Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer – NewTech & SocialHuman tracking

Posted on August 11th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article was first published in Legal IT Today 30th June 2015 titled “When will technology enable law firms to monitor and understand social media communications?” and is reproduced with kind permission.

Chrissie Lightfoot shares an extract from her latest book, Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045. It includes her insights about “NewTech” and its application.

The businesses of law are increasingly relying on new technologies to drive processes and efficiencies. This trend is only going to continue as we advance into a robotic age with advanced technology encompassing cognitive computing, cognitive reasoning and artificial intelligence. Inevitably, legal businesses will become ever more tightly connected. The companies (and lawyers) that succeed in the near future will be those that take the time now to assess the role of advanced technology (NewTech) in their delivery and service model.

While all this whizz-bang legal technology may be fabulous, there are elements missing that would make it absolutely magical. “SocialHuman” tracking and attribution, for example.

I have spoken with a handful of (leading) existing legal tech providers about my idea to track the online social activity of lawyers and to drop that activity seamlessly into an existing ERP/DM AX/ DM/CRM system.

Where lawyers, prospects and clients increasingly meet and communicate in social land, it seems obvious that the tech systems need to evolve to cater for this communication medium and SocialHuman element. At present, lawyers have to feed the information into their tech system manually (using a keyboard) with regard to their activity on various social streams such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. They do this to track the touch points with their prospects and clients to feed into the bigger CRM picture, resulting (hopefully) in a client matter and therefore the finance and (fingers crossed) remuneration system.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all this were done automatically? We’re there with document automation in law law land. We’re beginning to get there with marketing automation, slowly. But the next big thing, I reckon, in law law land tech, is to tackle SocialHuman technology.

I wonder which of the current legal tech players will be the pioneer? Perhaps it won’t be any of them. Perhaps it will be a new player that comes along and bolts the SocialHuman tech/software “plug and play” element into one of the MD platform providers.

On the subject of attribution, I was chatting with a couple of people from Google earlier this year at a conference and thereafter at Google HQ about Jaz Rasool’s relevance and resonance technology (since Google search and algorithms presently tick and buzz around relevance) and my idea about SocialHuman tracking attribution. I shared with them my views on the relationship cycle and correct attribution with regard to who in the law firm actually influenced the instruction from what social/web based activity – for example, using social networking, recording it easily, and therefore the right individual being rewarded accordingly.

The gist of their comments was this: in the future, we are going to have a much better understanding of attribution. Smart legal businesses are going to get more excited about things like how you can tell for sure that the advertising that resulted on you clicking on the ad got you to the website and resulted in the instruction – i.e. they’re going to want to know where the instruction really came from.

I reckon they were actually talking about which elements truly impacted the instruction decision. If we could combine this idea with what I am suggesting, then this would be magical for the lawyer, the prospect and client of the law firm, and ultimately for the owner of the business of law.

I can see it would certainly sit nicely with businesses of law that boast a merit-based system, such as RPC, which scrapped its flat rate salary for newly qualified (NQ) solicitors from September this year in favour of a merit-based system. The firm argues that the concept of the flat rate has “passed its sell-by date”. Hear hear! Perhaps if the law firm I was at was as pioneering and visionary as RPC, I would have stayed practising law there as a NQ with this fabulous setup in play!

Prior to September, only trainees and NQs had a fixed salary at RPC, with those higher up the chain already rewarded through a merit-based system. This is the most common (outdated IMHO) set-up in law law land as we currently know it.

While I’m on this innovating soapbox, I believe it’s timely to say that if the existing legal tech providers plugged the IBM Watson AI tech into their ERP/ MD AX/MD CRM systems then this would boost the value of their products exponentially in lots of areas. It’s not a bad or mad idea, since your brain and mine, and those of our fellow lawyers, prospects and clients are going to be “in the cloud” by 2029 and connected to technology and heaven knows what else.

Forewarned is forearmed. It’s better to be prepared than to be chasing your tail. I guess the question is: are you going to be a first mover or a laggard?

Coincidentally, since publishing Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer in November 2014 – we’re six months further down the NewTech evolutionary road – I believe IBM is making great strides in the very area I speak of: SocialHuman tracking attribution together with social media reputation of the company.

If Companies House opens up its datasets to the likes of IBM, it will mean that with the IBM Watson technology it will be able to go in, understand the totality of a company and potentially tie it into other data, for example, social media monitoring and social media reputation, thereby providing a full health check of a company. By monitoring and understanding social media communication, one has to wonder what goodies of information will surely flow. I shall leave you to ponder…

Chrissie Lightfoot is an entrepreneur turned non-practising solicitor turned entrepreneur and CEO of EntrepreneurLawyer. She is the author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045 (published November 2014) and its prequel best-seller The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell You! (published in November 2010).

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ROSS, the AI Lawyer, comes to law law land

Posted on August 8th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article was published 6th August 2015 by Managing Partner , authored by Manju Manglani , titled

‘Dentons invests in pre-artificial intelligence for lawyers’

and is reproduced with kind permission.

‘It was foreseeable and inevitable,’ says Chrissie Lightfoot.

By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Dentons has announced today that its collaborative innovation platform, NextLaw Labs, has signed two deals that will enable it to leverage IBM technology.

In a deal with its first portfolio company, ROSS Intelligence, NextLaw Labs is developing a legal advisor app powered by IBM Watson.

NextLaw Labs is also partnering with IBM Cloud to create a cloud-based technology platform to enable legal tech startups to create and deploy legal applications more quickly.

“This is an important moment in our profession. Joining the world’s largest law firm with the world’s leading technology provider is just one of the ways that NextLaw Labs is working to transform the legal industry,” said Joe Andrew, global chair at Dentons.

“By focusing on using new technology to work smarter and ultimately lower our clients’ costs, our interests and our clients’ interests are one and the same.”

Dubbed ‘ROSS’, the legal advisor app is expected to streamline legal research, saving lawyers time and clients money.

With the support of Watson’s cognitive computing and natural language processing capabilities, lawyers ask ROSS their research question in natural language, as they would a person, then ROSS reads through the law, gathers evidence, draws inferences and returns an evidence-based answer.

Dentons’ lawyers and staff are working with ROSS to refine the body of legal data and knowledge before it is made publically available.

“Technology is now and will continue to be a real differentiator in the legal profession,” commented Dan Jansen, CEO, NextLaw Labs.

“The potential in companies like ROSS shows how the approach to solving client challenges is going to change. NextLaw Labs wants to be a part of transforming what is possible into a tangible offering in today’s legal market.”

Under the second deal to leverage IBM technology, NextLaw Labs will provide legal tech startups with access to IBM Cloud and the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program for Cloud Startups.

These companies will also have access to IBM’s platform-as-a-service, Bluemix, the largest cloud foundry deployment in the world.

Rise of AI in the legal sector

Technology is increasingly being leveraged to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of legal services.

A recent Managing Partner survey found that tech-savvy lawyers are key to law firms’ survival.

Chrissie Lightfoot, author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw, predicted in a 2011 Managing Partner article that law firms would use AI and robotics in future.

Asked for her view on the news that Dentons was investing in ROSS, she told Managing Partner: “I’m not at all surprised by this news. It was foreseeable and inevitable.”

“It’s a natural progression with regard to the evolution of Robot Lawyer and the coming together of brilliant technologies – cognitive computing, AI and robotics (in due course).

“ROSS, haled as the world’s first AI Lawyer, albeit not yet Robot Lawyer, is the smart result of a deal between the company, Apple (using Siri’s slick voice capabilities) and IBM (Watson’s cognitive computing prowess) and will be a huge boon for lawyers, law firms and clients. I’m really excited by this progress.”

However, Lightfoot warned against describing ROSS as “pure” artificial intelligence.

“ROSS isn’t really pure AI, it’s cognitive computing; ROSS will not be doing the same as a human. The evidence-based answer will be drawn from a range of possible answers and the best suited presented from an existing data-set. AI comes up with something new,” she said.

“Nonetheless, ROSS is first out of the lab, and Dentons, not unlike Riverview Law which is using an element of Watson’s cognitive computing for simplifying workflow, is utilising what I would describe as the low end of Watson’s capabilities.”

She concluded: “In time, Ross and its competitors will evolve and utilise the high end Watson talent which tackles complex due diligence legal work. I am confident that more law firms will embrace cognitive computing technologies and AI technologies in due course such as RAVN’s and IBM’s. This is a really positive thing for the legal eco-system.”

In January 2015, Riverview Law announced that it was investing in artificial intelligence.

Under its agreement with the University of Liverpool, Riverview has IP ownership to new technology that automates legal workflow processes and creates visualised analytics.

“This is the holy grail of technology,” Riverview’s CEO, Karl Chapman, told Managing Partner at the time.

“Our platforms are highly configurable, such that knowledge workers can do it – you don’t have to be a professional IT developer – you or I could do it with one day’s training. You could create end-to-end workflow processes and all the analytics would come out of it.”

In an interview with Managing Partner, Chapman predicted that artificial intelligence will change the future of legal work.

“I think the future is really clear and many law firms will adapt to it, but some won’t.”

In 2015, Dentons launched NextLaw Labs as an autonomous, wholly-owned subsidiary, with physical and virtual locations in technology centres worldwide.

NextLaw Labs is intended to be an active technology investor, accelerator and business incubator. It intends to create new products and services that will change the practice of law, improve client service and enhance client solutions.

“As NextLaw Labs continues to grow, our lawyers get early access to tools that help them deliver better outcomes, and our clients benefit from cutting-edge technologies not yet available on the market,” said Elliott Portnoy, global CEO at Dentons.

Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law at University of Washington, recently warned that developments in artificial intelligence and robotics will test law and policy.

“I join a chorus of voices, from Bill Gates to the White House, to assume that robotics represents an idea whose time has come,” he said.

Lightfoot’s thoughts on how law firms can use AI to improve client services will be published in an upcoming issue of Managing Partner. Subscribe today to read her ideas.

You can also learn more about how AI and robots will impact many aspects of our lives and how to future-proof your career and/or business in my latest book: Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045.

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Legal insurance market gets into gear

Posted on August 1st, 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 July 2015 and is reproduced with kind permission:

The Insurance renewal season is now in swing, especially for lawyers still tied to the October-September annual cycle, generating the usual volume of trade press guidance and warnings.

Broadly the market remains benign this year, without substantial hikes of premiums. Competition and comparisons between insurers is evidenced as much by variations of policy periods and Insurer credit ratings as premium price offers. Work types and practice areas are important factors, but for most firms it is the bare statistics of frequency and numbers of claims which remain the most controlling driver of the availability and cost of their insurance, without much science or investigation of either the subjective causes and likelihood of recurrence of claims, or the amounts of insurers’ outlays.

The quality of handling and resolutions of claims is accordingly much less significant to future insurance costs than firms’ capability to avoid them in the first place.Yet somehow, the key messages and lessons linked to understanding and reduction of the causes of claims, and the direct financial benefits that can bring, still seem to be relegated behind other headlines of (mainly regulatory) risk management and insurance supply. Information security and ‘Cyber’ risks, for example, have been the subject of many column inches in professional trade media, with abundant cautionary tales and warnings about the additional costs of insuring against them; but the proportion of insurers’ aggregate outlays directly affecting premium levels is still relatively low, and probably not a significant driver of premiums, up or down, at the moment.

The most practical and attention-demanding news is that there has been at least some research into the causes of claims, with results and indications which could and should enable a useful league table of primary causes.  There is however need and scope for something much more comprehensive and coordinated, with endorsement and publication by professional Bodies, Government and the Insurance industry itself, because it would cast vital perspective on the priorities as well as costs and dimensions of risks management and risk transference.

Anecdotally, most claims practitioners would probably expect file disorganisation and diary errors to be the leading cause of claims, at least numerically if not in terms of values lost; but modern IT processes and systemised procedures have reduced the proportion of exposures arising from practical mismanagements of that kind. Rather, the research to date shows that there are at least two other claim triggers which also demand close attention from top to bottom of every managerial chain:

  • Poor communication between professional service suppliers and their clients: Omissions, inaccuracies and obfuscations of information – about rights or opportunities; costs; processes; deployments; and projected aims and outcomes – time and again set the scene for client disappointment at best, and sometimes real or even catastrophic losses.
  • Inappropriate skills deployments: Professionals who take on work, or allow ‘mission creep’ of their engagement to extend to areas of work for which they, or more often their assigned employee/s, lack the experience, resources or expertise to do to a reasonable standard – which these days often means they will be judged against quite a specialised standard.

A third factor which also deserves much greater attention within every firm than it probably tends to be given at the moment is under-budgeting.  Every service supplier faces pressures to win work by offering to do it for less than it probably should cost. Sometimes that can be commercially sensible if the values at stake are tolerably low; but time and again, the relative risks are not measured, properly if at all, and nor are they sensibly compared. Failure to appreciate the full range, or most particularly the value, of the risks and pitfalls of a new task before it is taken on remains the real cause for hindsight regret underlying many claims, and real improvement on that score is where most gains or savings are likely to be achieved.

Mike Willis is Director of F Mike Willis Ltd Solicitors, professional risks solicitors. 

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Robe Off! The Entrepreneur Lawyer interviews The Entrepreneur Advocate

Posted on July 13th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

The Rise of SocialHuman Barrister? – Part 2 …

This article was first publishd in the Global Legal Post 13th July 2015 titled “Sinead King: Entrepreneur Advocate” and is reproduced with kind permission.

Barrister Sinead King of 36 Bedford Row talks to Chrissie Lightfoot about the skills required to operate as a barrister in today’s fast-moving business environment.

It’s time for barristers to de-robe and get with the programme, The Naked Lawyer author Chrissie Lightfoot maintains. But what does barrister Sinead King make of this new world and how is it impacting on her practice? 

CL: Is Direct Access a good thing for barristers?

SK: Yes and no. It’s not for every barrister. When dealing with members of the public, people often need to feel heard, and felt, before they feel ready to listen. When you have a solicitor maintaining the relationship, all we need to do as barristers is to collect the relevant facts, and give the relevant legal advice. But when you are dealing with a direct access client, you may have to spend quite some time listening to an account which is extremely emotionally important to your client, but legally irrelevant to their case.

I’d say a number of my profession don’t undertake direct access because they recognise they don’t have the patience to deal with that relationship building aspect of the business.  Our core skillset is forensic analysis and presentation. We’re good at rapidly dissecting large amounts of information and drilling down very quickly to the key points.  That puts us in a very good position to provide strategic information very cost effectively, and direct access allows us to market to a whole new client base.

For example, I work with Start Ups and SMEs. Often they don’t need a long term retainer, but what they do need is specialist advice at particular intervals of their expansion for a bit of light touch legal project management.

CL: What specifically can barristers do now that they couldn’t before?

SK: We don’t have to wait for a discrete legal issue to turn into a half million pound case before getting involved. For example, I increasingly find myself advising on what the terms of a contract mean for someone planning to expand their business: how much can they safely do under the contract and when do they have to renegotiate? What are the likely costs of getting that judgment wrong?

Nor do we have to wait for a solicitor to pick up the phone. At the moment, I and a more junior colleague are working together to represent an SME in the Mercantile Court in a large six figure case. Working as a team with the client, we can provide advisory services which allow the client to conduct its own litigation, whilst we can step in with settling statements, checking evidence, and drafting responses to the other side, as well as the usual representation in the hearing. The costs of employing a solicitor would be prohibitive for the client, but this way it’s got the specialist advice and presentation services it needs, without paying for those it doesn’t.

CL: What can’t they do, still?

SK: Some barristers undertake training which allows them to conduct litigation in exactly the same way as a solicitor, but I was always attracted to the fixing and problem-solving side of the profession, so I haven’t. So I can’t handle my client’s affairs or money, file documents at court, or instruct expert witnesses on my client’s behalf – but I can provide the advice that enables my clients to do so, and once I’ve given them the relevant information I find they’re usually pretty good at cracking on with doing the leg work themselves.

CL:  What changes do you feel need to be made to improve the situation for barristers and the client?

SK: Knowledge: often members of the public don’t understand how the law operates until something goes badly wrong. But used properly, law can be a safety net, a sword or a shield: a bit of timely advice can often mean that law can be something useful rather than something a client can only react against.

Conversely, the public don’t necessarily understand the limits of a court outcome.  Courts are concerned about what can be proved according to fixed evidential standards and what is legally relevant: and those standards don’t always correlate with the truth or the delivery of a fair outcome. Often, the solutions parties can carve out for themselves through negotiation are far better, and fairer. So being prepared to enter the process with a willingness to negotiate can go a long way to managing the process with realistic expectations.

CL: Does this mean the role and skill-set of the barrister will/has change(d)?

SK: There will always be a place for a traditional no-nonsense barrister – because the judiciary take most of their stock from that world, and if you can’t speak the language – and speak it not only fluently but also robustly – you’re unlikely to benefit your client when matters reach court.

We are a very old profession:  we still wear 18th century wigs and gowns, which doesn’t exactly convey a sense of 21st century relevance. But strip off the costume and at heart, a barrister is and has always been a legal expert, consultant, risk assessor, negotiator and courtroom fighter.  That role hasn’t changed – and if anything is even more relevant these days.

CL: How do you see the role of the barrister changing in months and years to come?

SK: I think we need to be more behaviourly multi-lingual. If we’re going to work with non-lawyers we need to learn to be both more soft-edged and business orientated in our dealings. Otherwise, we will be unable to build the relationships necessary to understand our clients, their motivations, or unlock the facts necessary to advise them properly – or win their cases.

CL: What should they be doing now?

SK: I think we need to continue to get the message out there about the options available for clients.  At even the most basic level, consumers, if they know what barristers are at all, tend to assume that they have to go through a solicitor, and we will be hugely expensive. Actually, because we tend to charge fixed rates for particular pieces of work, rather than an hourly rate, we’re often very cost effective.

CL: What kind of core skills should they focus on for the future?

SK: We still need the same core skills of analysis and presentation: that can’t and shouldn’t change. We are legal experts – we have the knowledge, the analytic tools and the day to day experience of taking things to trial and winning, and we shouldn’t be diluting these skills. But what we do need to do is ensure that we can use them in the most effective way for the benefit of our clients, and that means not simply assuming that clients will know what we do and come to us.

CL: Are barristers good at finding their own clients i.e. marketing and selling themselves to potential clients?

SK: Marketing as a business, and using the kind of tools of a 21st century business is still something of a novelty. We’re beginning to move in the right direction but it’s fair to say it’s been a slow start.

CL: What about you. How do you do it? 

SK: My role is as an entrepreneurial adviser, advocate and defender. Because I work with Start Ups and SMEs, it’s important that they can see me, understand what I do, and be confident that I talk the same language. I’m pretty active in social media, particularly twitter, as it’s an easy and very effective way of keeping in the loop with my target market.

CL: Is Direct Access a good thing for the public / businesses?

It’s a great thing. We offer a unique mix of cost effective practicality and expertise. A direct access barrister can take the case to trial, acting alone, with other barristers, or with paralegal support.  The reason you might want to have a solicitor involved is where the case is particularly paper heavy, the value of the claim is high, and you could use a solicitor’s firm to field offers and keep project management on track.

CL: What sets the SocialHuman Barrister apart from the traditional lawyer?

SK: I tend to work at the intersection of commercial, IP and employment law, and, quite apart from the ability to bounce between legal fields, my work often requires the ability to understand a situation in both legal and human terms.  The ability to look at a problem in several different dimensions – human, abstract, procedural, evidential – and to be able to switch gears is pretty important. I think clients tend to respond to the fact they know that I understand them, and their case, and I’ve got their back. Granville Barker once referred to “intellectual passion, that most un-English of virtues, ” which has always stuck: I’m curious and fascinated by ideas, designs and inventions, so working with my clients, who are often fearless creators, always feels like a privilege, and I think my enthusiasm and desire to protect them translates pretty well.

CL: Intellectual passion, that most un-English of virtues. So, there it is. As in law law land, so in barrister land. It’s time to ‘get naked’. If you don’t learn to be more soft-edged, enthusiastic, business orientated, behaviourly multi-lingual, understand a situation in both legal and human terms i.e. use all of your tools efficiently, switch gears and have the patience to deal with the relationship building aspect of the business and ROAR, you’re probably not going to make it as a SocialHuman barrister competing against the machines or your fellow humans, currently, or in the future.  There is one saving grace. If you dare to strip off your 18th century barrister robe and ‘get naked’, your role as a legal expert and courtroom fighter may just remain relevant, at least for now…

Missed part 1 of The Rise of SocialHuman barrister? Click here.

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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Rise of SocialHuman Barrister?

Posted on July 11th, 2015 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article was first published in the Global Legal Post on July 10th, 2015, and is reproduced with kind permission.

As cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and robots infiltrate the entire legal eco-system we ‘pure blood’ humans would fair best if we embraced the machine rather than resisted its march and looming dominance, even in the courtroom, says Chrissie Lightfoot.

Last week in the Global Legal Post I shared my vision, insights and opinion about why it is becoming increasingly necessary for all of us lawyers to become SocialHuman in order to future-proof our careers as cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and robots infiltrate the entire legal eco-system and make some of our roles obsolete. It is imminent.

The machine has already risen.

With the plethora of evidence to support the exponential rate of the inevitable rise of the machine, documented in my most recent articles and books, we ‘pure blood’ humans would do well to embrace the machine in a bid to serve our clients extraordinarily well, rather than resist its march and looming dominance as it begins to funnel its way up the legal intelligence vertical.

You may recall back in October 2011 the article iCyborg Lawyer wherein I shared the view that legal provision, productivity and primary skills fall into four areas:

1.  IT-based – commoditised;

2.  artificial intelligence (AI);

3.  advocacy; and

4.  judgement.

Arguably, the first two areas above have superseded the ‘grunt work’ traditionally carried out by trainees and junior lawyers already in the traditional law firm. It is now the daily grind realm of paralegals and/or junior lawyers (to some extent the associates too) overseeing and utilising the ‘machine system’ in order to maximise productivity. The last two areas, however, are associated more with the senior associate level and upwards in a traditional law firm, and the kind of legal work regularly carried out by solicitor advocates and barristers.

‘Phew’, no doubt is the cry of the more senior solicitors, partners, solicitor advocates and barristers; ‘we’re safe for now’, you’re no doubt thinking.

Not so. BEWARE.

The time is fast approaching too when even your cherished role and skill-set will come under attack by a machine that will be far quicker and more intelligent than you which will even be able to reason and judge; we’re talking a handful of years away here, not decades. We’re talking about a machine thinking, not just doing.

As I have said before, as we lawyers become marginalized by the machine, our role and value will be in extolling expert niche specialism and experience, delivering extraordinary customer service with exceptional emotional intelligence (EI), and being uniquely human. This is something AI and machines will not be able to provide, for a while.

Accordingly, I believe that barristers too will not be immune to the rise of the machines.

Which then made me ponder:

• Is the Bar, with its rich repository of specialist knowledge and experience which has never been more easily accessible for businesses and individuals alike due to Direct Access, truly ready for the Robotic Age?

• Do barristers have the right skill sets currently and in the future?

Revamping direct access

I was pleased to read earlier this week that the Bar Council launched its revamped direct access website. The portal acts as an online register of barristers qualified to take instructions direct from laypeople and is pitched at clients looking to avoid going through solicitors. No doubt this move will “ratchet up antagonism between the two main branches of the legal profession” wrote the author of the feature. The comments at the foot of the article evidenced exactly this.

I am at a loss to think as to why solicitors begrudge their fellow esteemed barrister colleagues competing with them directly for clients. After all, solicitors in one firm compete with solicitors in another firm directly for clients all of the time (and have done since the legal profession here in the UK kicked off 800 years ago), so why not barristers?

And let’s face it, solicitors ought to have an advantage over barristers in attracting clients direct as solicitors are, supposedly, more ‘experienced’ at schmoozing prospective and existing clients. This is, of course, moot. Many solicitors are by no means exceptionally conversant in SocialHuman Lawyering any more than the SocialHuman barrister might well be.

My understanding is that until recently, the Bar Council regulation was that the clerk of a barristers chambers or a solicitor had to refer the new client to the barrister; effectively the barristers didn’t need to do any marketing or rainmaking personally – it was done for them.  But now, due to Direct Access – the system under which members of the public can work with barristers directly, instead of through an intermediary solicitor – it strikes me that this is a really good thing for clients as:

a) the use of a direct access barrister resonates with the core principles by which a client business operates or an individual expects: excellence of service combined with delivery on time at the lowest possible price (says Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the Bar);

b) the specialist advocate provides better value for them; and

c) they have more choice.

On the subject of direct access Sinead King, barrister at 36 Bedford Row, London UK – you may recall I mentioned Sinead in an article –  Knowing me, knowing you –  last week as a sterling example of a SocialHuman professional – commented:  “The Bar Council is learning to be a bit less apologetic about marketing direct access. The fear is that doing so aggressively will antagonise instructing solicitors.”

Pah! Get on with it, I say. Fear not. All members of the legal profession – whether trainee solicitor, trainee barrister, paralegal, legal executive, associate solicitor, senior associate, solicitor advocate, partner, director, barrister, QC; have I forgotten anyone? – will soon come to realise that the threat (competing for clients and for our jobs) does not lie amongst our differing levels, titles and branches of human legal providers; it will revolve around us humans competing against the machine directly for clients and jobs.

In the meantime, the good news is that there are forward-looking ‘entreprenurial barristers’ just as there are ‘entrepreneurial solicitors’; both are quite happy to work with direct access barristers and to cross refer – or are very open to cross referring once they’re aware of the potential to deliver legal services through smart transactions. As Sinead says: “On a positive note, there’s a fair amount of cross referral: a solicitor might send a client my way for direct access advice on a discrete legal matter, because it’s a cost effective way of proceeding.  Equally, where a case is complex and needs bodies on the ground to keep on track, I will often refer it to a solicitor I know is going to offer a decent service, to give the client the best chance of getting a good outcome, knowing that if they can’t settle I can come back in at a later stage to slug it out in court.”

Having already met with Sinead King – The Entrepreneur Advocate – previously and being impressed by her natural ROAR approach (ROAR being an acronym for Reach Out And Relate), I was intrigued to learn more about what Sinead, as a barrister, thinks about Direct Access and what she believes it will take to become SocialHuman Barrister. I posed a number of questions to her, the answers to which I shall share with you in the follow-up article Robe Off: The Entrepreneur Lawyer meets The Entrepreneur Advocate.

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 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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