Tuesday, 21 December 2010

I am Still Here

I am still here.



It's just that there are only 24 hours in a day, and while that's enough hours (just) most of the year to work, run a family and engage in social media experiments, in the run-up to Christmas with the prospect of 4 families around 1 table and a demanding 5 (nearly 6) year old to satisfy on the present-front as well as the usual year-end activities and projects on the work-front, well, I am only human (and a specialist plant of course) and things slip.

Fear not, the in-house lawyer remains committed to (a) being an in-house lawyer  (b) social media and (c) fusing the two together in pursuance of this blog.

A Merry Little Christmas post will be with you before the Big Day itself, and normal blogging service will be resumed once the festivities and stress are over.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Karma Communities

No, I haven't gone all hippy-chick.

I've been reading Twitter Power by Joel Comm lately. In fact, thats incorrect. I'm a 2.0 reader, so I've been listening to the audiobook.



Image is Twitter Power 2.0: How to Dominate your Market One Tweet at a Time by Joel Comm, Gildan Media Corp, presented by Audible.co.uk

Joel Comm gets to the nubb of social media in the first chapter of his book where he describes traditional media publishers as the few who broadcast their news to the many, as against the new social media phenomenon where the many have the power to communicate the news, views and experiences to each other, resulting in the creation of communities with a common interest.

To me, the community is the most important aspect of social media. And because there are little, if any, barriers to entry into the social media world, its much simpler to become part of your chosen community and influence that community than it is to become part of a community in the offline world, such as, say, falling in with the cool kids at high school, the mums at the school gate or the clique of personnel who might have your CEO's attention. Social media is a great leveller.

But for a community to operate it needs to communicate. Communicating means listening as well as speaking, it means building relationships.  You'll read a lot about social media being all about communication and relationship building, but once you truly understand that it actually is, it is an epiphany moment.

And so I was surprised today to come across a tweeting lawyer who followed zero people. Why would you join a social media community and not be part of the conversation? Even if it your goal is to promote yourself as a lawyer or a firm, how can you achieve that goal effectively without monitoring the conversation around you and understanding the impact which your broadcasting/marketing is having?

As an in-house lawyer, through social media you have the ability to become part of a number of communities which feed into your world: the community of the industry which your employing company operates in, or those of your company's suppliers or clients, the legal community, your specialism within the legal community, other in-house lawyers, legal service providers. Communities are being built, and the members of these communities are being generous with their information and advice. In-house lawyers can benefit from this: pop a question into your Twitter status such as "Does anyone know whether there are unfair dismissal rights in Germany?", and you'll receive several tweets in reply from practising employment lawyers pointing you in the right direction.  The more you give back to the community, the more you'll receive from it too. There's a lot of good karma in circulation on social media sites.



Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Beware the Digital Trailblazer

On the Inforrm Blog, today's post, Privacy and the Right to Oblivion, was extremely thought-provoking.

I've left a comment against that post, but what I wanted to say here was that I really do like the imagery which Jeffrey Rosen conjures of a digital trail. We live in an era where our trails are recorded digitally and my view of that is that we're fortunate to do so. We have the ability to leave our mark. We are digital trailblazers!

Yes, we have the right to manage those trails carefully, but not necessarily retrospectively.  Online or offline, not all mistakes can be erased. So, choose the trail which you wish to leave carefully, before you make it.

Social media gives us all the opportunity to create, manage and promote our own trail but, as they say, with  power comes responsibility...to yourself. With many things in life, over-regulating tends to hinder not help; common-sense is usually the only rule required.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Halloween Hoot

Welcome to the 31 October 2010 edition of ukblawgroundup, and the fourth in the series of round-ups initiated by Michael Scutt to promote blogging lawyers in the UK.
The theme of this edition is, spookily enough, what with the date and everything, Halloween; the origins of which date back to the Celtic festival of Samhain which celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half", where the border between this world and the other becomes thin enough to let the spirits pass through, and when we wear costumes and masks to ward off evil.
But I live in the countryside, and what this time of year means to our family is the harvest from the local farmers. And at Halloween, of course, we take great delight in carving up some of that harvest. I was most proud of my local farm in Little Budworth, Cheshire, which this October has just harvested over 3,000 pumpkins:

Image copyright of The Hollies Farm Shop
Halloween festivities are embraced with much more vigour on the other side of the Atlantic, and when Michael started this UK blawg review at the beginning of 2010 he observed that lawyers in the UK hadn’t embraced social media nearly as much as their American counterparts either.  And what a difference (not even) a year makes, because I’m now writing this edition against the backdrop of Legal Week’s recent analysis of the UK blogging scene. It’s article, The Geek Shall Inherit, introduced the audience of the mainstream legal press to the lawyers who operate in the online world, looking back at history of the UK legal blogging scene and presenting both some established bloggers and recent entrants. 
As insightful as the article was, and that one piece of journalism probably succeeded in bringing forward the legal digital mind-set by approximately 5 years, what it was unable to do was mention every credible UK blawgger, and there are few. Some additional players are mentioned in the commentary against the article, so do take a read of both the article and the commentary if you’re looking to increase the number of blawggers on your watch list or your RSS stream.  What the omissions do tell me though is that blawg round-ups such as this one are extremely important to spread the word and to promote the profiles of all of the great blawggers in the field, because by giving each other a pat on the back from time to time, we can help this community grow.
The Law Actually Blog knows a thing or two about patting its fellow blawggers on the back.  Penned by The (mysterious) Michael (whom we only know as an LLM and LLB student working in-house for a telco company)  this quarter it successfully ran its annual "Blawggies", the awards for, well you guessed it, blawgs.  As well as the  Blawggies Results, you can get to know the blawgeratti by reading the regular  “A Law Actually Interview with…” series of posts.  Take a look at the most recent, Law Actually Interview with Charon QC  for the type of thing which you can expect.  You'll also become very familiar very quickly with tech law developments and generalist legal observations too such as Council Goes Bonkers over Conkersa scenario observed with the observational dis-belief that a fellow in-houser can truly appreciate.  Speaking of which, have you had the good fortune to stumble upon Legal Bizzle? An anonymous in-houser The Biz, who in his own words has been "saving your ass since 1999",  just tells it like it is.  Check out 5 Words I Hate to Hear, and  What does Success Look Like? to see why.
Another round-up we saw this quarter was the FT’s Annual Survey of Innovative Lawyers, but I was disappointed that it didn't feature lawyers who are taking strides into social media as part of their practice strategy, however, to rectify the position, we also saw the 360 Awards, at which Paul Hajek received the award for most effective social networker. Paul is a regular on the UK legal blogging and Twitter scene, and the Clutton Clox Blog succeeds where a lot of law firm blogs fail: it's kept bang up to date and presents a well-rounded perspective of what the firm is about, its work and its people.
The reviews kept on coming this quarter, and one which caught my eye was from Linda Cheung, CEO of Connectegrity.  In September, Linda reviewed the Top 100 Law Firm Websites in Pictures. No spoilers here, you'll have to check out her blog for the winner.  

Image copyright of Tyson Moore, via Flickr, depicting some spooky fence ghosts 
The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common at Halloween. This quarter has seen its fair share of legal horror stories and frightening tales too. Most of which, it has to be said, have emanated from the demise of Halliwells. So may I take this opportunity to present Peter Blair, Director of Mar-aon Consulting which specialises in Risk, Operations, Strategy & Communications in Law Firms, and his eminently sensible Pitch for Common Sense, dealing with issues ranging from Responsibilty and Leadership to Keeping Up to Date. Whatever your profession or specialism there is a multitude of "makes sense" opinion and information on Peter's blog.
More gremlins in the machine this quarter, but thankfully with much less consequence.  Brian Inkster summarises his encounters on the Inksters Solicitors blog in IT Problems at Trainee Summer School. Inksters are officially Cool Lawyers recognised for the example which they set in social media, and I'd agree, like the Clutton Clox blog, Inksters keeps a refreshing balance of posts about the firm's work and it's people.


The above image is of Vice President Dick Cheney's Labrador retrievers Jackson, left, and Dave, right, prepare for Halloween, as they sit for a photograph at the Vice President's Residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Jackson is dressed as Darth Vader, Dave is dressed as Superman. (Random legal copyright fact: This image is a work of an employee of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, taken or made during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.)
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages. ‘Guising’ as it became known, was prevalent in Scotland and Ireland in the 19th Century, and became extremely popular in the US in the 20th Century. Rather aptly, blogging also allows lawyers to take on a disguise where their  be-devilled alter-ego can roam free.
Guising with expertise is the UK’s very own Baby Barista who provides us with a fictional "worm's eye view of the English Bar" with unparalleled eloquence and wit which has been observed and applauded for some time, however hot on his heels is a the new and superb Magic Circle Minx providing readers with a fictional account of the life of a trainee solicitor at a London Magic Circle Law Firm, her blog is now a regular on my RSS list.  Another esteemed blawgger who makes no bones about his devil-may-care blogging style is the wonderful Charon QC who this quarter has had me hooked on his (fictional?)  Muttley Dastardly LLP series.
Taking on a guise, but not one so scary, is iPad Lawyer documenting his journey as a lawyer with THE piece of kit of the quarter. The iPad Lawyer explains step by step how to use the apps and software for a lawyer's best effect and productivity, and his excellent commentary in iPad workflow - some thoughts is a great example of his hands-on, explanatory approach.  The man behind the mask is Jon Bloor of Peninsulawyer fame who this quarter has also taken a look at Go Compare the Money SuperMeerKat (or why I don't buy Wigster) providing his views on the recent announcements by Wigster and others of the launch of price comparison sites for solicitors.

Image copyright of Shane Gorski, via Flickr "no one knows who lives here but there is proof of life at this property"
There is a tradition of decorating a haunted house at Halloween, filling it with eerie music, cobwebs, spiders, zombies, mummies, jack o' lanterns, devils, witches and of course the witch's cat.  One of my favourite cats is IPKat, aka Jeremy Phillips, home-grown but internationally recognised for his passion of all things IP.  Jeremy and his team provide regular consistent and credible work and I've personally read Jeremy's blog since I discovered it back in 2003, immediately capturing my attention for its valuable insight in my practice area. In September, I was impressed further by the excellent live-blogging series, Handbags at Dawn 1, 2, 3 and 4, reviewing an IP & Fashion conference - yes, live blawgging, as it happened, brilliant.  The team really do live, breathe and eat IP; see The Advertising Wars of Kelloggs Cornflakes for evidence of this assertion.
Other animals featuring in this blawg round-up, but not seen so much at Halloween, include:
CyberPanda, aka Asma Vranaki, who is a Doctor of Philosophy of Law at Oxford University. Asma's blog posts and tweets are brimming over with information and considered opinion tackling issues such as Facebook: the Privacy Backlash and Pan-European Copyright Laws all helpfully summed up in a Cyber-Law News Daily
and
Technollama, aka Andres Guadamuz, a lecturer at the Edinburgh School of Law.  This month I enjoyed reading his discussion on cyber-regulation in the well-penned post Is it time to take Anonymous Seriously? Readers of Andres' blog are always guaranteed an enlightening read.
Staying true to her identity, and founder of another technology blog, is Shireen Smith at Azrights Solicitors.  Shireen's posts are bang on the money for her target audience and I always benefit from a legal brain refresher when reading her posts.  She has a knack of making her specialism a subject which everyone should take an interest in:  Facebook Places, Privacy and Implied Consent and Rejecting Anonymity, Making Authors Accountable are both good reads whatever your specialist practice area.
Stepping away from technology blogs, and back full-circle to the founder of the UK blawg round-up now. Michael Scutt's passion for blogging is evident as he wears two blawgging hats, one for Jobsworth, Employment Law Explained, and the other for There May Be Trouble Ahead, Legal Services De-regulation.  Jobsworth is an essential blawgging read for anyone in practice remotely affected by employment law (and, lets face it, who isn't?).  His analysis of the Equality Act in The Equality Act: Here at Last ? Worth the Wait? (and the earlier posts referred to therein) really get to the nub of the issues underlying why and how the legislation has come about to provide a much fuller and contextual picture, but he also does the practical stuff too, see Why Employers Shouldn't Ask Pre-Employment Health Questions: Equality Act 2010 #2 for the answers to the "ok but what does it mean I actually have to do" questions.  In There May be Trouble Ahead, Michael has himself well-positioned as a thought-leader amongst the profession challenging views of what de-regulation will mean for it.  His September post, More on Branding, questions how much a law firm is prepared to invest in a franchised brand. 
I couldn't let the opportunity of this blawg round-up go by without mentioning Mark Gould, with a background as an academic and lecturer in Competition Law, Mark is currently Head of Knowledge Management at a leading law-firm.  His blog, Enlightened Tradition explores a rational approach to organisational learning and knowledge management. He draws inspiration from many sources and his blog posts pay homage to his academic background being clearly well-researched; a shining example is his recent post  Corporate Professional Spectrum: Law Firms, KM and the Future.
And last but not least, Jennie Law, a law librarian in Edinburgh. I've had Jennie's feed on my RSS stream for a while now, and her light-hearted "say what you see" approach is perfectly summed up in How to Make a Librarian Happy.
Image copyright of Anon, via Flickr
And now, the witching hour really is upon me, I have work to do! Happy Halloween readers!

Friday, 29 October 2010

5 More Reasons for In-House Counsel to Use Twitter

I attanded a law firm seminar yesterday evening discussing social media for in-house lawyers.  It was an informative and very well-received event, yet  I was amazed to find that save for myself and the presenters, nobody else around the table had ever used Twitter. 

Twitter is so ingrained into my working day, I thought everyone else was using it too, but it appears not, and more evangalising is required by the rest of us! So following on from my previous  5 Reasons for In House Counsel to Use Twitter and 5 Twitter Best Practice Tips for In-House Counsel, here are 5 more reasons for in-house counsel to use Twitter:

1. Community: Twitter is highly effective at creating communities.  There's a growing legal community on there, and we're already starting to see sections of that community specialise, in particular lawyers focussing on technology, IP, IT cloud computing, and, of course, social media are growing and prospering by creating communities within the larger legal circle.

Being an in-house lawyer can be a lonely experience professionally, especially if you're sole in-house counsel in, say, a firm full of engineers or scientists.  So, lets face-it, some daily legal banter wouldn't go amiss.  Twitter allows you to become part of a community very easily, and the more you put into that community, the more you'll get out of it.

2. Easily incorporated into your day: One of the reasons I've heard for lawyers not getting involved in social media or twitter activities is because they can't find the time.  Well, that's no excuse in my book. With Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite , its so simple to have Twitter running unobtrusively on your desktop as you're completing other tasks; and very quickly you'll become accustomed to spotting the avatars or hashtags of your favourite follows as your tweetfeed pops up in the corner of your screen.

3. The Next Generation: Social media is already the communication choice of the next generation.  Your business is going to have to prepare itself to accommodate this sea-change in communication preference, and if you want to communicate with the next generation of lawyers, its a tool you'll have to get to grips with pretty quickly too.

4.140 characters only: Twitter helps you to hone your writing skills. You need to get your point across in 140 characters or less. As an in-house lawyer in commerce and industry, this skill is particularly valuable where you're dealing with individuals not interested in the legal niceties, but who just want to get to the point.

5. Fun: As my good tweeting companion and fellow in-house lawyer @junecasalmir quite rightly points out, tweeting is actually quite good fun, its enjoyable to meet, network with and read tweets from some great people who you wouldn't have the opportunity to meet in the real world.

Have I convinced you yet?

The event I attended yesterday evening was hosted by the wonderful @stevekunkewicz and @paulcarruthers (to whom I thank for the insight into my point 3 above).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Next Big Thing: Is the social media tide turning?

Today's Legal Week has focussed on the use of social media tools by the legal profession.  It ran two pieces today:

New ideas in Law: The geek shall inherit... a wonderfully well researched piece of journalism by Alex Aldridge summarising the history of the legal blogging scene at home and abroad and introducing the new, rising talent in the UK blawgosphere. I was thrilled and honoured for this very blog to be included in the article, quote:
"Then there's In-House Lawyer, a more serious, non-fictional, yet still distinctly irreverent insider account of life as an in-house lawyer, authored by Melanie Hatton, a former Mayer Brown lawyer who is now head of legal and company secretary at Latitude Digital Marketing. In it, Hatton reflects candidly on issues facing in-house counsel, with recent posts including a piece drawing attention to the friction between in-house legal departments and sales teams in companies and an admission that she always leaves anything litigious to a Friday, the day of the week when "opposing counsel seem much more inclined to strike a deal with less antagonism".


Irreverent and candid. Heck, I hadn't realised! But I can roll with that.  Alex's article is a suberb blawg round-up, culminating in his blawger roll of honour list.  It makes my job of hosting this quarter's ukblawg round-up next week quite a challenge!


Tweet Disposition: the tech-savvy lawyers making social media work for them is written by Sofia Lind and introduces a selection of in-house and private practice tweeting lawyers.  I was over the moon to be mentioned in this article along with other tweeting companions I know, and some which I didn't but I no doubt soon will.  Sofia's article also takes a look at blogging and Linked-in and interestingly identifies what the Top 10 law firms are doing (or not doing) about social media, confirming what I suspected, i.e. that its the individuals, independents and smaller firms in the UK which are getting to grips with social media a lot more quickly and effectively than the larger firms.
These two articles have brought the UK's legal social media scene to the fore, their angle very much that social media is here to be embraced and not policed, and I predict we'll now see the tide changing with more of our profession surfing the social media waves. 
Cartoon courtesy of Geek & Poke 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

SAD Story

Yesterday on Twitter I was amused to read this exchange:



The discussion was with reference to the latest blog post by Magic Circle Minx.

It conjured up imagery of tribes of albino trainees working underground digging for gold.  Personally, I'd opt to take a day or two holiday rather than rely on my standard-issue SAD lamp, but needs must in the magic circle it seems.

It also reminded me that when I was a trainee, all I was issued with for working late was the code to set the alarm and free access to the kitchen goodie drawer.





Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Dotted and Spotted

I just discovered that my previous "join the dots" blog post has been spotted by Law.com's  Legal Blog Watch!  Their take on my earlier post is called: Pursuing Unrelated Interests Can Help Lawyers Connect the Dots in their Legal Careers too.

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Monday, 11 October 2010

In the Mix. Creative Law?

In my recent 22twts interview I was asked:


My advice was inspired by a quote attributed to Steve Jobs who, speaking at the Stanford University 2005 graduation ceremony, said "You can't join the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future".

You can find his full address here, but the point which fascinated me in this speech was that when Mr Jobs was at college, he actually dropped-out of the course allocated to him and instead chose to follow his intuition and curiosity and take up a calligraphy course of study, the learning of which bore no practical application in his life at all.  10 years later when working on the design of the first Macintosh computer, he recalled his calligraphy learnings and fed them into the creative design process which resulted in the development of the Apple Mac with its signature typefaces, typography and fonts. An example of magnificent creativity.

Simply put, the more broad your experience and interests, the more opportunities there are in your life to connect the dots and bring a fresh and creative perspective to the table.

Law is no different, and some would argue more in need of creative energy: the best patent attorneys usually have a background in science and chemistry and a passion for photography might fuel a leading copyright lawyer's quest to represent image right-holders.

For me personally, a 'mumpreneur' moment during my maternity leave back in 2005 led me to develop and optimise a website for pregnant women.  What is this to do with your legal blog, I hear you ask?

Well, 3 years later I found myself interviewing for the position of in-house lawyer at a digital marketing company quietly confident that I knew, more than any other candidate, my SEO from my PPC, and my back-links from my HTML.  What's more,  my experience during an 'off-track' year as a PSL responsible for training lawyers in a commercial law firm, rather than practicing law with them, continues to feed into that element of my present job responsible for managing the Training & Development at my company.  It all adds up.

In my view, its easy for lawyers to pigeon-hole themselves as specialists, one trick legal ponies; but I'd like to challenge your  specialism and encourage you to take your legal wisdom, add a pinch of a personal interest and pour out a creative contribution to your workplace.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Branded Part 5: Take a Look at Facebook

A tweet caught my eye today, "What's the next big thing in social media for lawyers?". Samantha Collier's blog, Social Media for Law Firms, claims the answer is now Facebook because ultimately "everyone under the sun now finds you on Facebook".

I know some professionals will balk at the idea but I'm inclined to agree with Samantha, not least because of Facebook's powerful search-engine like presence, although my view is that she is way ahead of the curve here; a lot of lawyers I know aren't even on Facebook personally yet and a few more have just the one solitary connection on Linked In.  

However, a quick search on Facebook will reveal that there are already a modest number of "solicitors" and "law firms" with a professional Facebook presence and, indeed, a fan base.

But this blog isn't about law firms, its about in-house lawyers.  A quick Facebook search against "in house lawyer" revealed:




For the avoidance of doubt, this is not me.

Sensing competition, I have upped my social media strategy game.  This is me (note the all important capitalised 'H' in 'House'):


So there it is, the start of what will no doubt be the blog-post, "5 Reasons In-house Lawyers should use Facebook". Until then.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Turn On, Tune In, Tweet Out




If you turned on Twitter on Thursday evening, and tuned into the #22twts hashtag, you'll have seen me tweet out.

#22twts is the inspiration of Lance Godard (of the The Godard Group) and comprises a weekly live Twitter interview of tweeting lawyers "helping them to tell their stories one tweet at a time".

I was Lance's first in-house interviewee, and I was slightly nervous to begin, but the experience was great fun and I'd thoroughly recommend that any lawyer using Twitter contacts Lance if they'd like to feature on #22twts.

The transcript of my interview appears on www.22tweets.com.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Guardian Angel

This is an example of how Twitter can "do something for you" very simply and very quickly.

Last week I saw this tweet:




I responded with this tweet:



And this one:


Next thing I saw this tweet:



And this article in The Guardian referencing my tweet:



People talked about it:



And nice people said nice things:



Simple.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Privileged Position

I've always viewed working in-house as a privilege; that a company trusts one individual to be their primary source of leagl advice and cousel is a compliment in my book.

But now it appears that working in-house may be a less privileged role.  In the strictly legal sense.  The decision by the ECJ last week in Akzo Nobel vCommission means that legal privilege does not attach to advice provided by an in-house lawyer to their client/employer in EU competition law matters.

Swings and roundabouts.  On the back of the decision, it was indeed an honour and a privilege for me to be asked by the Solicitors Journal to pen an article providing an in-house perspective of this decision.  My article and views are here.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Branded Part 4: It's Lawyering, but not as we know it

Well, things are finally starting to move forward on the personal brand quest front.  I was delighted to speak with Legal Week recently in relation to a peice which they're writing on Tweeting Lawyers (I'll link to the piece once t goes live); I have an interview lined up for late September with 22Twts (a real time Twitter interview which asks 22 questions of tweeting lawyers, and  I have the honour of being their first interview of an in-house lawyer), and finally I have myself a press deadline (scary) as I've been asked to provide an opinion piece for the Solicitors Journal on the recent Akzo Nobel case decison on privilege and the in-house lawyer.

It's lawyering,  but not as we know it.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Hub's got the Goods

One of the more interesting feeds in my daily RSS stream today pointed me in the direction of the OFT's website.  The OFT website is one of the Government websites which I do tend to frequent more than others as so much of the OFT's work affects business (what with its myriad of Codes of Conduct, protection and enforcement work and competition regulation), but also business can affect the OFT's work as well (such as by contributing to their industry focussed consultations).

The reason for my visit to the website today though was to take a look at its online Hub launched to help retailers comply with the Sale of Goods Act (SGA).  Like most legislation, the SGA isn't the most riveting of reads, as you can see here:


But the good old Hub has made it a much more user-friendly read, thus:




The Hub includes an at a glance flowchart, download area, case studies and even a quick quiz should the mood take you!

One of the many tasks of the in-house lawyer is to simplify legal concepts and make them less of an obstacle for business; the Hub is a terrific example of how lawyers can use technology creatively to achieve that goal.




Wednesday, 11 August 2010

5 Reasons for In-House Counsel to use Linked In

In the style of the popular 5 Reasons for In-house Counsel to use Twitter, and having noticed that I'm spending more time using Linked In lately, it seemed only right and proper to set out my 5 reasons for in-house counsel to use Linked In:




1.  In Branded I discussed the benefits to all lawyers of creating a personal brand online.  Linked In is a credible, professional online network which is designed to provide you with the the tools to establish your online professional persona quickly and simply on a canvas which Twitter and, say, Facebook can't provide:

  • Your Linked In profile page acts as an online CV
  • The profiles of those who you are connected with are stored in an easily-searchable Contacts list
  • Links to your website, blog and Twitter account can be easily incorporated into your profile page to showcase your wider online presence
  • Status updates, activity timelines, group links and recommendations showcase your business impact
2. Linked In is the place to formally cement any professional connections which you've made fleetingly in the online or offline world, particularly those connections from Twitter!  Linked In also provides access to a wider network of like-minded in-house lawyers and other professionals who you might not necessarily use the other social media networks which you also do.

3. Linked In groups offer you a members-only style form for you to connect with other in-house professionals.  To get you started, here are a selection of Linked In groups focussed on in-house lawyers:




4. Linked In groups provide you with the opportunity to, not only connect with other in-house counsel, but to also learn from, join in and create discussions on your group's specialist subject area.  Members of groups share information resources, survey data and pose questions on topics of interest, and if you choose to subscribe to your group's email update (on a daily or weekly basis) all of that valuable information and discussion-based material can be delivered direct to your in-box.

5. Lawyers are one of the professions which are traditionally dragged into technology. My real-life contacts from law firms are under-represented on Linked In and, those law firm contacts who are there, have the least active profiles.  As in-house counsel, I like to think we're more connected with the way the rest of business uses technology and we should prove to the professional community that lawyers can have a social (networking) life too!

And, if you're a lawyer who does embrace technology, Linked In is one of the venues where you'll come across other tech-savvy lawyers.

I'll see you on Linked In then: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/melaniejhatton

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Pick n' Mix



A corporate lawyer in private practice asked me recently, "What's it like to have just the one client then?"

"Not quite as simple as having just the one specialism," I replied. Because, when it comes to being an in-house lawyer, life is like a  box of chocolates pick n' mix.



As a sole in-house counsel, I don't have the luxury of a specialism. My employer relies on me to know just the right amount of law about any event which happens to affect it that day of the week (and sometimes not necessarily the "right amount of law" just "the right amount of knowledge generally"). So, that could be a dose of contractual drafting on a Monday, a dip into a property lease on a Tuesday, approving the HR policies on a Wednesday, a dose of contract drafting on a Thursday and a dabble in collecting debt on a Friday*. Although more often than not, its all of those things and then some on a Monday and the rest of the week continues in a consistently random manner.

*I always leave anything litigious to a Friday, I'm a non-contentious lawyer and, to me, opposing counsel seem much more inclined to strike a deal with less antagonism on a Friday than any other day of the week. This just happens to be my observation of the world of litigation, any litigators out there who concur or disagree can drop me a line. On a Friday please.

Anyway, the point is an in-house lawyer has to be prepared to deal with any type of issue which drops onto his or her desk and be able to choose the correct legal tool to conjure the solution required. We just need to get things done.

I've acclimatised to being a general commercial lawyer through a combination of in-house roles in different industry sectors and also a good grounding in the Commercial teams of a couple of private practice firms. I recall being a trainee in the Commercial team of a law firm, and on my first day in the seat I asked the outgoing trainee what type of work I could expect to do in the team, he replied "Well, if it doesn't fall into Corporate, Property or Litigation, you'll be doing it".

However, I think there's much more discipline to being a general commercial lawyer than that rather glib welcome to the Commercial team suggests, and Richard Russeth, author of the blog The Last Generalist, agrees.  Richard claims that the legal generalist is the new specialist. In his post More Sheriff Taylor Less Wyatt Earp, "Not a “jack of all trades, master of none” but a master of the breadth, height and depth of the law, its reason and its wisdom. She sees the forest. She sees the trees. She sees all the little pieces of the deal/business/environment, the mosaic they create, and, as a result, what needs to be done, the specialists needed, the knowledge to be tapped. She brings ethics, finesse and wisdom to her counsel. She is a counselor at law."

Liquorice allsorts anyone?

Branded Part 3: Roll up for the Round up!

2010 marks the beginning of the The UK Blawg Round Up, the UK Lawyers’ Blog of Blawgs. Its mission: to highlight the UK legal blogging scene and the players in it.

UK blogging lawyers are playing catch-up to our counterparts in the US, where the mighty Blawg Review is published weekly.  At present, the UK Blawg Round Up is published quarterly, and there have been 3 editions to date:

Its Not Blawg Review

New Beginnings

Midsummer Madness

I’m thrilled to announce that the 4th edition of the UK Blawg Roundup will be hosted by me. Due out 31 October, the theme will be, unsurprisingly, a Halloween Hoot!



If you’re a lawyer on the UK blogging scene, please submit your blog post for me to review via the Blog Carnival by 17 October.  I'm looking forward to reading all submissions and finding out more about you all.

The UK legal blogging (or blawging) is in its infancy and there really is no better time for home-grown legal bloggers to make their mark and establish a personal brand. So jump on board and get involved!.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Legal Department v. Sales Department: Round 1!

In my post, The Essential Tool-Kit for the In-house Lawyer, one of the contributors of an idea for an item to include in the kit mentioned the essential requirement of "an effigy of a sales manager to stick pins in".



Justified?

In each in-house legal position I've held there has been, without fail, a friction between the Legal team and the Sales & Marketing team.  The reason?  Our teams respective purposes within the company are diametrically opposed.

The job of Sales & Marketing:- to sell the company's products and services to as many customers as possible. This more often that not entails a burning desire on the part of the Sales & Marketing team to raise the expectations of the customer, consequently making the customer believe that the product or service is a whole lot more than it likely is, and at a great price to boot.

And the job of the Legal team:- to manage expectations, to manage risk.  To ensure that the customer knows exactly what they're buying, and at exactly what price too.

It's a battlefield at the best of times; and I pity any fresh-faced law graduate starting from the top of the ivory tower, when placed in front of an aggressive and experienced Sales Director at month-end intent on reaching his target.  However,  in my experience I've learned that there's no reason that the friction can't be a healthy friction.

The Defence?

The best Sales Director I've worked alongside was at a previous role I held in the package travel industry.  A highly-competitive industry, low margins, a pile 'em high sell 'em cheap mentality, and heaving with regulation particularly advertising regulation.  I say "worked alongside" this Sales Director because that's Rule 1 of working in-house: no matter which department of the company you're in, you're all on the same team.

This Sales Director knew his product and his target market inside out, but he also knew the law inside out too.  Which meant he tested me.  Every product, every promotion, every advertisement was pushed to the limits of what was legally acceptable.  It became apparent to me very quickly that it wasn't enough to simply say "you can't say that in the ad, its against such and such regulation": he knew the regulations word for word, he knew what the regulations did and didn't say, he knew every code of conduct on the subject, every discussion which led to the code of conduct being formulated, and every case bought to the attention of the ASA.  This guy knew his stuff! Which meant that I needed to know it better and more thoroughly than he did to stand my ground when it mattered most.  It was a great lesson in law and, more importantly, its practical application.

Opposing counsel?

They're not all like that and most dis-regard the law, or alternatively make up their own version of it.  But keep in mind Rule 1, and your battleground will become a more workable place to be.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Law Donut

I mentioned in Branded Part 2: Donuts and Carnivals, that I was pleased to be a contributor to the Law Donut blog.



My first post for that blog, Avoid April Showers, was a timely reminder for employers to regularly review their employment policies and contracts.  My most recent post for that blog, Licensed to thrill?, is another reminder for employers, but this time with reference to the different licences which are required in a workplace which plays music, television or radio whether for the benefit of its staff or customers.

There are more regular contributors to the Law Donut than me, and they successfully make the Law Donut an excellent source of know-how and discussion on the nitty-gritty of what law and regulation actually means for employers and small businesses.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Essential Tool-Kit for the In-House Lawyer

Throughout my experience as an in-house lawyer, I've had a requirement for the following 3 items over and above all else:

  1. A magic wand (to right wrongs and generally make things not the way they actually are)
  2. A crystal ball (to predict the future of course)
  3. A healthy stash of contracts that stretch to 2 sides of paper only (I don't know why, but when it comes to contracts, non-lawyers require them to be on 2 sides of paper only.  Its a mystical quality which seems to keep everyone warm, comfortable and happy about any situation with a potential legal repercussion. I'm happy to oblige.)


Today on Twitter, I decided to ask my fellow tweeting in-house lawyers what they considered to be the essential items they needed to get through a day in the life of an in-house lawyer.  I concurred with all of their replies, and  so I'm now pleased to reveal the Official Essential Tool-Kit for the In-House Lawyer:
  1. The three items mentioned above
  2. A time machine (presumably for situations where the magic wand and crystal ball fail to function as required)
  3. A pair of reality glasses to loan out to people as and when needed (so in reality, a huge stash of reality glasses)
  4. A "10 minute" gun to shoot someone and they die for 10 minutes (I'm thinking @gamingcounsel was having a particularly bad day when he suggested this item, and I'm sure he doesn't really mean to shoot any of his co-workers)
  5. An effigy of a sales manager to stick pins in (heck, we in-house lawyers are displaying a fair bit of pent up rage aren't we?  Although I could write several blog posts on the...hmmmm....challenges which arise between in-house legal and sales.  Yes we're all on the same "company team" but essentially our functions are diametrically opposed and always will be)
  6. Two large red stamps (a) APPROVED and (b) DENIED (interesting this one, anything I "deny" tends to land on my desk the next day in disguise if I'm lucky, if I'm unlucky, "denied" activities tend to happen anyway under the cover of darkness)
  7. A repeat button (must be hard wearing)


There were some behavioural and physical traits which were suggested as essential also:
  1. The patience of a saint
  2. A sense of humour
  3. Open eyes and ears (I took this to mean alertness.  Pro-plus and caffeine can assist with this)
  4. 2 feet and 2 hands (although it did strike me that if we were going to get this particular about the tool-kit, an extra pair of hands and feet and some "go faster" stripes are most definitely required)

Some of the more sensible suggestions also hit a chord, and there was a consistent message that in-house lawyers need:
  1. A quiet office (a haven, particularly for the in-house lawyer in an open-plan space shared primarily with non-lawyers who don't always share the same requirement for quiet review of papers or the keeping of matters confidential)
  2. A decent PC and a full complement of software and internet access
  3. Twitter!
  4. The internet (an absolute essential for lawyers operating without access to the informational resource of a traditional law firm library and professional support lawyer team)
  5. An accurate, complete and up to date contracts register recording all commercial agreements in the company (plus a paralegal to help run it)
  6. Trained co-workers with access to self-help guidance (working on the theory that a stitch in time saves nine)
  7. Black's Law Dictionary (I don't know what this is but mention of it it caused quite a stir amongst tweeters on the other side of the Atlantic)

Interestingly, no in-house lawyer mentioned either of the following:
  1. External counsel
  2. iPads (the one teccy item which is generating a huge amount of road-testing, blogging and commenting on by tech-savvy lawyers the world over at the moment)
Thank you to all of my fellow tweeting lawyers who took the time to share their thoughts with me today on this subject: @richard_russeth @philcylaw @jcasalmir @gamingcounsel @jamesbarnesesq @legalbizzle @jds @TM_Association @AlexandraHa @TMT_Lawyer

I'd love to hear from you if you have any experiences with items in the Essential Tool-Kit listed above or any other items to add to it.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Winner: Follow up on my Shameless Plug Post

It never rains, but it pours; two blog posts in one night after the drought that was May.

So, following up on my Shameless Plug & Follow Up post where I asked you all to click on the link to my blog post for Latitude in the hope that if it was the post with the most hits on the Latitude blog for that month then I would win the prize for the monthly blogging competition......drum roll.......well thank you all very much indeed,  I won!  Even better, an earlier blog post which I'd penned for Latitude and which I'd cunningly linked to in the first (I don't work for a digital marketing agency for nothing) came second.  I won again!



I have donated my winnings from the competition to Save the Children.

I'm a Specialist Plant

I recently realised that I've not blogged a blog post throughout the whole of May.  However, I do have a perfectly good scientific explanation for this.

I'm a specialist plant.



At least, my "preferred roles" are that of a specialist (law) and a plant (a creative ideas person).  More particularly, my "least preferred role" is that of a completer-finisher (..er...there's no easy way to say this, basically I prefer other people to sort out the detail, and I'll get on with the bigger picture).  This is unusual for a lawyer, most of us are archetypal completer-finishers (interested in painstaking detail).  Not me apparently.

In other words, I had an idea about how I could develop my specialism of law....this blog, and then during May (presumably while I had other ideas brewing) I must have assumed that someone else in Team Melanie would get on with the detail of the blog for me.  No such luck!

Well, at least  this is the explanation according to an analysis of my typical behaviours in a Belbin Team Role Profile.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Belbin, he was a Dr who, (not Dr Who, but a Dr who) with a team of researchers in the 1970's, set about observing and recording team behaviours, with a view to finding out why some teams worked effectively and some didn't (assuming a controlled set of resources).  The research identified 9 Team-Role behaviours, and through an incredibly simple set of psychometric questions identifies an individual's preferred, manageable and least-preferred team toles. To have a preference for or against a role is not wrong per se, and the theory does suggest "allowable weaknesses" for each role (for example the conscientious completer-finisher might be reluctant to delegate), but on the flip side, it also suggests weaknesses which if allowed to get out of hand would not be beneficial for the overall team good.

Like DISC (see my earlier post Disc World) Belbin theory is another tool which allows you to understand your own behaviour and those of others in your team.  It also helps team managers to not just build a team made up of a perfectly balanced set of 9 Team Role types, but identify where the potential gaps of behaviour in their team lie and to plan around that accordingly.

I was introduced to Belbin Team Role Theory by the very friendly and helpful Urquhart Partnership, or for more information you can go direct to http://www.belbin.com/.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Volcano Policy

Since the volcanic ash hit the skies of the UK, things have been getting a little dusty. With all those Britons stranded abroad, and at the end of the Easter holidays, this week there’ll have been a few empty desks across the offices of GB.


So employers, what’s your Volcano Policy? Will you require your employees stranded abroad to take the time off work as holiday, paid leave or unpaid leave? What lengths will your company go to return stranded staff back to the UK to increase the work force? Will it depend on whether those staff are currently stranded on business trips or personal trips abroad?

The issue for management of staff absence during Ashgate, are very similar to the issues faced by employers at the beginning of the year with Snowgate. Simple solution is to dust off your Snow Policies and re-brand them, Volcano Policy.

Job done.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Play the advantage

Working in the digital media industry I see first-hand every day the benefits to individuals and businesses from taking advantage of the newest technology, social media and web 2.0.  An industry was born of it, trailblazers lead it, those who participate in it are cutting-edge, engaged with their customers and reap the rewards.  They also have a bit of fun with it.




Hold on a minute….what was that you said?  What’s web 2.0?  Ah yes, social media it’s a risk isn’t it, you need rules to prevent your employees recklessly libelling their boss on Facebook. I don't give staff access to social media sites, its counter-productive.  I can’t Twitter, it would be a breach of confidentiality. Anyway, my firm has a website.

Sorry. I forgot. You’re a lawyer. Risk-averse.  You hear "social media". You think "policy". Go on, admit it.

So, I was delighted to read about this excellent symposium being organised by lawyers for lawyers.  It’s a fresh and quirky look at how technology is affecting the practice of law. Sessions include: “Up in the Air and the Cloud”,  Would Lincoln get Linked In? Or would he Tweet?” and, my personal favourite, “What’s your Avatar? How social media is changing the way we work and how to take advantage of it”.

If you're lucky enough to be attending this symposium, you just know you’re going to be able to listen to people excited about their subject and come away feeling inspired to get your personal lawyer brand online, out there and competing with the best of them.

Contrast those sessions with an in-house lawyer forum I’ve been invited to recently by a regional law firm. How could I not want to find out: “How to control social media in the workplace”, “How to prevent online defamation” and “How to control your risk online”. 

Yawn.

It gets worse.  An entirely separate conference I was invited to bears the ominous title “The Internet: What can go wrong and how to avoid it”.  It includes sessions entitled “An Online Survival Guide”, “Avoiding Problems” and “How to Perform a Legal Operation”. 

No, I don’t get the relevance of the last session either. But it’s a conference about the internet so….err…I guess it needs some scary sounding items that lawyers can warn their clients about.  Maybe the organiser got a byte from a mouse when he was younger. 

Anyway, I know which conference, I mean, symposium I’d rather be at.  Go on law firms, I dare you, when it comes to social media and web 2.0, be a trailblazer and get your profession excited about the possibilities new technology and media offer us; don’t blow the referee’s whistle, play the advantage.