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 ('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