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
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'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