Obelisk In Action

Here’s to 2015 – A Good Year

Like a good bottle of red wine, Obelisk Support just gets better and better with age. And like a healthy baby, we are constantly learning, developing and taking bigger and braver steps. Ever since we set out five years ago, despite economic downturns and the usual reluctance to change – especially in a sector defined by traditions – our innovative concept and inspiring company has enjoyed continued success. And as you know, here at Obelisk we judge success by much more than just the 200% growth, year on year. But I must say, 2015 has been special – a golden year for Obelisk – with successes in so many areas.

That’s why we’ve made this short video, celebrating what we’ve achieved together over the last 12 months – you, me and everyone within the Obelisk family. With momentum like this, we’re all really looking forward to 2016. So, thank you – for making Obelisk such a success, and 2015 such a good year. Enjoy the video … it flies by, just like 2015 really.

Women in Law

Diversity at the Bar

As an experienced ex-barristers’ clerk it struck me that there was an important omission from the recent list of ‘Snapshot’ recommendations, namely that there should be greater dialogue with the solicitors branch of the profession to promote awareness and to encourage diversity in the procurement of the services of the Bar. They are ultimately in the driving seat when it comes to the allocation of work, certainly more so than the clerks. It would be interesting to explore whether law firms keep any diversity data in relation to the instruction of counsel. I suspect not and my quick exploration of this question on Twitter revealed no awareness of this practice.

I hope the Bar Council takes note and takes the initiative pursuing this important avenue.

Snapshot recommendations are that the Bar needs to:

1. Encourage and facilitate mentoring of junior women by senior women – particularly around building a practice and establishing working relationships with clerks.

2. Facilitate access to business advice/coaching on developing a sustainable practice better able to withstand and support career breaks and more flexible working associated with having a family.

3. Establish more senior and visible female role models.

4. Promote women’s marketing networks for barristers, and specifically focused on developing relationships with professional clients.

5. Create support networks (i) of working parents at the Bar as a source of advice/guidance around return to work, childcare, flexible working etc.; (ii) of women at the Bar for other women in the profession.

6. Extend the Bar Nursery to the Circuits

7. Encourage a better gender balance on key decision-making committees within chambers.

Women in Law

Are you shore?

News continues to emerge of large commercial law firms setting up low cost “near-shoring” centres as well as their own flexible resourcing operations. The idea, presumably, is to be able to carry out lower value work at a lower cost, freeing up the more costly resources to do higher value work. By “more costly resources”, we’re probably talking associates (and possibly more junior partners).

It follows that these associates have over the years being doing lower value work than perhaps they ought to have done. More significantly, if these alternative models are successful in achieving their objectives then the result will be less work for them.

This tempts the question how will this work be replaced? I’m sure the aim will be to win more high value work, but as more and more firms adopt this model it will become the norm, not a differentiator. They can’t all increase their share of a finite market.

How then will firms adapt to this self-inflicted work redistribution conundrum? Will they reduce hourly billing targets – and corresponding revenue – to more civilised levels? Will we see pay cuts? Or even redundancies?

It seems unlikely that high value work will cascade down from partner level, unless the plan is to free partners to do more “rainmaking”. Of course, more and more firms are also increasing their specialist business development teams, doing the rainmaking at a much lower cost than partners.

I can see the law firm of the future being less top-heavy, with partners not being judged on rainmaking or hours billed, but on the ability to effectively and profitably select, deploy, manage and nurture teams of lawyers, both internal and external, while progressively building the firm for the future. I’d suggest this is a more healthy strategy for the individual, the firm and the effectiveness of the market.

As firms follow the crowd and join the queue to set up their near-shoring and flexible resourcing operations, you have to wonder whether they are really looking any further ahead than the firm in front of them.