Obelisk joins the #LondonIsOpen Trade Mission to Paris

On 23 October 2017, Obelisk and a dozen of London startups joined Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, on a trade delegation #LondonIsOpen to meet with French startups in Paris and map out commercial cooperation between both cities. As reported in Forbes, Obelisk embodies the spirit of London-based SMEs with ambitions to expand into new markets on the continent despite the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union in 2019. We caught up with Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support, the only lawyer part of the British delegation.

#1 What was the objective of the #LondonIsOpen event in Paris?

It was a follow-up to an earlier trip by Sadiq Khan in March 2017 when they launched a collaboration programme focused on establishing a network of global cities to help entrepreneurs develop their businesses across different markets. Obelisk was part of this previous trip too.

 #2 Who was present in London and in Paris?

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, took 12 businesses with him to meet facilitators, as well as corporates, interested in working with U.K. businesses. We met with global French companies such as L’Oréal and BNP Paribas, as well as the French representatives of multinationals, such as Johnson & Johnson.

 #3 What did you learn during the event?

The trip confirmed that London has some really exciting tech businesses that are very scalable, but that when scaling internationally, there is always a need for localisation. This was something that the COO of Trainline, Mark Brooker, highlighted in his presentation.

There are some really great partners businesses can rely on – take the Eurostar, for example, whose CEO Nicolas Petrovic joined us on the trip. They connect the E.U. and Britain and they are committed to collaboration across the channel.

#4 How can Obelisk inspire other professionals considering doing business with France?

France has an increasingly dynamic startup scene, as well as some really large, global multinationals. The new government also seems to be undertaking structural reforms which should make operating in France easier and cheaper for British companies British SMEs should continue to be bold and seek new business opportunities beyond our borders. France seems like a logical first step, being both a geographical neighbour and established commercial partner. Plus, the rise of Paris as a technology hub is very exciting news for businesses with a tech angle like ours.

 #5 Why is Paris an important business partner for the legal industry?

France is a major economy and has some very large global companies that are facing increased volumes of work. Cost control and a need for flexibility in delivery is important to them, so there is a good opportunity for a business like ours, supporting legal services as the work flow increases.

#6 Tell us about an anecdote that illustrates the event

I loved the fact that a good chunk of the mission happened on the train to Paris. As we had nowhere to go, it took away from the pressure of meeting new people and made connecting with the delegation easier.
As we were all so engrossed in speed mentoring and meeting the Mayor, lunch was served in a brown paper bag – but it included a most delicious chocolate cake – a winner!

 #7 What are your next steps at Obelisk?

Booking a trip to Paris soon is for sure a next step to follow up on meetings and lessons learnt. The year 2018 should see Obelisk France set up and running.

News Obelisk In Action

Women in Legal Tech

In October, Legal Geek will be holding the world’s first conference on LawTech; aimed at connecting LawTech startups and technology with investors.

In the run-up to the conference, the Legal Geek MeetUp group kickstarted their Women in Law Tech series, which was started to “showcase, promote, and inspire women in the new emerging Law Tech space.” We went along to find out what it was all about.

After everyone was warmed up with Legal Geek’s new take on speed-dating (where each attendee attempted to meet as many of the others as possible within 7 minutes), they were treated to a 15-minute talk by CrowdJustice‘s Business Development Manager Rushika Paulas. CrowdJustice is a social enterprise tech law service, aimed at leveraging their amazing technology to make justice more accessible for everyone. The talk was particularly powerful given recent cuts to legal aid in the UK. The Obelisk delegates at the MeetUp were inspired by CrowdJustice’s aims and the potential for global scalability – making justice accessible for more people the world over.

Following another inspiring talk, this time on ‘innovation’, by Clare Dundon of Hogan Lovells, the evening wrapped up with Toby Unwin from Premonition. Premonition is the only company that analyses attorneys by win-rate.

“Premonition recently did a study into the courtroom win rates of males vs female lawyers. The women wiped the floor with the men…”

Toby also mentioned that women woking in litigation – particularly in the US – have a double glass ceiling to break, in terms of getting into the stream of study itself, and then in progressing through the ranks. Furthermore, Premonition’s data showed that women outperformed men every time on number of cases won (win-rate) but were rarely represented at partner level.

All in all, the Women in LawTech series got off to a great start with an interesting and enjoyable evening, and a diverse group of professionals including software engineers, entrepreneurs and lawyers wanting to engage with the tech in their respective firms.

Media News

Silicon Valley is where ideas are ‘made’

“Great idea, shame about the execution” might sound like a platitude to most. In business, poor execution is without fail the death stroke that eventually leads to its demise. “Operational rigour”, as Sheryl Sandberg told us, is needed to support a business.

What struck me in last week’s immersion into Silicon Valley, part of the Mayor of London’s #femalefounders visit there with SVC2UK, was that no idea was “too big” to be turned into reality here. In fact, the place seems to make it its business to amplify ideas to the point that they envelop the world. Where else, as one of our hosts, venture capitalist and ex-lawyer David Hornik of August Capital, put it, can you find this density of businesses that have achieved global acceptance and domination – Apple, Linkedin, Google, Facebook, Uber – all within a few blocks’ of each other? They are all household names, a status they achieved in a short period of time (from Apple’s 40 years to Uber’s – frightfully – 5!).

What is the magic “Silicon Valley” ingredient that turns ideas into such fantastic companies? The answer seems to be simple – the concentration of expertise in Silicon Valley has no equal on the planet. The place eats, sleeps and breaths entrepreneurship. Everyone we met – from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, to Eventbrite’s Julia Harz or Google’s Obi Felten – confirmed a local culture that is infectious in building businesses at scale. Why? Because they believe that a business fails not only by missing targets, but by not setting goals that are ambitious enough. And the money and skills are there to give these ideas wings.

An idea by itself has no value in business – this is why it is impossible to lay rights to an idea and legally protect it. Silicon Valley in it’s entirety is a workshop full of the varied skills you need to build those ideas into products and services the world wants to buy. It is the fearlessness of the place that’s impressive – it always looks to build at scale from the outset. Everyone – entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, technologists – are not afraid to place their bets on new ideas that might just take over the world. With each new idea that succeeds, the bar is raised and all those involved in that success story rally behind the new one and help make it desirable for the market.

The conclusion of my whirlwind visit is clear: if you think big, take your ideas to be ‘made’ in the workshop that is Silicon Valley.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Media News

An Interview with Dana in Legal IT Insider

Legal IT Insider, the leading media, information and communications channel for legal technology interviewed Obelisk CEO Dana Denis-Smith on the company’s history of impressive growth and the technology advances that made innovation in the legal employment market possible.

As part of Legal IT Insider’s “An Interview With…” series, Dana spoke to editor Caroline Hill to explain some of the most interesting recent changes in the Legal sector, and where she thinks it’s heading.

Read the full article here.

Media News

Obelisk awarded gold for ‘creative excellence’ at Legal Innovation Awards 2016

Obelisk Support – 27/05/2016

Obelisk is celebrating today after being crowned Marketing Innovator 2016 at this year’s Legal Innovation Awards. The award specifically acknowledged Obelisk’s marketing efforts with its community news and advice platform The Attic.

The awards are open to law firms, in-house teams and alternative providers of legal support such as Obelisk, and are designed to “celebrate creative excellence in the legal sector”.

Today’s win builds on Obelisk’s success at last year’s Legal Innovation Awards, when Dana-Denis Smith, the founder and CEO of Obelisk Support, was crowned the first ever ‘Outstanding Legal Innovator’ by Legal Week Magazine.

Speaking after the awards today Dana Denis-Smith said: “I am really thrilled that Obelisk has won here again at the Legal Innovation Awards. Winning is great, but to keep on winning and to keep on impressing such a senior panel of judges and legal experts is very special. This award shows Obelisk is doing the right thing – building a legal business based on creative excellence – and it shows we are building on our solid foundations year on year.”

“Creating change in any walk of life takes time and effort. Creating change in the legal sector, and setting out to make work ‘work’ for women and mothers, was always going to be a tough challenge. But as our business grows and more and more women return to work on their terms, every day at Obelisk is worthwhile. We’re a business with a social purpose. We’re a business with a successful model. And we’re a business that keeps on winning awards, which feels great. I’d like to thank all the judges for recognising what we are doing at Obelisk and for their on-going support.”

This year Obelisk had to impress an independent judging panel made up of many senior figures from across the legal sector, such as Dame Janet Gaymer, former Senior Partner at Simmons and Simmons; Peter Kurer, former GC and Chairman of UBS; and Sue Hall former COI at Linklaters.

Obelisk was shortlisted in four key categories; Marketing Innovation, Diversity Innovation, Human Resources Innovation and Supplier Innovation.

This latest award comes just weeks after Obelisk was named by The Times newspaper as one of the Top 50 Employers for Women in the UK. And this week Dana Denis-Smith was selected to travel to Silicon Valley to meet the people behind the world’s greatest tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Uber and LinkedIn.

Obelisk has been identified as one of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK – and the only one from the legal sector. The trip to Silicon Valley – which was organised by the Mayor of London’s International Business Programme and the British Consulate in San Francisco – gave Denis-Smith the opportunity to expand Obelisk into the US market through new technology and investment.

London-based Obelisk provides professional outsourcing to in-house legal teams and major law firms. The founding principle behind the business is to re-engage highly skilled lawyers who leave the profession to raise families. Through Obelisk, lawyer parents choose the hours they want to work, giving them the flexibility they need to combine careers with family life. By bringing her innovation to the legal sector, Denis-Smith has created a triple-win formula for Obelisk’s clients, lawyers and their families.

Obelisk was established in 2010 with a team of just four lawyers. Today the company has 800 lawyers on its books and a multi-million pound turnover. Clients include BT, Goldman Sachs and Thomson Reuters.
Denis-Smith said: “As an innovator dedicated to creating positive social change in the legal sector I always seek to find new and exciting ways to make work ‘work’ for our clients, our lawyers and their families. Having this social purpose behind our business is what inspires me, and with more success at this year’s Legal Innovation Awards, it’s clearly inspiring for the legal sector too.”

For more details, photography or to interview Dana Denis-Smith please call Scott Jones, Head of PR at Obelisk Support on 07875 943404.


Celebrating Chinese New Year at Obelisk

The celebrations for Chinese New Year begin on February 8 – kick-starting a host of dragon dances, family reunions and decorations, with one colour dominating the proceedings; red.

Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year looks back on, and forward to, another twelve months of hard work and productivity. After all the effort that you have put in, Chinese New Year is a way to celebrate your success and relax with your family.

And, looking forward, the festival brings you the luck you need to enjoy another productive and prosperous new year.

In China, people believe that a feel good factor at the start of the new year will bring about another good year.

The tradition comes from China’s farming history, when people celebrated the end of the farming year and looked forward to the next good harvest.

Today, Chinese New Year marks the start of a new business year, with business owners and entrepreneurs wishing that productivity and profits will rise in the twelve months ahead.

At Obelisk, we love and support this celebration of both family and work. As a business dedicated to making work work for our clients, our consultants and their families, the values of Chinese New Year chime perfectly with our own.

Looking ahead to 2016, Obelisk is wishing for more great things after a very productive 2015. Last year, growth went up by 200%, Obelisk made The Times Top 50 Employers for Women, Dana Denis-Smith – Obelisk’s founder and CEO – was named Innovator of 2015 by Legal Week and the business won Investors In People. So, let’s celebrate family and work and all the rewards they bring.

“Happy Chinese New Year” from Obelisk.

Chinese New Year Sayings:

Xīnnián hǎo and Guònián hǎo – Happy New Year

Hóunián jíxiáng – good luck for this Monkey year

Héjiā xìngfú – happiness for the whole family

Shìyè yǒuchéng – success in your career


2016: The Year of the Monkey

The Chinese Zodiac is made up twelve animals; rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, rooster, dog, pig and monkey. Every year, Chinese New Year is symbolized by one of these animals. 2016 is the year of the Monkey. This has special significance for people born in 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 and 2016.

People born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be quick-witted, curious, innovative and mischievous. They are smart and clever – and often enjoy successful careers and wealthy lifestyles. They are lively, flexible and versatile – with skills people envy and a level of gentleness and honesty that often brings them everlasting love. (They sound like the perfect Obelisk consultant …) But, just when it was starting to sound too good, they’re superhuman. People born in the year of the Monkey do ‘have their moments’ and their downside. They have a temper, tend to look down on others and can be suspicious, selfish and jealous. And if that isn’t bad enough, the year of the Monkey is also known as one of the unluckiest years in the entire Chinese calendar. So, to compensate for the ‘lack of luck’ that Monkeys can endure, Obelisk has pulled together some lucky superstitions for those people born in the 1968, or 1980, or 1992.

  • Your lucky numbers: 1, 7 and 8 bring good luck to Monkeys
  • Your lucky colours: white, gold and blue. Do these colours match with your wardrobe?
  • Your lucky flowers: chrysanthemum and alliums
  • Your lucky directions: north, northwest and west. Follow these lucky directions and you’ll get straight to our offices in Farringdon in no time.

What animal are you?

Match the year you were born in to the animal in the Chinese Zodiac.

Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Personality is key to standing out, both at work and in the family. But this doesn’t mean being ‘loud’ or the life and soul of the party. It means being both human and productive – helping you and your family to prosper, at home and at work.

So, according to Chinese New Year, what personality do you have? And do you recognise yourself in the profiles below?

Rat: Intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, charming, artistic, sociable.
Ox: Loyal, reliable, thorough, strong, reasonable, steady, determined.
Tiger: Enthusiastic, courageous, ambitious, leadership, confidence, charismatic.
Rabbit: Trustworthy, empathic, modest, diplomatic, sincere, sociable, caretakers.
Dragon: Lucky, flexible, eccentric, imaginative, artistic, spiritual, charismatic.
Snake: Philosophical, organized, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive, decisive.
Horse: Adaptable, loyal, courageous, ambitious, intelligent, adventurous, strong.
Sheep: Tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, calm.
Rooster: Honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, confident.
Dog: Loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable, smart.
Pig: Honorable, philanthropic, determined, optimistic, sincere, sociable.


Try our Classic Chinese New Year Recipe; Chow Mein

Try our Classic Chinese New Year Recipe; Chow Mein

Chinese New Year is the perfect time for families to reunite and get together. So, here’s our classic Chinese recipe for you and your family to try at home, as you gather to celebrate and look forward to 2016.

Chow Mein is a classic Chinese dish, made with stir-fried egg noodles and shredded chicken breast. You can experiment with different fish, meat or vegetables.


  • 225g dried or fresh egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil, plus 1 tsp
  • 100g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into fine shreds
  • 2½ tbsp groundnut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 50g mangetout, finely shredded
  • 50g Parma ham or cooked ham, finely shredded
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry Sherry
  • ½ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • ½ tsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 spring onions

For the marinade;

  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry Sherry
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp freshly ground white pepper

How to prepare;

Cook the noodles in a large pan of boiling water for 3-5 mins, then drain and put them in cold water. Drain thoroughly, toss them with 1 tbsp of the sesame oil and set aside.

Combine the chicken with all the marinade ingredients and ½ tsp salt, mix well and then leave to marinate for about 10 mins.

Heat a wok over a high heat. Add 1 tbsp of the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the chicken shreds. Stir-fry for about 2 mins and then transfer to a plate. Wipe the wok clean. Reheat the wok until it is very hot, then add the remaining groundnut oil. When the oil is slightly smoking, add the garlic and stir-fry for 10 secs. Then add the mangetout and ham, and stir-fry for about 1 min.

Add the noodles, soy sauces, rice wine or Sherry, pepper, sugar, spring onions and 1 tsp salt. Stir-fry for 2 mins. Return the chicken and any juices to the noodle mixture. Stir-fry for about 3-4 mins or until the chicken is cooked. Add 1 tsp sesame oil and give the mixture a few final stirs. Put on a warm platter and serve immediately.


A dozen Do’s and Don’ts for Chinese New Year

A dozen Do’s and Don’ts for Chinese New Year

Don’t take medicine. You will be ill for the whole year!

Don’t eat porridge for breakfast. Only poor people have porridge for breakfast, and starting the new year as ‘poor’ is a bad omen.

Don’t wash your clothes. This applies to the first and second day of Chinese New Year, which celebrate the birthday of Shuishen the Water God.

Don’t wash your hair. In Chinese, the word for ‘hair’ and ‘to become wealthy’ sound the same, so avoid ‘washing your fortune away’.

Don’t use sharp objects. Avoid knives and scissors as any accidents at the start of Chinese New Year are seen as a sign of potential failure and you losing some of your wealth over the next twelve months.

Don’t leave the house, if you are a woman. You will be plagued with bad luck for the whole year if you don’t stay indoors. And married daughters are not allowed to visit their parents; this brings bad luck to the family.

Don’t sweep the house. You will sweep your wealth away too.

Don’t make your child unhappy. Children crying brings bad luck, so parents do their best to make their children as happy as possible. (Not even more screen time?)

Don’t run out of rice. If you can’t cook during Chinese New Year this is another bad omen for the year ahead.

Don’t wear worn out clothes. Rags don’t lead to riches. Wearing old clothes on Chinese New Year could bring about financial hardship in 2016.

Do stay up late and party. Eat, drink and be merry with friends and family. And let off fireworks to scare off evil spirits, especially Nian, the New Year monster.

Do give people gifts. But not clocks, scissors or pears.


Did you Know? Obelisk’s Top Ten Chinese New Year Facts

Obelisk’s Top Ten Chinese New Year Facts

  1. Chinese New Year dates back 4,000 years
  2. The largest celebration outside of China takes place in London
  3. The Chinese use fireworks to keep evil spirits away – especially Nian, the New Year monster
  4. Red is the official colour of Chinese New Year. Look out for the lanterns
  5. The Dragon Dance – for many people the symbol of China – brings good luck to people, but after the dance is over the dragon’s head and tail are burnt
  6. At Chinese New Year, people give money to children, in envelopes called Red Packets
  7. The date for Chinese New Year changes each year but always falls between January 20 and February 21, depending on the Chinese Lunar Year
  8. 20% of the world’s population celebrate Chinese New Year – with 1.3 billion people in China enjoying a three-day public holiday
  9. The festival – especially the dinner on New Year’s Eve – is an opportunity to reconcile and reunite with people
  10. Each year, Chinese New Year has a symbol. In 2016, it is the Year of the Monkey.