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And the winner is…congratulations to the top photographers in our 1st Global Law Photography competition!

Last night (10th July) saw us announce the winners of the 1st Global Law Photography competition, themed around climate change. 

The judging panel, led by Marcus Jamieson-Pond, photographer and former CSR Manager,  was impressed not only by the quality of all the photographs submitted but also by the accompanying stories explaining their significance. As well as being inspired by the thinking and creativity of the competition entrants, our audience at Lexis House was privileged to hear from Peter Barnett, climate litigation lawyer at ClientEarth.  As an NGO working at the cutting edge of climate change, ClientEarth are using the law to fight the climate crisis and show the true power of lawyers to drive change in this area. Obelisk Support were delighted to raise funds for ClientEarth, as well as raising awareness of their work in this area.

Our thanks go to LexisNexis, home of the LexisPSL Environment service, who were supporters of this initiative and hosted the presentation evening.

Here are the three top photographs and our winners’ stories:

Winner – Magdalena Bakowska


This photo represents the spectacular Namib desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world, to draw attention to the problem of global warming and water shortages, so common in this region. Arid regions of southern Africa, although beautiful, are particularly exposed to further drying. The region is said to be one of the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and having less natural capacity to adapt to such impact, although, ironically, African nations are considered to have contributed the least to the problem of global warming.

Namibia’s climate is, in general, dry and hot, with already irregular rainfall patterns. As a result of climate change, the country, which is highly dependent on climate sensitive natural resources, is predicted to become even hotter, leading to aridification.

Highly-Commended – Camilla Bindra-Jones

Highly commended

All week concerns were expressed by SpringWatch for the fledglings under watch. Strong winds unusual for England in June came as predicted & scattered the precious cargo.  I felt the parents sorrow & placed their children in a row. I know not why I took a photo & felt a need to bury them but maybe it was to stay the busyness of the world. Death makes us wish to turn back time; our recently awakened awareness of climate change calls us to a state of mindfulness.  We must stand together and do as much as we can to try to stay the damage of us in time past.The swallows have nested in the open garages since 1993. The numbers arriving this year were reduced by around 70 per cent. It was this fact, along with the unusually strong winds that made the loss of the fledglings additionally upsetting.

Commended – Lauren Bruce


This photo was taken at the Solheimasandur plane wreck in Southern Iceland. Airplanes have a huge environmental impact, both the pollution when flying and in the environmental destruction of a crash. Strangely this crash site had been repurposed as a tourist attraction, juxtaposed against the natural beauty of its surroundings.

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Obelisk Collaborates with CMS on New Flexible Service Offer

Obelisk is proud to announce a formal partnership with top law firm CMS UK, as part of a wider CMS programme to offer flexible legal solutions to their clients and lawyers. One of the fastest-growing companies in Europe, Obelisk has become the go-to resource for legal teams that require flexible legal support, and partnering with CMS introduces a new development in Obelisk’s global plan. By becoming a strategic partner of CMS, Obelisk opens up new opportunities to Obelisk consultants who want to work flexibly, helping them deliver high-quality legal services to one of the largest law firms in the world.

Lawyers come to Obelisk’s talent pool to have more control over the type of work they undertake, greater flexibility to manage their time and workload, and importantly more exposure to a variety of work and practice areas. Being part of the CMS service offering can give them access to challenging assignments and fulfilling roles in a new environment.

Indeed, to tackle innovation in the legal sphere, CMS launched CMS by Design, a dedicated group within CMS that leads the development of legal service delivery and technology. What is different about CMS by Design is that it is not all about tech – it brings together people, knowledge and technology to deliver great solutions for clients efficiently and in a way that enables people to grow, learn, and be fulfilled.

Obelisk and CMS share the same values and commitment to quality, flexibility and inclusion. CMS will augment their teams with Obelisk’s people for mutual learning and development and for their clients’ benefit. To demonstrate how the relationship works in practice, CMS recently had an Obelisk consultant, Hannah, work on a project on a flexible basis, and another has just started to support the procurement team of the firm.

Hannah says: “I enjoyed working with CMS. They were very friendly and welcoming when I met them at their London office at the start of the project I was involved with. They clearly embrace modern flexible working practices as I was able to do all my work for them remotely. They also mentioned that a lot of their fee earners work from home at least one day per week.

I found the team ethos genuinely collaborative and very human, which meant we could all work together to achieve the best result. They brought in both legal and IT consultants for the project, so seem very open to using external resource when needed.”

Dana Denis-Smith, CEO and Founder of Obelisk Support, says: “We are looking forward to working with a like-minded leading business. Through this partnership with CMS, Obelisk can continue to drive positive change in the legal profession, share thinking and best practice, and support our consultants as they embrace new ways of operating that will allow them to flourish. I am excited that this collaboration allows our organisations to continue to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, flexibility and excellence.”

CMS’ Head of Innovation and Legal Operations, John Craske, who leads the CMS by Design Mix offering, comments: “This is an exciting opportunity for our businesses to work together to support clients and leverage our respective capabilities and strengths. Obelisk operates a unique flexible working model, allowing us to tap into their diverse talent pool as and when we need to. Having this additional resource will significantly strengthen our ability to service our clients and deliver innovative solutions on a large variety of client needs and transactions, no matter the complexity or size.”

The firms are also working together to develop a coordinated approach to women returners, building on CMS’ participation as a founding firm in the Reignite Academy and on other potential projects to support CMS’ work allocation and resource management approach.

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Legal500 Award for Obelisk CEO, Dana Denis-Smith

The year 2019 starts on a high note for Obelisk Support CEO and founder of The First 100 Years project, Dana Denis-Smith, after 2018 saw her voted LexisNexis Legal Personality of the Year. On 6 February 2019, she received an Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services prize from the Legal 500. The Legal 500 UK Awards recognise and reward the best in-house and private practice teams and individuals, with over 50,000 interviews conducted to ascertain the winners.

Taking place the same evening as the 20th anniversary reception of LegalWeek by Hyde Park (which we at Obelisk Support also attended), the Legal500 UK Awards in the heart of the City of London was a great gathering of ‘winners’ and got together the key players in the sector – across the profession from in-house to law firms and barristers chambers – for a night of celebration.

Gender Equality in the Legal Profession

At the Legal500 UK Awards 2019 last night, the Legal500 made a public commitment to the promotion of diversity in their rankings and encouraged firms in the room to put forward more women and people from minority backgrounds for consideration.

Legal500 UK Editor, Georgina Stanley, said that if firms do not put forward women and people from minority backgrounds then they “risk being an echo chamber for the status quo”. In an industry where gender balance remains a big issue, all of us legal professionals also serve as role models for future generations of women.

They showed their support for the centenary of women in the legal profession this year by awarding all the Outstanding Achievement Awards to women: Penelope Warne (CMS), Julia Salasky (CrowdJustice), Nilufer von Bismarck (Slaughter and May), Sharon White (Stephenson Harwood), Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia LVO (Payne Hicks Beach), Sandra Wallace (DLA Piper), and Dana Denis-Smith of Obelisk Support and the First 100 Years project.

Interestingly, all the awards for women were given by men. Surely, an area to improve on in the future.

Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services: Dana Denis-Smith

Every member of the audience received a booklet upon arrival listing 2019 winners, booklet which included a feature on the women being recognised for their outstanding achievements in legal services. This is what the feature on Dana Denis-Smith read:

“As the founder and CEO of Obelisk Support and as the founder of the First 100 Years project, Dana Denis-Smith has put her desire to help women succeed in law at the core of her professional life. The former lawyer and journalist founded Obelisk Support in 2010 to help City lawyers – especially mothers –to work flexibly around their family and other commitments, while simultaneously providing businesses with flexible access to lawyers. The company now serves clients including BT and Goldman Sachs. In 2014, she founded the First 100 Years project to chart the history of women in law and celebrate their achievements. 2019 marks 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was enacted, allowing women to enter the professions.”  

Reflecting on her award, Dana Denis-Smith says, “I was extremely pleased that the Legal500 put the spotlight on women in law and was very honoured to be in the company of some incredible women leaders of the last 25 years.”

Legal500 Award Ceremony

Legal 500 Award Ceremony 2019

This year’s Legal 500 award took place in the magnificent 14th-century Great Hall of Guildhall in London, a medieval jewel of architecture with stained glass windows. The turnout was fantastic, a lot of smiles and tinkering glasses. The Legal 500 team took the stage expressing how we should promote diversity within our legal teams, especially individuals from BAME backgrounds.

Partner Charity: Save the Children

Legal 500 awards

It was a delight to have the Legal500’s partner charity, Save the Children at the awards. The silent auction included a Darth Vader portrait as well as a £400 red wine set (lawyers know their wines), and whoever contributed to the charity could see how their contributions helped the children thanks to a virtual reality stand showcasing real-time contributions. It was truly a heart warming and eye-opening experience.

2019 Winners

We were thrilled to see familiar names in the cohort of 2019 winners, including many clients such as Linklaters in Corporate/Commercial, Goldman Sachs in Banking, BT in CSR & Employment, Ocado and ASOS in Retail and O2 Telefonica in Telecoms.
We were also very proud to see names associated with Obelisk Support’s partner charity, The First 100 Years, including Sandie Okoro of the World Bank.

Congratulations to them!

For a full list of winners, click here.

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Our Favourite Books For 2018

Like in 2017, the whole team at Obelisk Support is contributing to a 2018 book review to inspire your future reads. Each one of us was asked to nominate one (or more) books or blogs they had really enjoyed reading in 2018 and to explain why they recommend it. We hope that you will find this list enjoyable and that through our book recommendations, you will get to know us a little bit better. In our own words, here are our favourite 2018 reads.


At the start of the year, I read Shami Chakrabarti’s book called Of Women – looking at the status of women throughout the world and how gender inequality is the biggest inequality over any other around the globe. Not exactly a laugh a minute, but really interesting! Otherwise I enjoyed light witty autobiographies like Sarah Millican’s How to be champion which is just daft but fun and nice before going to sleep.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a book by Yuval Noah Harari and The Internationalists: And Their Plan to Outlaw War by Oona Hathaway.


On the book reads for 2018 – would you believe me if I told you that I have not finished reading a single book that I started this year 🙄 which when I think about it, is actually a great way to sum up the year that I have had and how I’m feeling generally!

If I could recommend books, they would be Becoming by Michelle Obama, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.


How hard can it be? by Allison Pearson is an easy read that has plenty of laughs, but at the same time touches on some very real challenges of dealing with ageism, ageing parents, living with teenagers and re-engaging as a working parent. As the main character, Kate Reddy’s life seems particularly hectic compared to most people I know, but perhaps this makes more of an entertaining holiday read. She makes some great observations about family life and has hilarious descriptions for some of the things that happen to her. This book is a sequel to her first novel, “I Don’t Know How She Does.”


My fav 2 books I have read this year- Familiar Strangers by Callum Noad -really enjoyed reading this because I had no idea what was going to happen next, although its a bit far-fetched! (also- the author is my friend and I had no idea he was good at writing, I was really impressed!). The other book is called The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Bar– it’s sad at times but also really heartwarming.


I finally got around to reading The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, the story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski earlier this year. Antonia and her husband Jan, proprietors of Warsaw Zoo during the Second World War, are two ordinary people who carried out acts of real heroism at great personal risk to themselves. The book does more than simply bring that human story of resilience to life, it also goes into great detail about the ideology and use of scientific and sociological reasoning that led to that awful dark time in history and how ordinary humans can also be convinced to endorse and carry out the most inhuman acts. Some of the detail about animal species is quite lengthy, so if it’s not an area of interest your mind could wander, but I felt it created an apt jarring effect against the descriptions of horror that were frequently happening around them.


Silence: In the Age of Noise by Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge made me think about the meaning of noise and silence in our busy lives. I had never thought of inner silence as the key of happiness or silence as a means to communicate with others, but the author does raise some very interesting points. Having climbed Everest and trekked solo to the South Pole, he knows a thing or two about silence and his thesis is quite inspiring in a ‘less is more’ way if you are looking for ways to find peace within yourself. For a more uplifting read, I really enjoyed The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden, the first book in a 5-book series about the life of Gaius Julius Caesar. It’s strong on world building and as a result, scenes set in Ancient Rome feel quite authentic. It’s also a lively (if not completely historically accurate) portrayal of a society where gladiators, slaves and citizens shared the same land with very different rights (or absence of rights).


I loved Third World Child: Born White, Zulu Bred by GG Alcock recently. GG Alcock and his brother Rauri grew up on the bank of the Tugela River in Msinga in rural KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and this book is about growing up in a rural South African community and moving to the city.


War on Peace by Ronan Farrow is an insightful book that draws on access to high-level people in the know.


Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox is a fun book to read on cold or rainy days inside. It is a must for those wanting to get a better understanding of unspoken rules of English behaviour. Kate Fox offers light-hearted yet insightful observations of the English culture and habits. What an enjoyable read!


Surprisingly, I haven’t read a book this year (not that I can recall anyway). Instead my goals have be focussed on self development, motivation and a bit of zen. A healthy mind starts with a healthy body and I’ve found vegetarian food blog Naturally Ella helpful. What I like about the blog is the option to “Explore an Ingredient” and finding healthy recipes for it, handy when you have the extra sweet potato lying around.


A book I loved recently was Snap by Belinda Bauer. An easy to read crime novel with a great story and some fabulous characters. I’m also enjoying my cookery book – Made in India by Meera Sodha – it’s a gorgeous book with lovely inspiring photos and the recipes are easy to follow and very delicious.


The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult is a great story around an horrific subject, beautifully written by a great writer.




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Obelisk: Diversity Leader in the FT Future 100 UK

When the Financial Times names diversity leaders, it’s an industry recognition that’s worth a million dollars because corporate speak and advertising don’t buy that. In other words, it matters and it also goes a long way in rewarding companies that make a positive difference in society — often behind the scenes.

On 24 September 2018, Obelisk Support joined the inaugural FT Future 100 UK list as a diversity leader and we are proud to announce that we were the only legal company part of the list.

How does the FT choose diversity leaders?

To make it into this first edition of the FT Future 100 UK, businesses had to excel in one of four categories:

  • Environmental,
  • Social and governance (ESG) policies,
  • Promoting diversity,
  • Disrupting their industry.

Obelisk Support, along with 18 other companies, was recognised as a diversity leader after a two-step process – first, data and written submissions screened by a judging panel including corporate and research experts, then a judging meeting led by FT journalists.

Obelisk Support had already been recognised in the FT 1000 as one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies in April 2018. Being selected to the FT Future 100 UK a few months later shows that honesty, fairness, respect, diversity and gender balance has been crucial to Obelisk’s success as a business. Diversity and inclusion are party of our ethos at Obelisk and this is all the more relevant when we are one of the few women-led tech-enabled alternative legal services providers. Check our website if you want to know more about who we are.

Who are the other diversity leaders?

A shout out to other companies who made the list as diversity leaders is in order, as they all deserve to be acknowledged for the way they are improving their industry or society.


AnalogFolk are a global digital creative agency whose stated mission is to ‘use digital to make the analog world better’. The company funds an accelerator programme for senior women in the agency, and participates in a cross-industry mentoring scheme connecting junior people from BAME or lower socio-economic backgrounds with people high up the ladder.

Castlefield Partners

Responsible, ethical and thoughtful investing is the tagline for this financial services company. The company is dedicated to ensuring an inclusive work environment, pledging to maintain a 50/50 gender split for key managers within the firm over the next 3 years, and in October 2017 became one of the 162 signatories of the Women in Finance Charter to encourage greater numbers of women at senior levels of the finance industry.

Catapult Enterprises (Propercorn)

Propercorn was founded by friends Cassandra and Ryan, who grew their popcorn business from his London flat. They are a certified B Corporation, a business recognised by non-profit B-Labs for meeting high standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

Clifton Packaging Group

A family run business, Clifton Packaging’s Managing Director Shahid Sheikh OBE  is a big advocate of promoting equality and opportunity both in the company and outside of it, and was named in the top 100 BAME Board Talent Index 2017.

Coppola Foods

This innovative Italian food company has not only won a number of food industry awards, but is also successful due to their focus on fairness and responsibility to customers, partners and communities alike.


Ebury currency and business finance specialists seek to remove all boundaries in business, and were listed as an all-rounder for their impact on society and the industry. The company runs a number of internal and external programmes to ‘ensure that honesty, fairness, respect, diversity and gender balance remain at the very core of Ebury’s business’.

Global Support Services (GSS)

GSS specialist security solutions is recognised as an Investor in People, and they actively cultivate an inclusive and impactful work environment, believing that every person should be entitled to opportunity, independence, self-worth, a living wage and reward for going the extra mile

Harley Therapy

Harley Therapy’s platform provides access to therapists of a diverse range of therapeutic practices, with a mission to eradicate emotional suffering in global society.

In Touch Networks

Recruitment business In Touch Networks has a philanthropic arm, In Touch Futures, aims to change the lives of underprivileged and disabled children and relieve poverty by creating and sustaining education and employment opportunities in the UK, South America and South Africa


iStorage is a leading global provider of encrypted hardware data storage devices, and is praised by employees for its inclusive work culture and generous employee benefits such as healthcare coverage.

Mansion House Consulting

Mansion House Consulting is an IT and technology consultancy catering to to clients in the financial services sector. They support children’s charity Sparks, sponsoring fundraising industry events on subjects such as Diversity in Leadership.

McGinley Human Resources

A business that’s all about people, McGinley was also named as a Sunday Times’ ‘Best Company to Work For’. The company values place a focus on being genuine, and treating people equally and respectful and considerate of people’s time and individual perspectives.


Office dealer services provider Nectere was also recognised as one of LSE’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain in 2017, and places high importance on flexibility and diversity in order to successfully provide their services.

Olivia von Halle

Fashion designer von Halle started her career as a trend forecaster for major design labels before launching her own loungewear brand in 2011. The company guarantees responsible, sustainable production, prohibition of discrimination and fair compensation and working hours as part of its CSR code of conduct.


As well as their people-centric focus and work with local and national charities Portafina financial advisers may lay claim to the best employee story ever published on a company website, where one of their marketing team spent 3 hours resuscitating a fish which went on to live for another 3 years.

Shopper Media Group

Commenting on their FT listing, Sally Vincent HR manager at the retail out-of-home media group said: “It could be said that our diverse workforce comes more naturally to us than it may do for others, but that is because our approach has always been to bring in the best and most talented people to our agencies, regardless of gender or socioeconomic background. As our business continues to grow and change, our mindset to attracting and nurturing talent certainly will not”.


Smarkets is one of the worlds largest betting exchanges, providing the best odds and low-cost fees for over 200000 clients. They champion integrity with honest, user-centered trading on sports, politics and current affairs.


Spektrix is a ticketing, marketing and fundraising software accessed through the internet with the aim of helping arts organisations succeed.

Making Work, Work Obelisk In Action Trending

6 Lessons Lawyers Can Learn from the London Fire Brigade

As part of our Wednesday Live series at Obelisk Support, we hosted Graham Ellis, Assistant Commissioner at the London Fire Brigade, and Verona Clarke, Station Manager, Special Operations Group at the London Fire Brigade. Both shared precious insights on how their teams anticipate and react to crisis situations.

The population of London is estimated at 8.8 million spread out over 607 square miles, with 300 languages spoken and in 2016, welcomed 31.5 million visitors. To keep all these people safe, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is the busiest fire department in the UK and one of the busiest in the world, operating with a yearly budget of £382 million. No law firm, however big, can claim to watch the back of that many clients with so many shifting parameters. But as we deal with our own daily ‘firefights’, here are 6 leadership lessons all lawyers will be able to relate to…

#1 Prepare For the Impossible

The London Fire Brigade’s norm is to prepare for the unexpected.

In a toxic paradox, firefighters have to learn to adapt in difficult situations in real time and with ever-decreasing staff and resources. By far their best weapon to avert risk is prevention. As part of its fire prevention campaign, the LFB carries out 80,000 home fire safety visits every year. Since 9/11, the LFB has created an Urban Search & Rescue team that covers victims of urban catastrophes. There is a plan for the event of a meteorite falling on Earth. As you can see, the LFB makes its set of responses very flexible but preparation without communication would be pointless.

The Legal Angle

As GDPR recently showed, you can never be ready for every scenario but you can certainly have response mechanisms that kick in when emergency strikes. In fact, lawyers have long played a key role in helping clients to understand and mitigate risk which means that they’ve had to adapt over time to keep up with the evolution of risks. A recent study showed that over 80% of lawyers said that risks are formally reviewed at least every six months. Is 6 months enough? Is your law firm even doing that?

From cyber security to industry compliance or legal exposure, a good risk management policy starts with an audit. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, you can’t set up preventive measures and that’s step 1 of managing any type of risk (also less expensive and stressful than dealing with a bad situation). Read these 5 Steps to Legal Risk Management and start planning for your legal meteorite. Then you can move on with your communication strategy – because risk management is a business-wide concern.

#2 Cooperate with Other Teams

The LFB wouldn’t be able to do its job without other agencies such as the police, government agencies or even the public. How do you alert the LFB to an act of terror if you’re witnessing one or seeing something that’s off? The LFB’s primary response to disasters is prevention via public awareness campaigns and relies on the cooperation of other parties to be efficient.

In the case of an emergency, who you gonna call?

999. Write it down, just in case. It’s the UK number for emergencies. Please call it before filming to stream live on Facebook or Twitter.

The Legal Angle

It used to be that legal teams operated as stand-alone satellites in big companies, checking in at senior level and dealing with documents that were mysterious and scary to all other departments. Today, legal departments are often part of their company’s business strategy and understand what they need to do to get deals done.

#3 Embrace Diversity in Your Teams

At the end of the 1980s, the LFB employed 9,000 people, including 20 women and 80 BAME. As of 2018, the numbers have significantly shifted. The LFB employs 4,611 people, including 333 women and 606 BAME. That’s one fifth of the workforce today versus less than 1%. The LFB is working on a recruitment campaign to improve their diversity numbers and to offer not only flexible work options, but to retain minority and female staff by rethinking the promotion process. Recognising that they are a public-facing agency, the LFB strives to improve their diversity numbers both in offices and in operational teams.

By having greater diversity in their teams, the LFB gets a collective of opinions that helps them get stronger and communicate better in a modern world.  They need to engage with communities whose first language might not be English. Verona Clarke of the LFB does a lot of presentations at schools to show that the LFB represents the community, that women can be firefighters too. In her words, “the LFB needs the best of the best but it also needs diversity, the multilingual people who look and feel like everyone else.” That is true diversity.

Listen to Verona Clarke explain what it means to be seen and be in her job.

The Legal Angle

In many ways, the London Fire Brigade is way ahead of the legal profession on this aspect. The Attic and Obelisk Support stands in favour of diversity and regularly denounce how the legal industry has a major diversity issue. As the Solicitors Regulation Authority reports, women make up 48% of all lawyers in law firms and 47% of the UK workforce but in 2017, women made up 59% of non-partner solicitors compared to just 33% of partners or in the largest firms (50 plus partners), only 29% of partners are female. That’s only one aspect of the progress that needs to happen in the legal profession, with gender pay gaps in law firms at an all-time high, lack of diversity in executive boards and unequal rights for LGBTQ lawyers.

How do you make things better?

First, believe in diversity and inclusion. Firms that offer an inclusive environment for a diverse mix for employees stand to innovate, grow and outperform the competition. Businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, while those with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely, claims research by McKinsey & Co. You can start by taking 5 steps to empower women in law and by listening to the voice of those missing in your organisation. Since diversity is good for business, why wait?

#4 Take Care of Your Physical Health

A lot of firefighters’ time is done training, responding to emergencies and learning standard operating procedures to stay safe. However, they operate in particularly dangerous places and it’s impossible for them to avoid compromising their physical health. Indeed, firefighters are 200% more likely than the average population to contract types of cancer and they work in a lot of environments that they cannot control with hazardous materials.

That said, the physical training of firefighters is one of the most demanding in the world and if you want to get an idea of the strength and fitness tests, WorkingMums has an interesting piece on whether a career in the London Fire Brigade is for you.

The Legal Angle

That brings us to lawyers, whose only physical test is being able to operate a computer. Safe to say, the two biggest threats to the physical health of lawyers are chairs and take-out meals. For one, sitting for lengthy periods is terrible for your body. Aches and pains are the least of your problems — sitting too much can lead to an early death. You face a higher risk of muscular-skeletal disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more, even if you work out regularly.

On the nutrition front, things aren’t all pink either. A 2016 study sponsored by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation surveying nearly 13,000 currently practicing attorneys found that 21-36% of lawyers qualify as problem drinkers. As reported on The Attic in Why Lawyers Should Take a Proper Healthy Lunch Break, the legal industry is one of the worst culprits for late in the day take-out food orders at the office, with a huge 81% of orders placed at dinner time and an average order time of 8:44pm. Neither poor nutrition nor the lack of exercise contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Currently, fit lawyers like The Lean Lawyer, Backwards Guy or David Jones are the exception but they are an inspiration too and the legal profession needs more of them so we all get off our chairs and get our heart pumping. As Nike says, just do it!

#5 Take Care of Your Mental Health

The other part of firefighters’ health is mental health and the post-workshop Q&A discussed the notion of resilience. For many firefighters, resilience is making do with a bad situation. Elina Grigoriou of Grigoriou Interiors, who was in the audience, expressed resilience as “bringing your head above water, not standing above water.” She wondered what Graham Ellis did to keep his own teams resilient.

After seeing the response of colleagues to trauma over many years, Graham Ellis recalled the Soho pub bombing. Some of the people who were the most badly affected then were not the younger recruits but the ones who had seen it all before and had years of emergency preparedness. In modern days, fewer people are exposed to more and more traumatic events, the last drop goes into the bucket and the bucket starts to overflow.

Mental resilience for firefighters is training for disasters, follow-up public inquests, debriefing and follow-up actions. In the 1980s, Ann Willmott built an Advisory and Counseling Team for the LFB that was groundbreaking and involved working with psychologists. Dany Cotton, LFB Commissioner, was at the Grenfell Tower Fire and saw first-hand the horrors and acts of selflessness that firefighters experienced. She went live on ITV to say that “it’s all right not to be all right,” which was the truth, plain and simple. These firefighters will never be the same, with many seeking professional help for their mental health.

The Legal Angle

As explained on The Attic by Elizabeth Rimmer, Chief Executive of LawCare in Lawyers – Your Mental Health and Wellbeing Matter!, lawyers have higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress compared to other professions. It is the culture of the well-known poor work/life balance, the long hours and presenteeism, the competitive environment, the fear of failure and the driven and perfectionist personalities that can be drawn to law. All of this contributes to an environment that can make some people more vulnerable to mental health concerns.

Mental health is a very important and unspoken part of the life of legal professionals that’s still taboo in many firms. If you’re not feeling right, you need to get professional help right now. Don’t delay and don’t underestimate how it could impact your life. Don’t wait until a drop makes the bucket overflow.

#6 Invest in Tech and Infrastructure

When Graham started working at the London Fire Brigade in 1983, firefighters wore rubber Wellington boots, yellow plastic trousers, heavy woolen tuniques and gardening gloves.

Protective equipment in 2018 is a far cry from 1980s standards and includes a full array of digital communications to assist with live interventions.

The Legal Angle

Likewise in the 1980s, lawyers worked with paper and pen, didn’t have computers, let alone mobile phones, and faxed 100-page long documents to clients for signature. Their biggest security risk was probably a fire destroying client files and firm archives and secretaries did all their admin tasks.

Today’s lawyers have become independent professionals who can work remotely with digital communication tools, people who rely on technology like everyone else and who have warmed to the idea of legaltech solutions such as smart contracts or artificial intelligence. It’s not Silicon Valley-level tech engagement just yet, but lawyers have definitely caught up with the 21st century and are working hard to get up to speed with their techie counterparts.

About Graham Ellis

As Assistant Commissioner, Graham also heads up London Fire Brigade’s Special Operations Group and London Resilience Team, responsible for the preparations, training, response and recovery to a range of natural and terrorist related threats, and for overseeing fire service operations across the Greater London area.

About Verona Clarke

Verona Clarke is an Operational Station Manager, Special Operations Group at the London Fire Brigade, she is responsible for the brigades response to large scale events such as New Years Eve Celebrations, London Marathon and many other events. Verona is a frequent speaker at schools and a diversity champion at the London Fire Brigade.

Obelisk In Action

Obelisk Finalist at LegalWeek Innovation Awards 2018

At Obelisk Support, we are proud to have been shortlisted as finalists for the LegalWeek Legal Innovation Awards 2018 in the Supplier Innovation – Resource Management category. This follows the work we have done by investing in technology and creating our own mobile and web app to manage legal resources, cutting down turnover on client requests from over 48 hours to a few hours. This is one of several proprietary software built internally for Obelisk Support, to better serve business needs and reflect the business’ platform accurately.

2018 Awards

This year, this is the third nomination Obelisk and Obelisk leaders have garnered. In February 2018, Obelisk Support was named as one of the top 25% fastest growing companies in Europe – at no 1,171 out of 5,000 companies ranked in the 2018 edition of Inc. 5000 Europe.

In March 2018, Obelisk Support CEO, Dana Denis-Smith, was voted by members of the legal profession, LexisNexis Legal Personality of the Year.

In April 2018, Obelisk Legal Support Solutions Limited being chosen as one of the FT1000: Fastest Growing Companies in Europe.

Previous LegalWeek Innovation Awards

Since its creation in 2010, Obelisk Support and Obelisk Support leaders have been recognised for their pioneering legal services by the LegalWeek Innovation Awards.

In 2016, Obelisk Support won Legal Week’s Innovation Awards Marketing Innovation for its project The Attic.

In 2015, Obelisk Support CEO, Dana Denis-Smith, won LegalWeek’s Outstanding Legal Innovator.

LegalWeek Innovation Awards 2018

The awards ceremony will take on 25 May 20118 in London.

Good luck to all finalists and may the best win.

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Obelisk Support CEO Dana Denis-Smith is Legal Personality of the Year

The LexisNexis Legal Awards 2018 were announced on Thursday 15 March 2018 and we are proud to report that Obelisk Support CEO and First 100 Years founder, Dana Denis-Smith, is Legal Personality of the Year 2018.

These prestigious awards – which are in their fifth year – shine a spotlight on the achievements of both individuals and teams across the legal sector, including private practice, in-house counsel, the Bar as well as suppliers. They celebrate the vital contribution the people and organisations that work in and around the law make not only to the future of the legal profession but to the wider community and the advancement of the Law itself.

The Legal Personality of the Year award honours an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the legal sphere in the past year. Dana was picked through an online vote of the New Law Journal readership from a shortlist compiled by the judging panel, shortlist including Sean Jones QC, Gina Miller, Ryan Mowa and Clive Stafford Smith.

Equality Starts at Home

This means a lot to me” says Dana Denis-Smith, “- because it recognises the years of work I and my team have poured into both Obelisk Support and First 100 Years (2014-2019): Women in Law; because it recognised that at the heart of our work is a very important cause  – the fight for equality. I have so many people to thank for helping me get this far – my team, the clients and consultants that have helped build Obelisk into a sustainable multi-million business; the trustees, professional champions and volunteers at Spark21 and the First 100 Years; my tribe of female founders; and my ever patient husband, John Denis-Smith and my daughter, who have kept me sane and motivated and remind me every day that Equality Starts in the Home.” 

Winners of the LexisNexis Legal Awards 2018

LexisNexis 2018 Awards

Other winners of the 2018 LexisNexis Legal awards are

Congratulations to all the winners for their achievements.

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Transforming Well-Being for Lawyers: Mental Health in the Legal Profession

Be honest … how comfortable do you feel about telling your colleagues about any personal challenges you may be experiencing?  And how much compassion do you show when colleagues are struggling with the same issues? Practical tools and strategies to help lawyers tackle these difficult questions were the focus of a fascinating seminar on mental health in the legal profession.

This was a very human event. As a young woman told her story – about her journey back from depression suffered while practising as a lawyer – the audience sat in silence. But the nods of recognition that could be seen around the room said it all.

This was not a dramatic scene from a movie, but a CPD event called ‘Transforming the Wellbeing of the Profession’ – a joint event from the Law Society and High-Flyers Coaching based in Chancery Lane.

Welcoming the audience, Joe Egan, Deputy VP of the Law Society, emphasized that events like this are vital so that the legal profession can explore how it can de-stigmatise stress, anxiety and mental health issues.

The speakers, all lawyers, gave their personal perspective in this complex area.

Paul Gilbert, chief executive of LBC Wise Counsel, talked about his survey and report on the well being of in-house lawyers. He described mental health as the greatest challenge facing in-house legal teams today.

Lauren Giblin, founder of Bespoke Coaching, was the young woman who spoke so movingly about her journey back from depression. Lauren told the audience she spent eight years as a banking lawyer, and how the perfectionist tendencies that contributed to her successful career as a lawyer also ultimately also contributed to her illness. What stood out most perhaps was an astounding statistic; Lauren said 50% of the women she met whilst being treated in hospital were lawyers.

The secret to her recovery was learning self- awareness and the power of choice. Lauren told the audience she believes these techniques can help anyone address the often-negative internal commentary that causes pressures to build up and overwhelm you. Being conscious of the pressure that lawyers can be under and the impact this pressure can have on your wellbeing allows us to separate out our feelings of being trapped inside the work, and then look more objectively at our lives as a whole.

Elizabeth Rimmer, chief executive at LawCare, spoke passionately about why well-being matters in the legal community. Elizabeth, who started her career as a lawyer at Leigh Day & Co, emphasized the need for lawyers to find a way of talking about their concerns. This level of honesty and vulnerability is not common or easy in the legal profession, but this is where Lawcare can help. Elizabeth said many lawyers are worried about appearing weak if they admit to personal problems. To give people the courage and the confidence to open up and speak about their feelings or their illness, Elizabeth said the legal sector must challenge the stigma around mental health. That’s why events like this – hosted by the Law Society – are vitally important so the issues are aired and lawyers and law firms begin to engage and change. Closing her talk, Elizabeth said in the workplace there is a role and a need for everyone to be supportive of colleagues and to take the issue of health and well-being seriously.

The final speaker was Chetna Bhatt, founder of High-Flyers Coaching. Chetna is currently on sabbatical from her in-house post, helping professionals work in a more balanced, productive and successful way.

She shared her personal story and how she had overcome personal difficulties. Like Lauren, she urged people to take back self-control – in a way that liberates you rather than bottles up problems for later.

She highlighted how important it is to be true and authentic to yourself, and to take responsibility for the changes that need to be made. She took the audience through a range of group exercises, designed to promote self-reflection and to create small changes in our lives that were both achievable and easy to build upon.

The very powerful message from this event was clear; people should not stay silent about the work pressures they are under. People should be encouraged and allowed to talk about stress at work, or to reach out and offer to help colleagues around them. There is help and support at all levels – for both individuals and firms. Starting a conversation about ourselves – like Lauren’s story – or offering help to others on the team are human steps we can all take.


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Obelisk Support Makes Inc. 5000 Europe Fastest Growing Private Companies List

Obelisk Support, the legal services provider for FTSE companies and law firms HQ-ed in London, was today named as one of the top 25% fastest growing companies in Europe – at no  1,171 out of 5,000 companies ranked in the 2018 edition of “Inc. 5000” Europe.

“We are thrilled to be listed in the Inc. 5000 list in 2018 as is a testament to the important legal needs we solve for our customers,” said Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support. “Our clients trust Obelisk to help them with their legal work by matching the right skills to each job; importantly, I am proud of this achievement as it shows that driving positive change in the legal industry by being focused on people has a positive impact on financial performance; our social impact ethos means that our  1,000+ lawyers are loyal to us because we are committed to change the opportunities they have to work differently.”

In addition to Obelisk Support, the Inc. 5000 Europe list added notable companies such as HelloFresh, Dyson, Moo and Coolblue. You are in some pretty impressive company—which is exactly where you belong. As an Inc. 5000 Europe honouree, Obelisk Support Solutions now shares a pedigree with Intuit, Under Armour, Microsoft, Timberland, Pandora, Patagonia, Oracle, and dozens of other prominent recent U.S. alumni.

Obelisk Support is a revolutionary multi award-winning legal services company that connects law firms and in-house legal teams to highly-experienced corporate lawyers who want to work flexibly, whether for family or other reasons. Denis-Smith founded the business after becoming dismayed at the numbers of women she saw leaving the profession for family reasons – and realising this could be a key untapped pool of talent for innovative firms and in-house teams prepared to take a more flexible approach.

For 37 years, Inc. has welcomed the fastest-growing private companies into a very exclusive club. To be sure, considering the millions of private companies operating throughout Europe, being listed on the Inc. 5000 Europe is a significant achievement. The median company on the list increased sales by more than 254% since the start of 2013, while the average honouree grew a mind-boggling 473%. Those are results most companies could only dream of in the economy of the past three years.

“In an incredibly competitive business landscape, it takes something extraordinary to take your company to the top,” says Inc. President and Editor-In-Chief Eric Schurenberg. “The founders and CEOs of the Inc. 5000 Europe tell us they think determination, risk taking, and vision were the keys to their success, and I believe them.”

The Inc. 5000 Europe is a prestigious ranking of European-based, privately held, for profit and independent companies, based on percentage revenue growth. For the full list of this year’s Inc. 5000 winners, visit: