The Legal Update

The new social contract of law

Six months into 2020, the legal profession has taken emergency measures to face a global crisis, has gone through an unexpected digital transformation and is just now assessing the situation to plan for the future. The road we take can either be a unique opportunity to reshuffle the cards and rethink the way we work or to set aside the past few months and get back to the old ways. 

Inspired by the RSA’s A Blueprint for Good Work report, LegalGeek’s The Uncertain Decade and Ari Kaplan’s virtual lunches, we look at future trends and models that will impact the delivery of legal services for years to come. One or more of these forces may be instrumental in shaping sustainable solutions for our current major legal industry issues.

#1 Value-based legal services

Since its earliest days, legal services have had a strong focus on continuous improvement to deliver the highest possible value to the client but that value was often hard to quantify or qualify. Unlike other professions, law has never really adopted peer review systems and the use of metric-linked incentives for legal services providers, except in some areas of B2C legal practice. The billable hour and profit per partner have long been the golden standards of success but that is changing.

In large legal teams, general counsel have passed the procurement baton to chief operating officers responsible for data-driven quality improvement initiatives across all levels of business – including legal. Every aspect of legal services delivery is increasingly subject to quality and cost assessments. Economic rewards (getting invited to a panel) and penalties (falling off a panel) are also becoming more tied to those assessments. Alternative legal services, with remote or flexible legal services models, or legal tech solutions have shifted from being bystanders to trusted partners in a global industry.

Economic consequences have kicked up a notch as the fee-for-service model gives way to value-based services. While success was more often measured by the number of hours billed or clients served, it will shift to a measure in terms of the economic growth and legal goals of clients.

There will continue to be a drive to find more innovative and effective value-based analytics, automation and reporting. To make a sustainable shift to value-based legal services, legal services providers will need to develop deep and substantive understandings of the foundations of client data, legal issues and services delivered. For new entrants to the market, that will mean breaking down the formidable barrier of decades-long law firm-client relationships to access the data.

#2 Tech-driven personalisation

While the delivery of legal services once followed a boutique protocol for every client, law is moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach and in some areas, is heading toward unique, personalised service delivery based on highly individual situations and conditions. 

Companies increasingly require cheaper, faster, more efficient legal services customised for them. Process mapping, machine learning and AI are among the advances that make this possible. Deloitte confirmed this trend, predicting in 2016 that 39% of all legal tasks would be automated by 2030, which is good news as most of these tasks were either repetitive or mind numbing, with humans bringing little value to the process.

As fitness trackers monitor our health, it is not so far-fetched to imagine internal business health trackers measuring the smooth running of contracts, low litigation rates and irregular spikes in the need for legal services. Combined with predictive risk analysis and regulatory tools, data science could help identify future legal needs and the best models of legal service delivery for complex transactions. 

At this point in the legal forest, two paths diverge: do we compete with emerging systems or do we build them? Hopefully, the second path will prevail. That means that new lawyers will need to understand data analytics as well as soft skills such as EQ, collaboration & cultural awareness. Rather than looking at the end of lawyers, new trends would reimagine the legal industry for the digital age with a more customer-centric approach.

#3 Society-driven legal services 

After decades of money-driven growth, the coronavirus crisis shook the very foundations of our consumer society and purpose crept in as a pillar of future growth. This type of model envisages a future of responsible stewardship where all legal professionals, business or practice, should be focused on the best outcome for their private clients as well as for society. 

There is a place in the legal landscape for lawyers who service vastly-underrepresented areas and more opportunities for career paths that will help people. Whether the end goal is access to justice, diversity & inclusion or the climate crisis, there is a tremendous opportunity for future lawyers to create the apps, or to help the creator of the app by giving them use cases, to address a societal need. 

In this empathy-driven model, the legal profession has an opportunity to better serve society and come back to its ethical roots. It will also open up its door to a new generation of non-legally-trained legal professionals. Some of the smartest new legal services are designed by people who are not lawyers. They are in the business of helping people and the difference in emphasis is huge as the rise of these services is completely consumer-driven. 

There are opportunities in adversity. Something as simple as putting more services online, allowing clients to generate forms, a mix of self-help and lawyer review will all improve access to justice and society. Future approaches will need new tools that connect people to potential resource assistance options, provide a means for follow-up and use analytics to determine success.

#4 Customer experience

Lawyers as a profession had a very insular culture outside of a more diverse ecosystem. Now, lawyers are one part of a team, with the client as the final decision-maker in setting and achieving their own goals. This power shift will break down business silos, with a legal industry open to new models and newer ways to doing things. 

As general counsel and legal leaders play a larger role in their own legal services decisions, providers will be increasingly focused on improving the customer experience at all levels. It’s becoming increasingly clear that a satisfied client is also an engaged one and studies have linked client engagement to better outcomes and lower costs.

Lawyers will also be able to align and collaborate with the industry as law merges with data analytics, engineering, or computer science. Where traditional lawyers have been about input and bespoke labor, legal professionals are about output, scaling and legal efficiency. They will be led by a more customer-centric approach, with a heightened effort to solicit and use client feedback and responses. This means not just “asking to ask,” but asking with the intent of making real change. 


These major trends in the delivery and operation of legal services will have big impacts on the clients and legal teams of the future. One thing we can be sure to expect is a continuous evolution toward connecting across the legal system, with clients at the centre.


The Legal Update Trending

5 ways COVID-19 could unlock the future of law

Last week, we joined two different online events that tackled the impact of COVID-19 and the future of the legal profession from different angles. The first event, focused on law firms, featured Mark Cohen and Richard Susskind in a LegalGeek webinar, while the second was organised by Ari Kaplan with Bob Ambrogi as guest speaker in a relaxed lunch & learn format. What did we learn?

#1 Tech is every legal team’s best friend

It’s a fact: the legal workforce has become a remote workforce in the span of a week. All over the world, legal teams have had no choice but to adapt to lockdown restrictions forcing them out of office buildings. As Robert Ambrogi recently wrote, the speed at which lawyers were able to get up and running outside of their office was staggering with 90% of lawyers making the transition in a week or less and 46% in a day or less. For in-house legal teams already using Microsoft tools, Microsoft Teams has become the go-to meeting spot while others have jumped onto the Zoom or Google Meet bandwagon.

However, tech adoption hasn’t been equal everywhere with in-house legal teams leading the tech revolution and law firms lagging behind, despite claims to the contrary. As a general counsel said, “we’ve worked with legal clients for 25 years, and the gap in understanding remote working communication technology was already widening in the past 5 to 10 years. [The Covid crisis] has just sped up the mindset shift from those who were already starting to embrace technology. The shift has now moved from accepting that the tech is required to understanding how best to integrate it over the longer term with support.”

Whatever the tech solution, the number one take away from the crisis is that latent technologies already existed to collaborate in new ways and have enabled us to understand that traditional models are no longer necessary. Lawyers can work remotely in an integrated fashion. The nature of legal practice has changed to the extent that it could possibly be malpractice to not be technically capable, as tech access, data security, data movement, etc are all part of modern legal services.

#2 Medicine and law may have a lot more in common than previously thought

Ultimately, law is the business of knowledge, much like medicine is the business of health. Like lawyers, doctors were hit full force by the COVID-19 tsunami and remote medicine became the new normal but that is not where similarities stop. In an analogy with the medical sector, Ari Kaplan argues that the legal system needs to move on to a triage system where when you have a problem, you don’t start with a specialist. In medicine, you start with a GP and then move onwards. We might be headed to a legal ecosystem of tools that will help companies sort out more of their own issues, have access to more standardised processes and involve fewer lawyers doing the work.

For Mark Cohen too, the current legal business model is outdated and legal buyers have access to more information than ever before. In the future, law will be a marketplace where it won’t be about pedigree or brand or Oxbridge or Magic Circle but about competency, metrics of customer satisfaction and skills. Taken a step further, this model means that legal buyers will eventually not need legal practitioners to be licensed. Not all future practitioners will be certified lawyers and that is a good thing. If GCs are buying legal knowledge, do they need a qualified solicitor when a legal engineer can do the job as efficiently?

Inevitably, this will reshape the landscape of legal education and training. Up until 20 years ago, legal expertise was the only thing that lawyers needed to succeed. Today, lawyers need augmented skills such as project management, understanding of supply chains, basics of data management and analytics. Lawyers have to be able to read a balance sheet. In addition, they need to master the basics of technology and understand how tech is used in the legal marketplace.

The lawyers of tomorrow will be tech-enhanced multi-disciplinary advisers, which gives a big leg up to millennials and Gen Z who choose virtual environments wherever possible and who as digital natives, are already comfortable with tech
. As Mark Cohen once said, law is not about lawyers anymore but about legal professionals.

#3 Pricing, pricing, pricing

For law firms, the billable hour is the biggest part of the business model that needs to change. Robert Ambrogi went as far as saying that it’s the greatest obstacle to innovation in law firms as it’s founded on the premise of inefficiency.

  • Most participants agreed that restructuring fees would be an opportunity for tech-savvy lawyers who would be able to create digital offers and reach their clients more efficiently.
  • For the time-being, law firms should be putting out COVID-19 pricing or flat rates during hard times.
  • Past the COVID-19 crisis, lawyers would start charging based on the result delivered. If clients are charged for value delivered, it doesn’t matter where the work is done or how long it takes.
  • Others suggested rendering legal services by subscription as a way to offer “more for less” legal services.
  • For multi-month contracts, legal suppliers could offer a flat, monthly retainer that makes it easier to plan and budget for clients, while realigning the focus of suppliers on deliverables.

#4 Law is a buyer’s market

According to Mark Cohen, “consumers are now driving the legal bus and that will accelerate post-covid.” For a few years, GCs have already been experiencing the future of legal with the “doing more with less” challenge, adhering to budgets and considering where they buy their legal services. Until now, long relationships forged between traditional legal providers and companies have somewhat shaped legal buying but with stricter budget controls, clients will realise that they can get the same value from a range of different providers” ie Big 4, companies like Obelisk Support, managed service providers etc.

The COVID crisis is effectively empowering big corporations to set demands and we recently saw an example of that when BT announced to their legal panel that they would look at things like expertise, experience, culture, approach to innovation, and diversity and inclusion to select their legal suppliers. In incentivising the panel firms to adhere to the principles of a charter signed by the client, BT is forcing cultural changes within their supply chain.

#5 Metrics vs Values

Based on Mark Cohen’s observations on US law firm culture, metrics like profit-per-partner (PPP), profit origination are the measures of success and drivers of law firm culture. Law’s scorecard in how it treats its own profession is currently very low – including higher rates of suicide, divorce, drug abuse, and alcoholism than many other professions. Every metric of despair points to the fact that lawyers are doing well financially as a group but yet they’re not very happy.

Yet in the UK, pointed Richard Susskind, there is a growing concern about profit versus purpose. This COVID-19 period is a fundamental challenge to values. Law firms that responded in the first two weeks saying they cared about people and two weeks later, fired them, will have a problem. They’ll be seen as purely profit-making companies.

The virus has given us an opportunity to look at how legal services can be delivered differently and that is the greatest impact of the virus on the legal world. The crisis offers an opportunity to step back and contemplate what’s important to us, noting that it’s hard to change values as you move along. 
Sooner than later, vendor profiles won’t just include security profiles and corporate history. Clients will start asking about in-depth work from home measures, commitment to gender and diversity equality, as evidenced in the report Built to last? A blueprint for developing future-proof in-house teams.

The Legal Update

#CLOC2019 Highlights: Catching Up with Legal Operations in Las Vegas

Two weeks ago, the CLOC Institute gathered 2,200 legal professionals in Las Vegas, the largest networking group of the legal operations world. If you haven’t heard about legal operations yet, they are our daily contact persons at Obelisk Support, managing legal spend for large companies or law firms. We recently interviewed John Craske, Head of Innovation and Legal Operations at CMS to know more about his work.

Now in its fourth year, the CLOC Institute conference has become the mecca of all things legal ops, merging the worlds of tech, analytics and people under one legal roof. Here is what we learned.

#1  Law Firms are Getting on the Legal Ops Bandwagon

CLOC, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, was initially created to address concerns of general counsels in large corporations. Facing budget crunches, they needed to deliver timely and watertight legal advice while watching legal spend. Mary Shen O’Carroll, Head of Legal Ops at Google, defined it as “making sure that you’re getting value for the dollar that you’re spending, both inside on systems and human resources, but also externally.’ Four years ago, externally meant outsourcing to big law firms.

In 2019, the legal landscape has changed and alternative legal services providers like Obelisk Support make up a large portion of external legal spend, both for companies and law firms. As a result, law firms need to be on top of their external legal spend while maintaining quality and their street cred. Recognising the growing need of law firms to focus on pricing, diversity and inclusion, knowledge management, and more, CLOC is creating in 2019 a beta membership type for law firm legal operations professionals. We are looking forward to seeing the results of this experiment.

#2 Tech is Good

In the past decade, technology has changed the ways in which legal teams manage outside counsel and communicate performance to drive better outcomes. Some law firms and legal operations departments even deploy AI solutions to enhance and optimise legal processes and those that don’t will likely fall behind in the race towards future growth. Automation was definitely a recurring theme across #CLOC2019, the legal profession implementing more sophisticated perspectives and insights.

As industry events such as the Legal Geek conference, LEXPO or the Global Legal Hackathon show, legal tech is the future of the legal industry or more exactly, that future is happening right now.

At #CLOC2019, legal tech exhibitors included the likes of:

  • Mitratech (software for in-house professionals)
  • Exari (document automation software)
  • Icertis (contract management software)
  • Brightflag (intelligent enterprise legal management portal)
  • Onit (business process automation software for legal spend)
  • Integreon (business process outsourcing for legal teams)
  • Ultria (contract cycle management software)
  • Advologix (legal matter management software)
  • Contract Pod AI (AI technology for cloud-managed contracts)
  • Kira Systems (machine learning contract search & review)
  • Seal Software (legal AI for contract management)
  • Relativity (eDiscovery solutions)
  • Alphaserve (digital automation for legal industry)

…and many more.

#3 Process is Key

SimpleLegal founder Nathan Wenzel joined a session on Building and Optimising a Legal Operations Program and said, “The only problem technology solves is scale. It’s people and process that solve the underlying problem.”

Indeed, optimising the triad of people, processes, and technology is key to legal ops and while the legal operations function has the ability to integrate people and process, it needs to initiate the right conversations with key stakeholders both from the legal department and other business units – what is preventing the legal department from running efficiently?

From there, legal operations can evaluate, adopt, and incorporate technology to streamline processes, looking to data to facilitate additional optimisations and changes.

As tweeted by Stefania Passera, creator of LegalDesignJam, “Relationships are key, people cannot be automated out of the picture, you *really* should not automate garbage but take digitalisation as an opportunity to make things truly better also for people + business goals, people are irrational so you need designers + anthropologists.”

#4 Hail Diversity!

Diversity. Diversity. Diversity.

Unsurprisingly, the legal operations role is multifaceted, necessitating a broad lens to spot opportunities for impact. Hence the need for diversity but not just diversity for diversity’s sake – diversity needs to be executed well to make a business difference. At #CLOC2019, Legal operations professionals from Starbucks, Oracle and Northwestern Mutual discussed what worked (or not) in their diversity programs, offering strategies and a maturity index for legal departments.

  • Julie Gruber of The Gap and Christine Coats of Oracle: Legal ops professionals can promote collaboration, innovation, and law firm partnerships as a means to actually see the needle move on diversity. CLOC might be a driving force to make the needle move.
  • Nigel Bond of Westpac: Diversity is something he’s only recently approached with his team in Australia but he’s become a total advocate since the conversation is empowering and powerful.
  • Benchmarking: A panel of legal department decision makers from Baker McKenzie and companies like Starbucks and Washington Mutual created the Diversity & Inclusion Maturity Model Index to serve as a guide for the legal industry in tackling and improving programs.
  • Measurable KPIs: A Diversity & Inclusion program should focus on the professional development of all legal professionals from the time they enter the firm as summer associates and should include strategic objectives, tactical action items and specific, measurable milestones benchmarks to track and foster their progress over the course of their careers at the firm, until they become partners or they leave the firms to take-on other meaningful positions within or outside of the profession.

Based on what we heard this year, we’re already looking towards #CLOC2020 and the growth of legal ops as a positive force for change within the legal industry.


The Legal Update Trending

Interview with John Craske, Head of Innovation and Legal Operations at CMS

This week, The Attic speaks to John Craske, Head of Innovation and Legal Operations at CMS, about his thoughts on innovation of legal services, helping people adapt to change, and how work allocation programmes are helping to solve many operational issues, included those faced by people returning to the law.

Tell us what led you to the law and how you ended up in a legal ops role?

I come from a scientific background academically, somewhat unusual as many in the law tend to study humanities subjects like History and English, I’ve always been interested in how things work . But I was always interested in and intrigued by law as academic subject, and took the decision to leave the Midlands and attend law school in the beautiful city of Edinburgh – so I’m an Englishman but a Scottish lawyer! I succeeded in getting a good traineeship with Dundas & Wilson – who eventually merged with CMS in 2014– and once I qualified I became a commercial property lawyer. It has always bothered me since school watching people do repetitive things again and again, so in my work dealing with leases of units shopping centres, office blocks etc. I became very focused on technology and ways to work harder and smarter with clients.

Dundas & Wilson then became part of the Arthur Andersen legal network. It began as a very exciting time and I got be involved in some technology projects with clients that were very ahead of their time, however these came to a shuddering halt once the Enron scandal hit. We came out of the AA legal network in a hurry and at that point, I got involved in IT and ended up leading the governance of supply and management of outsourcing and insourcing. From there, I learned loads about technology, services provision and managing budgets. Around the same time, I did a project management qualification and became more interested in process mapping and process improvement. So I’ve always been interested in how things work and building solutions, which are the things that come at the junction of the business of law and the practice of law, which is where legal operations falls.

What are the unique features of your role as Head of Innovation and Legal Ops within CMS?

What we do is not different massively to other companies, but our work encompasses what many would understand as project management. This began at the start of recession. We were waking up to the commercial reality that most of our clients were banks, who were telling us they needed same or more for less cost – if we wanted to maintain profitability we had to start working differently. I wrote a business case for the introduction of a Legal Services Unit (LSU) – and began looking at ways to measure and reward more profitable behaviour, and provide better education around legal project management.

The LSU has grown to between 60-70 paralegals and we have also built a legal project management team. Legal ops is like having an internal consultant team continually looking at ways to improve and work smarter through education programmes, project process and structure review.  More recently, we started focusing on work allocation and resource management – how you resource a job and availability of skills required for projects? That was the beginning of the role I have today.

As an industry, law has a reputation for being resistant to change. Is this something you come across? How should we be encouraging more openness to change?

It’s often said change is the new constant, but it’s always been something humans as a collective are not good at. Especially when it comes to ways of working that suit us and makes us money, change is difficult.  Anyone who say it is not is living in make believe. As generations change, we often assume that change will be easier, as a generation of digital natives comes through surely we will become better at using technology. But actually, I’ve found that’s not true either – there are plenty of young people who are just as clueless at spotting opportunities for using technology as older clients and vice versa. Indeed, many older partners are better at spotting opportunities. It’s down to individual personality and their growth mindset.

There are things that encourage change: One is the creation of necessity – if we suddenly find we can’t compete with a competitor’s service, we either adapt or stop altogether. Another similar driver is if someone sees a particular prize to be won that requires motivation to change. Otherwise, we simply need to put in the hard graft of building better resilience from the very beginning. That means teaching people before they even become lawyers about creative thinking, a growth mindset and adapting in business.

It’s not just about technology – the answer isn’t just about teaching lawyers to code or whatever, but how to be better at problem solving, experimenting, and being willing to try and fail – the latter of which is particularly difficult due to our psychological make up! Sometimes, you can engineer a burning platform to create a necessity for change – but you have to shape people to adapt to change, you can’t expect them to just do it.

What are the foundations for building successful legal teams and fostering innovation?

I think that there is often a missing piece when we talk about innovation.  And again I want to be clear when we say innovation, it doesn’t just mean technology or the big grand gestures that I call innovation by press release – announcing some exciting new adoption, innovation is not always something esoteric. Often it is the everyday small adaptations at the coalface of the business. It’s a question of the how, what and who. In law, we have traditionally focused on the ‘what’ – the service – but we have to look at the how and who much more – we’re striving to find that balance between profitability, brilliant client service, and happy people. This makes for a sustainable and exciting business future.

So, successful teams have to start with the human beings – humans need to connect and respect each other. Communication is a word used a lot but effective communication doesn’t happen by accident, it requires deliberate action. For example, we have teams in Edinburgh, Sheffield and London, so working with remote teams is a given. It can often be cited as a barrier, and yes it can be tricky if you aren’t able to easily build a connection that fosters trust and builds rapport. We can’t build trust with a system, or automation – technology can support us it but it is created by that extra effort by us. One has to be strict and formal about the time put in to building relationships. While I am in Edinburgh today, I will deliberately set aside time to phone or IM, not with work-related comms but with the kind of conversation as you would have when you are getting a cup of coffee together in the office.

Successful teams also must be diverse – and I mean that not just as a box to tick with someone of a different gender/sexuality/race in every team, but quite simply that different people from different backgrounds bring different mindsets and experience to drive innovation more naturally. There is so much research showing diverse teams are better teams, and we don’t have metrics around diversity, it’s just part of the requirements for our teams to be diverse from a business and human perspective.

How does legal ops help with external client processes?

A hot topic at the moment is the expectations gap. A question we often get asked is ‘What have you got to innovate us?’ The question is framed as something that we are going to ‘do to’ them. That’s not how it works. You can’t do innovation to someone. We can work with them to understand the problems and challenges and get to a place of collaboration and work out how the tools we have can help with those areas.

Sometimes the hope is that we will just tell them all the tools we have got, which we are happy to but it’s not just about what you have it’s what you do with them. And it’s understandable, it can be tricky for clients who feel they don’t want to share their issues or don’t have the time and resources to engage with us on to that degree. But it does create a gap between what law firms are doing and what clients want. Where there is closer collaboration, that’s where we can make a real difference.

What role is legal technology playing in innovating services? What trends do you predict over the next 5 years in the development and adoption of legal tech?

Overall, the understanding of what different tools can do is low, and hype is high. People believe that AI, automation etc. are going to do something to their organisation that isn’t possible. And when we look at the sales cycle, we can see why. Tech demonstrations are set up like a magic trick – with a dark stage, wordy introductions and build ups then the big reveal, the rabbit out of the hat. We forget that the reality is different. We all know magic isn’t real and we should be thinking ‘ok, but how does that work?’  But we buy the hype. In house teams are so time-poor that they are looking for the quick fix to make things magically quicker.  Instead, we should be learning to use a tool to support changes in process overall to make things better.

As far as my predictions go:

  1. There is so much legal tech out there doing same thing, there will have to be some consolidation or emergence of front runners. We don’t need as many contract and automation tools as there are in market now. We also don’t need so many AI tools, providers will have to find their own niches or get absorbed by other platforms.
  2. There will be more integration of different functional building blocks – there are huge numbers of tools out there but if they don’t work together it’s pointless.
  3. Less of a prediction and more of a hope. There will be less talk and hype and thus more adoption of useful legal tech in the real world as more people get to understand how to use it.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be looking ahead and experimenting but we can’t jump from that to widespread use everywhere. It goes back to working out the usefulness and where it will work best for each client and team.

A big question for us is how innovation can help more lawyers, particularly women, advance their careers and return to work. What would you see as the best approach to tackling the issue?

It is a big question to answer, but one particular aspect that I have seen has a real impact for women returning to work is work allocation projects. Work allocation is something that accountants, for example, are very good at. This helps them understand what people are doing and when, as well as the aspirations of their people and their capacity, so they can schedule jobs more easily. Law firms, on the other hand, traditionally haven’t been good at this. They tend to look backwards in terms of matters and time spent, but this means they don’t always know what people are doing today and what they will be doing over next month, because of the billable hour. We’ve done work allocation programmes across two practice groups. And when you first say to partners what you are doing they think great, we will get better use out of our people.

But that’s not the be all and end all. If you’re a lawyer, you want to increase your opportunities and have it fit better with your personal life. Visibility and access to more interesting work and more influence on personal development are the most important things. So first of all, work allocation programmes help to balance out the work to ensure everyone is getting the opportunities they want and workloads are more fairly distributed. But it also has an effect on people returning to work, be it from maternity leave, career break or secondment.

The problem returners often face is that they could be quiet, maybe for months. That is not down to any bad intentions, simply that the team has reorganised in their absence and there is no ready waiting stream of work. It is, however, very demoralising for someone highly-skilled and at the top of their game before they left, and their motivation is quenched. With a work allocation project, the time spent getting someone up to speed is days rather than months.

Proper mechanisms for work distribution can also help with fitting work around life for everyone, e.g. for working parents –  understanding people’s schedules and using technology to allow them to work remotely and flexibly. As a result, the cultural barriers to flexible work have almost gone away in our organisation now. It’s not perfect – there are still some types of work where there is less flexibility, e.g. at the height of the deal negotiation cycle but I think market will move once clients become more accepting of the culture shift, and not having that deal mentality of high energy late nights until it’s done. It’s a challenge that remains across industry but it’s up to law firms to put the pressure on and change that way of thinking.

There are still culturally lots of ways people miss out on opportunities in work to be visible and forge those connections we talked about earlier, even for example teams going for drinks after work – that’s difficult for people with childcare, or those who don’t drink due to religion or lifestyle choice. No one should miss out as long as they are doing the high standard of work needed; we just need to work harder to find ways to make everyone fit together like a jigsaw.


The Legal Update Trending

How Lawyers Can Raise Awareness about Climate Change

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist, has a fair point when she says that adults should start behaving like adults and do something about climate change. In the legal sector, and more broadly in the services sphere, it’s not immediately obvious what we can do in our professional capacity to fight climate change. Unless you’re the GC of Greenpeace working to protect the planet, what are your options? This is why at Obelisk Support, we decided to help lawyers who fight climate change on a daily basis by harnessing the artistic talents of the law.

We are looking for the next Legal Photographer of the Year who can capture the effects of climate change in photographs. Is that you, or somebody you know?

Global Law Photography Competition

Launched on May 1, 2019, the Global Law Photography Competition is open to anybody working in the sector as well as law students and its theme is climate change. Meant to be inclusive, this competition invites all artistic talent in the legal sphere to join forces and put their brains together. That means that non-fee earners including secretaries, IT or operations staff and non-lawyers at law firms can enter the competition just as fee-earning lawyers to win two VIP tickets to Hamilton the Musical in London.

How Do You Capture Climate Change in Photographs?

At SXSW 2019, 2010 Alexia Grant Recipient Louie Palu presented “Arctic Passage”, a series of photographs frozen in large ice blocks. The melting ice blocks gradually revealed photographs shot around the Arctic, illustrating the effects of climate change on Arctic communities.

For the purposes of the Global Law Photography Competition, nobody needs to go to the Arctic or Antarctic to capture the effects of climate change. Sadly, climate change is already all around us. Here are some examples that we can all relate to:

  • Have you noticed your favourite flowers blooming earlier than usual?
  • Did last summer’s drought affect your travels or surrounding landscapes?
  • Have winter floods or storms affected you or people you know?
  • Have you noticed more extreme and changing weather patterns around you?
  • Have you witnessed forest/moor fires in areas where it’s unusual?
  • Are you thinking twice about driving short distances versus cycling or walking?
  • Have you found traveling on public transport uncomfortable because of summer heat waves?
  • Have you spotted invasive non-native plants or insects on your regular walks?
  • Are there less water-dwelling species in rivers, lakes and streams around you?
  • Tick season is now much longer than it was 20 years ago – how do you protect yourself and your house animals?
  • Have you noticed that seasonality of local fruit and vegetables has changed at your farmers market?
  • Do you see new ‘warm climate’ crops such as wine grapes where there used to be none?
  • Have you seen increasing signs of coastal erosion?
  • Have some traditional bird, insect, or mammal species populations around you gone down?
  • Do you eat less meat and dairy to mitigate the carbon footprint of your meals?

These are only a few examples of how climate change affects all of us, whether or not we are realising it.

How will the Global Law Photography Competition help?

The strategy is two-fold.

Fundraising for ClientEarth

For each photograph entered in the competition, ClientEarth will receive a donation from participants.

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect the planet and the people who live on it. They are lawyers and environmental experts who are fighting against climate change and to protect nature and the environment. With the planet in peril, they (and we) believe the law is one of the most effective tools that we have in the battle to save civilisation.

Raising Awareness about Climate Change

By capturing the tangible effects of climate change in photographs, competitors will challenge the status quo and help raise awareness about climate change, thus inspiring others to take steps towards reducing their carbon emissions.

After the competition, the photographs will be used as educational material and provided free of charge (pending artists’ permissions) to school and organisations who educate people on global warming and climate change.

There could be no better result of your artistic skills than to know that they can inspire others to act.

How to Submit your Photographs

Click here and submit your entry before June 1, 2019.

Good luck!



The Legal Update Trending

The Legal Industry Carbon Footprint – How Lawyers Can Work More Sustainably

With Earth Day 2019 behind us, we are reminded that climate action is not an occasional task; it requires an on-going interrogation of our actions and a commitment to both short and long term changes. We take a look at the legal industry carbon footprint as reported by the Legal Sustainability Alliance (LSA) in 2018, and assess the business case and focus points for sustainable strategies.

Efforts to address the legal industry’s carbon footprint and play a part in the response to the global environmental crisis appear to be increasing. On beginning her term Law Society President for 2018-19, Christina Blacklaws declared her focus on sustainability as underpinning the main themes of innovation and technology, equality and diversity for her term in office.

LSA Carbon Report

Meanwhile, in the LSA’s 2018 annual Carbon Report, there has been a large increase in firms joining and declaring carbon footprint. Between 2017 and 2018, the alliance welcomed 31 new member firms, an increase of nearly 30%. Of the law firms that have been reporting regularly since 2008, figures show a 56% reduction in their combined carbon footprint and a 39% reduction in the average per capita emissions.

Carbon footprints are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). CO2e is calculated by multiplying the emissions of each of the six greenhouse gases by its 100 year global warming potential (GWP). As an example, the average person in the UK emits around 12.1 tCO2e per annum.

The total carbon footprint of all law firms reporting to the LSA was 191,836 tCO2e — with an average figure of 3.24 tCO2e per employee — an 11% reduction since 2017 and 21% reduction on the 2016 figure.

Over the past three years, paper use by reporting firms has reduced by 9% from a total of 4676 tonnes in 2016 to 4249 tonnes in 2017, suggesting that there is still work to be done to get firms to increase their use of digital documentation.

Another area for improvement was carbon emissions associated with water used, significantly increasing from 690 tCO2e in 2017 to 1712 tCO2e in 2018, but this was largely due to 12 more firms reported their usage (like for like shows almost identical usage in 2017 and 2018). Carbon associated with waste produced by reporting firms had also increased by 23%, again due to more firms reporting to the LSA.

Becoming Carbon Neutral

Most recently, Thomson Reuters declared their Earth Day commitment to becoming carbon neutral. In a recent press release, the organisation announced goals to become carbon neutral in 2019 and to convert to 100% renewable energy usage globally by 2020.

Thomson Reuters has undertaken a carbon offset strategy which is geographically informed by its global footprint. As a result, the carbon offsets will have positive impacts worldwide in major markets that the company operates, including Brazil, Canada, India, and the U.S.

“Not only is it the right thing to do from an environmental perspective, but it’s what employees and customers are asking us to do,” said Stephane Bello, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Thomson Reuters. “As a global organisation, we have a shared responsibility to do business in ways that respect, protect, and benefit our customers, employees, communities, and environment.”

Seeing a company like Thomson Reuters lead the charge and be ambitious in its timelines and targets, shows us that there is no excuse for companies – no matter their size – to ignore their responsibilities to the environment in which they make their profits.

The Business Case for Sustainability

As the environmental crisis and its global effects become more urgently apparent, we are becoming more conscious of our day to day waste and energy usage as individuals and as collective organisations. However, it has always made business sense to prioritise sustainability and resource efficiency. Corporate social and environmental responsibility is not a new concept, with public scrutiny of practices relating to waste management, pollution and labour conditions making or breaking the reputations of corporations.

According to a 2015 report on sustainability and business performance from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, 88% of research shows that solid Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) practices result in better operational performance. Companies are also reported to perform better on stock markets by 80% of studies.

The LSA sets out its own business case for cutting the legal industry carbon footprint. It states that having a carbon footprint and management plan is a good way to highlight hotspots where resources are being consumed and cost saving can be achieved. This also provides an opportunity to engage with new generations of lawyers – who prioritise ethical and environmental concerns when choosing companies to associate with – helping to bring forward new ideas for organisational innovation and transformative leadership that goes beyond meeting minimum carbon targets.

Creating Sustainable Strategies

Whether as an individual, small or large firm, it’s important to develop a dedicated strategy for reducing carbon footprints. Think about your working patterns – travel, energy consumption, resource usage – what areas need most attention?

For example, moving towards paperless working can save on paper, couriers and storage. Already paperless? Great! See where you can you cut down on energy consumption – employing energy saving measures, such as reducing unnecessary devices and utilising switch-off and downtime settings, can more than offset increasing energy costs in your offices.

Crucially, flexible working also plays a significant role in energy efficiency – better implementation of flexible and remote working policies have been shown to help to reduce office energy consumption, and lowers individual carbon footprint related to work travel. When working flexibly, as an individual it’s up to you to keep your work as green as possible at home. Take a look at these tips from a previous Attic article on working sustainably from home, and remember small changes make a big difference.

It’s also important to look beyond your organisation. Look at switching to renewable energy suppliers and other sustainability-focused suppliers of resources. Research other recycling, public transport and cycle schemes in the local community that you can take part in – the more events and sustainability focus communities you connect with, the more knowhow you will gain for better strategic implementation.

The bottom line is: it takes collaborative action, and sharing of information and ideas at all levels to change the way we do business and reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.


The Legal Update Trending

Interview: Jasper Teulings, General Counsel of Greenpeace International

The Attic recently spoke with Jasper Teulings, general counsel of Greenpeace International in Amsterdam. With a team of 10 lawyers spread across the world, Jasper Teulings takes on immense legal challenges that combine not only legal expertise but something rarely seen in the private sector – a will to break down silos between NGOs, the public and academia to foster active collaboration on topics that affect us all. Here he gives us a fascinating in-depth insight into working in the nonprofit sector at the most famous name in environmental conservation.

Tell us about the legal department of Greenpeace…

I manage a team of 10 lawyers at Greenpeace International, the international coordinating body for the global Greenpeace network, with independent national or regional offices covering 55 countries.

My team comprises of a number of specialists with expertise on international law, maritime law, human rights, media law, and Dutch law (as we are based in the Netherlands). We provide legal services to Greenpeace International first and foremost at a strategic and operational level, and we also provide legal support to our national offices at a strategic level. Less than half of these offices have some form of in-house legal capacity but we collaborate with them frequently, or with the national office’s external counsel, and with pro bono firms and law clinics. As general counsel I support the team and focus on key risks and opportunities. The team works on the full spectrum of legal work conceivable in the NGO sector.

What’s a typical day like?

It’s typical that there isn’t a typical day! Our work falls into three key areas, which we have named Sword, Shield and Armour: which translates as strategic litigation, strategic defense and organisational legal support respectively. The first two are rather Greenpeace-specific and the last one is what one would expect from an in-house legal function anywhere. The work is truly global.

#1 Strategic litigation – Sword

This is the most important aspect of our work. You could find us developing a legal case to protect the Amazon against destructive industries, or organising a case conference on climate litigation. Most of our strategic litigation work is in the realm of climate litigation, supporting our local Greenpeace organisations and their allies.

For instance recently, Greenpeace Netherlands joined a case brought by Friends of the Earth against Shell in which the court is asked to make Shell align with the Paris climate agreement. You could also find us filing a securities complaint against the lack of disclosure of climate risk in relation to a coal plant or oil pipeline, or we could be discussing the fiduciary duties of pension funds to divest from fossil fuel. It’s an incredibly dynamic field we’re fortunate enough to be at the forefront of, in support of our society’s much needed transition to renewable energy.

#2 Strategic defense – Shield

In terms of strategic defense, you would see us engaging with a case in Strasbourg in front of the European Court of Human Rights. We have one case pending at this instance, on behalf of the 28 activists and two freelance journalists who were unlawfully arrested and detained by Russia following a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic waters.

We could be working with allies and academics, on a general comment of the article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of assembly together with allies – that’s more legal advocacy work. Or we are managing pending litigation against us. We have two rather bizarre cases in the US based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, one brought by Resolute Forest Products (read more about it here), a logging company in Canada, and another one by Energy Transfer, an oil company from Texas. Both companies were represented by Trump’s go-to law firm, who argued Greenpeace’s environmental advocacy amounts to a criminal enterprise. To be clear: both cases relate to pure speech activities (reports, tweets etc.), and both lack any form of legal merit. As such they classify as Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) – a form of legal intimidation increasingly deployed by corporations against public watchdogs.

The first case was dismissed by a San Francisco court as a SLAPP on 22 January 2019 (for the second time) and the second was fully dismissed by a North Dakota court on 14 February 2019, which held that “donating to people whose cause you support does not create a RICO enterprise”. But we don’t expect we’ve seen the last of these bogus claims.

For us, it’s not just about ensuring we’ve got the best legal defense. These are PR attacks as much as they are legal attacks, and civil society needs to bolster its resilience against them. We are therefore a founding member of a coalition of civil society actors in the US called Protect the Protest, which aims to build resilience against SLAPPs. In that coalition, we partner with EarthRights International, ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom of the Press Foundation and many others.

#3 Legal support – Armour

In the context of our Armour work, some of my team members may be reviewing a contract, looking into compliance issues, or supporting colleagues at Greenpeace India against a barrage of bureaucratic attacks, which are a direct consequence of Greenpeace India’s campaigns to protect the climate and the forests. This is part of a broader attack on civic space in India, which has forced Greenpeace India to let go of part of its staff. Unfortunately, NGOs face increasing civic space constraints in many countries nowadays; there is degree of crisis management in dealing with these matters. We simultaneously have to fight for space to operate in countries with democratically-challenged governments, and deal with large corporations with vested interests abusing the legal system to suppress criticism. Those are fights I’d rather not have to fight. I would prefer to focus exclusively on advancing our environmental goals.

What’s your background?

Before joining Greenpeace International as general counsel in 2004, I was in private practice in the Netherlands for 10 years. After graduation from Amsterdam University and the University of Canterbury, I clerked at the Amsterdam Court of Appeals and then became a member of the Dutch Bar. I worked in various law firms in commercial litigation, civil litigation and media law, mostly representing media.

In addition to the work I do for Greenpeace International, I sit on the (Supervisory) Board of EarthRights International and SOMO, two NGOs whose work I really admire. And I am on the Advisory Board of the University of Amsterdam’s Law School. These roles enrich my views and allow me to share our experiences and networks as wide as possible. I also regularly give guest lectures at universities, something I really enjoy.

What about your team?

I am very fortunate to have an excellent team of specialists. Their expertise is tailored towards the needs of a global NGO: international law, human rights, environmental law, media law, maritime law, etc. They hold a range of nationalities and qualifications. A good number are members of US bars, and we have two UK barristers, and some Dutch-trained lawyers.

The people in my team are mostly based in Amsterdam, but also in Copenhagen and Colorado. Greenpeace International has around 250 staff, 100 of whom are based in Amsterdam. The global Greenpeace network has close to 4000 staff, based in one of the 27 independent National or Regional Offices, covering 55 countries. Fortunately, working globally nowadays is much easier. We have excellent video conferencing facilities, collaborative web-based tools and remote working facilities to keep our carbon footprint and expenses as low as possible.

What are your biggest challenges?

That has to be the urgency of the issues we deal with.

According to the most recent IPCC Report on Climate Change, the next decade is critical if we are to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which in turn is needed to keep global temperature rise within 1.5C. At the same time, we see biodiversity loss rapidly increasing. These are tremendous challenges for humanity. Strategic litigation can play a key role in supporting our campaigns against climate change and biodiversity loss. Fortunately, there is an increased appreciation for this work and we are hopeful that we will be able to expand opportunities in the near future.

How do you prepare for the future in the legal sector?

While we do use a lot of collaborative web-based tools, we don’t really use legal tech; not as much as legal departments in the commercial sector. It comes down to the fact that within my team there is no bulk work – it’s all tailor-made. The work we do is highly specialised work that requires independent assessment of each case or matter, and that’s what makes it exciting.

Our imperative is to keep identifying the best legal instruments and tactics to advance our organisation’s environmental goals. I encourage my team to actively build networks to help us in our work. They contribute to academic research, they publish, and they sit on other charities’ boards.

#1 Landmark Cases as Building Blocks

In our strategic litigation work, we try to create landmark cases that act as global building blocks to advance environmental and human rights interests. A significant climate change victory in one jurisdiction, while it does not have precedential value in the strictest sense elsewhere, often has significant moral authority in other jurisdictions. There’s a famous Philippines Supreme Court ruling – Oposa v Factoran – that recognises the rights of future generations. This landmark case has served as an inspiration in our own Norwegian constitutional challenge, and also in the famous Urgenda case in the Netherlands, as well as in pending climate cases in the US, such as Juliana v United States.

We try to identify such building blocks across the globe and see how they can be translated into local contexts and act as inspiration for judicial audacity. Where governments and corporations fail to meet their duty towards society and nature, courts intervene. For us as a legal team, identification and dissemination of these building blocks is an essential part of our work.

#2 Thinking Outside the NGO Box

We have seen a convergence of issues that requires us, as lawyers, to transcend traditional boundaries between environmental law and human rights. Climate change is increasingly seen as human rights issue. This allows us to strengthen bonds with other NGOs dealing with these issues. We are partnering with Amnesty when it comes to climate emergencies. On civic space, we work with NGOs that strengthen fundamental rights such as peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Breaking down the silos in the NGO sector is a highly-needed development and very welcome.

#3 Harnessing Support for Legal Action

The third axis of future development is how to harness the massive popular support for legal action. Over half a million people have supported our case against the Norwegian government and the recent case by Oxfam and Greenpeace against the French government generated over two million signatories in a couple of weeks. These are important indicators of public interest for the judiciary and politicians. How do you make that point come across – should these individuals become individual plaintiffs like Friends of the Earth has been doing? In the Norwegian case, we submitted the signatures of half a million people as evidence of popular support for our case – prompting the judiciary to take its duty and act where governments and corporations are failing to act.

How might Brexit impact the day-to-day running of Greenpeace International?

Greenpeace International is a Dutch foundation so the impact should be minimal. Two UK lawyers on my team are working from Amsterdam, but I gather from colleagues at UK-based NGOs that they are concerned about the potential disruption – they may at some point join the exodus of talent from the UK to the continent. On the broader political level, it’s a worrying sign of nationalism at a time when we need more multilateralism to address global problems. You simply cannot address these complex issues at a national level alone – international collaboration will always be key.

What does 2019 have in store for Greenpeace?

We expect a tidal wave of climate litigation, especially as there is a growing popular concern about the lack of public action, as an expression of the need to speed up the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. I expect this type of litigation to involve both governments and increasingly, corporations. More governments will be compelled to ramp up their regulatory efforts and more fossil fuel companies will face legal challenges regarding their long term strategies.

We are also expecting increased scrutiny of the fossil fuel industry from the financial sector. Is it still responsible to invest in fossil fuels? Are climate risks adequately disclosed as material risks? What is the role of the accounting sector, of rating agencies? Are they overstating the values of stocks of fossil fuel companies? It’s not just Greenpeace that’s looking at these issues. The Bank of England and other central banks have stated that climate change is a ‘mega risk’ and requires increased regulation of the banking and insurance sectors. The European Commission is setting the agenda on sustainable finance; we are monitoring developments closely.

What are the best things about working for the world’s most famous environmental advocates?

I’m in the enviable position to work with extremely smart and dedicated people. One of the huge advantages of working for Greenpeace is the ability to attract and retain incredible talent – it’s much easier than in commercial practice, even if the pay is incomparable. There are few legal jobs in the NGO sector and there is an overwhelming interest from the legal profession. People want to work for values rather than for profit.

The name Greenpeace opens a lot of doors in the legal world. We have strong ties with academia and work with law clinics at Yale, NorthWestern, Harvard, and the Amsterdam Law Schools. Take the case we have pending in Norway, a constitutional challenge against oil exploration in the Arctic. For this, we’ve had support of the Yale Human Rights law clinic in the form of an amicus brief. We have also welcomed amicus curiae briefs and expert witnesses in our Philippines human rights case, which looks into the accountability of the carbon majors for the human rights implications of climate change. As you see, academic collaboration is very important to us.

We also increasingly get support from large firms when it comes to pro bono legal support on various issues. I think there’s still room for improvement there but yes, it certainly helps to work for a global name like Greenpeace. In the past some of the larger firms have declined to work pro bono for us out of a perceived business conflict, for fear of losing out on business opportunities from the fossil fuel industry. However, the tide is turning and law firms increasingly take their own responsibility when it comes to human rights and climate change issues. They embrace the ‘do no harm’ principle and are more actively supporting NGOs. I see that as a positive development.

What advice would you have for a young environmental/human rights lawyer?

As said, there are few legal jobs in the NGO sector and competition is fierce. People who find jobs have a demonstrable track record that shows their professional skills as well as their commitment through causes. Young lawyers should build up experience through internships and hone their skills in private practice. I still think there is no better place to become a lawyer than at a law firm, but there are other places too where lawyers can build up their skills in a very demanding professional context.

Of course, you have to realise that there is no way to compete with the commercial sector in terms of salaries. It is always a dilemma for experienced lawyers. If they are in the commercial for too long, it turns into a golden cage. Work in private practice for as long as is needed to build your skills but don’t wait too long or you might get trapped. Alternatively, if you are in private practice and you do want to support the work that we do at NGOs, offer your services pro bono,  or serve on a board.

No one here doubts that the issues that we work on are acutely relevant for the future of our planet and for humanity as a whole. Climate change, biodiversity loss – if you are able to make a contribution towards addressing those threats; that is incredibly rewarding. No amount of money can match that. As a lawyer, it doesn’t get much better.

You can follow Greenpeace’s work on their website, on LinkedIn. If you have aspirations to join them, Greenpeace welcomes internships, and has a very strong intern talent pool. Greenpeace also welcome pro bono support. The bottom line is, you don’t have to work in an NGO to help protect the climate – there are lots of great opportunities for lawyers who want to work for good and not just for money.

The Legal Update Trending

Lawyers Who Are Changing the World For the Better 2019

Be they lawyers by day, legal superheroes by night or pro bono lawyers who are passionate about making the world a better place – each and every one of the lawyers below deserve recognition for outstanding legal efforts in their community and beyond. Most of them were nominated by colleagues, others by clients or by work partners. After our inaugural list of lawyers who are changing the world in 2018, the 2019 list is heavy on lawyers who deal with urgent crises threatening our society and our planet – climate change tops the list of urgent battles to be fought, but social mobility and diversity aren’t very far behind.

We could not include all the nominations but thank all of you who contacted us to recognise exceptional lawyers; we are in awe of the impressive nominations we received. Without further ado, here is the 2019 list of lawyers who are changing the world for the better.

Piya Muqit

Legal aid lawyer, Hong Kong

Lawyers who are changing the world

The executive director of the Justice Centre, a local non-profit organisation providing legal support to asylum-seekers in Hong Kong, Piya Muqit is the daughter of economic migrants who fled Bangladesh during the 1971 civil war to start a new life in Scotland. After serving as the head of policy and advocacy at UNICEF UK as well as senior legal adviser at Freedom From Torture, Piya Muqit raises awareness on issues concerning refugees in Hong Kong and presses for fairer legislation and policies. Her ambition is to expand the organisation into a regional NGO leader in human rights.

Victoria Anderson

Commercial lawyer, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Victoria Anderson is a solicitor in London who is passionate about education and diversity in the legal profession. After volunteering as a group leader for a student project at City Law School about social mobility and helping their local community, the project became a charity called Big Voice and she became CEO of Big Voice London. This social mobility charity seeks to engage young people from non-traditional backgrounds in law and legal policy. Big Voice London runs projects for young people each year, including: a Mooting Competition and introduction to the legal system in association with the UK Supreme Court, a summer school discussing growing topics of law, the country’s only Model Law Commission, plus seminars, workshops and lectures.

Rebecca Perlman

Pro bono lawyer, London (UK)

Blending business focus and corporate social responsibility, Rebecca Perlman’s job is to fight poverty and inequality – literally. While most law firms offer pro bono work to their lawyers as a side hustle, Rebecca Perlman harnessed her firm’s corporate connections and global reach to transform its pro bono work into a profit centre by supporting government and NGO initiatives in developing countries. She is also the director of the African Commercial Law Foundation, a trustee of the Prisoners’ Advice Service, a member of Oxfam’s Lawyers Against Poverty Steering Committee, co-founder of the UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network, and a member of the European Banks Alliance Against Human Trafficking Expert Working Group.

Angela Hayes

White collar criminal lawyer, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

For a decade, Angela Hayes has provided invaluable pro bono support to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). This international NGO fights environmental crimes by conducting detailed investigations into activities such as illegal logging and wildlife trafficking, and by publishing its findings as reports. Angela Hayes, partner at a global law firm, plays a vital role reviewing these materials for potential defamation action. On the few occasions when EIA reports are challenged, Angela has given rapid and effective advice on how to respond, thereby ensuring the situation is resolved without developing into formal legal challenges (such as EIA being sued for libel). EIA’s investigations and reports make a demonstrable impact in curtailing environmental crime, for example triggering the recent arrest of major ivory tusk traffickers by the Chinese authorities.

Chris Daw

Fraud, regulatory and criminal barrister, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Social mobility is not often associated with barristers in the United Kingdom. After starring in a film on access to the profession for The One Show, Chris Daw became a role model for aspiring barristers from non-traditional backgrounds. By speaking up on social mobility, becoming a mentor and setting a mentoring campaign, he has made a real difference for lawyers from ‘ordinary’ backgrounds who thought they would never succeed in the legal profession.

Lauree Coci

Dispute lawyer, Perth (Australia)

Lawyers who are changing the world

In addition to being pro bono coordinator in the Perth office of her firm, Lauree Coci was recognised for her professional excellence and contribution to the legal profession and wider community at the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards in 2018. She was an early advocate for anti-slavery legislation in Australia, assisting Walk Free Foundation with submissions to the parliamentary inquiry and making recommendations to the Attorney-General’s Department to shape the Modern Slavery Act that came into effect in January 2019.

Sonya Bedford

Energy lawyer, Exeter (UK)

A partner and head of energy at her law firm, Sonya Bedford is passionate about renewable energies. Believing that renewable energy can take the UK to energy independence, she has been recognised for her renewable energy efforts in the southwest of England as a Community Energy Champion at the Community Energy Awards, Energy Champion at the Energy Institute Awards and Environmental Champion at the Devon Environmental Business Initiative Awards. From climbing wind turbines to supporting her village in going Carbon Zero, to hosting Facebook Live sessions and decorating her local green area in Exeter with mini windmills, her aim is to continuously raise awareness of climate change. She established the UK’s first grid consortium and grid sharing agreements for communities, and in 2018 was awarded an MBE for services to community energy.

Jennifer Chika Okafor

Lawyer, UK/Nigeria

Lawyers who are changing the world

Jennifer Chika Okafor is a solicitor who regularly offers her services free of charge to people within the African community. She has taken on many institutions and individuals and won on a paid or pro bono basis. Jenny is a Women’s rights advocate and activist. She is the founder of the Nigerian Women in Diaspora Leadership Forum (NWDLF), a group which helps women realise and utilise their leadership potential. Jenny is currently concentrating on women and girls rights issues with the aim of assisting them in finding their places in society early in life without fear and minimum difficulties. Under her leadership, the NWDLF has spearheaded the fight against child marriages in Nigeria.

Carroll Muffett

President and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law, Washington D.C. (USA)

Lawyers who are changing the world

A recognised expert on the international law of wildlife and timber trade, Carroll Muffett is an outspoken advocate for the environment and has authored numerous articles and textbook chapters on national and international environmental policy and on the trade and environment debate. CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law, a nonprofit organisation that uses the power of law to protect the environment, he is a leading voice in holding corporations accountable for climate change.

Sophie Marjanac

Company and financial/climate damage lawyer, London (UK)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Passionate about the power of the law to protect people and the environment, Sophie Marjanac is project lead, Climate Accountability, for ClientEarth and was previously a senior lawyer in Australia where she specialised in environmental and planning law. She has also worked in the remote Torres Strait region, where she undertook litigation, negotiation and advocacy on behalf of Indigenous Australian landowners. At ClientEarth, she works on novel climate litigation strategies around the world with a particular focus on the risks of climate change to private actors and the intersection of environmental and corporate law.

Roda Verheyen

Environmental lawyer, Hamburg (Germany)

Lawyers who are changing the world

Specialising in environmental and international law, Roda Verheyen is a champion of climate justice in Germany. In 2002, she co-founded the Climate Justice Programme to support climate-related litigation worldwide. In 2017, she represented a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide Saul Luciano Lliuya in an appeal to the high regional court of Hamm against energy giant RWE (they won). In order to hold authorities accountable for climate change, she seeks compensation or stronger climate action through the courts and currently represents ten families in a lawsuit against EU institutions, dubbed the People’s Climate Case. She will argue in the European General Court that the EU must adopt a more ambitious 2030 climate target to defend their human rights – drawing on the UN assessment of the science.

Congratulations to the 2019 cohort – they are absolutely amazing and inspiring!

The Legal Update Trending

The Top Legal Blogs For Lawyers to Follow in 2019

The legal blogsphere is thriving, with ever-more law bloggers stepping up to discuss taboo topics and change the way we think about law and the legal industry.

Legal blogs are a valuable outlet and asset for lawyers and companies alike; acting as a marketing tool for your expertise, and allowing some creative headspace to examine issues of personal intrigue outside of your own work. Whether you are thinking of starting your own legal blog and need some inspiration, or simply want to follow for extra insights and opinion, here are some of our picks of today’s most highly-rated and recommended English-language legal blogs.

UK and Europe Legal Blogs

Regulation for Globalization 

Regulation for Globalization by Kluwer Law International blog is discusses the significant changes taking place regarding international business, especially trade law, EU law, and labour law. Contributors are leading legal experts from diverse backgrounds who report on the latest developments with ‘fresh, high-quality, and timely examination of the new rules facing international business’.

Legal Cheek Journal

One of our favourite legal media companies, Legal Cheek’s online journal covers current affairs in law with typically lively and irreverent style, proving that law doesn’t have to be stuffy or mince its words on even the more controversial topics making headlines.

Legal Hackette

Written by Catherine Baksi, barrister turned freelance legal affairs journalist, this blog features lunch interviews as well as legal news and book reviews. Catherine knows how to create an atmosphere and her in-depth interviews are great insights into the life of prominent lawyers.


Juro is an AI-enabled smart contract workflow platform with a Human First approach, helping legal teams at fast growing businesses make contracts work better within their organisation. Naturally, their blog focuses on legal tech and innovation but also discusses the importance of hiring and cultivating the right team for business success.

Barrister Blogger

This award winning legal blog by Matthew Scott is direct and simple in approach. Scott is not afraid to share his decisive opinions on legal issues dominating the news sphere, and has a way of setting the scene of well-read (and some not-so-well read) legal stories that keep you engaged from post to post.

Crafty Counsel

For the YouTube generation, Crafty Counsel publishes bite-size legal videos (10 minutes and shorter) featuring legal professionals discussing legal topics in verbal “bullet point” format. Some recent videos tackle varied topics such as “The art of building a relationship: In-house counsel & law firms”, “How can you champion women in the workplace?” or “Building a great Legal Team – the Software.”

The UKCLA Blog

The United Kingdom Constitutional Law Association publish this highly credible resource of expert comment and analysis on matters of constitutional law in the UK and further afield, with articles cited in academic writing, official publications and in the news media.

Techno Llama 

Cyberlaw is one of the fastest moving areas of law, and there’s plenty of interesting analysis and thought pieces over at TechnoLlama by Andres Guadamuz, with emphasis on open licensing, digital rights, software protection and virtual worlds. Articles are often whimsical, with a serious underlying message.

USA and Canada Legal Blogs

The Girl’s Guide to Law School

Founded by Alison Monahan, a former member of the Columbia Law Review, the Girl’s Guide to Law School aims to help young women get what they want from law school. Alison shares her own experiences and that of guest posters to create a conversation about the unique stresses faced in law school and how to overcome them.

Clio Blog

Clio are a Canadian legal practice management software company, whose tech-focused blog also tackles the wider themes around better management of law firms, including looking after lawyers mental health and wellbeing, communication with clients, legal tech trends and much more.


What began as a one man legal blog turned into a full-blown media company, home to the largest online community of solo and small-firm lawyers in the world. Articles, survival guides and podcasts share ideas, innovations and best practices, with a particular focus on technology.


At the cutting edge of legal operations, the blog by Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) provides how-to articles aiming to help legal ops professional optimise legal service delivery models. Posts are monthly but contain plenty of content to consider and incorporate into your strategy.

Gen Y Lawyer 

This series of podcasts interviews by Nicole Abboud introduces a new generation of professionals who are doing something a little differently in the profession. Abboud talks to millennials both inside and outside of the legal profession who are going after what they want on their own terms.

The Law for Lawyers Today

Published by Thompson Hine LLP, TLLT is a resource for lawyers, departments and firms focusing on legal ethics and professional responsibility, including the ‘law of lawyering’, risk management and legal malpractice, running a legal business and other related topics.

Asia and Australasia Legal Blogs

China Law Blog 

This is a no-frills blog discussing the practical aspects of Chinese law and how it impacts business for anyone who is currently or about to begin conducting business in China. The blog is run by international law firm Harris Bricken, and its contributing writers help to challenge Western misconceptions of Chinese law with accessible and engaging articles grounded in real experience.

LGBT Law Blog 

Stephen Page is a leading divorce and surrogacy lawyer committed to championing the rights of and interests of LGBTI people in Australia. His posts tackle discrimination parenting, property settlement, same sex domestic violence, and same sex law issues. This will be one to follow as Australia goes to postal vote on same sex marriage laws.

Zoë Lawton’s #MeToo Blog

Zoë Lawton is a legal researcher specialising in family law, criminal law and legal tech. Her #MeToo blog ran for one month in February 2018, posting the experience of women (and a significant proportion of men) in law who had been subject to sexual harassment and assault, bullying and discrimination within the profession. A full copy of the blog was presented to the New Zealand Law Society and all NZ law schools, and the archive of posts now acts as a resource for those who want information on how to report their experience to the Human Rights Commission, the NZ Law Society, their employer, or their university.

Law and Other Things

Law and Other Things publishes informative court and case updates, news articles, interviews, book reviews, petitions and announcements relating to India’s laws and legal system, courts, and constitution.

Singapore Law Blog 

Singapore Law Blog covers the latest Singapore court decisions and legal news, as well as routinely showcasing practically relevant law journal articles and covers Continuing Legal Education events. It invites guest contributions and even providing access to a database of articles on Singapore law from both domestic and international sources, ensuring a number of voices and a variety of expert opinion is at your fingertips.

Finally, we couldn’t go without including Obelisk’s own thinking space! The Attic offers a weekly mixture of thought pieces on working culture in the legal industry, profiles of consultant and event speakers, and guidance on career development for lawyers and legal consultants looking to work differently.

What legal blogs do you follow? How do they help you in your work? Send us your recommendations at [email protected] and we’ll add them to our list…

The Legal Update Trending

Irish Legal Pioneers and History Makers – Past and Present Day

With St Patrick’s Day just around the corner on March 17th the world is gearing up for the #GlobalGreening, in recognition of the contribution to international society Irish people have made at home and abroad. As part of the celebrations, The Attic takes a look at historical Irish legal figures and pioneering modern day legal heroes, who have achieved notable firsts and made major impacts in the legal sphere and beyond.


Frances Kyle and Averil Deverell

Frances Kyle and Averil Deverell became the first women to be admitted to the Irish Bar in November 1, 1921 – almost a year before any woman was called to the English bar (Ivy Williams, 10 May 1922). Frances Kyle studied her BA and LLB at Trinity College Dublin. She went on to win the John Brooke Scholarship, a prize for top law students and the Irish Times reported it as representative of “a women’s invasion of the law… quite consistent with the adventurous spirit of the age.” Kyle was also elected a member of the circuit of Northern Ireland in 1922, becoming the first female member of a circuit.

Averil was awarded a law degree from Trinity College, Dublin in 1915, and drove an ambulance in France during WW1. As the first woman to actually practice at the Bar in Ireland, Deverall worked tirelessly to promote the view that women were equally competent to carry out the same work as men. She was also the first woman to appear in the Supreme Court of Ireland and the Court of Criminal Appeal in Ireland and in 1928 became the first Irish woman barrister to appear before the Privy Council in London.

Today, the male to female ratio being admitted to the bar in Ireland is approximately 60% to 40%, though women have accounted for more than 50% of entrants over the past five years. In 2015, there were more female solicitors than male solicitors in Ireland.

James B Donovan

The work of Irish-American James B Donovan (his Irish grandparents emigrated to the US from West Cork), has only recently gained widespread attention, thanks to Tom Hanks’ portrayal of the lawyer in the 2015 film Bridge of Spies. Donovan’s first high profile case came after WW2 during which he served a U.S. Naval Reserve officer and general counsel to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of the CIA. This led to his key role in the Nuremberg Trials as assistant to Justice Robert H. Jackson, where he worked with film directors at the OSS to produce documentaries on Nazi activities which would serve as video evidence for the trials. Bridge of Spies however focuses on his work during the Cold War, when in 1957 he was the only lawyer who agreed to represent an individual, Rudolph Abel, accused of spying for the Soviet Union. Though convicted, Donovan ensured he was spared the death penalty and later led negotiations with Soviet mediators to free captured American pilot Francis Gary Powers in a prisoner exchange deal.

Eileen Kennedy

Kennedy was the first female judge to be appointed in Ireland when she was appointed to the District Court in 1964. After her appointment, she also created another precedent as the first female to sit in a court with her head uncovered. Judge Mary Kotsonouris, who was a solicitor’s apprentice at the time, is quoted as remembering the ‘frisson of excitement at such daring.’ Her court was reportedly crowded for days with people attending just to witness this daring. She chaired a committee to carry out a survey and report on reformatory and industrial schools. The 1970 report was considered groundbreaking in many areas for its verdict on the system and recommendations for closures of many reformatory schools, and came to be known as the Kennedy Report. She became a member of the Commission on the Status of Women that same year, which recommended the introduction of legislation for equal pay, and the removal of the marriage bar to employment.

Sheelagh Murnaghan

Called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1948, Sheelagh Murnaghan was the first practising female barrister in Northern Ireland, and was one of just eleven women to serve in the Northern Ireland Parliament during its 51-year existence, as a member of the Ulster Liberal Party. In June 1964, she put forward the first Human Rights Bill ever presented in a British or Irish parliament, though it was rejected several times.  She experienced direct intimidation and threat to life during the Troubles. In 1983, Murnaghan chaired a Tribunal which heard the very first case of sexual harassment brought before a court in the UK or Ireland, which was widely credited to have paved the way for sexual harassment to be made a criminal offence in the UK and influenced employment law in the Republic of Ireland.

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson was inaugurated as Ireland’s first female president in 1990, after a long distinguished career as a barrister. She was appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law in Trinity College Dublin when she was 25 years old, and founded the Irish Centre for European Law in 1988. She served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002, resigning two years from the end of her presidency term to take up the post. A lifelong campaigner, as Ireland’s President she stepped outside of the traditionally ceremonial, conservative state figure mould. She has been a vocal critic of domestic and international policies relating to immigration, climate change and capital punishment. Robinson continues her work in international human rights with many organisations including the Institute for Human Rights and Business and The Mary Robinson Foundation.

Professor Mary Rogan

An internationally recognised authority on prison policy, prison law and prisoners’ rights, barrister and Trinity College Professor Dr Mary Rogan was awarded a European Research Council Starting Grant worth 1.5 million euro in 2015 for her project ‘Prisons: the rule of law, accountability and rights’. The project was credited for combining for the first time the disciplines of public law and the sociology of punishment to examine inspection, oversight and accountability in prison systems in the United States and Europe. She has also pioneered community-based learning methods in legal education, having introduced the first community-based learning module partnering with nongovernmental organisations on penal policy.

Matthew Emeka Ezeani

A Nigerian-born lawyer, Matthew Emeka Ezeani founded the first ethnic minority-led legal practice in Ireland, Ceemex, in 2002. Ezeani is a qualified solicitor of the Irish Courts as well as of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, and has dedicated his career to representing the rights of ethnic and marginalised minorities. Ceemex was involved in a number of major immigration cases in Ireland, including playing a part in the legal battle that led to the Irish Born Child (IBC) 2005 Scheme, which saw full residency rights granted to approximately 17,000 foreign-born parents of Irish citizen children.

Ireland’s Women’s Hockey Team

In the summer of 2018, Ireland made it to the Women’s Hockey World Cup Final for the first time ever. But what are a sports team doing on this list of legal history makers? It might interest you to know that five members of the team are in fact practising lawyers – Lizzie Colvin, Deirdre Duke, Nikki Evans, Anna O’Flanagan and Gillian Pinder.  Colvin is an employment law specialist at DWF in Belfast, Duke graduated in Law and Social Justice from UCD Sutherland School of Law and is a trainee solicitor with A&L Goodbody. O’Flanagan is a former McCann FitzGerald trainee and graduated in Law with Economics from UCD, while Evans and Pinder are both graduates in Business and Law from UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business. Both Colvin and O’Flanagan have been quoted praising their colleagues and firms for supporting their sporting success.