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How to Future-Proof Your Career as Law Firms Evolve

Guest blogger Louisa van Eeden-Smit of LexisNexis UK follows her recent article on smart contracts with another future-gazing blog, this time looking at what you need to future proof your career for the law firm of the future.

What will the law firm of the future look like? It’s a reasonable question to ask considering how much the legal market has changed already, and the ever-increasing pace of change moving forwards.

PwC’s 2018 Law Firm Survey found that 100% of the top 10 firms cited technology as the key challenge to growth over the next two years, but there is an overall optimism about the direction the industry is heading and the ability to stay competitive. The key questions that seem to come up in our experience are: How much will technology change the face of legal service? Will the generalist die out? Will more firms merge, or will the niche outfit emerge triumphant? Will more lawyers become self-employed, providing virtual services to organisations?

Regardless of the outcomes, there are ways that legal professionals – be they part-time, returners, flexi-workers, or full-time in-house – can future-proof their careers.

Here are 5 key ways that legal professionals can move forwards in this changing world:

#1 Be flexible

A degree of agility and flexibility will be necessary regarding how lawyers deliver legal services. This is as true now, with the advent of new regulations and an increasingly tech-savvy and informed client base, as it will be in the future. A willingness to adapt will serve you well, as well as open-mindedness regarding alternatives to the traditional model of working that is fast becoming a relic. From portfolio careers to flexible working, there are more models than ever to suit professionals – and benefit both employer and employee.

#2 Listen to the client

Client loyalty isn’t a given in a market replete with so many options – it’s earned. Today’s client is more informed and tech-savvy than ever. They are willing to shop around and they are empowered. When clients demand efficient, tech-led services, for example, legal services providers should listen and adapt.  It’s also important to be proactive and show how the firm is anticipating future change and preparing to evolve services.

#3 Develop relationships

Client loyalty may not reign supreme anymore, so it has become critical that law firms prove themselves to the in-house legal teams they serve. Listening to what they need and learning the business from the inside out will allow them to stand out from the crowd by offering in-house counsel exactly what they want, exactly what they consider to be valuable. “Deep knowledge of the business is what really breeds loyalty,” according to Richard Harris, Chief Legal Officer at Robert Walters Group.

#4 Be more commercial

In addition to learning about the business in order to provide more nimble and forward-looking advice, a future-proof and commercial legal professional is one that acts proactively. If you can look ahead and anticipate what issues might impact your business and put forward relevant plans of action, you will prove yourself to be indispensable. Such advice is “worth its weight in gold”, says Dean Nash, Head of Legal and Compliance at Monzo Bank, and will allow you to retain business in a competitive market.

#5 Make technology your friend

In-house legal teams consider it to be a win-win. After all, with technology streamlining the service, the process becomes faster, and invoices get lower. Legal tools are just that – tools that can be used to support lawyers, not replace them. Harnessing them to provide efficient service is a no-brainer, especially considering the fact that it can free up lawyers to focus on the parts of their job they actually like.

Overall, legal professionals who are willing and able to jump in and run with the changes – namely, maintaining a lean, agile practice, one that uses technology and offers efficient, business-centric service – will find themselves in a good position – and way ahead of the curve.

It also seems there is a common prediction emerging – part hope, part anticipation based on current trends – that law firms will be more holistic in the future. This applies to both client service and employee care. There is a hope that law firms will take a broader look at the service they provide; addressing the whole commercial picture of the business, as opposed to offering discrete pieces of legal advice, for example.

Similarly, more holistic practices with regards to employee care, respecting work-life balance and acknowledging their varying needs, are expected. As Alison Unsted, head of global diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at Hogan Lovells, said in a recent LexisNexis piece on the perks and benefits future law firms might provide: “As the make-up of our people changes over time, as a firm we need to ensure that we are agile in our response, so that our benefit offering continues to attract and retain talent.”

For consultants or legal professionals moving into this sphere, or laterally moving within it, there are more opportunities than ever to have the kind of career you want. The legal market is constantly evolving and allowing for more diverse working opportunities – the only question remains: what does the legal team or law firm of your future look like?

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The Legal Update Trending

The Attic’s 15 Best Legal Podcasts for Lawyers to Listen to in 2019

Are podcasts a part of your daily life yet? Research suggests that there are over 630,000 podcasts in existence today in more than 100 languages. In South Korea, 58% of people are podcast listeners, while the UK languishes behind at 18%.

In the legal sphere, there is also a growing number of engaging and diverse podcast series covering topics ranging from criminal cases-  such as popular modern podcast pioneer Serial – to industry current affairs and wellbeing.

Podcasts are a great way to learn, relax and broaden the mind. If you’re looking to increase your podcast listening this year, start with our list (in no particular order) of the best podcasts for lawyers we’re listening to in 2019.

#1 Resilient Lawyer

The resilient lawyer in question is Jeeno Cho, partner at JC Law Group PC and co-author of The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation. Cho’s podcast share tools and strategies for finding more balance, joy, and satisfaction in your professional and personal life. She talks to lawyers, entrepreneurs, mentors and teachers about their approaches to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing while navigating the demands of their professions.

#2 Legal Current

A staple for many podcast-loving lawyers, Legal Current by Thomson Reuters makes the list again as it continues to run a series of commentary on the business and practice of law. Based in the USA, it has a global outlook and explores many issues that affect legal practitioners in other countries.

#3 Legal Toolkit

Legal Talk Network’s Legal Toolkit is a comprehensive resource for people in law practice management. With a new episode every month, Jared Correia invites forward-thinking lawyers to discuss the services, ideas, and programs that have improved their practices. In January’s episode, Sarah Schaaf talks about how lawyers can optimise their payment processes with technology and automation.

#4 Sworn

From the makers of Up and Vanished comes a new series pledging to pull back the curtain on the criminal justice system. Host Philip Holloway is a defense attorney and former prosecutor with a background in law enforcement. He delves into the legal aspects of major cases as well as discussing the emotional consequences of their outcomes.

#5 Beyond Brexit

If you haven’t read/heard enough about the latest Brexit updates and opinions, check out PwC’s Beyond Brexit discussing all aspects of how life post March 29th 2019 will impact life and business in the UK. GDPR, trade negotiations, the economy and immigration are all discussed in depth with experts to provide some clarity in the face of increasing uncertainty.

#6 Happy Lawyer Happy Life

Of course we endorse the message Clarissa Rayward brings, and the infectious energy she brings to each episode will hopefully help you manage different life stresses, deal with grief, or give you the advice you need to launch a legal start-up, Happy Lawyer Happy Life makes for great listening and the popular Facebook page is very lively.

#7 The Gen Y Lawyer

This forward-thinking blog continues to explore the new age of law, with the first episode of 2019 focusing on Twitter and how Jaime Santos and Kendyl Hanks (appellate advocate and appellate litigation associate respectively) created their movement to highlight women in law and call out sexism in the industry.

#8 Modern Law Library

A great podcast by ABA Journal for lawyers who are avid readers as well as listeners. Lee Rawles interviews authors of recently published books to hear their unique insight on the next additions to your to-read list. Recent featured authors include Stewart Levine author of The Best Lawyer You Can Be: A Guide to Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness,  and Nancy Maveety author of Glass and Gavel: The U.S. Supreme Court and Alcohol.

#9 West Cork

An Irish true crime series made by a British couple, if you didn’t get a chance to listen to one of the most talked about podcasts of 2018, now’s the time. Even gaining praise from documentary high king Louis Theroux himself, West Cork puts the victim of the crime at its heart, with the makers ensuring heavy involvement from Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s family and their solicitor. Without the sensationalism that sometimes features in podcasts of this genre, the 13 part series explores the complexities around the unsolved murder and the accused’s High Court action against the State for wrongful arrest.

#10 The Happy Lawyer Project

Moving back to happier subject matter, Okeoma Moronu Schreiner continues her mission to help young lawyers find the formula for a happy life of accomplish and contentment in law. Through her podcast we hear the stories of legal professionals who have worked for change in their industry and community, and who have managed to find a way to create balance in their own lives. It’s an inspirational and uplifting series that will motivate you to refocus on your own personal priorities.

#11  UK Law Weekly 

Hosted by former university professor Marcus Cleaver, UK Law Weekly is a great resource for studying and practicing lawyers alike. The series focuses on the week’s legal decisions and news, therefore giving listeners analysis not just of topical talking points but specific cases that have recently gone through Supreme and other UK courts.

#12  Thinking Like a Lawyer

Hosted by Above the Law’s Ellie Mystal and Joe Patrice, this podcast takes on a range of topics that are talking points amongst the wider population, and in their own words ‘shine it through the prism of a legal framework.’ This results in lively and fascinating conversations around issues as broad as free speech, drones and droids, weddings and parenting. Definitely one for broadening the mind!

#13 LeGal LGBT

LeGal was one of the USA’s first associations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) legal community, and this podcast consists of lively discussion with LGBTQ lawyers, policy experts and activists on the latest legal news affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the US around the world.

#14 The Docket

Canadian Criminal Defence Counsel Michael Spratt discusses the intersection of the law, the courts, and government. He has spoken to guests such as former Canadian Supreme Court Justice and UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and topics include political scandals, best fictional lawyers, and women and the law.

#15 Talking Law

The youngest podcast on our list, Women in the Law UK launched their new series on 7th January 2019. It is hosted by Women in The Law UK’s founder, the award-winning barrister Sally Penni, and produced by the BBC Radio5Live presenter Sam Walker. The first episode interviews Jodie Hill, managing director of Thrive Law.

Bonus: First 100 Years

To add to your ‘one to watch’ list, First 100 Years has recently launched a series of 10 podcasts following the course of the 100 years of women in law. In collaboration with Goldman Sachs and Linklaters, it charts the history of women in the legal professions. Progressing decade-by-decade, the podcasts will be 45-minute discussions between legal pioneers, historians, academics and legal practitioners based on key themes, including gender stereotypes, work/life balance and diversity.

Do you have an essential listen to add to our list of podcasts for lawyers? Let us know @ObeliskSupport

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The Legal Update

Demystifying Smart Contracts: Disrupt or Be Disrupted

We are delighted to have Louisa Van Eeden of Lexis Nexis UK join us as a guest blogger on The Attic. Her first post took a look at how millennials are shaping the future of the legal industry. This article tackles blockchain-powered smart contracts.

The fast pace of change in the legal industry can make those returning to the market wary, those already working in the industry stressed, and those entering the market feeling a need to race to keep up. It can be overwhelming. As technology advances and more tools become available, it seems that traditional modes of working are being replaced, or at least challenged. From contract management systems to shared databases, e-billing to electronic signatures, many of the benefits of the increased uses of technology are clear, with increased transparency, speed, and efficiency being just a few. But the rate of change can be dizzying.

In amongst the tech-related chatter, you might have heard about smart contracts. That’s right – the smart revolution, known for smartphones and smart televisions, is now sweeping through the legal profession. Powered by blockchain technology, these are contracts that do not need to rely on human verification or interpretation. Taken at its most basic, these things aren’t new – just look at direct debits – but they are raising interesting questions and challenges, including relating to the significant expansion of such systems’ sophistication and scope. We are in the early stages of our understanding and implementation of these, but as with anything new in the current market, it’s a case of disrupt or be disrupted. Namely, educate yourself and ride, if not get ahead of, the revolutionary wave.

What lawyers need to lead the way on smart contracts

The rate of innovation across the market will vary widely, however. As Simon Rhodes, Director of Knowledge and Learning at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP explains in a recent LexisNexis report, Smart Contracts – A View From the Legal Industry: “We believe a number of AI tools will be commonplace in the next three to five years hence our piloting a number of varied technologies. For us, ultimately, it’s always about the clients. So any developments must be linked to how we support our customer needs. Our definition of artificial intelligence (AI) is wide; we see it as a broad ecosystem of technologies that can improve our efficiencies and value offering by either replacing or enhancing human involvement. Therefore we must innovate collaboratively with our clients in offering holistic, technology-backed services.”

  • Remember: Technology for, not instead of, people

“Technology-backed services” is an interesting way for lawyers to look at smart contracts and other new tools. They are, in essence, ways for legal professional to automatically execute various business processes across organisational boundaries. They are tools to be used by legal professionals; not tools that will necessarily replace the individual. As Charles Radclyffe, CEO at the technology company, NetKernal, explains in the report: “Organisations need a distributed computing platform that can help them automate. With an operating system for automation in place, literally any business process, financial instrument or legal document can be automatically executed.”

  • Client buy in is key

Proactively speaking with clients ahead of change is an advisable step towards adopting any new technology. Not only will this make them more supportive of any change, but it kickstarts conversations around the business of the client. An intimate knowledge of the client’s business means you can look down the road and anticipate what the possibilities of automation might be – and what, if any, legal issues you might encounter.

  • Begin ongoing reviews of processes now

Furthermore, moving forwards legal professionals will need to be more tech-savvy. With smart contracts in mind, lawyers should – as Kit Burden, Partner and Global Co-Head of Technology at DLA Piper advises – be “reviewing their practice areas and considering what functions or transactions (or parts of transactions) could be simplified or commoditised so as to be rendered into a blockchain-friendly form.”

Considering your current processes and its potential is also an important step, as Kit identifies, towards developing smart contracts because it’s unlikely to be lawyers devising the technology. Instead, it will be coders and programmers. But that’s just the “how” of the issue. In larger companies, lawyers will be able to provide the “why” and explain “what” needs to be achieved from such blockchain-based processes if they have done the advanced preparatory work. They can be “heavily engaged” in the formation of such new processes. After all, as Kit goes on to explain, it’s “the historical province of the lawyer, ie to ask the ‘what if…’ question, and then craft the contract terms to try to deal with it.”

It is also imperative for lawyers to arm themselves with knowledge early on in the process precisely because so much remains to be established in this area, especially with regards to more significant and B2B-focused smart contract regimes. It will enable lawyers to “fully consider the workings of the proposed regime and highlight the points of potential legal challenge (e.g. as to the intended points of binding contract formation, the ownership of newly created rights, use of data, governing laws and dispute forums, etc.).”

The vast expanse of possibilities engendered by the advance of technology into the legal sphere is a thrilling, yet sometimes overwhelming prospect – but forewarned is forearmed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Legal Update

The Legal Update: How Will Brexit Impact Financial Services?

We’ve waited, we’ve debated, we’ve theorised, we’ve read the forecasts, but the question of Brexit’s impact on the UK and the financial services market still looms large. Obelisk Support recently attended the UK Financial Services Brexit and Beyond Summit, a City & Financial Global event, to get some insight on managing the EU withdrawal process from a legal perspective. Note that this Summit took place before the UK Government presented its Brexit Bill and some things might have changed.

The overall feeling in the room was that the UK should and would be leaving the EU as ‘global Britain’. Most in the industry were confident that Brexit would not change London’s standing as a global financial powerhouse, even in the event of no deal. John Glen MP, Economic Secretary, pointed to the UK FinTech industry was worth £7.5bn, giving the UK an advantage that other marketplaces did not have. However, this is not without a lot of work currently being done, and to come, to prepare for every eventuality and the inevitable legislative and regulatory changes that would follow. Some job losses would also be consequences, but these were stated to be a ‘fraction of original Bank of England predictions’.  

New Regulatory Responsibility

The UK FCA will have temporary authorisation to wave/manage authorisations to allow temporary operation until agreement is signed, Nausicaa Delfas of the FCA confirmed. Firms will not need to make many changes to be compliant and are advised to take their own legal services on how to manage a no deal Brexit, for themselves and their customers. Firms must let customers know about how their services/products/rights and protections in contractual terms will change. There will only be a need to move client’s activity if it is in client’s interest. Customers will be protected when we leave via the Ombudsman regime.

Areas of risk will include contractual continuity, data adequacy, and clearing, which need agreement on both sides, and transfers of personal data between UK and EU raise questions. On Day One, the UK will have equivalent framework to the EU’s. Outcome based equivalence is the principle – our rules do not need to be identical but achieve similar outcomes with market-specific rules. The FCA welcomes US FCA rules, which have broadly equivalent outcomes. Unsurprisingly, predictable and stable regulations are necessary for financial services to thrive. 

Legal Clarifications and Myth-busting

The next task involved debunking some of the myths relating to Brexit in a panel discussion with Michael Dougan (MD) Professor of European Law and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law, University of Liverpool, Chris Allen (CA), General Counsel, Clients and Products, Standard Chartered Bank, the Rt Hon The Lord Garnier QC (G) and Paul Hardy (PH), Brexit Director at DLA Piper. 

MD kicked off with a ‘back to basics’ reminder about the withdrawal act and the withdrawal agreement bill, both bases to avoid unnecessary disruption. EU law is not designed for third countries and was created for state members. The withdrawal agreement bill requires separate legislation if we are to reach an agreement. Much of EU law can be incorporated into UK law without reference to the withdrawal act and EU law will be in place until the end of the transitional period. He stressed that there would be no such thing as a happy ending, whether the country reaches a deal or no deal, remains or leaves. We just have to deal with the consequences of Brexit as it is happening.

G stressed that ministers have had to power to create secondary legislation throughout acts of parliament for a long time, acts that can bridge the gap until the full transition has been completed.  CA was concerned about the sheer volume of legislation to check and be translated into UK law. The huge amount of complexity and the volume make this a very challenging task. The reality is that 800 pieces of secondary legislation have to be adopted before March 2019, going through sifting committees at the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Brexit illustrates the difficulty of incorporating a multilateral system for all into a unilateral system for all.

Post-Brexit Contracts Continuity

For James Smethurst of Freshfields, the validity of contracts depends on whether or not licences are required. Take derivatives: Mere payment under these contracts is not a regulated activity, unlike entering into compression or new contract. Look at particular activities: Regulated activities for insurance is not so much entering as performing the contract. Any activity beyond payment may require licences. What would be the consequences of performing the contract without licences?

Validity & Enforceability

Additionally, what is the governing law of the contract? If it is UK law, the agreement will remain legal and valid without loss of authorisation. The place where the contract has to be performed will impact its enforceability. If an activity has to be performed in a EU member state and that contract is therefore illegal in the UK, is it unenforceable under UK law? Not necessarily. The answer depends on whether engaging into a contract constitutes an ‘adventure to break the laws of a foreign state.’ Even if the contract remains valid and enforceable, could one of the parties terminate for loss of authorisation? Are there reps of warranties within the agreement and whether they are given only at the outset of the agreement, repeated at any point during the contract or continuing? What’s the consequences of one of the parties losing its authorisation  and could the doctrine of frustration be invoked?

Most complex financial services contracts should have provided for the loss of authorisation. The regulatory risk is quite high for insurers as they might be subject to sanctions and regulatory scrutiny in EU member states. Regulatory exposure of firms means they might need to address that risk and transfer that contract to another entity in a EU member state that has the authorisation. 

Talent Retention & Immigration Law

Ilda de Sousa, partner at Kingsley Napley LLP, discussed the situation of EU nationals currently in the UK. The transitional period is slated to last from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020. Freedom of movement should not be an issue during that transitional period. The EU secondment scheme will go live on 29 March 2019 and is aimed at EU nationals and their family who can show residency.
There will be an app to download with 3 questions:
  1. Nationality,
  2. How long they’ve lived in the UK,
  3. Criminal convictions.
If a residence of over 5 years in the UK can be established with proof, the home office will access HMRC data and EU nationals will be prompted to pay a £65 fee (£32 for under 18s). For stay-at-home parents without HMRC records, they would need to produce documentation to show residency, with no more than 6 months outside of the UK during 5 years. Otherwise, they would have to apply for pre-secondment status. They would be granted leave to remain until they reach the 5-year period. By 30 June 2121, all EU nationals must have applied for secondment/pre-secondment status.
What about EEA nationals and Switzerland? Norway has struck a deal with the UK government and other countries are negotiating. New immigration rules should come into effect on 1st January 2021. The concern is if you haven’t clocked up 5 years or been granted leave to remain, then there would be no recourse to reach a settled status. In a no-deal scenario, the rights of EU nationals to stay in the UK will be honoured.
The question is, how to attract future EU nationals after Brexit? Pending immigration white paper, EU nationals should be treated like non-EU nationals but rules might be less restrictive for higher skilled workers. Immigration is very expensive and businesses might have to face £1000 per year for a visa in addition to government fees. Is this the best way to make the UK as attractive as it should be? 

Conclusion

To paraphrase Nausicaa Delfas of the Financial FCA, with less than 5 months to go, the focus was on providing certainty and confidence to firms and their clients operating in the UK, which involved being ready for all possibilities. While she emphasised the need for London to keep influencing global standards, it was pretty clear that without certainty, firms would need to change how they operated on the basis of a worst case scenario. 
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The Legal Update

Creativity, Collaboration and Procedure: Architect Tony Dyson on Bringing Millicent Fawcett to Parliament Square

What does it take to bring a public statue to life? As the centenary year of women’s suffrage draws to an end, we reflect on the years of campaigning, planning and cooperation that made Millicent Fawcett the UK’s first ever female statue in London’s Parliament Square.

With such a high profile public project, there were many stakeholders and organisations involved in making the statue a reality. Obelisk Support is proud to have a connection with the project, with our CEO Dana Denis Smith playing an instrumental part as the co-founder of the campaign. Other key players included leading campaigner Caroline Criado Perez, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Prime Minister Theresa May who both supported the campaign, Westminster Council, and Turner Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing, who created the statue.

At the intersection of the creative and practical planning was architect Tony Dyson, consultant at Donald Insall Associates, Chartered Architects and Historic Building Consultants. No stranger to the challenges involved in such a project, he was selected due to his specialist experience with public monuments, including the architectural settings for the statues of the non-violent political activists Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, along the west side of Parliament Square.

First, we want to know: what led Tony to his work on public memorials?

I suppose being brought up in a Worcestershire village and attending Worcester Cathedral King’s School were key in helping me develop an early understanding of the contribution the historic environment made to the overall character of a place and how that could promote a sense of belonging. Throughout my school days in the 1960s, however, much of historic Worcester was being destroyed to make way for new traffic circulation schemes and our headmaster David Annett encouraged a small group of us to attend local Civic Society protest meetings and add our voices to the objections being raised.

An interest in design led to my studying architecture at Canterbury but it was the opportunity to design in the context of historic buildings and environments that lead to my joining Donald Insall Associates. In 1992 my first memorial project involved the transformation of a former traffic island and motorcycle park at the junction of London’s Ebury Street with Pimlico Road, by refocusing the area as the architectural setting for Philip Jackson’s new bronze statue of The Young Mozart, who back in the 18th century, had written his first symphony in a house nearby. Now called Orange Square, the whole area has been regenerated, a local restaurant has extended its tables and chairs over the surrounding pavements and the statue is at the centre of a popular farmers’ market on Saturdays.

Photo by Garry Knight

The Process of Bringing Millicent Fawcett to Life

What considerations around location and design need to be taken when planning a public monument?

First and foremost, Westminster’s Guidance for the Erection of New Monuments Supplementary Planning Document states that ‘any proposal for a statue or monument must have a clear and well defined historical or conceptual relationship with its proposed location. As befits a world class city, Westminster requires only the best quality examples of new sculptural work for its streets and spaces. The City Council would normally expect commissions to be undertaken by established artists of international renown and to have arisen through a robust and transparent selection process.’

All the above requirements were taken into consideration in the process that resulted in the appointment of Turner prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing to create the bronze statue of Millicent Fawcett. It was Gillian Wearing OBE RA who depicted the non-violent Suffragist leader at the age at which she became President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, holding a banner that reads ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere’ and with the images of 55 women and four men (who were part of the fight for women’s right to vote) around the statue plinth.

With regard to the choice of location for the memorial, non-violent Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett was a perfect candidate for placing in line with the memorial statues of non-violent political activists Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, already existing along the west side of Parliament Square Gardens.

Previously, we had added the preferred scale for the bronze statue (similar to that of the existing Mandela and Gandhi bronze statues) to the limited competition brief. In designing the architectural setting for the new bronze statue of Millicent Fawcett, we followed a similar approach to that we had used for the Gandhi architectural setting (at a lower, more accessible level) but swept the Portland stone blocks either side of the statue back, so Gillian could have the plinth she wanted, as well as suggesting that the plinth should be of pink granite, a material already used elsewhere on Parliament Square.

Having worked on so many high-profile memorial projects, Tony says it was a real privilege to be part of the Millicent Fawcett project team. With so many different interest groups involved and needing to be consulted on the project, how did the process get off the ground?

Nigel Schofield from art manufactures MDM Props and I were brought in for our specific areas of expertise to collaborate with a mainly female driven project, led by the Culture Team at the Greater London Authority. It was of enormous benefit to our planning negotiations that, from the outset, the required processes were adhered to so meticulously. Also, professionally, it was particularly rewarding collaborating with artist Gillian Wearing over the design of the architectural setting.

What about the regulatory aspect, how do you keep relevant authorities informed when planning a public memorial?

Parliament Square Gardens is a Grade II Registered Garden within the Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square Conservation Area, adjacent to the World Heritage Site and within the Whitehall and St James’s Monuments Saturation Zone where applications for new statues and monuments will not be permitted unless there is an exceptionally good reason.

Once the ‘exceptionally good reason’ had been established and the project was shown to comply with the other recommendations set out in Westminster’s Guidance for the Erection of New Monuments Supplementary Planning Document, we moved to the pre-application stage. We talked informally with Westminster’s planning officers, so they could get an idea of the direction we were going in and comment on any difficulties they foresaw.

As the project progressed and the design that was likely to form the basis of the planning application emerged, preliminary meetings were held with those who were due to be consulted under the planning application (stakeholders from the buildings surrounding Parliament Square, local amenity groups, the Garden History Society, Historic England etc) and the draft proposals were then shared with them, so we would be aware of any particular issues they might have with the scheme and be able to take the opportunity to address those issues in the final planning application.

Did you come up against much resistance to the proposals?

Not really. There were hundreds of letters and emails of support and only three real objections – all of which were connected with the fact that only female artists and sculptors had been considered.

The History & Future of Public Memorials

Why do you think it is so important to have public memorials in our public spaces? What can they teach us about our society today?

I’ve already mentioned how a statue or monument can give identity to an area, but memorials can also help us see ourselves in the context of our own history, as well as relative to those we choose to memorialise, as times change. It’s interesting that the majority of press coverage of Millicent Fawcett agreed we need more memorials, not less, particularly as we have to make up for lost time in marking women’s contribution in history.

Attitudes to history and identity are defined through art as much as anything else and art and sculptural and architectural form can enhance our sense of place in history and create a sense of identity.

There is talk about pulling statues erected in the past down and replacing them with artworks or memorials that more accurately reflect society’s values today. This is not a new concept as in the 1960s there was a desire to replace Victorian statues with more up-to-date artworks.  I am relieved that nowadays there is more of a tendency to restore and maintain these references to our collective past, leaving only our attitude to them to have the opportunity to change, as we become more informed.

So you would be in disagreement with the calls for removal or replacement of more controversial historical figures?

Yes, I would be concerned for example, in the calls to tear down a statue of a colonialist like Cecil Rhodes in the vicinity of a university college he founded. You can’t erase history but you could of course take the opportunity to use the memorial setting to educate people as to just how non-PC Cecil Rhodes was. A couple of years ago, whilst in Virginia USA, I visited Thomas Jefferson’s Federal style mansion, Monticello. Jefferson had been the main drafter and writer of the American Declaration of Independence and in Washington DC I had seen the enormous Jefferson memorial. However, at Monticello I was impressed as to how the heritage tour of the property now focuses as much on Jefferson as slave owner, the slaves’ lives and the history of slavery in America, including the original British colonial plantations.

And what of the future of memorials, do you see technology playing a more important role?

Westminster, who are already using QR codes on their bridges and structures for monitoring purposes, are considering extending the scheme to include their memorials, for educational purposes and coordinating with websites with historical information and links to memorial walks etc.

Elsewhere, there are the ‘speaking statues’ in Dublin, which immediately set off a chain of information as you pass them. In some cases ‘virtual’ memorials may prove more effective in helping people interact with their history and be a viable alternative to memorials in the built environment. The hard landscaping of our cities changes and develops continually, so going forward there should be plenty of opportunities to enhance the identity of such spaces with memorials in interesting new forms.

With these fascinating insights showing how a campaign for representation, the artistic and creative design process, and planning regulation and procedure come together as one, it’s safe to say we will never look at a statue the same way again.

Tony Dyson (Dipl. Arch RIBA) specialises in the design of urban hard landscapes and the architectural settings of memorial sculptures in Conservation Areas. He advises and provides services in connection with:  finding appropriate sites, feasibility studies, design and project management, planning negotiations, programming, cost control and contract administration.

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The Legal Update

Legal Innovation in Japan: Gender Roles, In House Lawyers and The Innovation Paradox

Japan is known for its bright city lights, tall buildings and weird and wonderful technological innovations. However, behind the scenes the country’s innovation, especially in the legal sector, is suffering due to its conservative culture and demographic problems. Ken Onda, business intern at Obelisk Support, takes a look at these conflicting elements and what needs to be done to sustain legal innovation in Japan.

The Status of Women in Law

A recent domestic scandal, where one of the most prestigious medical universities in the country admitted to manipulating entrance exam scores of female candidates to keep their pass rate under 1 out of 3, drew attention to Japan’s ingrained conservative outlook on gender roles and the lack of progress being made on equality across professional and technological industries. The fixing was allegedly done due to the belief that women had a higher chance of leaving the medical profession after conceiving children, causing “an intolerable burden for already overworked doctors”.

It is no surprise on hearing this news that Japan is ranked 114th out of 144 countries in gender equality, one of the worst for a developed country. In the legal sector, female attorneys make up merely 18.2% of Japan’s lawyer population, according to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. Of that 18.2%, only 11% are partners. This is a quite unbelievable disparity between men and women. Despite its shrinking demographic with 30% of its population 65 or over, Japan continues to discriminate against half of its population. This lack of representation is one of the reasons why Japan is suffering economically, and is increasingly unable to deal with international legal matters and lacking innovation in the legal sector.

Conservatism vs Legal Innovation

As far as the structure of its legal system, Japan has fewer per capita lawyers compared to other industrialised nations such as the US and EU countries. There are fears that at the current state, Japan will face a major problem in an ever-globalising world. Japan has adopted a Western legal system to settle legal disputes in courts despite significant cultural mismatch. Japanese people tend to resolve issues privately through negotiation without the involvement of lawyers. If there is no resolution, the conflicting parties will often go directly to court and litigate without private/commercial mediation. However, as lawyers are often not taught about mediation during university, they are not well equipped to solve problems in non-litigious ways.

Chart source: Wall Street Journal

This is a problem as when foreign entities – especially those in the West – try to do business with Japan, they are often caught off guard by the norms within the Japanese legal industry. This makes them less willing to work with Japanese entities, which is a significant barrier to collaborative innovation.

Moreover, the driving force of innovation – start-ups – are the most under-supported sector in Japan. Japan embodies a vertical collectivism, where bureaucracy, group-thinking and strict regulation dominate. It is a country where people are generally less inclined to take risks. For instance, Japanese landlords often want to see at least 2 years of profits before renting space to a company. It is therefore no surprise that venture capitalists often do not invest on high-risk ventures such as emerging technologies in the legal sector.

Although Japan invests heavily in R&D and is known for its technological advancement, it lacks entrepreneurship and application and capitalisation of its research due to its culture and regulation. Japan is still at its core a highly conservative country that does not embrace change readily as other developed nations, especially concerning new technologies. Japanese corporations such as Fujitsu, Hitachi and Sony are too slow and bureaucratic to keep up with agile foreign competitors in countries such as the US, Germany and South Korea.

Japan’s Missing In-House Lawyers

Japan is facing a major demographic problem involving shrinking population, going below the replacement rate. Subsequently, its market is also shrinking. For this reason, many Japanese companies are being more inclined to enter foreign markets, such as by conducting outbound M&A. However, due to the lack of experience in M&A and human resources, especially for SMEs, most of these deals fail according to the Asia Business Law Journal. This is exacerbated by the fact that Japanese firms tend to not employ in-house lawyers, but instead, make their departments deal with their own respective legal issues (e.g. a finance department deals with finance-related legal issues). This means that senior management is not given legal guidance when going through an M&A deal that is often full of legal issues. This increases the likelihood of the M&A deal not going through. Even when there is a legal department present, they often take traditional roles such as reviewing contracts and dealing with litigation. According to the Association of Corporate Legal Departments in Japan, only 6% of in-house lawyers felt that senior management frequently implemented the advice of in-house legal counsel.

Illustrating this trend, only 5% of qualified lawyers in Japan work as a legal counsel. One of the main reason for this is because the Japanese Bar Exam has been deliberately designed to be one of the hardest in the country to pass. On average, people take the exam 6 times before finally passing to qualify as a lawyer. For this reason, a lot of Japanese law students go on to work after graduation as in-house counsels without being qualified. Could foreign-qualified lawyers be the answer to Japan’s lack of qualified lawyers?

Not so. The barrier for foreign lawyers to work in Japan is high, as it requires extensive documentation and in-person visits to the Japanese Bar and Ministry of Justice, taking at least 5 months. Conversely, hiring foreign-qualified lawyers for matters such as international arbitration is seen as a strenuous process for firms in Japan and in practice, not common. The resulting short supply of lawyers stunts the demand for innovation and change in the Japanese legal industry.

The Bottom Line

There is a serious need for legal innovation in Japan. To do this, the country first needs to address the core issue regarding gender discrimination. There needs to be progressive reforms and auditing of university admission process by the government to break entry barriers for women in male-dominated professions such as law and STEM. Additionally, university teaching of law should include the concept of mediation, as often practiced internationally, and the general practice of law around the world, especially in Western cultures. This is essential to keep Japan in the global stage.  

Then there is the lack of supply of qualified lawyers, especially in-house counsels. This will be a major problem in the coming years for Japan due to the rapid pace of globalisation, and increasing importance of IP and technology. The scarcity of in-house counsels means that Japan is increasingly unable to deal with international disputes, especially for SMEs. Despite the efforts to increase number of lawyers in Japan, little progress has been made. Japan needs to encourage not only domestic lawyers, but also foreign lawyers. On the one hand, the Japanese Bar Exam should ease its examination requirements while not losing its quality in order to encourage fresh law graduates to take the exam. On the other and, work barriers for foreign-qualified lawyers should be loosened to also increase the global availability of lawyers.

Finally, Japan needs to change its approach to business. In the age of rapid technological advancements, Japan needs to move to a more agile approach to business and loosen regulations to enable startups and entrepreneurship to thrive. Japan needs to place as much emphasis on commercialisation of technologies as it does on R&D. It will be interesting to watch progress over the next decade to see how the country can reconcile its contradictions to perform to its full potential on the global stage.

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The Legal Update Women in Law

Law’s Missing #MeToo Moment? Law360 Satisfaction Survey 2018 Identifies Harassment and Discrimination of Women Lawyers

The Law360 Satisfaction Survey always makes intriguing reading – providing, in U.S. lawyer’s own words, a far reaching analysis of level of happiness in the industry, the best firms to work for, and of course key insights into diversity and gender representation. This year, in light of the #MeToo movement that began in Hollywood, the subject of sexual harassment is also a talking point.

Among the things we learned were that even with the prospect of high earnings, law graduates are bogged down and stressed by student debts as other graduates, with nearly a third grappling with six-figure debts, leading to many putting off major life events such as starting a family.

We also saw some evidence of progress being made in terms of more women lawyers in firms led by women from the Glass Ceiling Report, though that progress was deemed to be lagging in larger firms, and fairly static overall in the five years that the survey has been conducted, as explained by editor-in-chief Anne Urda. However, there was a particular finding in the Satisfaction Survey that put this picture into an uncomfortable context: Women lawyers were still reporting, in startling numbers, incidences of direct gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Shockingly, a third of female respondents report having experienced sexual harassment, and more than half said they had faced discrimination. Meaning we’re not just dealing with a lack of action or effective measures to encourage women in law – women are still actively being shut out, shut down and even harassed and assaulted because of their gender.

Lawyers are Saying #MeToo – Are They Being Heard?

The Attic recently published some of the derogatory things that are said to women in law. With credit to those on the receiving end, those women recounted their experiences with clarity and, in some instances, wry humour. That doesn’t make it ok for any of them – and it’s impossible not to get angry on their behalf when faced with such stories and statistics that should have no place in any society, let alone in the year 2018.

Lawyers are widely perceived as being pragmatic and stoic in nature. Though passionate about the rule of law and justice for the people they deal with, they achieve these aims in a reserved and reasoned manner. They understand more than most the importance of process and the harm that a bad one can do for both accused and accuser. They exchange mostly in polite scrutiny of their industry, because they approach issues with a level head, but also perhaps out of fear that any sense of anger or outrage could hurt their reputation. And we all know the negative responses that follow when a woman publicly expresses a feeling about something… We are perhaps unlikely then to see some the type of attention drawing activism that has been part of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up campaign in Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a concerted effort to use the momentum of the now international conversation to draw attention to the issue in the legal industry.

But many feel the industry needs to go further – beyond investigating individual instances of misconduct – and actually requires a culture overhaul, according to speakers on a panel at the American Bar Association‘s annual meeting Thursday in Chicago. How can those in the industry make this cultural shift happen? Will it need a pivotal #MeToo moment to create real change?

Power and Privilege

In a feature for Vice, a group of lawyers discussed the conduct of former United States Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, and an interesting point was raised about the power structure of court life tenure federal judges and law student carrying the aforementioned burden of debt – losing out financially simply isn’t an option for many young lawyers, so they are more likely to put up with wrongdoing against them. These hierarchical arrangements in courts must be discussed as well as how people starting out in law can be safeguarded from abuses of power.

Before conversations were happening in public, many women put the responsibility on their own shoulders to prove themselves and perform better to convince people that they were not just sexual objects. Once conversations came out in the open more, the men on the panel recounted conversation with other men who began to question whether they could say wrong thing, and there was a backlash of fear of the movement. There was also the suggestion that some may choose to not hire women at all because of the ‘risk’, or exclude them from career development opportunities such as events and business dinner.

As the group lamented, if the response to #MeToo and reports of sexual inappropriateness in the industry is to limit women’s opportunities further, it hasn’t even begun to cause the culture shift that is needed. That excluding women altogether from job opportunities or events is even mooted as a solution is deeply concerning. All too often the burden is passed to victims to either tolerate the behaviour or accept a space is not for them because of the behaviour, rather than challenging the behaviour itself. This needs to be tackled as broader concern.

The Precipice of Change

However, the positive is that people now feel they can speak more freely about what has happened to them, and there is no going back from that.

Participants at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting event this month agreed, with co-founder of Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund Tina Tchen saying: “we are at an inflection point where we can shift what is going on in our workplaces.”

It is important to not view the issue of sexual harassment in isolation, the ABA president and chair of the panel Hilarie Bass  said: “What we are really talking about is building workplace cultures that are very diverse and very inclusive in every sense of the word. And that we are equipping managers and workers at law firms how to treat each other better in order to change the way workplaces operate.” And there have been moves in many organisation to make ‘say something do something’ a part of workplace policies and training, making everyone responsible for inclusivity and wellbeing. Secrecy and innuendo allowed Harvey Weinstein to get away with what he did for a long time, so a culture of openness needs to nurtured. We can’t simply rely on victims to tell their stories; those who are unaffected have to be vigilant and willing to challenge wrongdoing openly.

Panellist Nicole VanderDoes expands on the discussion in the Legal Network On The Road podcast. Her advice to people entering the profession or who have experienced troubling behaviour is to check what procedures and reporting mechanisms have been set up in their organisation for dealing with uncomfortable behaviour and misconduct. She also reminds us that those who might prefer to take the route of excluding women further to avoid the issue are also legally liable for this kind of discrimination too.

In others words, all in the industry must keep the conversation going, and leaders must continue to listen and to implement tangible measures against harassment and discrimination, to ensure we don’t see statistics like these again in 2019.

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The Legal Update

Investing in the Future of Cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain: Interview With John Lore, Capital Fund Law Group

While cryptocurrency valuations may currently be in a state of decline, confidence around them being a long term prospect seems to be increasing, and more people in the legal industry are taking note. At Obelisk Support,  we follow this topic with interest as our clients get on the cryptocurrency bandwagon. Investment fund lawyer John Lore advises clients on cryptocurrencies and investments as part of his firm Capital Fund Law Group, and places great importance on educating the wider industry on the implications of cryptocurrency investment and blockchain technology. He took some time out of his increasingly busy schedule to talk to us about the pressing issues and how lawyers are responding.

What is your legal background and when did you decide to create the Capital Fund Law Group?

I was previously with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, where I worked within their Hedge Fund and Private Equity practice. Then in 2010, I launched my own firm to focus exclusively on the investment fund sector and fund manager sector. To begin with, most of our clients were in the United States and it took a few years to build a global clientele.

How did you first come to deal with cryptocurrencies? What were the perceptions and predictions for cryptocurrencies like then, and how have they evolved since?

We started getting some phone calls about cryptocurrencies around 2013. We initially held off were as we were not ready to jump into the asset class, until 2016 when we launched our first cryptocurrency fund. [In those years] we invested effort in getting up to speed on regulations and drafting some of the initial disclaimer language. It was still very new so getting comfortable from a regulatory perspective took some time.

In terms of wider perceptions – honestly, I didn’t see much perception at all from legal community early on, pretty much nothing was being discussed back then. The shift in perceptions really happened recently in Spring 2017 where there was an explosion of activity in cryptocurrency due to the initial major surge in price of Bitcoin.

Though perceptions around cryptocurrency are rapidly developing, it’s still a very new area. How do you support and advise clients who are interested yet inexperienced?

We emphasise a solid experience in finance. From 2017, we ended up receiving hundreds of phone calls for individuals who wanted to start cryptocurrency funds. We were, and still are, very cautious about representing fund managers who have experience with crypto but don’t have a background in the finance sector. We are more on the side of tempering the swift formation of a cryptocurrency fund and teaching emerging managers how to create the proper structure for a fund. There are a lot of people we deal with who are very savvy with technology and are startup focused, so we advise them to partner with career finance people to create a more diversified skillset.

How have lawyers had to adjust their learning and experience to cryptocurrencies and the blockchain? 

There is much more interest now than there was, particularly in recognising that certain aspect of blockchain technology will change the future of a number of industries. From the investment side, we’ve seen a lot more education pop up – there have been some real strong early adopters on the legal side, who lack seasoned experience in finance, that we end up turning away but that gap is now getting filled by others. In general, there is a continued interest in the legal community in understanding the space and serving it. We, of course, only see a small slice of that in an investment context but in terms of the blockchain universe e.g. smart contracts, coin offering token offerings etc. there is a tremendous need for legal counsel in all those fields.

I think we’re right in the middle of the shift between curiosity and significant resources being allocated to the area. Again, I can only speak for the investment side, but a lot will depend on emergence of institutional investment and Wall Street involvement. I anticipate along with the rest of the cryptocurrency community that there will be major transitioning to a greater focus from these areas.

What impact are cryptocurrencies and the blockchain having now? 

There’s a plethora of opportunities that can be matched with technology across many sectors. On the investment side, there are major opportunities for cryptocurrencies as a stored value, and blockchain is already proving to be a very important aspect of the industry going forward.

What is the future looking like? Will certain cryptocurrencies eventually become a way of life for more institutions and individuals?

There’s the question of whether it will gain mainstream acceptance and whether it will continue as a convenient form of exchanging value. My predictions are: as an investment vehicle, yes, for next few years it will be limited to hedge funds and to high net worth individuals as a major trading instrument, but that can change as soon as there are infrastructures capability such as custodies and exchanges allowing for exchange traded funds (ETFs) – that would provide a strong avenue for retail level participation. Regarding seeing cryptocurrency as a replacement currency for our existing financial structures, that is more of an academic question at this point.

What developments and changes are still required to ensure longevity?

That’s exactly the question I like to be asked! Right now, the question most people have in mind is when and how the problem of custody will be resolved. That is both a technological problem and a legal problem. Getting the technology to a place where we can satisfy the custody requirement to meet financial crime compliance and to satisfy the regulatory requirement of jurisdictions around the world is a big challenge. So, we announced in July at our Cryptocurrency Custody workshop the creation of a working group, an international council of self-regulatory organisations that is going to be co-sponsored by the Stanford Law Blockchain Law and Policy Journal, and the Global Center for Investment Fund Studies, our non-profit research centre. There is a real need for international dialogue. There has been a tremendous interest in London, Dubai, and parts of Asia, and everyone is looking to the U.S. on this – a lot of dialogue is needed on how regulations will be shaped how self-regulatory bodies will play a part in that.

John Lore is a member of the New York State Bar and the Utah State Bar.  Mr. Lore represents fund managers and securities issuers throughout the United States. Capital Fund Law Group advises emerging and established hedge fund managers, with a strong focus on cryptocurrency funds on all aspects of fund formation and ongoing operations.

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The Legal Update

Pride Month: Interview with Stephen O’Hare CEO of Transgender Equality Network Ireland

Ireland has been in the spotlight for its historic ‘Yes’ vote to repeal the 8th Amendment. It is yet another sign of enormous change in social attitudes in the Republic, which in the last decade has passed progressive pieces of legislation such as Civil Partnerships, Marriage Equality and the Gender Recognition Act, to name but three. With Pride Month upon us, we talk to Stephen O’Hare, a barrister and long-time human rights and LGBTQ activist, who has worked tirelessly to advocate for equal rights and enable legislative change.

While it’s still fresh in our minds, what was your response to the recent referendum result?

It was astounding, and it was clear it came from a real desire from the Irish people to vote for change, a desire that actually stretches back for some time, even before the marriage equality referendum [2015] and the long-overdue Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act [2013]. In the lead up the consensus was that it would be very difficult to elicit further change in this area without a change of attitude in the general population, but there obviously was a will to see much broader reform of the Constitution.

It was really interesting from my own personal view as I myself thought it would be close, If the exit poll had indicated it would be 51% for ‘No’, I wouldn’t have been surprised. The organisation and sheer amount of coverage from the ‘No’ side made it feel that they had it much more tied up in terms of campaigning. Luckily, there was a more private desire for change. The numbers who voted to repeal – 66.4% nationally, with every Dublin constituency coming in over 70% – it’s incredible to see that come from where we were back in 1983 [when the 8th Amendment was passed], 1992, and even 2002. It was such a divisive issue then so to get to those numbers from there, it’s stunning.

What do you think this tell us about Ireland in the broader context of gender and sexual equality for its citizens?

I think there are a couple of things at play.

One is in the demographics. We have a mobilised generation of young people who grew up in the 80s and 90s – in the 70s and 80s there was a very dominant conservative element still present (the referendum for the insertion of the 8th amendment carried 2 to 1) – now, those young people are in their 30s/40s and are very politically engaged. We then also have another generation coming up behind them who are driving social change so rapidly; they demand rights for themselves and on the behalf of their peers and don’t wait for it to be handed to them. Another aspect driving the progression of liberalisation of the social landscape was the Celtic Tiger of the 90s and 00s– Ireland went from being a poor country blighted by unemployment and high levels of poverty-driven crime, to a nation of home owners with disposable income; a country home to some of the world’s biggest tech companies and the high earning jobs that come with them. Then, in 2008 the global financial crash hit Ireland hard but by then the country was permanently changed; we had become more open, more reliant on foreign investment and had to align ourselves with the values of our neighbours. So with that comes change, first in the form of civil partnership – homosexuality was only decriminalised 18 years beforehand – and very quickly again after that the drive towards marriage equality began.

The other fact was the change of government. After a long period of the same party [Fianna Fáil] in charge we found ourselves with a coalition of centre-right Fine Gael, and the centre-left Labour Party who, as a progressive agenda minority party with a limited fiscal portfolio began pressing hard on social issues such as children’s rights and marriage equality. I was working with the Irish Council of Civil Liberties at the time – and I remember there being doubts that Ireland would support same-sex marriage, but as we later saw it passed overwhelmingly and the sky didn’t fall in! We’ve had the Gender Recognition Act (2015), which allows people to legally change their gender – and again, the sky didn’t fall in. And now our current Taoiseach is a gay man of immigrant parentage. When you look back it is progress of a startling nature, but it also but feels inevitable given the way that Irish people now view themselves.

The next step after repeal is legislating for access to abortion – Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) are advocating for inclusive language to be used throughout legislation e.g. referring to people rather than women. What has been the response on this so far?

To be honest I think we are very much pushing an open door on that – the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has given positive signals on this issue. Of course we aim to ensure that language in any legislation post the 2015 Gender Recognition Act is inclusive of trans people, and in this case to avoid any language that would in some way bar trans people from accessing abortion services. But I think it is very much the intention of government to ensure that this will be considered in the final wording – with a little help.

You’ve been a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and equality across the social spectrum in Ireland for many years…

Yes – I’ve worked in the NGO sector for about 13 years, and that evolved from my educational background.  Having studied political science and social research I was aware of a whole range of social issues and equality matters that I felt passionately about. Since then I’ve been lucky to work in some very cutting edge organisations – I started out with ageing and issues affecting older people, and I’ve also worked with Pavee Point who advocate for the rights of Irish travellers, an ethnic minority who remain extremely marginalised both here and in Europe. These kinds of issues are important but can be unpopular so, for NGOs there’s often lots of behind the scenes awareness raising and educational work going on. In 2010, I joined the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. There, we were covering such a range of areas and campaigns relating to Ireland’s international human rights obligations, including the rights of minority groups, hate crime and reproductive rights.  I was doing a lot of work in advocacy and policy so I felt I needed to bolster my knowledge and experience. With the support of ICCL I began my legal training and I qualified as a barrister. I had to work it around my job so it meant studying in the evenings, and at that time we had just started a family, just bought and moved into a house so there was a lot going on! Through the ICCL I got involved in advocacy for LGBTQ rights and worked with many different organisations. By far one of the most impressive organisation working quietly under the radar for the recognition of trans people, which culminated in the landmark Gender Recognition Act 2015, was Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), and that’s where I very fortunately find myself today.

Explain the role of TENI in supporting people who identify as trans – what are the main issues they are facing?

TENI does a lot of advocacy and policy work, but we also focus on other areas, including individual support, employment practices, education and access to health services.  We work with schools and education centres directly to help them to understand how to facilitate a person in transition and those identifying as trans. So for example, if an individual is transitioning but is in a single sex school and wishes to remain there we work with the school to find supportive solutions. It is an active struggle – the Catholic Church owns and manages about 90% of schools in Ireland, which frames a certain ethos regarding LGBTQ people. While management in many schools is often very supportive and open to the issues, there can be an underlying religious conservative ethos to contend with. By and large, however, the work we do is very effective.

We also provide direct support to the families involved, as part of a wrap-around approach to ensure that the trans person is getting support everywhere they need it – at home, at school, among peers, at work . We work with employers to create trans inclusive policies in work, so that trans people can continue to live their lives confidently and with minimal explanation.

Health and wellbeing is one of the most significant issues that people who identify as trans face in this country – getting access to appropriate healthcare, be that access to mental health services, hormone therapy, or surgery is challenging. TENI aims to improve health services by working proactively with the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) where we can. We want to help them move to place where they see the benefit of funding dedicated trans services, not just in one location but regionally. There is a long way to go to see that model in place but change is slowly happening– we’ve just had the announcement of 9 new positions for dedicated trans care. There is, however, still a very long waiting list for healthcare and this is extremely frustrating for trans people awaiting appointments.

Pride Month is upon us – what do you have planned? Why is it so important for people across the LGBTQ community to be involved?

Would you believe, this year is my first ‘official’ Pride. I’ve long worked on LGBTQ issues and have a great number of colleagues and friends in the community. I’ve attended the GALA Awards for LGBTQ activists a few times, which is a great introduction to community, but this is the first time I’ll be properly involved in Pride. We’re very excited for our chair Sara R Phillips, a brilliant trans activist who helped to secure the Gender Recognition Act, as she is going to be the Grand Marshal for Dublin Pride this year. It’s one of the very few times that a trans person has led the parade, and TENI being front and centre is great. That’s visibility personified – trans people not just being seen as part of the LGBTQ community but also the wider Dublin community.

Pride is important for celebration and visibility but also in terms of reminding ourselves of the work on going.   My experience over the last 10 years has seen civil society coming together very ably to push forward on issues of equality, including trans rights. There is solidarity here. Ireland is regularly examined by the UN and other international treaty bodies, so it has become very common, almost on a yearly basis, for NGOs to travel and lobby human rights committees and government officials with the civil society voice, and then message back to media. Our civil society seems to be very good at doing that. By comparison, the trans community appears to be a little bit under attack in the UK, particularly in its media narrative of late. Even though their rights are legislatively settled, this is being questioned in civil society, and there is a level of resistance to further improve the circumstances for trans people that we don’t see as much of here.

Are you surprised at the difference in debate on trans rights between Ireland and the UK?

Yes, it is worrying from our point of view – in Ireland we consume a lot of British media, and ideas carry further on social media, so we want to see progressive change across water and we have to resist that narrative coming here. We are so connected to the UK in so many ways, and let’s not forget we are by no means as diverse as the UK. But at the same time, Ireland has found its voice and wants to be seen as progressive, attracting investment and tourism as a result. In my view, Irish people actively want to break away from the old oppressive conservative identity and there is much less of a desire to roll back on social progress and openness to change. I think that’s very different to what we are seeing in the UK with questions around European human rights law.

But as I’ve said, young people are the driving force for progress. While social media does have its problems, what with disinformation and giving legitimacy to regressive narratives, it has also given people more of a voice for social change and to challenge injustices. Based on what we’ve seen recently, one is hopeful that the voice for change is winning out. Ireland has come a long way but we still have a way to go, so our work goes on. I’m grateful to be part of it.

Stephen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Political Science (2004) and Master’s degree in Applied Social Research (2005) from Trinity College Dublin. In 2015, he completed the Barrister-at-Law degree at the Honorable Society of King’s Inns. Prior to his current role, Stephen worked as Senior Research and Policy Programme Manager with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), as Policy and Research Officer with Pavee Point, the national Traveller and Roma organisation; Research Officer with the National Council on Ageing and Older People and Consultant Researcher for the Health Services Executive (HSE).

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The Legal Update

Digital Transformation: New Report Sees Lawyers as Agents of Change

How are companies addressing the rapidly evolving need for digital transformation, and how can lawyers lead the way to help them to innovate? These are questions answered by a new report co-created by Microsoft and multi-national law firm Linklaters.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is an umbrella term that refers to ways that companies are harnessing new technology to make themselves more agile, efficient and able to provide a more effective service for clients and customers. The ‘transformation’ doesn’t have to mean a complete shift in the way that the business operates to a completely digital model (though it can include this), but can refer to simple changes of practice e.g. moving storage to the Cloud.

It’s clear that lawyers do play an important role in this process, particularly in the area of data handling and protection, but the report argues that lawyers can play a much more leading role, helping to make key decisions to help companies move forward in a way that best suits their unique business model, while remaining secure and compliant.

Where Legal Comes In

The legal side of business development has often been perceived as risk-averse and an obstacle to innovation, being historically slower to adapt to new technology and changing business practices. Yet the findings show that legal, risk and compliance professionals are considered to be more influential than in-house technology staff and tech consultants. Lawyers are in a unique position to be able to understand all the implications, and to collaborate and engage with business leaders and stakeholders to help design and implement the most effective and most innovative technological solutions for the company.

The report presents three point Digital Transformation Practice Principles designed to equip lawyers (both in-house and in private practice) with the tools and the mindset to become agents of change in a world of digital transformation. Let’s take a look at each.

#1 Creating Clarity in Times of Uncertainty

In what will likely be a familiar scenario for many lawyers reading this, the process of digital transformation usually begins with a solution being put forward by business leaders and technology departments with the question ‘Can we do this?’. There will be pressure to provide a clear and comprehensive answer fairly rapidly. When faced with a lack of familiarity with the technology in question, the instinct may be to advise against what is being proposed due the organisation not being ‘ready’ and the amount of perceived risk of the unknown. Instead, see an opportunity to learn, up-skill and train up in new technological trends within the industry.

The response to the question of ‘can we?’ should be ‘let’s learn how’, or ‘no, but here is something even better we can do’. Another aspect of providing clarity involves applying currents rules and regulations to digital advancements, and it will be up to lawyers to analyse these new scenarios and educate the relevant departments and users. A lawyer’s role is one of constant learning and updating knowledge, and with new technology impacting on so many areas of law it is important that legal teams keep pace and are open to learn about what is next on the horizon.

#2 Building Partnerships for Innovation

Lawyers and legal teams cannot exist in isolation within a company, and it is important to build close relationships with technological departments and any other key stakeholders in order to drive innovation and keep fulfilling the business aims. Lawyers bring necessary pragmatism and consideration to key business decisions, and this approach and level of knowledge is welcomed by other departments when there exists a mutual understanding of the characteristics and aims of each.

Digital transformation isn’t just a job for the tech team which then gets the once over by the legal team; it needs to be a collaborative effort between all stakeholders – commercial, IT, security, legal, compliance – at every step of the journey. One of the recommendations in the Linklaters/Microsoft report for better digital transformation is ‘compliance by design’, which considers legal and regulatory compliance throughout the whole transformation process, instead of picking up on issues to be addressed at a late stage.

#3 Delivering Success – Negotiation and Deal Discipline

A lawyer’s skills and experience in negotiation and deal brokering will be called upon to ensure that the digital transformation deal being pursued doesn’t collapse near completion. This means not only learning and training up on the new technology as previously discussed, but also ensuring knowledge of data protection, intellectual property, contracting structures, and exit and transition management are all up to scratch in preparation for the discussions ahead. Deal discipline will also be a crucial factor of the transformation process, i.e. having good project management and securing the availability of the right stakeholders for the appropriate meetings, setting agendas before negotiation meetings so that everyone at the table is on the same page, and having discipline to focus the negotiations on the issues that are important to your organisation.

Lawyers and legal departments have the unique advantages of influence, knowledge and access to drive digital transformation. If they answer the above calls to action they can become leaders of innovation and change within their organisation and for their clients.

Lawyers: Agents of Change in a World of Digital Transformation is authored by Adrian Fisher, Counsel TMT, Linklaters, and Andrew Cooke, Assistant General Counsel & Regional Director Legal Affairs, Microsoft Asia. The full report includes a primer on digital transformation, key legal and commercial issues in digital transformation deals, Microsoft’s Safe Cloud Principles, and a checklist for lawyers for each of the three digital transformation practices principles. Click here to register to download.