Making Work, Work

On Tuesday June 25, 2019, the Academy Awards of the legal industry, aka The Lawyers Awards, took place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Obelisk Support was shortlisted in the Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion category and we were particularly impressed by the winning entries in the in-house category. Via Obelisk’s legal blog, The Attic, we contacted some of the winners of the In-House category to learn about their secret recipe for legal success – and congratulate them along the way.

General Counsel of the Year: Tess Bridgman, Cory Riverside Energy Group

Tess Bridgman, general counsel and company secretary of recycling and waste disposal firm Cory Riverside Energy Group, won the much-coveted title of General Counsel of the Year 2019 thanks to the impressive evidence of technical, leadership and strategic excellence at the heart of a complex and business-critical project she led. Indeed, Bridgman has been right at the heart of the action at her company’s most significant steps forward in recent years. In 2018 the company was acquired by a consortium of infrastructure investors and in 2019, it went through a major debt refinancing.

Aged just 34, Bridgman helped steer one of the most impressive turnarounds in the market, transforming Cory from an over-leveraged, distressed conglomerate into a focused and profitable infrastructure business aimed at serving Greater London. In parallel, Bridgman changed Cory’s in-house team from a siloed structure to a department that is now considered not just an enabler, but also a creative leader of change.

Tess Bridgman shared the following with us. “Winning the General Counsel of the Year award means a lot to me, topping off an incredible three years at Cory Riverside Energy. When I joined, the company was undergoing huge change and was undertaking multiple complex transactions simultaneously. With no prior GC experience, I was really thrown in the deep end and am so proud to have come out the other side with this award. This is not something I could have done, however, without the incredible wisdom, support and challenge that I received from my colleagues and advisers.”

“To be a great GC in today’s world you need to be more than “just the lawyer”. It is beginning to sound trite, as I know GCs and in-house counsel have been saying this for some time now, but the role is about being a truly trusted adviser to the board, the CEO, the senior management team and, effectively, the whole business. It is about taking a leadership role in influencing the strategy and direction of the company and / or major transactions, and taking the skills learned as a lawyer and applying them to situations that may not, on the face of it, be “legal” (for example, the ability to synthesise complex issues to enable clear commercial decisions to be taken; or the ability to project manage). Success requires an enquiring mind, and having the confidence to ask questions or speak up and make a stand on issues that matter – whether these relate to matters of commerce, governance, sustainability, diversity or any other important issue facing your organisation. It requires energy, to manage multiple issues and projects at one time, and determination and empathy, to lead and influence others and navigate multiple and varied stakeholders.”

Fittingly, Bridgman is also a strong voice for female leadership – no doubt inspired by her ancestor, New Zealand suffragette Kate Sheppard who led the women’s campaign for women’s votes in 1893.

In-House Commerce and Industry Team of the Year: Post Office

For state-owned company the Post Office, the biggest challenge has been to become a commercially sustainable business and financially independent of government funding. It goes without saying that its legal team has been busy, winning In-House Commerce and Industry Team of the Year thanks to their hard work in modernising the Post Office as a business. In the last year it has overhauled its panel, created an academy to upskill its lawyers and created new procedures to streamline the contract approval and legal risk management processes.

A Post Office spokesman shared the following with us: “We’re delighted and proud that the Post Office’s legal team has won this award following a year of supporting the business during its continuing transformation.”

“The team’s achievements include supporting major Post Office strategic initiatives such as its acquisition of  Payzone Bill Payments and the negotiation of a new agreement with major high street banks for the services provided on their behalf through Post Office branches.”

“At the same time, the team has implemented changes to increase efficiency and value in managing the broad range of business matters it is required to support.”

In-House TMT Team of the Year: Farfetch

Fresh from winning Luxury Deal of the Year and Luxury Business In-House Legal Team of the Year at the Luxury Law Summit in London in April 2019, the Farfetch legal team wins TMT Team of the Year thanks to how they supported a period of fantastic growth for the company, culminating in the NYSE listing in September 2018. The legal team was also commended for their ‘keeping sane’ approach to procuring external counsel assistance.

The legal function at luxury fashion tech platform Farfetch was set up just five years ago, and has been at the centre of the company’s strategy and operations for all that time, advising the business through super-charged growth. 2018 was truly a year to remember; it achieved a US$5.8bn listing, a group re-organisation including a new holding company in the Cayman Islands, the acquisition of a digital and technology business in China, a global partnership deal with Harvey Nichols and an innovation partnership with Chanel, and the acquisition of a US-based premier streetwear online marketplace. At the same time, it was involved in the launch of an office in India and a tech hub in Portugal. The breadth of regulatory changes, corporate transactions and commercial issues was enormous, but the team, led by general counsel James Maynard, took it all in their stride.

In-House FTSE Commerce & Industry Team of the Year: Tarmac

Reflecting a building materials industry changing with the underlying construction industry, Tarmac has been through major restructuring and managed to forge a culture of innovation, having recently developed a new rubberised asphalt using recycled waste tires. Corporate innovation and changes came with high-stakes legal challenges. Tarmac wins FTSE Commerce & Industry Team of the Year thanks to their strong application of legal skills, leadership, management and innovation in demanding situations and under lots of pressure.

Katie Smart, general counsel for Tarmac, shared the following with us: “We’re absolutely delighted to have won this award which is a fantastic reflection of the hard work and dedication of very single member of the legal and compliance team.

“We’re all proud to work for Tarmac and this recognition from The Lawyer Awards helps shine a spotlight on the range of exciting career opportunities available within our company, as well as the wider construction industry which is such a great place to work for many professions.”

In-House Banking & Financial Services Team of the Year: Zopa

Pioneer P2P lending fintech Zopa matches people looking for a competitive loan rate with investors looking for a higher rate of return, and has lent more than £3.7bn to low-risk UK borrowers since 2004. Zopa’s bank is scheduled to launch in 2019 with plans to offer FSCS protected deposit accounts, credit cards, and a money management app. This company growth into new territory has been supported along by the legal team and this week, Zopa’s legal team won In-House Banking & Financial Services Team of the Year thanks to their creative legal advice and collaboration to facilitate the business as well as for the team’s focus on returners and diversity.

The Zopa legal team pushed into new regulatory territory over 2018, spearheading the launch of a new challenger bank to sit alongside its existing business, creating the world’s first hybrid peer-to-peer and digital bank.

General counsel Olivia Broderick saw Zopa through its acquisition of a banking license, the new bank creating unusual challenges alongside the existing peer-to-peer lending entity. The new bank needed people and assets to prove to the regulator that it was a resilient business and for this, the legal team led a TUPE transfer and a series of asset transfers from the P2P business to the bank.

Congratulations to all the winning teams for their achievements!

 

Punctuation in Legal Writing
Making Work, Work

On The Attic, we recently looked at curbing legalese and why more and more lawyers and businesses are making their legal contracts less wordy. Indeed, simple language is just one part of making complicated and detailed information easier to digest and punctuation and structure play a vital role in how our brains process what we are reading. Equally, a badly punctuated legal document is harder to read and can even lead to expensive consequences, as shown here in our guide to punctuation in legal documents.

Let’s Eat Grandma: Comma Consideration

Small but commonplace in prose (particularly in legal docs), the comma is crucial to good writing. We learn early on in our literacy education that the comma is like a short pause for breath in speech, but in writing it plays a much more complicated role. A comma doesn’t just break up longer sentences (and it doesn’t provide a get out clause for using lots of lengthy sentences either, by the way!). Commas are placed in sentences to separate clauses: A part of a sentence forming a clause is identified by its inclusion of a subject and a verb. In legal writing it also refers to a separate article, stipulation, or proviso. In all cases, improper comma placement can create ambiguity of meaning, and even change the meaning of a sentence altogether.

 ‘Eats, Shoots, and Leaves’ vs. ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’

‘Let’s Eat Grandma’ vs. ‘Let’s Eat, Grandma’

The addition of the comma can in both instances change the meaning dramatically. But often the difference isn’t so obvious, particularly when listing out terms, circumstances, individuals or other such subjects. The last in the list is where the correct use of the comma can often go astray, and many people are unclear on whether and when they should employ the Oxford comma.

In general writing, the Oxford comma is deemed optional, to be placed before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list of words. In legal documents however, it can prove essential, so it’s advisable to revise its usage.

A famous example of another costly comma placement frequently cited in legal circles is that of the Million Dollar Comma. A Canadian cable television provider and a telephone company found themselves in dispute over the terms of terminating a contract. Citing rules of punctuation, Canada’s telecommunications regulator ruled that Bell Aliant, the telephone company was allowed to end its five-year agreement with Rogers, the TV provider, at any time with notice, due to the presence of a particular comma.

This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.

The placement of the second comma was ruled to mean that the part of the sentence referring to the requirement of one year’s notice for cancellation applied to the five-year term and its renewal.

For further explanation of commas and clauses, this blog by Purdue Online Writing Lab comes with plenty of examples.

Punctuation in Translation

The Bell Aliant story leads us to the next thing to look out for in punctuating legal documents. The Million Dollar Comma faux pas came about due to the contract’s interpretation in French-Canadian comma usage. So when you are tasked with translating, or writing new documents using previously translated documents as reference, you need to be aware of such discrepancies. Even if you are multilingual, it may be advisable to double check the intention with the original writers or other native speakers where available.

Quotation Quandaries

Speech or quotation marks are another point of contention in writing, particularly regarding the rules regarding their placement next to other punctuation marks. As a general rule and to ensure absolute clarity in legal documents, a direct quote should come complete with its original punctuation and be placed inside the quotation marks; anything outside of the quotation marks belongs to the sentence the quote is placed in.

For example:

Subject A said during the interview “I had not received word of [Subject B’s] intended resignation until after the date in question.”, however, Subject B disputes this, saying Subject A was informed two days before the aforementioned date in question.

For readability however, the sentence would be better broken into two shorter ones, with the quote introduced via a colon:

Subject A said during the interview: “I had not received word of [Subject B’s] intended resignation until after the date in question.” However, Subject B disputes this, saying Subject A was informed two days before the aforementioned date in question.

Semicolon Use

The semicolon strikes fear into the hearts of even highly competent writers. Eternally cloaked in mystery, just when you think you have some grasp of how to employ one, doubt takes over and you run away again. Why step into the unknown when the colon (the semi’s more upfront cousin), or that familiar friendly comma will do? If you don’t learn to be confident using a semicolon, you are missing out on a whole new world of sentence structuring.

Generally, a semicolon is used in writing to connect two independent clauses. Unlike a colon, which serves to introduce a clause, both clauses either side of the semicolon are treated as equal – if the two are swapped over the sentence typically will still make sense.

Semicolons are particularly useful when using a transition such as however, therefore, or indeed, as in: Commissions for direct sales may also be payable to the Company; however, all such commissions can be made payable to the licensed salesperson(s) responsible for making a given sale.

In legal documents, you will also see the semicolon used frequently as a ‘super-comma’ – in this instance, the semicolon breaks up a list of items that already contain a comma e.g. Name, Job Title; Name, Job Title.

Hype Up the Hyphen

Another form of punctuation lawyers tend to shy away from is the em dash hyphens. Hyphens appear liberally in other forms, to join compound words and phrases, but an em dash (usually longer than a normal hyphen) can be inserted to create a break in thought or provide a light bridge introduction to a new clause. The rules on use are vague enough to provide freedom to use instinctively when you feel a paragraph could use some other forms of breaks, but take care not to just use a hyphen where a semicolon or comma would be more appropriate!

As Columbia Law School rightly points out, the sentence “On the Supreme Court, the federal government’s highest judicial body, one justice virtually never asks questions in oral argument: Clarence Thomas,” would be harder to understand if it were written, “On the Supreme Court—the federal government’s highest judicial body—one justice virtually never
asks a question—Clarence Thomas.”

Final Checks

It’s important to continually read over your writing as you work your way through a legal document. Doing this as you go along will help you to home in on potential errors and ambiguity created by punctuation. Reading over lengthy pages makes your brain go into scan-read mode, and you are more likely to read sentences as your brain thinks they should be, rather than as they are written. It also helps to read through after taking a few hours (at least) away from looking at the document, if you have the time to spare.

There are of course tools that can help you check spelling, grammar and punctuation, though it is important to remember they are not foolproof. Inbuilt spellcheckers in Word, Google Docs etc can do the trick if you already have a certain level of confidence in writing, but if you are less sure you can try other software.

Whitesmoke is one example used by companies and academic institutions. It checks documents in real-time, like Word and Google’s spellchecks, and also generates reports to rate your writing based on sentence structure, words, expressions, voice, length, and redundancy.

LanguageTool is also highly recommended when checking documents in other languages, with the ability to check more than 20 languages. The range of languages does not appear to impact on the level of accuracy, as it picks up on grammatical errors that other programs often overlook.

Ultimately though, the best proofreader is another human being, as they will be the ones using the documents after all! If possible, bring in the services of a professional proofreader or a non-legal writer who can pick up on how the document may be interpreted by others outside of the legal sphere.

Happy writing!

Obelisk CMS partnership
Obelisk In Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Change
The Legal Update

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!

 

 

Making Work, Work

Is it necessary to use complex language in a legal contract? As lawyers know all too well, legal documents are often wordy and complex, and legal precision gets in the way of clarity. Understandably, this legal jargon, commonly referred to as legalese, hampers the way business is done because non-lawyers find it difficult to get around the complex language. If you want to go forward with a business idea quickly, the legal ‘transcription’ should follow smoothly yet it doesn’t. Hence the need to simplify legal drafting. How do you do that? Certainly, legaltech has done a lot in terms of simplifying how contracts are drafted but that does not cover documents that need to be personalised or that are less frequent (or not yet legaltech-able). Easier than building a legal AI solution, lawyers could do something revolutionary: write in plain English.

The Historical Case for Plain English Contracts

It is important to explore the historical context of this topic and where this shift from complex to straightforward legal contracts began.

For centuries, drafters of law have loaded and compounded legal contracts with archaic and overbearing language. The movement towards promoting the use of plain legal language has been spearheaded in 2004 by David Melinkoff’s Language of the Law in which he strongly criticised complex legal language used by lawyers. By moving away from the common practice of saturating contracts with legalese, the goal is for legal proceedings and contracts to be completed at a significantly quicker rate. Agreeing with this notion is scholar Robert Eagleson who states, simple language “lets the message come through with the greatest of ease.”

In the US, this has long been a topic of discussion. In 1972, President Nixon ordered that ‘laymans’ terms be used in the federal register. President Carter also issued an executive order stipulating that government regulations should be as simple and clear as possible.’ 

As Shawn Burton of Harvard Business School puts it, “a contract should not take countless hours to negotiate. Business leaders should not have to call an attorney to interpret an agreement that they are expected to administer. We should live in a world where contracts are written in accessible language—where potential business partners can sit down over a short lunch without their lawyers and read, truly understand, and feel comfortable signing a contract. A world where disputes caused by ambiguity disappear.”

Where does that leave us in practice in the business world?

How GE Aviation opted for Plain English Contracts

A lot of companies, motivated by a desire to conduct business matters more efficiently, now promote their services on the premise of producing simple and straightforward legal contracts. 

Take GE Aviation.  When they combined their three businesses into a single Digital Solutions unit in 2014, their sales representatives were eager to drive sales, however their lengthy contracts threw off many potential customers. Customers often needed to review and sign contracts more than 100-pages long before they could start doing business.

Shawn Burton, Digital Solutions General Counsel decided to use plain language contracts and to ensure that the resulting documents were understandable, applied a litmus test. Could high school students decipher what the contract was referring to by looking at the contract alone? When they couldn’t, Burton and his team worked intensely on abbreviating unnecessarily long winded terms.

It took Burton and his team more than a month to write an initial draft from scratch without referencing the existing contracts or any other GE contract. The new contract covered the necessary legal concerns of all the digital services, thus reducing the number of contracts from seven to one. Even better, the draft was only five pages long.

How do other industries fare?

Legal UX in the Banking and Insurance Industry

The private banking industry, in particular, is guilty of using legalese to death in marketing messages to customers, sending them dense messages closely resembling product brochures. This certainly doesn’t help their business when other market players offer a simpler solution – often viewed as more transparent.

In 2018, Commonwealth Bank, the leader in Australian mobile banking, cemented its top ranking for the second year in a row in a study by Forrester Research, which evaluated the mobile apps of Australia’s big four banks. The report found that CommBank led the pack by blending “…extensive functionality with a stellar user experience.” As an example, they use visual cues beyond the standard lock iconography by displaying information about the last login on the home screen, a strategy that engages younger customers to use the app and interact with their bank more frequently.

In the insurance industry, the legalese problem is also acute as insurers are sometimes seen as trying to wriggle out of paying claims by citing language buried in the fine print of policies. Two insurers, Lemonade and Beazley, have begun issuing personalized digital policies designed for humans and lawyers alike.  Available in HTML format, these policies are easier to navigate than flipping through pages of small script. Lemonade’s policy 2.0 also includes open source policy wording, enabling consumers to suggest coverage extensions and other changes.

The business results speak for themselves.  In the months following the launch of Beazley’s digital policy, the company saw sales increase strongly, and was also able to sell digital policies in a number of states where they hadn’t before.

Plain English legal documents make complete business sense but there’s always room for improvement.

Comic Contracts

If plain English isn’t enough in the way of simplifying contracts, how about Comic Contracts? These are contracts represented by characters and the agreement is in fact captured in pictures. The inspiration for company founder, Robert de Rooy, was illiterate people or people who may not thoroughly understand the language that the contract was written in. Making these sorts of contracts transparent and accessible for most people benefit all parties and can prevent misunderstandings.

What’s next – emoji contracts?

Helping you Kill your Legalese Darlings

To conclude, long and drawn out contracts may soon be a thing of the past. Individuals and businesses are finding alternative ways of condensing the terms of their contracts by making them more straightforward and easier to get through.

To find inspiration, head over to Twitter where Ken Adams and Bryan A. Garner share their pet peeves.

Happy drafting and remember that as always, less is more.

 

Making Work, Work

Physical fitness and wellbeing usually does not rank very high in lawyer priorities. As previously mentioned in a piece on the London Fire Brigade, lawyering is mostly an intellectual endeavour which involves sitting for lengthy periods. As long as they feel fit enough to do their job (sitting for long hours), lawyers tend to view their physical health as perfectly adequate, ignoring the long-term poor health effects of a sedentary desk job. Sedentary behaviours are a known risk factor for cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and early death.

How do you change your habits around to improve your physical health? How do you fit exercise in your family life, juggling kids and work? The good news is, you don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve to get started…

Start Small

If you think that any type of physical activity under one hour is not worth it, think again. More and more research shows it’s quality, not quantity, that counts. In a busy schedule, any exercise is better than no exercise, whether you work from home or at the office.

  • Take walk-and-talk or arrange ‘standing meetings’ and conference calls – rather than sitting in a meeting room.
  • Walk to client meetings or court appointments.
  • At lunchtime, make a habit to go out and walk around your neighbourhood for at least 20 minutes. Set a timer on your phone or check your watch and keep walking. At Obelisk Support, Naz, Tech Support Analyst, takes a daily walk in the neighborhood to unplug and stay fit. She has inspired quite a few to follow suit, like Katie and Debbie.
  • Do five sit-ups in the morning before you get dressed.
  • Do 30 minutes of yoga while your child is taking a nap. For inspiration, YogaGlo runs subscription-based online classes and Yoga with Adrienne provides free YouTube tutorials.
  • Stretch while listening to a song or soothing radio station such as Classic FM.
  • Download short fitness routines on YouTube. Jessica Smith TV and PopSugar Fitness provide 10-minute solutions.
  • When going to work, get off the train or tube a few stops early and run or walk from there.
  • Walk the stairs, skip elevators and escalators.

Rise & Shine

Many lawyers find it easier to fit in any physical exercise before breakfast or work, as it makes them feel great for the rest of the day and boosts their metabolism. If they can refrain from checking their phones and messages before working out, they’re more likely to just get up and exercise rather than start scrolling down long to-do lists. Here are a few ideas to spice up your mornings.

Cycle to Work

If you work at an office in the city and can plan your route along cycling lanes, riding a bicycle to work is one of the best ways to workout without realising it.Plus, you need to get to work anyway – you might as well make your work commute 100% beneficial to your physical health. Not only is it budget-friendly, but it also helps improve pollution in the city and you get to enjoy open skies year-round.

Whether you are a Strava cyclist or a casual user of self-service bicycles, cycling increases your cardiovascular fitness and decreases stress levels. Check existing Cycling Superhighways to navigate London streets via safe and fast cycling lanes. Sophie, Obelisk Support‘s Operations Manager, cycles over 20K per day to get to work, using a combination of city streets and cycling superhighways.

Navy Seal Challenge

Hardcore lawyers might want to try the Navy Seal 4.30am challenge, which assumingly, help you get a jump on the day when nobody else is awake yet, giving you the opportunity to do things that you need to get done selfishly for yourself, such as working out. It might not feel good at 4.30am when you get up, but – by the time 7am rolls around, and you’ve already worked out, already got some work done, and you’ve still got some time to say goodbye to your kids before they go to school – you’ll feel totally in control of your life.

Of course, the tradeoff is going to sleep early at night and as this video shows, it’s probably the hardest part.

Morning Swim Routine

If you can’t stomach waking up at 4.30am, try going to pre-breakfast gym or swim classes. Laure, Marketing Manager at Obelisk Support, is an avid open water swimmer. She swims between 3 and 10K a week, all before work. Swimming helps her keep a bad lower back in check and open water swimming boosts her immune system year round, keeping seasonal allergies and winter colds at bay.

Her swim routine includes

  • Two weekly masters swim classes from 6.30 to 7.30am (before breakfast and school),
  • One to three open water swims between school drop-off and work, and
  • One or two weekend open water swims (before breakfast).

If you have a swimming pool near you that opens before 6.30am, try to plan on being there at opening time for 30 minutes three times a week to relax your muscles and stretch with your swimming stroke of choice.

Workout with Project Awesome

In London, Bristol and Edinburgh, Project Awesome is a community of people who offer “free, fun, badass workouts in your city,” kickstarting your day the awesome way. Yes, they’re early birds and they meet at 6.30am. Yes, they’re city folks and understand that healthy habits set you up in the right direction for the day. Also, they’re friendly and tend to join group events to motivate you going the extra mile.

Follow them on Twitter (here for London, here for Edinburgh, here for Bristol) for updates on future meet-ups and be ready for some serious silliness.

 

Night Bird Habits

If your kids think that sleeping is overrated, or your lunch hour is not an option because you’re on flexible schedules, then exercising after work and after dinner are great options too. Here are a few ideas.

  • Sign up for adult dance classes in the evening, preferably with a partner or friend to make it more fun.
  • Go on a 4 to 5K run after work with your kids as they ride their bikes (kills two stones in one go, your fitness and your kids’).
  • Go for a walk around the block with a friendly neighbour after dinner, which takes care of your social and exercise needs.
  • In London, GoodGym organises evening runs with a charitable purpose, running to help out older people with one-off practical tasks that they are no longer able to do on their own.
  • If the weather or circumstances don’t cooperate, try Leslie Sansone Walking at Home YouTube videos to … walk at home.

Fit Lawyers on Social Media

Some corporate lawyers have thousands of social media followers and it’s not necessarily for their legal skills. Check out the following for fitness inspiration:

When the work week is over, you can enjoy your weekend and take a rest. Or, if you feel like indulging, go out for a morning run, a walk outdoors and exercise some more!

 

Making Work, WorkWomen in Law

On 12 July 2010, Obelisk Support was founded. Now one of the fastest-growing independent businesses in Europe, Obelisk Support has become a leading legal services provider with a purpose – to make human first a priority. To celebrate how far we have come with our clients and consultants, here is a true story that illustrates how putting human first and how working differently can make a big difference in the legal world.

Returning Lawyer

This UK-qualified lawyer trained at a City law firm from 1996 to 1998 and worked in their corporate department until 2000 in international securities offerings, M&A transactions and general corporate and commercial work. In 2000, she worked as assistant editor on Global Counsel magazine and in 2001, took a career break for family reasons and raised four children.

Twelve years later in 2013, she heard about Obelisk Support through a friend and with her children in school, she was ready to return to a professional career. She onboarded as an Obelisk consultant and in February 2015, interviewed to work for White & Case in their advisory practice within a busy private equity team. They wanted someone with corporate experience, someone who would be happy to muck in and help out. This was perfect for E who was selected out of four lawyers and joined the team shortly after.

E’s story is a very inspiring one for anyone who thinks that they’ve been out of the legal world for too long. When you are determined and hard-working, you can do it.

Corporate Lawyer

Bilingual French/English, this UK-qualified lawyer started her career as a paralegal and then joined Puxon Murray LLP in 2009 where she trained and qualified as a corporate solicitor.  It was a small firm (two partners) with a mainly SME- client base but she gained great experience in corporate, litigation and some IP, trademark work. She had done some translation work as well, and had experience in telecoms (company sale/ agreements/ regulation/data protection).

She left in 2014 as she really wanted to progress her career and became a freelance lawyer.

In 2014, she found out about Obelisk on LinkedIn and signed up as an Obelisk legal consultant.

In April 2015, White & Case asked for “a lawyer on 3-month contract, a lawyer to support some senior lawyers in their team with general corporate work, private equity and private company experience.” She interviewed with two other lawyers and was selected, starting right away. The 3-month contract ended up lasting over a year at which point, White & Case was so enthusiastic with her work that they offered her a permanent position.

For D, a freelancing career was a springboard to permanent employment in the legal industry.

Making Work, WorkWomen in Law

On 12 July 2010, Obelisk Support was founded. Now one of the fastest-growing independent businesses in Europe, Obelisk Support has become a leading legal services provider with a purpose – to make human first a priority. To celebrate how far we have come with our clients and consultants, here is a true story that illustrates how putting human first and how working differently can make a big difference in the legal world.

This UK-qualified banking lawyer started at CMS Cameron McKenna in 1991 and rapidly climbed the corporate ladder. After six years, she was recruited by ING as an in-house lawyer advising on corporate and institutional finance. Primarily responsible for advising all levels of staff in corporate banking (including senior management), she was vice-president of the legal department.

Six years later, in 2003, she took a three-year career break and, in 2006, worked for a British law firm until 2009.   

In early 2013, four years into her career break, she read an article in The Wall Street Journal about Obelisk and was very interested in the model and the commitment it made to reactivating female talent. Almost 20 years PQE, she was ready to get back in the legal world.

In December 2014, through Obelisk, she became legal consultant for her former company, ING. Her alumni experience gave her a unique insight into ING’s culture, making her both a perfect culture fit as well as the lawyer with the right experience. All her work is done remotely, from home. Her work was so appreciated that, in March 2017, ING asked her to take on some additional work on another project in corporate finance.

Obelisk also recognised her as one of its star consultants at our annual awards in 2016.

Making Work, WorkWomen in Law

On 12 July 2010, Obelisk Support was founded. Now one of the fastest-growing independent businesses in Europe, Obelisk Support has become a leading legal services provider with a purpose – to make human first a priority. To celebrate how far we have come with our clients and consultants, here is a true story that illustrates how putting human first and how working differently can make a big difference in the legal world.

This UK-qualified lawyer trained at a Silver Circle law firm and specialised as a corporate lawyer post qualification, before acquiring solid expertise in prime finance at two different investment banks. However after several years in-house, she found herself at a crossroads.

Balancing work and parenthood was difficult, even on a flexible schedule, and she had to consider her career progression.

A few months later, she stopped working at the bank. After a three-year career break, interested in flexible consulting, she contacted Obelisk Support and became an Obelisk legal consultant. Shortly after, the right role came up for her.

Linklaters  was looking for legal support within the Financial Regulation Group. It was a perfect match with this lawyer’s expertise. Given her seniority and depth of expertise, feedback from partners at the law firm was very positive. They found her very thorough and careful, very good at taking points away and working through them, and good at finding appropriate knowhow in the group.

Making Work, Work

On 12 July 2010, Obelisk Support was founded. Now one of the fastest-growing independent businesses in Europe, Obelisk Support has become a leading legal services provider with a purpose – to make human first a priority. To celebrate how far we have come with our clients and consultants, here is a true story that illustrates how putting human first and how working differently can make a big difference in the legal world.

This UK-qualified lawyer trained at Walker Martineau in 1980 and went on to work 20 years at Sinclair Roche & Temperley, first as a solicitor and finally as a managing partner. In 2002, he became partner of two subsequent law firms until in 2005, his career changed course and he worked seven years at Ince & Co. In May 2014, he was made redundant.

He was 30+ years PQE.  Not an easy proposition in a market hungry for younger lawyers.

Three months later in August 2014, he contacted Obelisk Support and became an Obelisk legal consultant. His first job at Obelisk, with a large banking group, came in 2015 and, as it was successful, he started getting more confident working as a freelance lawyer. In 2017, a global law firm interviewed him for a senior experienced project finance lawyer position. He couldn’t do it right then, because of other commitments, but if they would wait a few months, he could.

Impressed by his expertise, the global law firm offered him a flexible hours job that he started in January 2018. Based on his experience in similar projects, he was able to scope the job and kept his team updated as and when he was progressing on the complex documents. A freelance career gave him the control he needed at a stage of his life when the legal industry is not the most supportive.