Making Work, WorkTrending

Around 2013, a new kind of flexible worker emerged on the photo-sharing social media platform, Instagram. Taking the concept of flexible (and indeed worker, although that is another article) to an entirely new level, accounts such as @wheresmyofficenow waved goodbye to the more static based notion of flexible working. They became part of a movement sweeping across the mindset of the millennial generation: the flexible worker with no fixed home base, often living out of a van.

Questioning everything from the concept of work right down to the notion that we should remain in one place to do it, these nomadic individuals began documenting life and work from the road and posting photos to Instagram, in answer to the question where’s my office now.

Fast forward to 2019 and this way of life is a growing movement – a sub-culture of people on the move, many of which are embracing minimalism and attempting to reassess what is truly important for a happy and balanced life. All of which is documented for envy and inspiration through the hashtag #vanlife, which currently includes more than five million photos on Instagram.

Where millennial influencers lead, others are sure to follow.

Technology and flexible working

Back in the legal world, flexible working as a concept is growing. “As more companies are working agile policies into their contracts, the legal market as a whole is thriving, with even more talented individuals either entering or returning to the workforce” we noted back in December 2018.

For too long, the concept of lawyers working from the beach, forest or up a mountain has been a reaction to technology in the worst way – overworked city lawyers never switching off, accessing email and responding to client requests from their holidays as efficiently as from their desks, perpetuating a ‘always on’ approach.

The legal market is generally waking up to the idea that flexible working can and should mean “finding hours that suit your life and how you best work” (Anna Whitehouse, Flexible working campaign) which in time will no doubt mean that we will see lawyers and those working in legal markets working from remote locations.

As Louisa Van Eeden-Smit commented in her piece for The Attic last year, “flexible working is just one of the ways the modern legal workforce can work smarter, rather than harder”. In theory, the van life way of life should be able to include lawyers, facilitated largely of course by the advance of technology.

“Taken at its most basic, laptops and smartphones mean that lawyers can be online and contactable 24/7, no matter where they are in the world… add to that the plethora of cutting-edge legal tools, such as case management software, and it’s clear that legal professionals can remain connected to both their clients and colleagues without being physically present in the office. They can execute tasks, securely access shared files, issue and review contracts, send out invoices, and much more.”

Are lawyers working flexibly on a remote global scale?

Search Instagram for #travellinglawyer and you’ll find over a thousand photos mainly from exotic-looking locations, with the occasional British city / county court thrown in for good measure. This is an improvement on the landscape of five years ago, but it seems that at present the majority of travelling lawyers are fitting in their wanderlust lifestyle around their legal career rather than it forming an integral part.

For some, frequent travel from a fixed base is the basis of their current story. They use their Instagram profiles to highlight the places that they visit outside of client boardrooms and the causes that they represent.

Juanita Ingram, a US attorney, author and actress based in the US and London (who founded the Greater London branch of Dress For Success, a charitable organisation that “helps disadvantaged women become economically independent by providing them with free professional clothing and styling and interview coaching, as well as on-going support after they’ve re-joined the workplace”) uses her Instagram and other social media channels to showcase her international travels where she speaks on various topics regarding female empowerment and self-worth.

© iamjuanitaingram

The Legal Eagle Mummy is a lawyer and disability rights advocate whose daughter’s heart condition means she has had to travel abroad for treatment. Anonymous on Instagram, she has been able to work remotely whilst also using her photographs to raise awareness.

© The Legal Eagle Mummy

For others, every spare moment away from the office is spent travelling. They do not yet appear to be working in the same way that those embracing #vanlife are but they are helping build the vision that being a dedicated and brilliant lawyer does not mean remaining in the office 365 days a year.

Kathy Kass is a New York Attorney who spends weekends and holidays travelling and taking part in marathons, documenting her travels online

The anonymous Caffelawyer is a lawyer working for a magic circle firm in London, splitting his time between London and Milan.

© Caffelawyer

When is a travelling lawyer not a lawyer?

On the flip side, the #travellinglawyer hashtag also reveals those for whom the call of remote travel has proved lucrative enough to take a break from law altogether. Prominent #vanlife contributor Lisa Jacobs was a lawyer, as was Felipe Villegas Múnera

© Vacayvans

Both Lisa and Filipe now spend their lives travelling and posting scenes of their travels and methods of transport, providing inspiration of where others could work, monetising their travels in a different way entirely.

Interestingly, many of these ex-lawyers are still happy to share that they were lawyers, which may well encourage others to consider whether they can both travel and work in the legal market.

More soberingly though, for some van life is more of a necessity than a chosen way of life. Liam Seward is not a lawyer, but others in his position could be. Some are teachers, others charity workers. They live remotely because they have to, because they can’t afford to work and rent and living in a van affords them the ability to continue working. 

Where is the future of flexible working?

It is becoming accepted across the board that not everyone seeks to be a partner in the traditional model and a better balance in life is sought right across the profession, from trainees right the way up to experienced partners. Magic circle firms are bringing in flexible working policies allowing all staff to request to work from home. Big law firms are setting up offshoots to address specific types of legal issues staffed entirely by lawyers who choose where and when to work. And of course, there are employers like at Obelisk who make the most of legal talent with a uniquely flexible and remote workforce.

The more that this occurs and people talk about it, or photograph it and share it on social media, the more others will start to listen and follow suit. The mere presence of any lawyers on Instagram showcasing life outside of work and the office is positive, even if as yet the realisation of the dream of truly remote flexible working as a lawyer on the road is perhaps more few and far between.

In another five years, we look forward to the #vanlife concept having evolved more fully. We hope that it will include lawyers and others who have up until now been restrained by increasingly outdated models of working.

The Legal Update

Twitter may not be the most popular social media platform for lawyers, but with 500 million tweets sent each day, are we under-using it? Twitter can help to foster valuable relationships with industry influencers and help build your personal brand. Here’s the 101 on how to make it work for you as a lawyer.

Why use Twitter?

Twitter is used by only 21% of law firms, according to figures from 2016, with 23% of individual lawyers maintaining a presence on the site for professional means. In sharp contrast, of 123,000 social posts by banks this year, 79% were posted to Twitter compared to 12% on Facebook. Twitter is also widely used by court journalists, government bodies and other political and policy officials, which of course is very useful from a lawyer perspective. Depending on who your clients are, B2B or B2C, Twitter can be an extraordinary way to engage with your audience.

Twitter also provides an opportunity to go beyond the purely professional. While LinkedIn for lawyers is about connecting with as many business contacts as possible, projecting a very specific message and impression of you and your career profile, Twitter is a little bit different. The most successful and engaging Twitter profiles start and contribute to more informal but rewarding conversations that relate to any of their expertise and areas of interest. Twitter is much more about striking up meaningful conversations, building trust and mutual knowledge building. The connections you make may not be direct business leads but can lead to more valuable relationships that foster personal growth.

Raising your Twitter Profile

Tweet frequently and fruitfully – It is important to tweet regularly, but make sure what you tweet adds value. Sending numerous ‘broadcasting’ tweets will probably get you a few more follows from bots and marketing accounts, but these are of no value to you personally. Your aim should be to make more impressions and to start conversing with more people. Think of tweeting as joining in with a very large group chat. Engage with talking points of the day, share comments and links that will be of interest to your followers/the people you want to follow you.

Engage with relevant hashtags – stuffing tweets with as many relevant hashtags you can think of is a no-no, but it is worth spending a bit of time checking out the most used tags in your area of interest and using those that you feel reflect the topics you talk about most effectively. This makes your tweets more searchable for like-minded individuals.

Find support networks – While a lot of talk about Twitter in recent times focuses on the negative aspects of interactions, it’s worth remembering that communities formed and maintained on the platform are very vocal and supportive of one another. Following and engaging with other women and BAME in law and related professions, startups and tech etc. boosts confidence and gives you a ready-made list of contacts for guidance and advice, organising events and any other personal or professional development projects.

Legal implications to avoid

As with any social media sharing, be mindful of any sensitive or identifying information that relates to clients. There have been incidents of lawyers landing in hot water for tweeting information about cases. It’s also worth reiterating that no legal advice should be given, whether public public posts or private messages.

When re-Tweeting and quoting other profile you are unfamiliar with, it is vitally important to check not just the source of link, but also the rest of the profile’s posts. Your profile can become tainted by association with profiles that express deliberate bias or false information.

WIth a restrictive character limit, remember that what is said can be misconstrued or taken easily out of context. One way around this is to use threads – replying to your own tweets to make a chain of posts that can be easily followed by people, and allows you to cover all vital details relating to the topic. Threads are frequently used by thought leaders and campaigners as they also create a compelling structure to digest complex issues. They can also act as useful drafts for articles, particular if you get some interesting responses from other users.

Followers and following

While many people make the mistake of thinking that having thousands of followers is a sign of Twitter success, in terms of real benefit to you as an individual it’s the quality, not quantity of followers.

In terms of who you follow, keep it as broad as possible. That means follow people from all your personal areas of interest – you can use the Lists function to organise into categories. It also means include those whose views may differ somewhat to your own. There has been some concern about social media creating echo chambers of opinion, and while it is important to connect with people with whom you have common ground, to broaden your knowledge and understanding of certain issues you need to step outside of the bubble.

A few examples of organisations and legal influencers to get you started are:

LSE Brexit – latest academic research and thinking about Brexit from London School of Economics.

Law Society (UK) – Representing, promoting and supporting solicitors in England and Wales.

European Court of Justice – the official account of the Press Service of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

ICO – news on information rights, GDPR and data privacy from the Information Commissioner’s Office

Young Women in Law – a membership organisation for women lawyers called to the bar for up to 10 years

National Law Review (USA) – news and analysis of all aspects of American law

Felicity Gerry – International QC and speaker, Legal Personality 2016

Martha Sperry – American lawyer writing on legal technology and the developing web

And just in case you don’t follow them already, here’s Obelisk and CEO Dana Denis Smith, and the First 100 Years Project. Happy Tweeting!

Making Work, WorkTrending

In a very short space of time, social media has moved on from being a new fascination to a central part of our communication habits. Marketing strategies are now built around social media, rather than incorporating them as a side channel. Social media marketing should be part of the daily routine for lawyers looking to increase their prospects.

It can be hard for even the most enthusiastic technology follower to keep up with the trends. But it is important to invest time in creating and curating your social media presence. Without it you are decreasing your personal employability and marketability to at least 70% of employers who are using social media to screen candidates.

It takes minutes to set up a social media account, and if you monitor and manage your profiles effectively and regularly – we’re not talking hours, just set aside ten minutes a day – you can potentially reap enormous benefits. Let’s face it – if the Pope himself (Twitter @pontifex) can manage it, so can you!

How to do social media marketing in 10 minutes a day

It can be easy to decide to just withdraw yourself from digital platforms entirely – believing that it’s just not worth the hassle, or you don’t have the time. Social media marketing also comes with a seemingly increased amount of risk, with every word, link, and re-Tweet under scrutiny by everyone from your old school classmates to industry leaders.

If you’re reading this and nodding then you’re not alone – even some of the most modern and relevant celebrities and businesspeople are often notable only by their absence on Twitter, and over half of LinkedIn profiles are incomplete. However, according to MyCase, 73% of lawyers have a personal presence on LinkedIn, 27% use Facebook for professional purposes, and 23% use Twitter for professional purposes.

We believe it is easy to incorporate social media marketing into your daily routine and avoid the pitfalls – don’t overthink it, just follow these simple dos and don’ts:

#1. DO include personal with professional

People don’t like to follow bots. As with all our social interactions we want our online feeds to be warm, genuine and human. Building a full picture of your life, your values, humour and interests is part and parcel of ensuring people want to get to know you, and may consider you as someone they can work well with. This goes for your profile description as well as the things you post along the way. Talk about yourself: your backstory, why you are here, and what you value can add. Include your personal experiences and opinions on issues when sharing links to articles. Post about your home life, what drives you and inspires you on an emotional level. Share what makes you comfortable and happy, and you won’t have to spend too much time drafting and planning what to post.

#2. DON’T overshare

When we talk about over-sharing it is usually in reference to personal details and thoughts. But sharing too much on a professional level can also land you in hot water, particularly for lawyers. It can be tempting to share your successes as means of marketing yourself but if that means inadvertently putting out sensitive, identifiable client information then you stand to lose trust, clients and future work from firms. It also doesn’t paint yourself in a good light if you are enthusiastically celebrating a win in a case that involves difficult, upsetting circumstances for all involved. A far better way to market your professional strengths is to show your knowledge and expertise around certain topics, rather than referring directly to previous and ongoing case work, so hold back on work updates. You also need to consider how your opinions and political standpoints may affect the work you want to secure in future. Simply be as objective and considered in your online postings as you are in your day to day work.

#3. DO schedule your posts

It is hard to get into the habit of posting regularly, but the fewer gaps you leave between posts the better. Not everyone will want or need to post every day but it is good to have something of a routine so your audiences will continue to pay attention. All social media platforms have settings or associated apps where you can schedule posts. For cross posting social media management apps such as Buffer or Hootsuite (there are also plenty more available!) will save you time and headaches. Scheduled posts allow you to plan in all those links that you have bookmarked and favourite with the intention of sharing later. It enables you to set aside some allocated time during the week rather than trying to snatch a minute here and there and finding yourself distracted from other tasks. Finally, scheduling stops social media becoming a stress-point and allows you to enjoy spending some time checking out other people’s posts and engaging with them more genuinely and with more care.

#4. DO remember to network

We can be so busy concentrating on curating our own feeds and getting things right, we forget the most important part of social media – socialising! We have previously provided some great tips for using LinkedIn and the opportunities there for networking, and there are plenty of other opportunities on other social platforms. In the time you allocate for social media, whether that is conscious time dedicated to your own marketing, or browsing during leisure, if you see something interesting that someone has posted, tell them and share it. Social media needs to be a conversation and not just a broadcast channel in order to establish and cement valuable connections and working relationships.

#5. DON’T fall down the rabbit hole

Social media becomes a timesuck when we idly scroll through our feeds looking at every comment, post or trending topic that vaguely takes our interest. It’s important to curate what you see to avoid the distractions and prioritise who/what you want to see first, so you don’t have to wade through other noise and distraction. Adjust your feed settings to show the individuals and pages that share the most valuable and important content to you, and make use of lists to organise people you follow into categories. Have a following clearout and rid yourself of any irrelevant accounts that clog up your feed.

By applying a little discipline and organisation, you can make social media an enjoyable and lucrative part of your marketing mix – DON’T say you don’t have time!