Workstorm: with Brian Stearns

“No one else in this market is focused on viewing the legal market in this way.”

Brian Stearns.

It has long been well-known that the very nature of being a lawyer forces you to be reactive to changes in the law. After all, it is the very basis on which you give your advice to clients and guide them through their needs. What is just as important, however, is for lawyers to be understanding of the way they go about that process – that is, a knowledge of how legal services are best provided and a self-awareness of their own internal processes for doing so.

For this article, I spoke to Brian Stearns of ‘Workstorm’, a platform designed to streamline such processes and to help make lawyers collaborate as efficiently and confidentially as possible.


So, what is Workstorm all about?

BS: “Workstorm is a workstream collaboration platform in a similar category to other solutions like Slack and MS Teams.  We believe that Slack and MS Teams have shown there is a viable market for organized, persistent messaging as a supplement to email, as well as using digital workspaces as a mechanism to connect disparate information systems.  In response to those demands, Workstorm has developed a platform that addresses the unique needs of law firms and other professional services firms. In essence, this involves fostering both internal and external client collaboration, supporting the information governance needs necessary for managing confidential client information, and integrating with the key technology tools already in use by firms.”

People, Girls, Women, Students, Friends, Talking

So what’s wrong with the current traditional approach to or reliance on workstream management, like email?

“It’s clear that law firms have unique data management requirements.  Key clients, particularly banks, may require law firms to manage data on-premises behind their firewall.  Law firms also have ethical requirements to file and retain information related to client records. On top of all that, they have general housekeeping requirements that may dictate the regular deletion of information.

Firms have spent the past 20 years trying to figure out how to do this with email, but the use of email is changing.  For starters, filing with email alone is a huge burden. The email you send and the response you receive are unique, distinct files that must be managed.  By contrast, a closed-loop chat group can be treated as a single file for archiving or deletion of any documentation. This offers up tremendous opportunities for law firms to increase the efficiency and productivity of their legal teams. They can dramatically reduce the time spent searching for, sharing and filing email, and better spend that time elsewhere in their business.

Additionally, membership to such chat rooms can be governed so that information isn’t inadvertently shared with the wrong people – a huge security concern of both firms and clients alike.  Everyone has experienced hitting “reply all” by mistake or forwarding an email to the wrong person based on email’s auto-populate features. It can be funny in a lot of cases, but it really isn’t funny when those emails contain sensitive information.  With chat platforms, conversation channels can be open to everyone for visibility and transparency, or closed off only to those that need to know based on ethical walls. Workstorm is currently the only provider in this collaboration market who is thinking about privacy and confidentiality in the same way firms do.  Open and transparent communications don’t work in an environment governed by ethical (and statutory) walls.

Finally, products like Slack and MS Teams have taken the approach of integrating with hundreds or thousands of third-party applications. How are firms thinking about the implications on how data is stored and transferred between these third-party applications? For example, if a lawyer can turn on an integration with a third-party project management solution, then has that tool been properly vetted by IT? 

Workstorm has undertaken the strategy of natively building the key communications tools within our platform so that firms can reduce the number of unnecessary vendors and data transfers.  For example, we have messaging, task management and video conferencing built directly within our platform, so you don’t need to go elsewhere for it.  And beyond our native features, we seek to integrate with the core tools in use by law firms, including their own homegrown solutions. To put simply, no one else in this market is focused on viewing the legal market in this way.” 

Email, Newsletter, Marketing, Online, Communication

It’s clear these tools have the potential to solve a lot of firm and client concerns. In short – why Workstorm?

“Our objective is to serve the unique internal and external collaboration needs of professional services firms and their corporate clients.  We are looking to work with firms that have an interest in collaboration software, but where adoption is still early and there is no established solution. We believe that we can act as that solution and address the unique security and privacy requirements of law firms.

By serving the professional services market, we also recognize the need to work with the core technology tools that are in place at these firms. For example:

  • We developed version 1 of our iManage integration in 2018 and are currently enhancing that integration.
  • We have an Outlook integration for email and calendar management.
  • We have data exporting and archiving capabilities and are currently developing system admin capabilities to set data deletion and retention policies at the conversation level.
  • We have signed on as integration partners with Relativity, Intapp, Kira and HighQ, and have developed prototypes for those integrations, which we will start building this year. 
  • We will continue to seek out new integration partners that cover key areas of the law firm workflow, such as other document management systems, legal research platforms, time and billing systems, matter management systems and even CRM solutions.

In short, law firms seeking to adopt a workstream collaboration platform should ask and answer three questions:

1) does the software provider think about privacy and confidentiality the same way law firms do?

2) is the tool designed at all levels for both internal firm and external client collaboration, and 3) does the tool integrate with the firm’s core technology stack?

Right now, we believe Workstorm is the only platform on the market that can answer “yes” to all three questions.”


I’d like to thank Brian Stearns for taking the time to speak with me and to discuss how firms internally operate and how Workstorm is looking to change that. I’d also like to thank Workstorm for collaborating with me and sponsoring the production of this article. If you’d like to learn more about Workstorm, or Brian, you can do so at the links below.


The pros and cons of the legal profession

“If you are trying to take a difficult decision and you’re weighing up the pros and cons, you have frank conversations. Everybody knows this in their walk of life.”

Tony Blair.

Even though the journey to becoming a lawyer is a long and hard one, and even though they are often an integral part of the economic and social (and obviously legal) fabric of society, they aren’t generally liked or recognised by the public in the same way. Lawyers have an image problem. In fact, a 2014 Pew survey found lawyers last among ten professional categories in “contributions to society.” That’s a tough fact to swallow and a tough act to follow when it comes to changing how lawyers are perceived in future.

However, it’s somewhat ironic that perceptions change sharply when a person needs one. As soon as you need a lawyer and you need one fast, opinion changes. When you are in trouble and you are sat at your computer, with the words “how much will it cost to hire a lawyer” typed into the Google search bar, lawyers will become your saviors.

So, is being a lawyer a blessing? Or a curse? This article explores a few sides of each argument.


The Pros

  • Flexibility – there are a huge amount of career options available to you in the legal field. With a broad variety of practice areas – from criminal to corporate, or prosecutor or defence lawyer, there’s a huge swathe of variety when it comes to the work lawyers do.
  • Who employs who – lawyers have the freedom to either work for themselves, set up their own firm, or join a multinational organisation to name a few!
  • Opportunity – lawyers have some of the best opportunities when it comes to secondments, both domestically and abroad, remuneration and the ability to work with a huge variety of different industries.
  • You get to talk, a lot – if you love a debate or an argument, you literally get to do this for a living! I can’t confirm or deny if this was one of my main reasons…(hint: it was).
  • Intellectual challenge – it is a job that demands and promotes intellectual growth. Lawyers are expected to find creative solutions to problems and remain up to date regarding changes in the law.
Courtroom, Benches, Seats, Law, Justice, Lighting, Wood

The Cons

  • Stress – lawyers have to contend with a lot of their stress in their day-to-day practice. High-pressure deadlines, high-expectation clients and the intellectual challenge outlined above are just a few of the reasons why the legal profession can be so demanding.
  • Expectation – at times, you will be expected to work long hours and have slightly unpredictable hours for particularly busy weeks involving deadlines.
  • Qualification – law school is very expensive, regardless of where you study. In the UK, you can expect to pay tens of thousands of pounds to ensure you meet each step of qualification in order to practice.
  • Restricted choice – for some areas of law, you may have little choice on who to take on as a client.
Night, City, City At Night, Urban, Architecture

At the end of the day, as with any career, you ultimately need to balance the pros and cons of pursuing a certain career to decide if it’s for you. This article touched on just a few of those – no doubt there are many more!

An advantage with Vantage: connecting with leading legal firms

“Everything you want in life is a relationship away.”

 Idowu Koyenikan.

Everyone knows that applying for first year opportunities, vacation schemes or training contracts can be a competitive process. As a result, taking opportunities to speak to and connect with the firms you’re interested in or applying to is of paramount importance. Typically, this has involved visiting law fairs, conferences or other networking events.

A new approach to connect with firms allows you to network from your bedroom! Vantage, a free online platform launched last year, has been designed to help you do exactly that.  This post details what it is and how you can get started.


How it works

As detailed on their website:

“Vantage matches candidates to fantastic opportunities at law firms in a much smarter way than ever before. Using contextual recruitment, Vantage showcases people from every demographic, searches for top performers from every institution and puts your grades into context.”

By completing an online profile, which takes less than 10 minutes to complete, firms can search for you based on a number of factors including your subject of study, year of graduation or area of interest. This means that, when a firm contacts you through Vantage, you know that they are genuinely interested in engaging with you specifically. This is hugely different to other options such as law fairs, that can often lack that ‘personal’ element.

Pedestrians, Rush Hour, Blurred, Urban, Walking, Motion

Who you connect with

Vantage boasts an impressive cohort of recruiters. You’re able to connect with an impressive array of leading firms, including:

  • Ashurst
  • Baker McKenzie
  • Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
  • Clifford Chance
  • Clyde & Co, Dechert
  • Eversheds Sutherland
  • Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Hogan Lovells
  • Linklaters
  • Macfarlanes
  • Pinsent Masons
  • Slaughter and May
  • Travers Smith
  • Weil
  • …and more!
London, St Paul'S, Great Britain, Night, Bridge, City

So if you want to hear about vacation schemes, training contracts, insight days, work experience and much more, check out Vantage at the link below. You can also follow Vantage on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at the handle @vantage_app to keep up to date with news from Vantage and the firms they partner with. 

Many thanks to Vantage for collaborating with me and sponsoring the production of this post.

Changing careers in the legal profession

Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.

Gerry Sikorski

Historical notions about what careers are have shifted greatly in our modern world. Many people are turning away from their current careers and seeking new careers in the legal world. Retraining as a lawyer, passing the bar or getting qualified and then setting up your own legal firm is an increasingly viable option for many. But why are so many people turning to the legal sector? Read on to find out why so many people are pursuing a career in law. 

Brown Wooden Arrow Signed

The ability to make a difference

From helping a victim of a crime get the justice they deserve, to helping a family win a legal case after a mishandled birth – more information on birth injuries, including infant seizures, can be found here – lawyers get the opportunity to help people in some of their darkest and most desperate moments. They have the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives and facilitate their needs in times of help. The role of a lawyer, although stressful and demanding, can be also be incredibly rewarding.

Man Raising Right Hand


Earning potential 

Lawyers are traditionally some of the best paid professionals. Your earning potential will be ultimately defined by your years of service, specialist knowledge within a particular legal sector, as well as your location. For example, many city based lawyers can be paid more than those living elsewhere. 


Intellectual stimulation

Those who enjoy challenging their minds on a daily basis simply thrive in a legal position. Lawyers have to use their intellect and logic in order to work on each individual case. They have the ability to work on a broad variety of issues, such as helping create business mergers, developing strategies for court and using critical thinking to ensure they get the best results for their clients every time. 

Man Wearing Black and White Stripe Shirt Looking at White Printer Papers on the Wall

The reputation 

Thanks to TV and film, the role of a lawyer these days is often seen as one that is full of glamor and prestige. The Hollywood stereotypes of fast cars, slick suits, clever arguments and confidence in the courtroom evokes a sense of charm and almost celebrity-like influence. Whilst some of those stereotypes are certainly played up for television, very real contributions – whether you work for a legal firm, or set up your own – like assisting friends, neighbours and local businesses becoming a pillar of the local community are rarely provided by other professions.  

Person Writing on the Notebook

You’re always learning new skills

The legal world is fast paced and always changing. As a result, most lawyers need to be on top of their knowledge in their specific area. Not only that, but you’re always working on your communication skills, as well as your ability to analyse and think logically. All these transferable skills can be applied to other life situations too!

Clear Light Bulb

Many thanks to my sponsors for helping to collaborate on the writing of this article.

Navigating the infamous Californian penal code

“Government is the greatest combination for forces known to human society. It can command more men and raise more money than any and all other agencies combined.”

David Dudley Field II.

The California penal code is well-known for being very long and complex, making it difficult to understand for everyday, non-legal clients. This means it requires specialist lawyers to navigate its complexities, who are more familiar with its changing nature and frequently added new sections.

In order to be able to adapt to situations like these, such lawyers must develop keen analytical and research skills. They will also have to possess great memory power, which is largely down to the fact that the California penal code is referenced by its section number alone. This is unlike some other sections of the United States code.

As a lawyer, being able to navigate your clients through some of the most complicated aspects of law prepares you to handle any situation. Dealing with some of the more challenging criminal codes in the world gives you a comprehensively strong grounding in law that you can then use to build a successful career. This article explores the historical nature of the California penal code, its complex exceptions, as well as its ever-changing nature through its constant additions.


The history of the California penal code

The code originated in 1872 as one of the original four Californian codes, being derived from the Field penal code that was named after David Dudley Field II. He was one of the original code commissioners for the New York code commission.


David Dudley Field II - Wikipedia
David Dudley Field II.

The California penal code contains six different parts, which are then subdivided into titles, chapters and sections. The code’s job is to organise criminal acts and their respective punishments. Therefore, it comprises of a very long list of offences, which are then themselves broken down again into sections leading to further information on subcategories.


Exceptions not covered by the penal code

Some particular criminal acts are recorded separately from the California penal code. Namely, there are two other codes which cover all of the other criminal activity and areas of the law.

The first of these is the California Health and Safety Code, which is where all drug laws relating to crimes and their respective charges are kept.

The second is the California Vehicle Code for anything relating to motorists, motor vehicles and traffic matters in the area.


New additions to the California penal code

As previously touched on, the code is constantly evolving. The California penal code is a leading example of a criminal code that adapts as the legal system and the world around it changes.

For example, the code was an early adopter of cyberbullying laws, detailing various laws and regulations surrounding anti-bullying laws initially, which were then later followed up with cyberbullying-specific additions.

The above is just one example of the code’s many additions over the years and, as such, it is a fairly expansive and thorough set of enactments for a lawyer to get to grips with. There is no doubt that there will be more additions to come in the future that they would also need to study to stay on top of its shifting nature of law.


Concluding remarks

The California penal code is a good reference point and example of what a complicated set of legal regulations looks like. Familiarising yourself with a system like this, as a lawyer, can enlighten you as to what other criminal codes from around the world look like – and how one can navigate them if they were required to.

Lawyers who are specialists in interpreting the California penal code can help defendants immensely, who would otherwise be overwhelmed by its complicated nature. They are a leading example of professionals who are able to put fantastic legal brains to use so that they can quickly adapt, recall information and stay on track of its changing laws.


Accident? What You Can Claim Compensation For

“Accidents—you never have them till you’re having them.”

Eeyore.

We’ve all seen the adverts and listened to the cold calls asking if we’ve been in an accident that wasn’t our fault. In fact, we all know that there is potential compensation on offer should that actually happen. Negligence and accidents that could be avoided happen in the thousands, each and every day. For some, it’s a minor scrape and a lucky escape, but for others it can have a significant impact on their life and have a lasting effect.

In many cases, accidents such as motor collisions or sports injuries are down to human error or bad health and safety procedure and leave people needing a large amount of healthcare. A study by Newsome Melton found that those who were involved in an accident and damaged their spine spent an average of 12 days in hospital and 37 in a rehabilitation center following that. On top of that, only 11.5% of those injured are back in work a year after the accident, which can really take its toll both mentally and financially. 

The stress involved in accidents is significant, which is why so many people seek compensation for injuries that were not their fault. What you can claim for varies depending on the accident and circumstances, but there are a number of common expenses which are covered by it. So, if you ever do have an accident feel you deserve to be compensated, you can seek financial remuneration for the following.


Lost Wages

Naturally, while in recovery you will almost certainly miss out on a large portion of work, particularly if your role involves manual labour. You can seek compensation to make up for all the lost wages you have suffered as a result of the accident.

Wallet, Credit Card, Cash, Investment, Money, Financial

Medical Care

Medical care while in the hospital after the accident (as well as any future care required due to the incident) can be claimed for, such as prescription drugs, rehabilitation, physiotherapy and more. If you require medical aid in some capacity for the foreseeable future, you can claim for it.

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Care Givers

If permanent care is required, you can make a claim in order to pay for this. This could potentially be due to a family member having to give up work, or you having to pay a professional carer to look after you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Computer, Business, Office, Technology, Laptop, America

Support for Family

As well as support for yourself, you may also find that your family needs support either emotionally or to become more informed on the injuries and be able to help effectively. This can often be costly, as they may be required to go on courses, take time off work (unpaid) and more.

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Travel Expenses

Specialists can often be based hundreds of miles away, meaning there’s no option but to travel in order to get the best care and rehabilitation programmes. Petrol, bus tickets and taxi costs can be covered for medical care, should you claim for compensation through the courts.

Petrol, Gasoline, Diesel, Gas, Automotive, Prices, Oil

The above are just some of the many more factors that can be expensed for depending on your circumstances. By seeking a lawyer, they will be able to help you understand exactly what you can and can’t claim for based upon the specifics of the accident.


Work experience from your bedroom with InsideSherpa

“Find something you’re passionate about and stay tremendously interested in it.”

Julia Child.

The rapid development of the internet throughout the dawn of the 21st Century has revolutionised how we now consider something to be ‘accessible’. Everything from food to freelancers and TV to taxis are now almost instantly available from your pocket via a smartphone, or from the comfort of your sofa with a laptop. A new start-up based in Australia, InsideSherpa, is aiming to add one more item to that list – work experience. InsideSherpa has partnered with a multitude of industry-leading legal, tech and financial companies (to name a few) to allow individuals to try their hand at tailor-made ‘virtual work experience programmes’ (VWEPs), regardless of your physical location, financial status or current career role. This week, I spoke with Jeremy Grunfeld, Head of Product and Student Success, about how the company’s  VWEPs work and, in particular, how they’re manifesting themselves in the legal industry.


So, how does a VWEP help individuals develop their employability?

JG: “During my 5 years at university, I learned a heap of theory that was incredibly valuable for my personal and professional development. It helped me to build my attention to detail, my communication skills, my advocacy skills, my confidence and the list goes on.

However, it wasn’t until I first stepped foot into a commercial law firm that I realised how important practical skills are. Being able to write clear and concise emails, calling clients, writing memos, to name a few. ‘Issue, law, application and conclusion’ is a great tool to learn, but it isn’t a completely accurate reflection of how work is actually done in a law firm.

Our VWEPs aim to give law students a genuine insight into what it’s really like to work at some of the world’s leading firms. They are the actual tasks that interns and graduates do day-to-day at leading firms. Once you’ve finished, you’ll have up-skilled in those aforementioned valuable practical areas – e.g. writing emails, drafting letters, legal research, leaving voicemails, conducting due diligence etc.

Equally though, while building those practical skills, you may come to realise that you don’t actually like being a commercial lawyer! And there is nothing wrong with that at all! It is much better to work that out whilst you’re still at university and experimenting with different career options.”


Using your experiences to gauge your interest in any career path is vital. My own time spent in family law firms, whilst enjoyable, made me realise it wasn’t the area of law for me. By putting yourself out there to new experiences and seizing the opportunities that may arise, you will have the chance to learn more about a profession and, at the same time, yourself.


“I don’t know if you’re like me, but when it came time for me to apply for vacation schemes, I was overcome by this really strange feeling. I realised suddenly that I didn’t know anything about any of the leading firms that I was about to apply to join. So all of a sudden you start going through dozens of search results on Google trying to understand what it’s all about.

From that, you’ll read the standard recruitment information and you’ll probably find yourself with plenty more questions! I remember thinking ‘there are 30 firms and they all seem the exact same. They all say the same thing and work on similar deals/projects’.”


Jeremy speaks to a wider point, which is the importance of having your own in-person experiences and sourcing your information about a firm from as many avenues as possible – law fairs, 1-1 networking, LinkedIn and other 3rd party websites. In an ideal world, it is best to source your thoughts and feelings about a firm from as diverse a number of sources as possible – though this is sometimes easier said than done!


“Something that no-one tells you at law school: clients don’t really care about legal information. They really don’t. They don’t want a lawyer to just tell them legal information – if they did, they would look it up on Google themselves.

What clients want is a trusted advisor. They don’t want you to rattle off pieces of legislation and names of cases. They want commercial, concise advice. Our VWEPs aim to get you used to that feeling of working with clients. You get a feeling for what they care about and what good, trusted advice looks like.”


Commercial awareness is vital in our increasingly connected and global world, but knowing how and why to develop it can often be confusing. If you’d like to read more about commercial awareness, you can check out my posts on it here.


“I studied a combined degree in finance and law. When it came time to pick a path, I chose law, but the reason I chose it was more or less based on a gut feeling. That’s not the best way to make a big decision like which career to pursue! I do wish that I could have participated in a digital internship to better understand what different career options existed and make a more informed decision. 

As a more general insight into my own career path – you don’t have to follow the standard path. Forge your own and ask those around you for support. People generally want to help other people. Use digital internships as a tool to discover what it is that you are truly passionate about and what it is that you want to do with your career.”


How similar are the VWEPs to the work of a trainee solicitor?

“We want these digital internships to replicate what it’s like to work at one of our partner firms. To ensure that the experience is as accurate and true to life as possible, the content is designed by and created by the partner firms themselves. We help to guide this process to ensure that the digital internships are highly engaging, but ultimately, they are a direct insight into what life is like at that particular firm.

Alongside simply replicating work, we want participants to be engaged and inspired in completing these programmes. We also equally want them to have learned brand new practical skills that will help them in their careers and we want to provide an insight into the firm’s culture. When digital internships are being built, we (and our partner firms) are constantly thinking about the user experience. As much as law is often viewed as a conservative industry, it’s ever-changing and exciting! New technologies like AI are being used across the industry and we want people to get a taste of that, especially if they may not have had the opportunity before.”

Baker McKenzie Australia recently announced their own VWEP partnership with InsideSherpa.

InsideSherpa’s VWEPs are open to anyone and everyone to try. If you’d like to find out more about InsideSherpa or Jeremy, you can do so at the links below. Many thanks again to Jeremy for his contribution!


Meditation over Mediation – mental health in the legal sector

“Everything is created twice – first in the mind and then in reality.”

Robin Sharma.

It’s no secret that the legal profession is a mentally taxing one. A 2016 study of solicitors found that “28%, 19%, and 23% were experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively”. Late night working hours and high-pressure scenarios – particularly within transactional, London-based firms, where hours can be at their most intensive – can be a frequent reality for many lawyers with time-pressured tasks to meet their clients’ needs.

The risks these intensive periods pose can be extremely damaging – declining mental health, increased alcohol and drug consumption, as well as the reduced efficiency at work and poorer quality of life that fatigue brings. So how can lawyers and their firms combat this?

Meditation is increasingly being viewed as an answer. This week, I spoke with meditation consultant and Commercial Partner, Hannah Beko, and Dentons’ newly appointed Europe Chief Mindfulness Officer, Karina Furga-Dąbrowska, on how the use of meditation can help tackle mental health issues within the legal sector.

Hannah Beko, gunnercooke llp Partner and Coach at Authentically Speaking (left) and Karina Furga-Dąbrowska, Partner and Europe Chief Mindfulness Officer at Dentons (right)

Mental Health in the Legal Industry

As touched on above, law can be an extremely stressful profession. Whether you’re a first year law student, or seasoned Equity Partner with decades of experience, you will have or have had your fair share of stress-inducing moments. Keeping up with regulatory changes, continuously trying to meet clients’ needs and managing your physical or digital workload of forms, paper and documents are all contributory to stress. That’s not even accounting for the non-work-related pressures that life brings – it can too often feel like we’re juggling too many facets of life at once. This has sadly resulted in worrying levels of mental health issues within the industry, substance abuse and burnout – particularly in comparison to other professional roles.

So how can law firms, or rather the entire legal sector as a whole, combat this? Hannah and Karina give their thoughts below:


HB: “Really – a whole culture change! But that might be a bit radical for now. We’re starting to see firms including yoga at lunchtime and introducing the odd meditation lesson, or maybe offering massages at desks. The ideas there are good, but I think there needs to be an adoption of a more of a joined-up approach, focusing on a better understanding of happiness and wellbeing is important. Being able to switch off outside work is also really important. The fact that having autonomy, responsibility and flexibility improves performance and job satisfaction should be considered more often.  It’s not about time spent at the desk, it’s about being productive during the working day. Employees also need to take some responsibility themselves as well and not just rely on their firms. Of course, bringing in a wellbeing coach to run workshops is something they can do right away – I happen to know a good one…” 

KFD: “Some firms are already introducing wellness programs that help people to become healthier, happier and more engaged, through mindfulness and yoga classes, or subsidies toward gym memberships. I believe the next, more sophisticated step is the implementation of employee assistance programs to give people access to confidential professional counselling. More and more firms are also beginning to offer flexible working arrangements, such as flexible or part time hours, or occasional home office work, to help people better balance their work and personal responsibilities.”


The point of flexibility has come increasingly to the forefront of firms looking to alter their traditional business models and approaches to productivity. The billable hour, a volume-based productivity metric, has been historically and traditionally been relied upon by firms as a staple for measuring the effectiveness and output of its employees. But are the mental consequences and emerging alternatives now starting to challenge that view?


KFD: “There is discussion that in fact a more fundamental change is needed. I recently read an interesting blog post from a Dentons Partner in the US, who shared an argument that law firms’ use of billable hours as the basis for compensation is creating a culture of burnout. In her opinion, our profession needs a new approach to compensation.”


As the above points demonstrate, any approach to mental health issues in the legal sector will inevitably require a multi-faceted review, raising questions about a firm’s approach to everything from economic performance indicators through to paternity policy. Karina’s recent appointment as Europe’s Chief Mindfulness Officer might be indicative of this ‘whole culture change’ slowly taking hold within the industry. It’s one of the first senior roles of its kind dedicated to a specific approach to addressing mental health concerns by a firm.


KFD:My main responsibility as Europe Chief Mindfulness Officer will be to ensure mindfulness is an integral part of Dentons’ culture, thus supporting our vision to be the law firm of the future. I will contribute to our global NextTalent program by using mindfulness to develop the essential skills of the lawyer of the future – emotional intelligence, increasing resilience etc. – and to help our people thrive, both personally and professionally. We aim to position Dentons at the leading edge of this emerging field. Our mindfulness initiatives will help to nurture a culture in which high performance is founded on compassionate leadership, authenticity, honesty, respect and teamwork in order to drive productivity and innovation. It’s important to remember this is still an emerging field. For Dentons, it is a matter of open-minded leadership and innovative organisational culture. Mindfulness cannot be just a ‘nice addition’. It has to be truly embodied in the culture. It is not just simply creating a role for the sake of it – moreover its about reorganising a workplace. I don’t think all firms are ready for it right now.”


So, what exactly is meditation?

I have been meditating in my personal life for over just over a year now. As I’ve gotten more accustomed, comfortable and experienced with it, I’ve felt it to be a great way to tackle the stress, anxiety, tiredness and distractions we all face on a day-to-day basis. Hannah explains the science behind these transformative effects below:


HB: “When we get stressed, the brain produces cortisol – a stress hormone. Cortisol causes the fear and anxiety centre of the brain to increase in size, whilst decreasing the size and function of the part of the brain that deals with memory, learning, stress control and rational thought. As a result, we feel more anxious, damage our memory, ability to focus, concentrate and make good decisions. Meditation reverses these effects of cortisol – decreasing the fear/anxiety centre, improving memory and concentration – whilst helping you manage your everyday activities, sleep and even work!” 


Addressing misconceptions

One of the main reasons I was personally so apprehensive about trying meditation was due to the fact I didn’t really know much about the process outlined above. To me, meditation used to be an inherently ‘spiritual’ or religious act, often conjuring novel images in my head of an old-age monk with decades of experience humming on a mountainside. In reality, however, meditation is a straightforward everyday tool for anyone to use at anytime. Such misconceptions are one of the biggest barriers to seeing the greater incorporation of meditation in our day-to-day lives. Karina and Hannah explain:


KFD: “There are many misconceptions about meditation, especially among some lawyers. The first one that comes to mind is that meditation is about ‘getting rid of thoughts’ or emptying your mind completely. There are also some others, such as meditation being ‘lazy’ instead of working toward billing hours, it being irrational, changing your religious beliefs or being selfish. For some lawyers, meditation seems antithetical to the professional culture that traditionally places great value on logic and reason. Furthermore, giving yourself permission to have downtime and unplug can feel scary and challenging in the legal world where time literally means money. I can also see a problematic approach to the idea of ‘compassion’ in the legal world – some lawyers seem concerned that this practice will make them go ‘soft’ or lose their edge. Whilst in reality, one can be stern or assertive whilst still being compassionate.”


HB: “People assume it isn’t for them, or try it once and believe that they “can’t do it” or they aren’t doing it right. It’s a muscle that needs exercising.” 


So how do I meditate?

Taking that first step into the world of meditation as an absolute beginner can be a confusing, difficult or short-lived one without proper guidance or help. Karina and Hannah share their tips for beginners wanting to encompass meditation into their daily routine below:


KFD: “Nowadays, there are a lot of very good books and apps addressing the topic of mindfulness in the workplace. There is also a lot of advice freely available on the internet. Following posts from http://www.mindful.org or some other similar websites may be a good starting point.”


HB: “Try closing your eyes and taking three deep breaths.  Focus on how you want to feel that day – happy, calm, or perhaps successful.  Repeat to yourself “I am ….” and the way you want to feel. Keep repeating that thought in your head for 10 minutes. Your mind will wander off, but when you realise it, simply acknowledge it and come back to your thought of “I am…”. As you practice, eventually you’ll find that you’ll wander off less frequently and come back to your focused thought more quickly.”


For those of you looking wanting to give meditation a go, you can receive 2 weeks free of Premium access to my favourite meditation app, Simple Habit, with my promotional code below. It’s completely free and you only need your email address to get started – no credit card or confusing subscription cancellation required.  There’s a huge variety of topics available, you can download meditations to take with you on the move and its a really beginner-friendly way to get started. I’ve tried many meditation apps, such as Headspace and Calm, but this has been my firm favourite by far.

KUDD9BPUD0 – redeemable at https://simplehabit.com/explore-meditations under the ‘Profile’ section, or on the app.


I’d like to extend a big thank you to both Hannah and Karina for agreeing to contribute to this article. I hope you’ve found their levels of insight into the world of meditation and how it applies to the legal sector both educational and useful. If you’d like to learn more about Hannah or Karina, or hear more about my own experiences of meditation, check out the links below.


James McConkey #LawyersOfLinkedIn

“Law provides a unique combination of commerciality and intellectual diversity, combined with client-facing responsibility and the intellectual rigour required to produce commercially sound advice.”

James McConkey.

Today’s #LawyerOfLinkedIn is aspiring commercial solicitor and University of York graduate James McConkey. He has just achieved a Distinction in his combined LPC and Masters degree in Law & Business at the University of Law in London. I spoke with James about his motivations to join the profession, thoughts on the future disruption of technology within the sector and his experiences so far throughout the Training Contract application process.


So, what made you want to be a lawyer?

JM: “My initial interest in law was first sparked whilst completing my Extended Learning Project in Sixth Form, where I studied the commercial effects that the legalisation of Euthanasia would have in the UK. Following this, I actively pursued opportunities to begin my exposure to the world of law during my River Tour job, researching the employment contracts and attending licensing meetings with the local council.

During my time at university, I then began to complete more formal legal work experiences with Reed Smith, DAC Beachcroft and at the York Law Clinic. Working with Reed Smith, I understood that to formulate commercial advice for clients, one must understand the micro and macro aspects of their industry. During my IP work experience with DAC Beachcroft, we were advising on an international trademark dispute on one day and patent applications the next. I was struck by the way in which the profession is evolving, having to respond to progress in technology with new ways of thinking and advising. It is an exciting time to be a lawyer!

These experiences ultimately consolidated my passion to join the legal sector. Law provides a unique combination of commerciality and intellectual diversity, combined with client-facing responsibility and the intellectual rigour required to produce commercially sound advice.”


What’s surprised you the most so far about the training contract application process?

“During an interview for a law firm, the interviewer asked me “how would your friends describe you?”, followed by “what would they say behind your back?”. I thought it was quite a tough question to answer! It’s different to the traditional and more-expected “what are your biggest weaknesses” question. I had to do a bit of self-reflection and quick thinking to put together my answer.”


Speaking of law firms, what do you think is the biggest difficulty they will face in the future?

“I think for many law firms, one of the biggest difficulties they will face over the next few years will come in the form of technological disruptors, like AI or Blockchain technology. Many of the multi-million pound firms are attempting to maintain their current course with a gradual integration of this technology – but one could ask if there is any reason they should consider serious investment in retraining their staff or developing new technologies?

The answer may come with the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (“ABS”), under the Legal Services Act 2007.  Accountancy firms, especially the Big Four, can now start to offer legal services in conjunction with their expertise financial advice. If this integration is continuous and successful, then this new emerging force within the legal sector could fundamentally and irreversibly change the market across the entirety of the profession.”


So how do you think the role of a trainee solicitor will change as this technology develops?

“It is undeniable that in years to come, AI will become more commonplace in legal practice. It does not necessarily mean, however, that trainees and lawyers alike will therefore become obsolete. Instead, in what some already deem to be the fourth industrial Revolution, soft skills will become even more important. As automation increases, trainees will be left surplus to requirements in relation to many traditional legal tasks, therefore requiring them to spend more time, say, with clients, rather than tasks like rule-based thinking and fact-finding research. High emotional intelligence will become increasingly desirable in order to satisfy these altered needs. Similarly, trainees and lawyers will need to be adaptable, curious and willing to use their initiative in order to deal with any consequences which they face due to these technological developments.”


I’d like to extend a big thank-you to James for agreeing to be my first contributor to my new #LawyersOfLinkedIn series. If you’d like to get in touch with James, or learn more about him, you can do so below.


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