Legal Apprentices, Webinar, Hidden Costs

Our latest Law Matters Newsletter is now available, see here.

In it, we write of legal apprenticeships, and give notice of a webinar by Red Spot Coaching entitled “Should I Set Up a Business?” We also explore the issue of hidden costs, which do not appear in ledger, but which can cost your firm thousands of pounds.


Smart People in Groups Less So

Ignore the Daily Mail’s headline, but read the report, since the contents are important.

The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in the U.S.A. found that being in a group can lower intelligence, albeit on a temporary basis. This apparently affects women more than men.

Irrespective of gender, this phenomenon may certainly help explain some bad political decisions over the years!

The importance for leaders and managers is that they need to minimise or bypass this effect. In part this is another reason to limit the number of small group meetings. It is also a reason for whoever is running a meeting to be constantly aware of group dynamics, taking care to encourage those who may be affected.

Long Hours may be Hazardous

From the Wall Street Journal.

A study by the University of Southern California on investment bankers found that they started out energetic and enthused, and remained so for the first 2 years, despite working 80 to 120 hours per week. However by year 4 many were showing both physical and mental symptoms. These ranged from addiction to Crohn’s disease.

By year 6, there were 2 groups. The majority still pursued the same lifestyle. The remaining 40% began to take better care of themselves, improving their sleep and eating patterns.

Investment bankers face particular pressures, particularly in the present climate, but lawyers are also known for working long hours. I have known several who have suffered health problems as a result. So there are lessons to be learned.

One of my previous bosses had a concept of “shovel leaning time” as a result of watching men dig a hole in frozen ground. We all need a period of catching our breath during work time. That can, of course, be work related but unstressful, such as tidying the desk. Or go off to make some coffee.


Last Minute Captain – Ryan Jones

Sitting in the Millennium Stadium on Sunday, I leaned that Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, had failed a fitness test and would not be playing.

Ryan Jones took over as captain, as well as playing out of position. His leadership included playing part of the match with a knee injury which meant that he could hardly run. Wales won.

Apart from celebrating the victory, there is a leadership lesson. In any organisation, the leader must be replaceable. They may move on, suffer illness or have an unfortunate encounter with a bus. One recent example is Steve Jobs at Apple – at least he had the opportunity to plan for his exit.

It is tempting to fall for the romance of the great leader model, but part of being a succesful leader is not have both contingency and succession plans in place.

Legal Apprenticeships

It was interesting last night to share a platform at Alliance for the Black Country with Nick Skeet of Skills for Justice. He was talking about Legal Apprenticeships, it being National Apprenticeship Week.

“Paralegal” – what does it mean? Anything from someone who was a secretary last week to the holder of a law degree having done the LPC. And who is to say that the ex-secretary will not be better? While ability to do the job is the key, a reputation built inside a firm is difficult to sell to another without some kind of framework to enable comparison.

A legal apprenticeship will test candidates against a national set of standards (and of course train them to reach them). It will enable school leavers to join the legal sector without needing a degree, increasing diversity. Since Skills for Justice is talking to ILEx, there may be potential to reach chartered status, and even to qualify as a solicitor. Most however will not go that far.

I have thought for some years that there are too many solicitors, many of whom spend time on activities that do not require that level of expertise. This makes legal services more expensive than they need to be. Having another category of competent workers will return the profession to a more traditional structure of “solicitor and clerks” to the benefit of clients, and making law firms more competitive with Alternative Business Structures.

And of course other apprenticeships are possible in law firms, not least in the Accounts Department.



But I’m an Intelligent Professional…..

… why do I need coaching?

If everything in life is perfect and likely to remain so, then coaching will do little for you.

For most of us, though life is full of compromises, doubts and challenges both in work and outside. Here a coach can help you to address what is important to you.

Remember that a coach is not a remedial teacher, but someone who deals with competent adults (if someone needs therapy or counselling, they should visit a counsellor or therapist).

The fact that you are a professional may well mean that you tend to think like a member of your particular profession. What could be more natural? But this can be a limiting factor in coming to the best conclusion. The questions a coach will challenge your way of thinking to ensure that you explore possibilities fully.

Intelligence can obviously be a considerable asset. Yet once again, it can be limiting. Firstly, it can make you see all sides of an issue, but then make it difficult to make a decision. Secondly, while rational problem solving is important, sometimes issues such as emotion and ethics need to be taken into account.

A couch will help you use your abilities, but not be limited by them. And of course, you are the one who makes the decisions as to the direction to take.

RBS, Hester and Motivation

There are all kinds of political issues surrounding the bonus to Stephen Hester and his decision to waive it. These will not be covered in this post.

Instead, there are some interesting issues on motivation.

Research suggests that a pay increase has only a short-term effect on motivation. Yet some people clearly are motivated by monetary reward, while others are not. The danger is in assuming that everyone is the same.But what most people want is recognition, and that can take the form of money.

Do bonuses work? Properly set up (which includes rewarding the right thing) they can. The effect is potentially twofold: pre-bonus by changing behaviour to achieve it; post-bonus by recognition of effort and a sharing of its product.

Potentially, therefore, the Hester bonus could motivate him to do his job better. But there is a further possible motivation: taking the job in the first place. Why would someone take on a failing bank when they could have a well paid and less risky job elsewhere? If the bank continues to fail, this can destroy the remains of a career. Money can compensate for this risk, and structuring it so that a large part is dependent on success (as defined) leaves both parties happy. Putting Hester under pressure to give up his bonus thus makes it more difficult to recruit to the bank in the future.

The other issue is how motivated Hester now is. Whatever your view of bonuses, he has fulfilled his part of the bargain, yet has been pressured to give up his reward. I would have been tempted to walk out. Certainly, if I were a headhunter last Monday would have seen me phoning senior staff at RBS and holding some very interesting conversations.