HEKA Law Firm Joins the International Lawyers Network in Ecuador

The International Lawyers Network (ILN) proudly announces the addition of HEKA Law Firm to its esteemed membership. Based in Quito – Ecuador, HEKA Law Firm is a leading independent law firm offering expert legal advice across a diverse spectrum of legal services.

Specializing in M&A, corporate and commercial law, gaming law, telecommunications and technology, fintech, data protection, public procurement, Real Estate, litigation and dispute resolution HEKA Law Firm provides clients with up-to-date and comprehensive legal counsel across various sectors of the economy. Their deep understanding of Ecuadorian laws and regulations empowers clients to navigate legal complexities with confidence and clarity.


Law Firm ILN-telligence Podcast | Joshua Upin, Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld

Joshua Upin is a partner with Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld, the ILN’s Pennsylvania member firm. In this episode, he and Lindsay discuss the hot topic on everyone’s mind, generative AI, the unrealistic expectations that television has created for the legal system, and his new favorite podcast, Magnificent Jerk

You can listen to the podcast here, or we’ve provided a transcript of the highlights below.


Unlocking the Power of Data: A Roadmap for Modern Legal Practices

It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t pursue a career in law because of our love for data, right?

If we were passionate about data, we’d probably be in a different field altogether.

But here’s the reality check: embracing data is crucial to staying relevant as the legal landscape evolves. It might sound daunting, but once you invest the time to establish processes for collecting and analyzing your data, the payoff can be immense. You’ll uncover opportunities to enhance efficiency, deliver more value to clients, and identify strategies for improving firm profitability. More value and higher profits? Suddenly, data doesn’t seem so intimidating, does it?

Moreover, clients expect you to have a handle on your data. They’re keeping track of the matters you handle for them, so when you claim, “This is specialized work and cannot be compared to anything we’ve done before,” they know better. They have the data to spot trends, inefficiencies, and more. And they wonder why they can track your data when you can’t.

Also, these days, technology can handle your data FOR YOU. So there’s almost no excuse for not knowing how to engage with your data. Yes, there are obviously confidentiality concerns, but technology has and will catch up with those. So if you’re not already dealing with those, why not?

Other industries are already emphasizing “big data,” which means, once again, the legal industry is lagging and missing opportunities to create significant value and modernize our services.

The risks here are twofold:

The data gap impedes organizations’ abilities to manage work, mitigate risk, maximize value, enhance decision-making, and proactively respond to trends.

Buyers of legal services are becoming increasingly restless, partly due to the stark contrast between how legal services are delivered and the sophistication of technology in other industries.

And uh, we just discussed some of this in our last post, so these risks should have you WORRIED.

So, we need data. But what does that entail?

Here are three key considerations for your firm:

Data Strategy: Like any initiative, there must be a strategy behind your data efforts. Identify the data you need to collect at the practice and client level and define how you’ll organize it to meet your goals.

Data Analysis: Once you have the data, analyze it to derive meaningful insights. This is where you’ll uncover efficiencies, manage work better, mitigate risks, and more.

Data Visualization: Making data accessible is crucial. Lawyers need to understand and interact with meaningful data easily. Sophisticated data visualization plays a key role here, ensuring that data is digestible and actionable.

While this might seem daunting, leveraging experts (and/or technology!) who love data can transform it from a headache into a powerful tool. Committing to acting on the insights your data reveals presents a significant opportunity. Few firms are fully capitalizing on the wealth of data they possess, making now the perfect time to invest in it. Data will soon become a client expectation—wouldn’t you rather be ahead of the curve than scrambling to catch up?

Law Firm ILN-telligence Podcast | Alishan Naqvee, LexCounsel

Alishan Naqvee is the founding partner of LexCounsel, one of the ILN’s member firms in India. In this episode, Alishan and Lindsay discuss how technology has changed the practice of law, what is intriguing about the modern practice of healthcare law, and what many people misunderstand about lawyers. Don’t miss this fascinating conversation!

You can listen to the podcast here, or we’ve provided a transcript of the highlights below.

Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the Law Firm Intelligence Podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Griffiths, executive director of the International Lawyers Network. Our guest this week is a returning guest. We’re really excited to have him back, and that’s Alishan Naqvee of Lex Counsel Law Offices in Delhi, in India. Alishan, we’re really happy to have you back with us and even though a lot of people hopefully have listened to your first episode, we’d like to invite you to say a couple words about yourself and your firm and then we’ll dive into our questions.

Alishan: Wonderful. Hi Lindsay. Happy to be here again. I am Alishan Naqvee, as you introduced me. I’m the founding partner of the Indian law firm, LexCounsel Law Offices. We have five offices in India. We practice in the areas of corporate, commercial and dispute resolution with a specialization in education and life sciences and healthcare, an area I wish to talk about a little today during our podcast.

Our practice areas and our partners have been well recognized and well awarded in India. We are completing 20 years this year, and we will also be completing 15 years of our ILN membership this year. So good times, and thanks for having me on the podcast again.

Lindsay: Of course, yes, lots to celebrate. We’re very excited. Okay, so let’s dive into our questions. The first question I have for you is: what is something that most people misunderstand about your field of work?

Alishan: Well, generally there is a stereotype around the practice of law in India, and I will talk two things about it. Often we hear the clients, because I practice in the area of dispute resolution, and in India we take a lot of time in adjudicating and coming into final decisions through courts. Arbitrations are a little faster. Now, commercial courts are also a little faster, but usually notoriously slow is our justice administration system. And therefore, a lot of times you hear the clients coming after years or after some time when they’re unhappy with the outcome, they say that “Then this is not justice, ultimately.” I mean saying also that justice delayed is justice denied, but again, so many times, even if it is an order which they have, which is not completely in agreement with what they wanted, they say, “This is not justice.”

So, I tell them that my name is Alisha Naqvee after that, comma, advocate. So, my job is to contest your matter to the best of my abilities. I try to get you justice, but delivery of justice is not my job. Delivery of justice is the job of a judge, and when you see the name of the judge, you write the name and then you put a comma, and then say justice. So as lawyer, our role is very limited and we so long as we discharge our duty in contesting our matter to the best of our abilities, that’s what you expect from us.

And again, I tell my clients a lot of the times that even the best of our abilities, and that is why lawyers should put a 100% into their matters that they’re doing. There are always three sides to the matter, one is me, one is the opposite side, and one is the judge. Even if you do your 100% at the maximum, you have 33% chance of success because the opposite party would like to disprove whatever you are saying. And then the judges are also humans. They have their own understanding, their own notions, their own biases and their own perception of justice.

So, being a lawyer, and a dispute resolution lawyer at the most, I often tell that our job is to do the best work for you. Even if we do our best, we may have a very good chance of winning, but it is never above 50%, so to speak, even with good cases. So, managing client expectations is one thing in dispute resolution, especially in India where the court system is slow. One is that.

Second perception which I see very interesting is that, incorrect, I have seen lawyers hardly being part of any disputes. As a community Lawyers are most dispute averse species. We do not like disputes in our personal life. We don’t like disputes with our neighbors, we don’t like disputes with our properties, but their perception that lawyers create disputes. If you go to lawyers, I don’t know whether it is true in other parts of the world, but in India, surely I hear a lot of non-corporate clients or general people who are laypersons who may be controlling businesses not part of multinational corporations often say that, “Oh, if you go to lawyers for business advice, they will try and create a dispute.” Completely untrue.

So, these are the two parts which according to me are most misunderstood about a lawyer’s practice. One is that a lawyer is the one responsible for delivery of justice for you. We can only fight your case. And secondly, lawyers create a dispute. No lawyers try their best to resolve your disputes and advise you also not to go for a dispute and try and resolve it any [inaudible 00:05:04]

Lindsay: Those are really interesting Clarifications that I have never thought of before. And your first point really reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Anais Nin, which is that “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.”

Alishan: Yes, correct. Absolutely. Yes, agree.

Lindsay: So, moving on to my next question, which is: how do you think technology has changed the practice of law in recent years?

Alishan: So, Lindsay, as I said, I am a practicing litigator in addition to having a fair amount of corporate practice. As a litigator, what I have seen with corona and the courts becoming virtual, it’s something very interesting that today in India, by an order of the Supreme Court, all the courts are obligated to be virtual or hybrid. Now, our certificate of practice in India entitles me to practice throughout India. I’m not registered in a particular state. I’m registered of course in a particular state, but I’m entitled to practice in any code across the length and breadth of my country.

Now, what virtual courts have done is that I can take up matter anywhere in India provided they have a hybrid system, which means some lawyers can appear physically, some can appear virtually, and both can, and there’s a two-way communication. I hear them, they hear me, the judges hear both of us and we hear the judges, both of us.

So, now what has happened with that is today, A, the cost of litigation has gone down significantly for a lot of clients who are not looking to hire those few lawyers who are at the top. Now, if you want to hire those lawyers in a particular area, super-specialized senior advocates, of course you have to pay their fee. But there is a wider bouquet of lawyers available even to the clients in the smaller towns. They can hire somebody, they may be in a remote town in India, or in an industrial town in India where they have a dispute, and they have to go to a local jurisdictional court. But that domain expertise related to maybe oil and gas, or manufacturing is not available legally in their specific city. They can hire a lawyer from Delhi or Mumbai or a larger city of India where they have these expertise and make them appear virtually. So, it, A, lowers the cost of our traveling. B, it also makes our expertise available to them.

So, it has interestingly brought about a level playing field in a manner that never existed in India. And I’m sure it’s across the world also because courts have been virtual across the world during corona. When we were coming out of corona, we couldn’t risk public gatherings or courts being physically attended by people. So, this is one thing which I see has literally changed my practice. I am able to take more briefs across India. I have experience of appearing in different tribunals in India, different cities. We have spread the practice across India, different courts. So, our physical location is no longer a foundation or a boundary, or a limitation for the client to afford us.

Lindsay: That’s really great. I mean, you’re talking about there being a level playing field, which I think advocates for a very long time have wanted people to have greater access to the law, which you’re saying that’s doing. I’m wondering if that means there’s been a greater appetite for dispute resolution then? And are you seeing there being more litigation as a result of that? Or is there still that same level? And is that as a result of lawyers still advocating the same amount of litigation? Or are you seeking alternative dispute resolution, those types of things? What are you seeing in terms of litigation?

Alishan: Well, actually, there is a major drift in India towards alternative dispute resolution. In fact, most of our high courts have a mediation cell attached to them, which is also made part with our lower courts. And in terms of some of our laws, I won’t make it hyper technical by naming the laws here, but in terms of some of our recent laws, it is mandatory for the parties to go to a formal mediation process before they can come to the court. Now, unless of course one party is seeking some injunction which they need to obtain without the other party becoming aware of, for example, intellectual property infringement cases. So, in those cases you may still put up an application and go to the court before going to mediation. But mostly there is a major shift towards mediation and then the arbitration for dispute resolution.

Still arbitration remains more expensive as compared to litigation, which is a major factor.

Lindsay: Interesting.

Alishan: Why do people offer litigation? Because in arbitration you have to take care of the fee of the arbitrators, you have to take care of the venue. Many arbitrations are virtual. I mean, roughly about, when I speak to arbitrators, they conduct about 80% of their arbitration hearings virtually. But still you put the fee of the arbitrator and if the arbitrator is a retired court judge, retired high court judge or retired supreme court judge, the fee becomes higher. Whereas if you go to the court, you pay a court fee, but then you don’t bear the establishment expenses. Those are borne by the government.

So, there is a significant, for the lower level of disputes, there is a significant inclination to go to the court. And if you have an arbitration clause, of course you will go to arbitration. You don’t have an option of going to the courts. But given an option when the volume of claim is low and you want to get an injunction and all, people will want to go to the court as against the arbitration. In a lot of agreements still it is very traditional in India that we put the court jurisdiction. We don’t necessarily put the arbitration jurisdiction because even at the time of drafting the fact plays in the mind of the parties that in this particular case, even if I have a dispute, the dispute will not be of such financial magnitude which will justify bearing the cost of arbitration. And which is why a lot of arguments in India still see litigation as the dispute resolution mechanism is against arbitration.

Lindsay: Wow, that’s really very interesting. That’s great.

Okay, so can you tell me about a client that changed your practice?

Alishan: Well, let’s say very interestingly, sometimes you say what’s your calling. So that moment happened with us when we started this firm. A few months after that, two youngsters who still remain friends, neither they are youngsters anymore, nor I am, both of them walked into our office and then they wanted some advice on one area of medical laws.

I know medical laws, as you know, has a backbone of science to it and not every lawyer can practice in the area of medical laws. It’s more like patents that if you do a particular patent, you need to be engineer or a doctor. You need to have the scientific knowledge even to write the patent documentation. [inaudible 00:12:29] not that intensive, but to a great extent, if you are practicing in the area of and advising clients on drug development, clinical trials, medical sciences, life sciences, healthcare, various areas related to that, medical devices now, you need to have an understanding of the science, therefore a basic understanding of science, which eliminates a lot of lawyers practicing into this particular domain.

Now, I have a science background, so when they walked in I had a discussion, I developed interest in it, started reading up on it. One thing led to the other in such a way that for the last decade I think we would be one of the leading law firms in India in the area of life sciences and healthcare. Having the maximum number of representation of pharmaceutical companies, of medical devices companies, of hospitals.

So that is a client who changed our practice. In fact, it gifted us with altogether a practice area where we have continued to benefit for the last 10 years, increased our knowledge, increased people, increased lawyers in that practice domain, number of clients we have in that area. It just happened. I think that was the calling.

Lindsay: I would say that’s a big change for your practice. That’s huge.

Alishan: Yes.

Lindsay: And so, speaking of your healthcare practice, what really intrigues you about that today?

Alishan: So, Lindsay, in this I will wish to talk about two or three different aspects. One is what is happening is medical law practice is changing very gradually as the treatments and options are changing. They’re becoming more and more scientific. We know people had in our families, they used to check blood glucose by glucometers, that strips were at a certain price. We would also have a blood pressure machine at home, not every household would have it.

Today, technology is one major player in the area of healthcare. So much so that sometimes you even wonder when you are in the domain of technology and when you are going into the domain of medical science. I will give you one example. Today, your smartwatches and your cell phone together give you a lot of health data, which if you gauge from individual devices will make those devices medical devices. Even the heart rate, your stethoscope, your pulses, your blood oxygen level, all these individual equipment are medical devices regulated across the world and you need licensing and registration for it.

When it integrates in a smartphone, it gives you all that data. Now it tells you that don’t make clinical decisions based on it because this is just for assistance for recording, but that’s something. But again, it is nevertheless giving a data integrated at a cell phone.

So, there are very interesting questions. Would smartwatches after some time, when smartwatches give more and more reliable data, would they be classified as medical devices? Or they won’t be? In fact, the smartwatches can be more of a medical device than other devices because they integrate four or five individual medical devices: blood oxygen, heart rate monitor, blood pressure monitor, stress level. I don’t know whether there’s a device for that. But you have all that data.

So this is one thing very intriguing about my practice on medical law, and often we get queries from clients asking that if they’re collecting this kind of an information, would it become a trial or a study in human participants, which is regulated? Because before they launch these features, they also study the features and the accuracy of it.

So, it’s during the test phase, you evaluate a technology, it is fine. But if you evaluate something for medical purpose and you collect the data of human, then again international and our Indian national guidelines, you need certain regulatory and committee approvals which may become applicable. But that’s a gray area which intrigues me.

Second is of course deep learning and artificial intelligence. And the way that scans work, we used to get a X-ray scan or get a scan, CT scan or whatever. Now, today what is done is, for example, we have worked for leading technology companies in the world who are now coming into data analysis. So, they have data of a particular condition of 10,000 people, 100,000 people. Now the moment an individual’s scan is put up and if you put two or three scans, it can actually predict whether the disease will progress or not. And you can actually start a predictive and preventive healthcare from now on.

Now, there is a cost of that preventive healthcare. There may be insurance also applicable to that preventive healthcare. Today, the person does not have it, but he may develop it in some time. Insurance covers the particular condition, the treatment of it, but whether it would cover the prevention of it today because insurance company may come and say that “How do I know that this will lead to that condition? You are asking me to pay for this treatment today when this person is not suffering from this condition. All you are telling me is that as per your technology, you know the person will develop this condition in five years and therefore I should pay now because after five years I will pay more.:

So, these are the areas where different industry players become involved, and technology is the game changer and others are trying very hard to keep pace with it. With that also comes the question of reliability of the technology.

Third aspect, very interesting, so I’ve been a part of some of the regulations which our central agency, ICMR, has brought in. I was a legal member of the guidelines which were brought in a few years back for clinical trials in children. Because again, some of the disease and a condition are specific to children, unless you try the drugs into them, unless you conduct a trial in them, you can’t develop it. You can’t develop a child’s medicine for a condition which lasts only till seven years of age or nine years of age by doing the trial drug trial in a 45-year-old adult who does not have that condition. But it’s a very sensitive topic in itself because the child has a whole life ahead of him, so I’ve been part of that also.

Now there’s a new guideline which has coming to India, which talks about trials in healthy humans. So traditionally, clinical trials mean that a person suffering from a particular condition, there are different phases, but in nonexpert’s town you check the toxicity of the drug, and you see how dangerous it can be and how intoxicating it can be, how much time it will be, it will take to absorb in the body. Pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic effect. Technical terms don’t want to bore you with it.

But you basically go into a person who’s suffering from this disease, you give the standard treatment, and you also induce in some arms of the study, the new investigational drug. You see whether it is being cured, whether it is a better treatment, whether the management of the disease is better, improving quality of life. Those are the parameters. After you’re able to establish it, then you go for registration of a particular drug.

Now, an antithesis to that, completely opposite to that is the trial in healthy subjects means if I don’t have a patient just under this trial, a particular disease or a virus will be injected into my body and then my immune response to that body will be seen. And after that, maybe the vaccine or drug will be given to see what the efficacy of it is.

Now, if you see [inaudible 00:20:32] it contradicts, every doctor is supposed to go under a Hippocratic oath which says, “Do no harm.” Now this trial starts with a harm. You are injecting a toxic element or a virus or a bacteria in a healthy human and then you start forming.

So again, a very interesting area. There have been these kind of regulations in other parts of the world. When these regulations come to India, there is a significant change in landscape and the ethical issues become very serious. The reason for that is if you go to a well-developed country, joining this study is not an enticement. The money paid to the participant cannot be an enticement in a country where the per capita income is already high. But when you bring these regulations to a country which is poor, there is a chance that some people may want to just get that money, what you are paying for participation and enrolling. So, the choice that they make or the consent that they give to participate in the study is not voluntary. It is induced by the financial benefit, which goes against the basic idea of research.

Lindsay: Yes.

Alishan: So, these are the things which, there are many more, but keeping the time in mind, these are the three areas which I have recently in the last one or two months on different clients advised on, and never seems to amaze me what is the length and breadth of this practice area and how conflicting it can be.

Lindsay: Wow. Those are things that I have never even thought of and they’re fascinating.

Alishan: It is, indeed, Lindsay. It took me, I would say that in the area of medical ethics, it takes I think a couple of years even to get that understanding where you can make an informed decision yourself as a lawyer because it is so conflicting. How do you pay a trial participant? Now somebody, if you pay compensation for their time, would you pay a high-flying lawyer higher compensation as compared to a person who’s unemployed? But does that mean that you are putting a value on life which you ethically can’t?

And if you pay full consideration to all of them, a lot of these participants who have far more productive job will not come and participate in the study, so your population will not be heterogeneous. And if your population is not heterogeneous, your scientific results may not be accurate. Therefore, that clinical trials are done in multiple countries across the world because for any drug or vaccine to be launched in the world, you need to try it between different gene pools. So, you will do it in Canada also, you will do in Europe also you will do in Japan, also Australia also India also maybe Bangladesh, maybe some countries of Africa. And everybody’s response, immunological response to a drug and medicine is different. Absorption rates are different.

Even for medical devices. If you see knee replacements devices, these are governed by the sizes. And if you see if in a particular, what will fit on the South Asian size may not fit the German size. So again, you have to have trials and you have to have all those formalities completed in every jurisdiction to launch something globally. So, lots of issues, very interesting issues and very academic.

The interesting part, Lindsay, what I wish to say is that it keeps you on your heels and so many times you feel so connected because this is real life. You are dealing with life and wellbeing of people. You are dealing with health at a national and at a global level. So, every regulation or guideline that comes in impacts everyone in one stroke.

Lindsay: Absolutely, yes.

Yes. As you say, things that are real life, things that could affect you and your family and people that you know. And yes, absolutely. That’s really fascinating.

Alishan: Yes, that’s very interesting, Lindsay. And also, one more thing I would say is that there is also another thing. If you see there’s a concept of orphan drugs, which are also drugs which are developed at some point of time, but at that time they did not find a use of it. But today they can be used for something else. And there are also funding requirement and there are special provisions for it.

There is also a huge challenge globally, which is a legal and financial challenge of developing the drugs for the people for the disease and condition which affect a minuscule amount of population. One in a million, one in 10 million. So, if the pharmaceutical companies invest money and develop these drugs, then they will perhaps be during the patent life of a drug of 20 years never be able to recover the investment, which is a disincentive for them to put money in the research of this particular molecule. Does not mean that governments can turn a blind eye towards this. That is where the whole issue of patient advocacy and government regulations come in. So many times when we advise on regulatory side, there are these considerations also which come into play.

Lindsay: Right. Right. I mean we just celebrated rare disease day the other day, and I know several people who either themselves suffer from rare diseases or have children who suffer from rare diseases, and it’s really interesting to see how many people there are who are, as you say, one in a million. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t study those diseases or advocate for treatment or drugs for those diseases but, as you say, the funding for those rare cases is so hard to come by. And that, as you say, that’s the question, is it these drug companies who are making those decisions of profit over people, it’s an ethical question.

Alishan: It’s an ethical question. And I would say that you cannot blame the investors in a pharmaceutical company. That is where the governments and the international bodies need to stand up, and they do so. They also support, there are also patient advocacy groups who develop it. There are also support groups who develop the funds. And we have seen various things. I’ve been involved with some of these societies in India who have garnered this kind of a funding. And then getting the funding, setting up a funding protocol in place, taking approval for these entities to receive donations.

Getting tax exemption for those donations is also something very different because you have to go to the department of income tax for that particular certificate, which will make it tax exempt. And you have to explain to them why this is necessary. Because just if you make a society capable of accepting donation does not make the donation tax exempt in India. You have to have something more. You have to go and apply. And that is where all the science and logic and emotional side and ethical side and financial side come into play.

Lindsay: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes, that’s very interesting. That’s really great work you’re doing. As you say, I think sometimes people … That goes back to your first question that I asked you, what people misunderstand about your field of work, which is that a lot of times people think that lawyers are not doing important work, or that lawyers are a necessary evil. And this really goes to show that the work that you’re doing and that a lot of lawyers do is very important because they’re really advocating for real people who are doing very important work.

Alishan: Lindsay, again, a civilization thrives on the rights. And when I have a right, somebody has an obligation. And rights and obligations if they can’t be enforced in a civilized environment, then rights and obligations lose their value. I don’t have a right if I cannot enforce a right. And it is for enforcement of rights that first the governments are made responsible. And after that, if you look the social architecture, that is where the judges and judiciary come in. And laws are made to enforce your rights, to protect you and to preserve you and to give you rights. So, lawyers, I think, are a very important spoke in the whole wheel of civilization, if not the axis of the whole of it.

Lindsay: I absolutely agree. I absolutely agree. So, one final question, and that is one of my favorites, and it’s what does being part of the ILN mean to you?

Alishan: Well, Lindsay, as I said earlier, we will be completing 15 years of it, of ILN. I cannot think of any year where I haven’t attended an ILN conference and not met my friends. Of course, when we take membership, referral remains an important consideration. But if you live in a network enough and longer, you tend to see a lot of benefits which are not apparent from the face of it.

Now, everybody knows referral is a benefit of coming into legal networks. I will talk about a few other things. Over the years, I am a founding member of this law firm, so many times I need ideas for the growth of the firm, for the management policies of the firm, internal management. And I have found the partners of other firms who are members of ILN so helpful in sharing their experiences over this issue. And that’s priceless because I can’t go and talk to anyone in the market who doesn’t know me well enough or who I don’t have an association close enough to tell me how he’s running his practice, what has been his failures, what have been the experimentations worth doing, which path shall not be followed because it can be disastrous, though it looks attractive in the beginning.

So all those experience I have to share. And I have received tremendous feedback and support from a lot of older members of the ILN network. The younger members, you just talk to them, as you say, well, lawyers make friends. So, it goes far beyond referral. And ILN means a lot to me from that perspective as well.

Lindsay: I’m so glad to hear that. That makes me very happy. Well, Alishan, as always, this was really delightful. Thank you so much for joining us. And to all of our listeners, thank you so much for joining us. We’ll be back again next week with our next guest and please take a moment to rate, review, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you so much.

Alishan: Thanks a lot, Lindsay. Thank you very much.

State of the Legal Industry: the Key Word is “Adaptation”

Recently, I noticed an EXPLOSION of interest in my post from last year on the state of the legal industry, where we talked about relaxing because the industry was familiar with contractions. This is still true, but the word for this year is ADAPTATION.

I’m just gonna say it now, if you’ve been here a while, you already know that I’ve said this before. Back in August of 2016, we starting talking about how the law firm of the future was going to need to be flexible – what did I mean by that?

Having strong strategic goals and plans in place that drive the firm and its lawyers, and are evaluated and modified on a regular and ongoing basis to quickly respond to changes in the marketplace.

Engaging with industry thought leaders, both within the legal industry itself, and within their own specialty industries.

Instituting a strong client feedback loop that allows for open communication with their clients to ensure that their needs are being met, and that the firm is adapting and growing with them.

It’s eight years later, and this is still true. So, we’re not going to panic. What does the latest report on the state of the US legal market from the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law and the Thomson Reuters Institute say? Several key things.

First and foremost,

The legal industry may be in a greater state of transition today than at any time since the end of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-’11 (GFC), as the market shifts dramatically in what types of legal services are most in demand, how differing segments of law firms are addressing these challenges in varying ways, and what will be the ultimate impact of generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) on the legal profession.

2024 Report on the State of the US Legal Market: The challenge of targeting the right markets with the right offerings

This is not meant to scare anyone. If the GFC taught us anything, it was that we needed to be flexible and adaptable, right? So with any luck, you were ALREADY doing that. We know that this is easier for midsized and smaller firms, because moving BigLaw is like turning around an ocean liner. But it’s not impossible.

Clients always drive change and demands, and so with that strong client feedback loop that I know you all have, you have already been addressing what clients want and need as those things come up – and not in a reactive way, but in a proactive one because for many years now, lawyers have been acting as true business partners to their clients.

The report does mention Pan Am Airways, “the one-time airline industry leader which fell into financial and operational dissolution when its management misjudged the travel marketplace and failed to adapt to change.” But Pan Am isn’t the only example – we all know about Blockbuster, Kodak, etc.

Law firm leaders who fail to respond to marketplace changes and pivot quickly enough to prepare for the future may see their firms destined for the same fate as Pan Am.

2024 Report on the State of the US Legal Market: The challenge of targeting the right markets with the right offerings

While this sounds like a scary and terrifying future, we have been preparing for this for the fifteen years the report alludes to. Thanks to those companies who have gone before us, (hopefully) most law firm leaders have foregone the arrogant idea that we’re above these kinds of catastrophic failures and we recognize that no industry is safe from change.

We engage with each other, seek feedback from clients, lose sleep at night, and are NOT secure in the knowledge that things won’t change. We know that they will and that we must be the ones spearheading those adaptations, even when we’re not completely sure what they may be.

But there are some other key findings in the report that we must take a look at which will impact all of us in the coming year/years:

In 2023, rates for new work matters grew by more than 6%, but realization rates fell – my suspicion is that this is happening outside the legal industry as well, based on anecdotal evidence. Let’s see what this means in 2024+.

Law firms are taking drastically different approaches to staffing, with large firms cutting associates and midsized firms growing their ranks aggressively – given these varying approaches AND the difference that we’ll see in coming years for how associates are trained, I’m VERY curious how these lawyers will turn into the experts we need them to be.

We’re seeing a persistent high growth in expenses and a resurgence in direct expense growth (increases in salary and associate hiring trends), which says to me that firms have not embraced the WFH trends we believed would be permanent after COVID. Will this change? Given that clients continue to be SO cost-conscious and are looking for high-quality and low-cost firms, there will be increased pressure on firms to reign in those salaries.

“sagging productivity and declining realization have combined to put a pinch on law firm profitability growth such that even the high pace of rate growth has been largely unable to remedy the situation” – This isn’t going to fix the situation above either and clients will push back on rate increases at some point. They will stop accepting inflation as a reason for rising rates.

“corporate clients seem to be reverting to prior preferences for specialist knowledge, responsiveness, and global coverage when selecting their outside counsel” – As always, the same rules apply – what differentiates your firm from other firms? Showing up, being great and smart and responsive are going to be table stakes. ESPECIALLY if you are as or more expensive than the other folks.

And of course, AI is on the table. I’m going to say it again because it bears repeating – do NOT just start using AI because you think it will be a differentiator or because it’s the cool new kid on the block. As with ANY new tool or idea, look at what your firm’s goals are FIRST. Identify what you want to achieve and what the strategies are to get you there. If and only if AI is a tool in the toolbox for you, then great, implement it. If not, then only get to know how to use it because your clients will probably be using it and you need to understand their legal risk.

Otherwise, figure out what other tools should be in your toolbox. AI will absolutely disrupt our industry, but whether or not it is YOUR firm’s tool to use today or tomorrow is determined by what your goals are.

How are you focused on adapting today?

Law Firm ILN-telligence Podcast | Noel Ng, Goodwins Law Corporation

Noel Ng is the COO of Goodwins Law Corporation in Singapore, a firm with more than twenty years in the legal industry and a member of the International Lawyers Network. In this episode, Lindsay and Noel discuss Singapore’s importance as a gateway to Asia, as well as Europe and South America’s increase in focus on the country, and how creating online relationships are improved by taking them offline.

You can listen to the podcast here, or we’ve provided a transcript of the highlights below.

Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the Law Firm Intelligence Podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Griffiths, executive director of the International Lawyers Network. And our guest this week is Noel Ng from Goodwins Law Firm Corporation. He’s from Singapore and we’re really glad that you could join us this week. Noel, I really appreciate you coming on the podcast, and it would be great if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and your law firm and your practice.

Noel: Well, first off, good evening to you, Lindsay, and I mean, it’s a morning in Singapore, but I’m very aware of the time difference and I always enjoy talking to overseas friends from all around the world because we may be separated by distance and time, but we’re all on the same planet. So, a little bit of Goodwin. So, we’ve been around for more than 20 over years. I think we have been a very happy and loyal member of the ILN for, I think, 24 years now. And I have met many friends and I’ve personally enjoyed going for a lot of the international conferences, meeting people, meeting dynamic individuals from all around the world, like Italy and the US. And it is just magical when we all come together just to spend a couple of days together, share in the joy of just being together with friends.

And I think that’s essentially what the ILN represents, and we hope that to continue this very close and strong friendly legal connection. So, Goodwins, we are a full service law firm, so we do everything from mergers and acquisition, to the simple contracts, to family law, to corporate law, and a lot of stuff. We do have certain specific niche areas of practice of which the first is on the IT side of things, the e-commerce side of things, which is helmed by our chair, Dr. Toh See Kiat, who was also a former member of parliament. So, we do have contacts in the government and he’s also a very distinguished speaker as well as lecturer in some of the Singapore universities. Recently he was in Bhutan of all places trying to help them with putting up a law degree there. And in fact, in another one or two months we’re going to have a few folks from the Bhutan Law School to come with us to intern in Singapore, and so that’s something that I’m looking very forward to.

And I’m also very aware that I think this year the ILN is also putting together something called the ILN Light, of which we’re trying to generate and foster internships amongst the member firms, then seeing how it fits. And so, from us at Goodwins all the way in Singapore, we do know that Singapore is a travel hub, and so we are actually very keen and excited to see how many countries will actually be sending their interns to us, and so that we can learn as well as to impart some of our legal knowledge all the way in Singapore. Another area of practice that we have is in financial services and insurance law, which is helmed by our managing director, Ms. Ang Kim Lan. And she has a very extensive area of practice in the sense that in Singapore we have what we call the Singapore Armed Forces, which is something like the Singapore military.

And as with a lot of things, you need insurance. So, she’s actually the one that drafted that insurance policy for the Singapore Armed Forces.

Lindsay: Oh, wow.

Noel: Yes, yes, yes. She did that. So, a lot of other things she does. In fact, a lot of the major insurers when they come from the US or from the UK, she’s the first port of call when they want to ask for regulatory compliance matters, how to deal with our regulator, the Monetary Authority Of Singapore, and so she’s very active in that space.

Another very specific area and niche area of practice that I would say in Singapore that maybe about maybe five to eight lawyers in the whole of Singapore, they are really expert in doing this would be the setting up of a not-for-profit charitable organizations, which is helmed by one of our senior directors, Ms. Pauline Ang. And I would say that because she’s been in practice for close to 50 years, so she’s a very experienced lawyer, about 85% to 90% of all charitable organizations in Singapore were all set up by her and are still-

Lindsay: Wow.

Noel: Yes. So, a lot of churches, a lot of the foundations and everything, so they were all set up by her. And so, obviously, as a law firm, we do have a very active litigation practice as well, which is held by one of our very senior lawyers, Mr. Daniel John. Who I always tell people, and it is always awestruck whenever I tell them the fact that he’s actually one of the few people in the whole world, and especially in Singapore, who actually cross examined the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew when he was still alive. Yes, in one very important case, many, many years back. So, he is very experienced. He has, I think, close to almost 50 years of litigation practice. And yes, we do have a lot of practice.

And of course, we do have other lawyers as well that focuses. We have one consultant that focuses on media law, so he was formerly the dean of one of the Singapore universities in mass communications, if I’m not wrong. So, he’s a very distinguished writer, prolific speaker on media law and this and that. So, yes, that’s about all about the law firm.

For myself, I focus a lot on international trade and relations as well. Because of my background prior to becoming a lawyer, I was actually in the law enforcement. So, I started off my career in criminal litigation because of being in the Singapore Police Force for a few years. And life always has a funny way of pushing you where you didn’t want to go. So, now I’m going more into the corporate scene, the startups, helping SMEs. And recently, especially with Singapore continuing to be a travel hub or at least being a springboard for some of the other markets such as Australia, we do have a lot of inquiries and helping companies to come to Singapore as well as connecting them to other parts of the world. For example, it could be to Hong Kong, or it could be to the UK. Recently, we had inquiries for us to connect people to Indonesia.

So, in some ways the legal practice is always evolving, and especially with the changing times. It’s very interesting how in order to survive in this very complicated world, we can’t just focus on servicing our clients in the legal advice and that’s about it. But I think in order to set us apart, increasingly a lot of law firms have started to focus a lot on the business developments, upgrading the website, being more active online, sending out more of their [inaudible 00:07:52] and everything. But I do think that as lawyers, in some ways or even in recent years, we have become a bit like a concierge, not just providing legal services, but actually connecting people to other jurisdictions. And at the same time, being very conscious of the fact that whatever that I recommend, whoever they recommend is putting my own reputation on the line.

And so, that’s why we’ve always been very fond of the ILN because whatever referrals that we give, whatever clients that requires services, for example in the UK, we always have just one law firm that we trust, and we have been working for so many years with them. And so, one example would be Fladgate in the UK where we just have a very long-standing relationship with them. And I think last year we had about two or three visits from some of the lawyers. And it’s always very heartwarming that they actually reach out to us and tell them that we’ll be here which day of the year and it would be nice to meet up for a meal or whatever. And we’re always more than happy to meet anyone from ILN because we know for sure that it’s going to be fun and meaningful.

Lindsay: Absolutely.

Noel: Yes.

Lindsay: You’ve said so many interesting and important things, I think, in the last few minutes. I mean obviously the breadth and depth of expertise at your firm is really incredible. And some of that I knew and a lot of it I didn’t know, considering I’ve known a lot of the people at your firm for almost 20 years. They keep some of those interesting stories to themselves. So, I think I’ve got to convince more of them to come on the podcast and spill some of that. And your career trajectory has certainly been very interesting too. So, I’d love to get your take on what you think your biggest challenge is at the moment as a firm and how you’re working to overcome that.

Noel: I’m not too sure about how it’s aligning in the rest of the world, but at least in Singapore, we see in the course of about the last five to 10 years, there have been a lot of new law firms that have been sprouting up and a lot of them are very ferociously growing because a lot of the management team as well as the lawyers, they’re really… And some of them they’ve been only in practice for maybe about five to eight years. And then because they just don’t like the hassle of being part of a very big firm and not having the freedom to invest or to really help their clients, they all start to come out and form their own firms, which is a good and a bad thing as well. Because the good thing is more competition and always having more competition, there will be more growth in new areas and it’s always very rewarding and enriching at the same time.

But at the same time, it’s very tricky because a lot of these newer law firms sometimes like to over promise. And we do have cases where we do have clients that come to us after going to them, and it’s a very, very messy process. And sometimes I’ve also heard of cases, thankfully not for us, but I’ve heard other of my counterparts where they aggressively try to take clients from their previous firms that they were in, or they actually aggressively just send out mass emails trying to get people. And so, in a way, for a profession that is supposed to be honorable and distinguished after so many years, it’s getting a bit interesting, especially in Singapore where it’s always a very fast-paced society with the business community always moving and following all the market trends overseas or even the domestically.

So, I think one of the biggest challenges that firms like us where we are kind of medium-sized by Singapore, Asian standard, and we’ve been around for more than 20 years, quite established, and we are quite renowned in our own reputation, I think the challenge that we have is how do we survive in all of this in the sense that the world that we are living in right now, it’s complicated or it’s going to become even more complicated in 2024? We have, I think, about 10 more general elections to go, if I remember correctly, around the world. I mean Taiwan just had that general election, I think yesterday or the day before.

Lindsay: I saw that.

Noel: Yes. So, we still have another 10 more to go. So, with each new president or prime minister or new cabinet, it changes things geopolitically. And it’s prudent to just say that Singapore, we know how small we are, but at the same time, we do know that we do connect some of the markets with other markets as well and I think that’s the special part about Singapore. So, we live in interesting times, and challenges are always there. It’s just that how do we go through it with ourselves, with the firm, and especially with important networks such as ILN.

Lindsay: Yeah, I think it’s interesting because you say Singapore, I mean it is a small island. But as you say, it is such a very important gateway not just to Australia, but as you say, to the rest of the Asian region. I think a lot of countries in the West will use it as a stepping point to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region and as a way to get into China, get into Malaysia, into Indonesia, because there’s a level of comfort in doing business there because it’s such a well-established economy. And culturally, people feel much more comfortable coming in there if they’ve never done business in Asia before. And I think it’s very stable, very stable government. So, I think as you say, it is very, very important for the region. You may be small, but you’re very mighty.

Noel: Yes, but another thing that has become really interesting is the shift focus of Europe to Asia. So, I would say that maybe about a decade ago or just maybe over a decade ago, Singapore never had a European Union office in Singapore. We never even had a European Union Commission in Singapore, and now we have both. And because I do have to attend some of the European Chamber events, you can really see that there is a bit of a shift in a sense that I think in Europe and in some of the countries, such as Italy or even some of the smaller Slavic countries, they have actually started to set up embassies in Singapore, alongside their trade representative office. So, I think for example, end of last year we actually had the first embassy of Estonia.

Lindsay: Wow.

Noel: Yes, it’s a small country, but they actually realized the importance of establishing a strong relationship with Singapore, and they actually just opened one end of last year, even though they had a trade representative office maybe the last five years or so. So, I think that it’s very interesting in the sense that traditionally a lot of the times we focus a lot on the Asian market, for example, from Indonesia, even from Australia, and in recent times China. But what is making me very interested is in a lot of the other markets, which are very far off, for example, one good example would be Brazil.

In the last year, and I think even in this year, a lot of our trade ministers or trade representatives have been going to Brazil. And it is very interesting because Brazil is so far away. But apparently there’s a lot of things that’s happening in Brazil. And I was very bummed when I couldn’t go to Brazil last year for the ILN conference because I’ve heard so many good things about it. So, yes, that’s a bit of a sore point for me in 2023 that I wasn’t able to go to Brazil to check it out. But there’s just so many things happening and I think… Yes, it is interesting how a lot of emerging markets, even like El Salvador, a country that’s really small, they just opened their embassy the start of last year as well in Singapore.

Yes, it’s very interesting how for such a small country, there’s a lot of this happening. And one thing that personally I always look forward to is I always like to see how this turns out. I like to do things first, and that’s why when I came on board the management, one of the things that we started to realize very, very early on is we need to upgrade our online presence, so be it on LinkedIn or on the website and everything, because even though you have a longstanding and good reputation, life moves on. Clients may stay, clients may move, clients may forget, clients may have new people in the management that may not have heard of us. And so, if you’re not active, be it in networking events, going out, giving out [inaudible 00:18:11] cards and talking to people, you’ll be left behind.

And it’s something that really depends on the firm culture in the sense that it’s fine if you want to just be comfortable with whatever existing clients you have. But yeah, it really depends on what exactly the firm culture is like, what exactly the management is looking forward for the next five to 10 years. And yes, it’s challenging.

Lindsay: It certainly is challenging. And I think it’s an interesting point that you make about new and emerging markets and existing markets as well, having more of a presence in Singapore itself. Because I think your firm is very well-established in Singapore and has that presence and reputation, but because those new and existing markets may not be as familiar with the firm, having that online presence is then very important because while the local presence may help you and the reputation, those countries that may not be as familiar with you may be able to understand who you are as a firm better through that additional online presence, and then get to meet and know you when they’re there in person in Singapore. So, have you found that that’s been the case?

Noel: Yeah, I think ever since becoming more active and aggressively promoting our website or media presence, we do have actually inquiries. In fact, last year we had a lot. Interestingly, we had people that emailed me, and they were big real estate companies in the US, and they were actually going to come to Singapore to just visit or to just look around to see whether is there potential to set up a branch office here for potential investors and everything. And we also had, I think an Italian furniture company or Dutch tire company. And so, it’s very interesting how a lot of this comes from media platforms such as LinkedIn, where amidst all the spam, amidst all the scam or the chat-bots and everything and I think because of that we’re always very skeptical when we have personal message from whoever that PMs us on LinkedIn.

But I think always being open and amidst all our busy [inaudible 00:20:39], just try to reply them. You never know what will happen. And it’s very interesting as well when you go out to network. Then, you start to realize that there is actually a large investment in actually going out for networking events, because you actually do not know what is connected to what. You may open another door that you didn’t know existed. And you actually have people that will come up to you and say, “Oh, I follow you on LinkedIn. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person. Can we have a picture?” And it’s nice once in a while even though we’re not yet in Hollywood, but it’s nice once in a while to feel like a superstar when people come up to you and will take a picture and they actually post it on LinkedIn. And yes, it’s quite nice.

Lindsay: It’s true. You do feel a little bit like a celebrity. It starts to get strange when you have no idea who that person is, and they know a little bit too much about your personal life.

Noel: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It’s very funny because a couple of times I’ve had people come up to me and say, “Oh, I’m so bummed that I didn’t manage to see you last week at this event,” and blah, blah, blah. And even though it does feel a bit like you’re being stalked, it’s nice to know that whatever you post on LinkedIn or even on a website, people are actually looking. And I think that in itself speaks volume because once people are following you, be it on LinkedIn or in whatever social media platforms, that subconsciously they have you in their mind. And hopefully, from whatever translates, be it you meet them out for a coffee day or you meet them for some business deals, you know that, okay, so they do have you in mind and if ever there’s any potential legal matters or non-legal problems, you might be on their speed dial or they will actually reach out to you. And I think that’s something that is getting very important to gather new clients. Yes.

Lindsay: Absolutely. And I think what you’re doing is really the sweet spot, which is not just the online activity, but taking the online activity and pairing it with the offline activity, so that not only are people seeing you online, but you’re converting that to that offline activity, so that you are constantly top of mind with people. Sometimes people forget that second piece, which is taking relationships offline. And that’s really what the important thing is. Those online relationships are very important, and they can lead to business, but it’s that second part which is converting it into an offline relationship that is so key, and I think you’re really doing a nice job of that.

Noel: You’re too kind.

Lindsay: I’m seeing it happen in real time and I like to highlight it because I think that’s not something that a lot of people understand and do really nicely. And I see you do that really nicely and I want to make sure that our listeners know that that’s the piece they need to really do.

Noel: Yes. Reaffirming what you just said, it’s really important to actually try to lock down just like a simple coffee. And generally, what I do is if I meet people and I try my best. And I would say 99% of the time I’m successful, I always try to drop them an after email. In a sense that I’ll do the day after and I just say that “It was a joy to meet you,” blah, blah, blah, “keep safe and in touch.” And generally, I leave it there because after a while I realized that if people want to meet you, they will actually reach out. So, it’s kind of like that email is kind of like an open door from my side, where if you want to find out more, even though we only spoke for about three minutes, generally that’s what you get at a networking event anyway, just to have that initial connection.

It’s on you to reach out or try to get a coffee and everything. And I would say that majority of the time, it’s always interesting because when people are outside of a networking event and it’s just one-on-one, naturally we talk more than just work. And I think that for me, maybe because of my past prior experience or career as a law enforcement officer, I love meeting people, I love finding out their life stories. The human being is just filled with complexity, and underneath it all, exterior facade, there’s always a story to tell. And many a times, you meet people… And I mean my approach is I just meet people, I want to find more about them, establish the relationships, whether or not the work comes, that’s secondary. Because at the end of the day, there’s no point trying to get the work. It’s very transactional. It’s a once off and then you can send them off to another person.

Whereas if you are trying to invest in a relationship in a sense that I really, really want to know the person, human beings, we aren’t stupid, and people know that. And when you can kind of tap into that very deep aspect of them, most of the time when they really, really have problems, they will reach out to you. And I think that’s very special in the sense that you build up the relationship first and without having any preconceived idea of like, “Oh, you know what? Hopefully, I’ll get this million dollar or billion-dollar deal from him because I know that from his name card, he’s a…” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so, yes, it is very refreshing every single time that I use this approach because from there you learn so much about a person, you learn what are his hobbies. And from there, you might actually become friends with him, so it’s actually really interesting.

Lindsay: That’s great. That’s a really great approach. So, before we wrap up, I always have one question I ask everybody, having nothing to do with work, that is, what is something that you’re really enjoying right now?

Noel: I think what I’m really enjoying right now is because we’ve been around for more than 20 years. So, what I’ve always liked since I was a kid is trying to bring up to the next level. And I think in as much as it’s really challenging and that’s why I am doing all of this networking along with my management team and aggressively going out, meeting people, I think it’s trying to, I wouldn’t say grow the firm, but I would say upgrade the firm in the sense that there’s a very clear distinction between when you grow the firm, it can still be the same. It can still have a lot of office politics, it can still have people or disgruntled employees, people don’t like that.

But when you upgrade a firm, it means that you are really comfortable with the good firm culture, the good work-life balance that the firm provides, a lot of respect and commitment from both the management as well as the employees. But upgrading it means you just want to see what better way we can do to make the firm better for both our clients, for our business partners. And I think at the end of the day, when you have kind of a goal or vision, it makes life more meaningful and worthwhile living. Yes.

Lindsay: Fantastic. I love that. Thank you so much. Well, thank you, Noel, so much for joining us this week. And thanks so much to all of our listeners. We’ll be back next week with our next guest. And in the meantime, please do take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our podcast over on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts, and we really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Noel: Thank you.

Mastering Business Communication: Strategies for Success

Refining your communication skills is a constant journey, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting. Here are four actionable steps to elevate your business communication game:

Evaluate Your Communication Channels: Take stock of how you communicate professionally. It’s not just about what you say but how you say it. Whether you’re conversing verbally, writing articles, firing off emails, or engaging on social media, each platform shapes your professional image. Assessing your channels helps ensure consistency in your communication style.

Seek Constructive Feedback: Don’t shy away from feedback; embrace it. Consult trusted colleagues or mentors for honest assessments of your communication skills across various platforms. Constructive criticism, though sometimes uncomfortable, can lead to significant improvements. Remember, growth often stems from discomfort.

Identify Communication Barriers: Pinpoint any obstacles hindering effective communication. Personal tendencies, like introversion or phone aversion, can pose challenges. Acknowledge these barriers and develop strategies to overcome or work around them. Awareness is the first step toward improvement.

Refine Your Communication Techniques: Enhance your skills with practical tips:

Practice active listening: Focus on understanding rather than responding. Engaged listening fosters deeper connections and uncovers hidden insights.

Master nonverbal cues: Your body language speaks volumes. Pay attention to your posture, gestures, and facial expressions to enhance your message’s impact.

Manage stress effectively: Whether in heated debates or exhilarating moments, staying composed is key. Learn to navigate stress with poise, maintaining clarity and control in your communication.

Effective communication is a cornerstone of success in law and business. By implementing these strategies, you can sharpen your skills and make communication your greatest asset.

The COVID Anniversary – Not A Blip but a Sea Change

It’s been just over four years since the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some ways, it feels like another lifetime, and I believe that’s a trauma response. But a LOT has changed since 2020. I do firmly believe, however, that the pandemic and the months that we spent at home were not a blip, but a sea-change.

One of my LinkedIn friends, Helen Burness, of Saltmarsh Marketing, said last week:

Facebook declared unsafe for next period.

Memories like this keep flashing up daily.

They are reminders of a time I will never forget.

By way of trauma processing, we remembered the run up to lockdown last night over dinner and key “highlights” of the time. If you can call them that.

😷The brief novelty of Zoom backgrounds as we all pivoted online (demonstrated here)
😷Empty supermarket shelves
😷Dystopian images of central London with no people and traffic
😷Delusions that working parents were in any way online educating their young children whilst trying to sustain full-time working from home.
😷The terror of seeing numbers rise, ominous radio and TV ads telling us to “Stay home, save lives”
😷Massive profiteering of face masks and hand gel. I recall paying £20 for a pack of five disposable face masks and felt like I was winning. Face masks were CURRENCY.

On the more positive side:

🫶Sunday night 80s watchalongs on Twitter with people like Simon P MARSHALL Sameena Safdar and crew.
👏It was a great time for memes. I have kept a lot of them.
👏Finally companies realised the possibilities of remote working.
👐We drove all the way from SW16 to Buckingham Palace one day when we defied shielding as were losing our minds at home. It took twenty minutes only. This will never ever happen again.

It is all to easy to treat the pandemic years as a throw away book in the great novel of life. But it’s so important we remember a virus that had such a huge social and economic cost, the aftermath of which continues to play out.

I did enjoy this whimsical Zoom background at the time though. I think it may have been hysteria setting in.

Helen shared a particularly hilarious Zoom background with her and a delightful chipmunk. I remember having one of our members who was on the Starship Enterprise for a call, and who could forget the lawyer who had to reassure the judge that he was, in fact, “not a cat.”

We all, at times, were a bit hysterical.

But as I said, I certainly don’t think of the pandemic, and the last four years, as a blip in our history that we can move past. For me, it was a whole shift in my life that I’m still processing and likely always will be.

It brought me closer to some people and pushed others out of my life completely.

It fundamentally changed the way that we approach our business in the ILN – I believe for the better! I hope it’s made us more empathetic and engaged with the real lives of the people that we work with and for. We had already decided before the pandemic to create an Executive Committee, but that change happened as the world was shutting down, so my tenure as Executive Director being three months old, bringing on a new chair, and forming a new Executive Committee following the shutdown was a big undertaking. Our Board of Directors moved nimbly and was incredibly responsive – I couldn’t have been prouder of them. They showed up to every video call I asked them to, responded to emails, and got the business of our Network done quickly and efficiently so that we could make the decisions that we needed to.

We were supposed to have a conference two weeks after the shutdown was called, and we canceled the conference on the same day the shutdown happened, and our members responded with kindness, empathy, and an abundance of patience. I knew several other organizations in similar situations who weren’t as fortunate and I must say that we were exceptionally lucky.

All of the communications, both email and video, that we undertook were a masterclass in empathy, connection, engagement, and acceptance. Not everything was successful, but we were accepting of failures and willing to try the next thing. The group really took a lot of things in their stride, and I am endlessly grateful for the leeway that they offered during that period of trial and error.

We were all grateful for the little things – I have always worked to be that way, but it has brought that into sharp relief for me. In part, that was because I went through lockdown with a dying dog and I wouldn’t have been gifted with that time with him otherwise – as a newly appointed Executive Director, I would have been committed to even more traveling were it not for the pandemic.

It’s also made me want to create real change in what I do in all areas of my life – in the US, we had front-row seats to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, who were only the latest in a long and of course, continuing line, of Black people murdered too soon because of white supremacy. I have been able to see and understand how I can make change not only with my vote and my voice but in my community and in the places I have power. That’s true for all of the things that make us human, like women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, becoming a more sustainable organization, and more.

The one thing that never stopped during the pandemic was work. We learned that we could work from home and we found that we were more productive than ever and companies were more profitable than ever – despite this, mental health was at an all-time low, which reflects how broken our systems are. We found out that the true heroes were nurses and doctors and sanitation workers and EMTs and gig economy workers and teachers…and yet as soon as there was a semblance of normalcy, they were quickly thrown away.

But while some things haven’t changed, many important things have. I believe many, if not all, of us will be processing the pandemic years for a long time to come and may not realize the impact that they had on our mental health for some time. I like to look at the silver linings of hard things – not because I’m a Pollyanna or because I believe that everything happens for a reason (I really don’t), but because I believe that if bad things are going to happen, we may as well learn something from them anyway. So from the pandemic, I’m grateful for the time I had with my sweet Barney, the closer connections I gained with my member lawyers and the ability to strengthen our leadership muscles, the push we needed into virtual video connecting, and the ability to fully embrace and endorse the necessary work of DEI and sustainability for the future.

What lessons have you taken away from the pandemic years?

PS – I’d like to give a shoutout to every law firm’s COVID “Hub” and my related post “I don’t want no hubs” which still makes me giggle.

Time Mastery for Lawyers: 5 Essential Strategies for Success

Introducing our comprehensive guide to mastering modern time management for lawyers! Whether you’re juggling billable hours or balancing personal commitments, these five strategies will revolutionize how you manage your time:

Embrace Digital Scheduling: Transition to digital scheduling tools like Google Calendar or Outlook to streamline your workload. From yearly plans to daily to-dos, keep your schedule synced across all devices.

Set SMART Goals: Begin with clear, actionable goals for the year, breaking them down into monthly milestones. With a roadmap in place, stay focused on what truly matters, adjusting priorities as needed.

Master the Art of Delegation: Identify tasks that can be outsourced or shared, freeing up valuable time for high-impact work. Remember, saying “no” to non-essential tasks is saying “yes” to your priorities.

Minimize Distractions: Create a distraction-free workspace to maximize productivity. Turn off non-essential notifications, designate specific focus hours, and prioritize deep work over multitasking.

Make Every Minute Count: Utilize downtime for productivity bursts. Whether waiting in line or commuting, tackle quick tasks like email triage or social media engagement. Every minute adds up to your goals.

Ready to supercharge your time management skills? Share your favorite strategies and join the conversation! Let’s empower each other to thrive in the modern legal landscape.

Dishwashers, Luggage Cake & Client Retention

I’m on hold, listening to what I’m sure this company assured itself was jazzy music, while I try not to grind my teeth together.

It has been four weeks since the dishwasher repairman was here to assure me that it would only be “a few days” before a new dishwasher was installed.

Now, listen, this is REALLY a high-class problem. Plenty of people don’t have dishwashers, because they ARE the dishwasher. I have a new appreciation for that as someone who has spent a lot of weeks washing her own dishes – though I’d really like to be able to boil some dog dishes in the dishwasher again, especially with an ancient basset hound who is more susceptible to bacteria in his advanced age.

But it’s easy to cope with, not a major issue. But it IS something I’m paying for. I have extra insurance that allows me to make a claim when I have certain repairs needed, pay a lesser amount for those repairs and (theoretically) get quick and decent service by vetted repair people. Usually, it goes fine.

But this time, the bureaucracy stepped in, because I know that when the tech recommended a new dishwasher, someone above him insisted that they hunt instead for parts that don’t actually exist for my 30+-year-old dishwasher <<insert comment about how they don’t make ’em like they used to>>.

And so, now, it’s been a month that I’ve waited. The time isn’t the problem – it’s the lack of communication. Except for a cryptic call a couple of weeks ago, when a recording told me that they were canceling a repair appointment that I didn’t know I had because the parts weren’t in yet, it’s been radio silent. I had to call them.

Let’s contrast this with a story I read yesterday on Threads – a travel writer posted that she had arrived in India to find that an airline had lost her luggage. These days, we all know that’s a typical occurrence. Her hotel – and I am going to name-drop them – the Leela Hotel in New Delhi, not only communicated with the airline for her, but they also picked her bag up from the airport when it arrived, delivered it to her room wrapped in a bow AND gave her a cake in the shape of her actual luggage to welcome her back to her room that day.

Now THAT is going the extra mile.

If you’re still with me by now, you may be wondering what ANY of this has to do with lawyers. Hopefully, you’ve already figured it out – it’s all about client service. You don’t have to bake your clients a cake – though I’m going to be honest, it wouldn’t hurt. I also accept cake by the way.

But there are some very important lessons in both of the above stories that are truly relevant:

Communication and Expectations:

Regular updates and transparency build trust.

Set realistic expectations from the outset, tailored to each client’s communication preferences.

Taking Ownership and Prioritizing Quality:

Own and resolve issues promptly, avoiding blame or excuses.

Prioritize client needs over bureaucratic processes, ensuring quality service delivery.

Proactivity and Continuous Improvement:

Anticipate and address potential problems before they escalate.

Seek feedback and continually improve client service processes.

Personalization and Anticipating Needs:

Tailor service to meet each client’s unique needs and preferences.

Anticipate client needs proactively to provide a seamless experience.

Surprise and Delight:

Create memorable experiences through thoughtful gestures and surprises, fostering client loyalty.

The theme throughout the above is obviously knowing your client, which most lawyers excel at and using that knowledge to meet their needs when you communicate with them, continuously improving your services, anticipating their needs, and working to surprise and delight them. This is how you not only make them happy and retain them as clients, but ensure that they are the bullhorn for your services to their peers.