Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Solicitors go back to School

One of the great things about being a Trainee Solicitor at Mayo Wynne Baxter is that they encourage you to use your initiative and take the lead on projects. Nothing has shown this better than our involvement in Local Lawyers in Schools.

Local Lawyers for Schools is a fantastic scheme run by the Citizen Foundation, a charity that arranges for solicitors to link up with local schools. When I first heard about this I was determined that Mayo Wynne Baxter should get involved.

For lots of students the thought of working in the legal profession hasn’t even occurred to them. Having the opportunity to spend time with practising solicitors offers them a great insight into a career many would never have even considered.

When I suggested to my colleagues at Mayo Wynne Baxter that they took part in the project, which would involve them teaching Law to GCSE students, some weren’t quite sure if they were ready to go back to the classroom. But a bit of gentle persuasion, and the promise of minimal homework, meant we were soon packing our satchels!

Mayo Wynne Baxter joined the scheme last year, becoming the first firm in the country to take part. Since then we have been working with the Year 10 Citizenship students at Hove Park School. We’ve covered all kinds of subjects, including police powers, drug legislation, human rights and what you have to do to become a lawyer.

The feedback from the students and their teachers has been really positive and I think they enjoyed the lessons almost as much as we did. My favourite comment was from someone who said that he thought solicitors could never get in trouble with the police because we always knew how to get away with things. Alas I had to inform him that being a solicitor wasn’t an automatic get out of jail card. He took it in his stride though and decided that a legal career was still a good idea as he liked the thought of getting paid to argue with people.

Mayo Wynne Baxter recently won praise for our involvement in Local Lawyers in Schools from the new MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley. He is going to be visiting the school this Friday (18th) to meet the students and staff and find out what they really think of lawyers and politicians. I hope they won’t be too honest!

And then, in a couple of days, we’re branching out and taking Local Lawyers for Schools to Sussex Downs College in Eastbourne. There we’ll be running tutorials for unemployed people as part of a project training volunteers for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Watch out for my next post for an update…

For further information visit www.lawyersinschools.org.uk

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Why LinkedIn is a Lawyer's new Local

Reading an excellent blog post by Matt Silverman on Mashable about social media and the legal profession got me musing about how lawyers, Mayo Wynne Baxter included, are actually pretty clued up when it comes to digital marketing. Don’t forget, less than a decade ago law firms were prohibited from doing any kind of marketing or PR. Apart from a listing in the phone book, business generally had to be built up over a few pints of claret at the Wig and Gavel.

Don’t get me wrong, we still firmly believe in “real” socialising, or networking as it’s called in the business community - you can’t beat face-to-face contact and we’re usually up for a beer or two - but we also understand the power of its digital sibling, to the extent that social media has now become as essential to Mayo Wynne Baxter’s communication strategy as traditional PR and marketing.

So, how does social media help our clients? Well, one of the big advantages social media gives us is being able to impart lots of targeted information to our clients in bite-sized, easily digestible chunks. We use LinkedIn, and Twitter to highlight news, legal updates and to direct people to the relevant part of our website that will inform them about their legal process. And it’s all so quick. For example, we can post an update to a change in the law with an explanation of its implications, then tweet the link and hey presto, the world and his wife know about it in less time than it takes to frank an envelope.

We’ve also found social media very useful for engaging with niche audiences, for example, the solicitors in our MACI Team have built up an ever increasing network of “friends” in the media and creative industries. They regularly get together for seminars and workshops and use Twitter and Linked In to keep everyone up to speed.

This brings me neatly to the obligatory note of caution as the last MACI seminar was all about social media and protecting your business’s reputation online. This is something that we are very hot on, both for our clients and also for our own firm’s reputation. Thanks to the huge potential audience, an incorrect or inappropriate post can destroy a firm’s reputation before you can say “who suggested a social media policy?”

As with all Mayo Wynne Baxter’s external communications, our social media content is always overseen by our marketing department. Whether it’s a press release, a brochure for our clients or even this blog, the content must be relevant and appropriate to the audience we are talking to and, above all, must accurately reflect Mayo Wynne Baxter’s professionalism and values.

So, you won’t find pictures of us on Facebook downing pints at the aforementioned Wig and Gavel, nor will you ever see blog posts or tweets about our clients, but hopefully you will find that we’re making law more accessible and easier to understand.

If you would like to find out more about copyright, intellectual property and the legalities surrounding social media, please contact our Media & Creative Industries team to arrange a meeting.

You can read the full Mashable post here.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Is ‘World Cup Fever’ bad news for employers?

With the World Cup kicking off this Friday (11th), patriotic employers across the country will be experiencing mixed feelings. Firstly, there will be the irrepressible anticipating and hope that England will go the distance and be victors after a 44 year World Cup drought.

However, the other feeling will be that of concern as to whether your staff will turn up during England’s fixtures, particularly the next day after over zealous celebratory drinking and frivolities. Of course we all want something to celebrate about, but not at the price of costly staff absences.

So, the fundamental question has to be: what is the best approach to managing staff expectations and issues relating to staff absence during the tournament?

Well, a large number of employers may have already made provisions for staff to watch World Cup matches at work, as well as offering flexible working hours, shift swaps or unpaid leave. However, employers may want to consider allowing staff time out to watch games in the workplace by accommodating requests to watch online to moderate disruption.

One word of caution, however, employers must ensure that non-English staff are afforded the same flexibility to watch their national teams in order to avoid discrimination claims. Also consideration should also be given to retaining some football-free areas for those not caught up in the World Cup frenzy.

Rather than ignore the festivities, employers have the option to see the World Cup as an opportunity to boost staff morale. Many companies intend to turn the World Cup into a team building event, creating “World Cup Sweepstakes”, with any entry fees going to charity. This could be an extremely cost effective way of re-engaging de-motivated staff following the recent economic downturn.

Having a clear policy sets the boundaries in terms of how far the employer is prepared to be accommodating. Employees should be made aware of the disciplinary consequences of taking unauthorised time off work without good reason, or for not performing satisfactorily or misbehaving at work during the tournament.

Like most people, The Mayo Wynne Baxter team are looking forward to the World Cup and will be cheering on various teams as part of our charity sweepstake!

Ruby Dinsmore is an Employment Solicitor with Mayo Wynne Baxter LLP. For further information please contact 01273 223286 or email: rdinsmore@mayowynnebaxter.co.uk

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