The Mindful Lawyer and Legal Profession
Dr Linda Spedding
Life’s pressures, pace and resilience
The life of the legal professional has changed hugely in recent years: indeed, life has speeded up in many respects through manifold pressures. Resilience is vital in order to enjoy a happy, healthy experience through the life cycle of the individual career, whether one opts for private practice, in-house work, academia, the voluntary or non-profit area or the public sector. The pace has major impacts on one’s health and ability to fulfil all of the requirements and timelines that are continuously driving the practitioner. In addition, the level and extent of client demands, regulatory requirements and administrative overload are often overwhelming. In order to withstand these, inner peace and strength are needed as a priority. An individual structure that honours and includes time to be, to think, to relax, to restore and to thrive is of considerable assistance.
Looking for a Better Carrot
Compensation is a traditional “carrot” in the “carrot and stick” approach that many law firms use to motivate their partners’ financial performance. Increasingly, law firms are discovering that an “eat what you kill” (EWYK) compensation plan, in which a partner’s remuneration is determined entirely or predominantly one’s own fee production, is no more motivating than a cup of espresso coffee. It creates a buzz that lasts a little while and then quickly wears off.
This is why traditional “carrot and stick” thinking about partner compensation seldom produces long-term results in law firms. Some partners are not especially attracted by the taste of the carrot, and most of them learned long ago not to fear the stick.
“Eat what you kill” is not all bad
Have you ever had to give difficult feedback to a talented team member you want to motivate and inspire? Most people encounter that situation from time to time in their working lives. There are two possible risks: you soft-pedal the feedback, so the recipient doesn't really hear or understand it; or you crush the confidence of someone who has real potential to succeed. There is a third way, so here are some tips for turning bad news into a conversation that leaves the recipient motivated to improve, and your working relationship even stronger. There are many ways for this conversation to go wrong, but the more of the following you put into practice, the better the outcome is likely to be:
1 Make sure the recipient feels valued as a person. Feedback from associates tells us that they appreciate it when partners and senior lawyers take the time to get to know them as individuals, and to listen to and respect their opinion. If you have created a relationship of mutual respect and interest, you have a good foundation for helping people perform at their best. As part of the feedback conversation, make sure you mention something you appreciate about them – make it sincere, specific and succinct. It can be as simple as 'I really appreciate how hard you have been working' or 'I've noticed how willing you are to offer your help to others on the team'.
2 Let them know that you have some feedback you believe will help them improve their skills or performance. Feedback given with positive intent is always more effective than criticism that comes from a place of annoyance or lack of respect. Notice your own feelings and manage them well. Introduce the feedback as being intended to help them succeed.
3 Make your feedback succinct and crystal clear. Work out in advance how you're going to give the feedback and stick to it. Give the recipient time to digest what you've said. Make sure the feedback is about the action or behaviour that you want them to change, not about them as a person.
Wearable technology is nothing new: an analogue watch is an early example. Advances in digital technology have seen the advent of the smart watch, but this was just the beginning; we're now seeing rings that measure UV levels, handbags with built-in chargers and lights, t-shirts that measure sporting performance, not to mention a host of wearable healthcare devices.
Creating these products requires inter-industry collaboration, with some firms straying outside their comfort zone. What follows here is an overview of the intellectual property (IP) rights you will need to consider to protect both the technical and aesthetic components of wearable tech, some top tips to bear in mind when negotiating a collaboration agreement, and a checklist of other issues you will want to keep at the front of your mind.
Using IP to protect the technology behind wearables
Patenting inventions Products that constitute inventions in their own right will be patentable if the invention is new, involves an inventive step and is capable of industrial application. For example, a group of researchers at Liverpool John Moores University has been granted a patent for electromagnetic wave sensors that can be woven into any garment as a way to continually monitor a patient's vital signs. But remember that a number of products are excluded from patent protection, including in particular aesthetic creations and computer programs.
Copyright in software In the United Kingdom, software is automatically protected by copyright as long as it is original and there is no requirement for registration. However, all that is protected by copyright is the code itself, not the functionality of the product.
Using IP to protect the aesthetics of wearables
Trademarks Any name or logo that can be represented graphically and that is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of another may be registered as a trademark. Designers of wearable technology can put their trademark on their goods to prevent others from making a copy, but trademark protection does not extend to the design of the product itself. Although it is possible to register 3D trademarks, they must be distinctive and in practice can be difficult to enforce.
Copyright Although copyright is the IP right most often associated with the creative industries, the protection that it offers to wearable technology is limited. To be protected by copyright in the UK, a work must fall within one of eight categories, the most relevant of which is works of artistic craftsmanship. However the threshold for showing that a work is one of artistic craftsmanship is high, meaning that the aesthetic component of wearables is not likely to be protected by copyright in the UK. Other countries, including the United States, France and Germany, do not have closed-list copyright systems; and so in these countries wearables may be protected as long as they fulfil the local test for originality.
Africa is one of the most underexplored regions of the world (specially East Africa). However, significant interest is developing in new hydrocarbon provinces in East Africa. For example, the US Geological Survey has estimated that 253 trillion cubic feet may lie off the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. Recent discoveries in the region have attracted a great amount of international attention (especially in the liquefied natural gas markets).
Given the existence of proven hydrocarbon reserves and the large areas to be explored, the appetite of investors in East Africa is likely to increase. However, the question that any host government should be asking is who is interested in their countries. While the qualification process in a bid round or direct negotiation might be fairly simple and straightforward under most hydrocarbons codes (in comparison with the fiscal regime and contractual framework), it is not well observed in quite a few Eastern African countries.
Some countries might have the luxury of implementing a lengthy, slow and complex qualification process; but not all countries can afford this type of process, as investments are required to explore their hydrocarbon potential. The urgency of raising investments might encourage some countries and governmental officials to speed up the process and award a contract to the first investor that knocks on their doors.
The main risk that a host government faces is the possibility that the investor is a broker rather than a serious investor. A broker will lack the technical and/or financial capability to develop the assets itself, but is rather seeking to acquire the asset from the host government and immediately flip them to a third party by acting as an intermediary.