The gentle rebuke

by Paul Maharg on 17/11/2017

Yesterday I presented to faculty and students at Osgoode on the Simulated Client Initiative (SCI).  Slides at the usual place, at the Slides tab above and on Slideshare.  Lots of fascinating discussion afterwards.  To demonstrate the eight global criteria we developed at Strathclyde, and how they were used with SCs, I took the second criterion as an example, which was about listening to the client, and the behavioural items associated with it.  Like all the criteria, it’s addressed to the SC.[1]

So is listening that important that it should appear as one of only eight assessment criteria on which students are assessed in interviewing?  I think so, and here’s a story that illustrates the resonances.

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  1. [1]In training SCs we discuss cultural biases such as those around gaze, and the values associated with it.  And of course the training includes sensitivity as to physical disability, too.

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Brian Inkster in Toronto

by Paul Maharg on 25/10/2017

Am at a legal innovation roundtable sponsored by Thomson Reuters, in TR’s building, Bay St, downtown Toronto, at the invitation of Monica Goyal, an innovator and practitioner in Toronto who works with Osgoode and is the founder of Aluvion.  Brian Inkster is the guest speaker, introduced by Mitch Kowalski, a chapter in whose book The Great Legal Reformation: Notes from the Field (just out) is on Brian’s legal practice.

I last met Brian, a fellow Scot, from Shetland, at the Centre for Legal Education Conference in Notts Law School, in June – liveblogged here.  His presentation, though, was different then, and adapted to a more academic audience.  He started off today by saying that his law firm didn’t start with radical innovation but innovated incrementally, improving what could be improved, in stages.  His employment model is the self-employed consultant model.  Starting in Glasgow he now has offices in Portree, Inverness, Glasgow, Forfar, Wick and elsewhere, so pretty extended across Scotland.  Not your usual branch offices either – some are simply leased meeting spaces.  In Shetland he created an OfficeLodge which is a mini-place to live and work while in the North Isles.  Neat.  And it’s let out to other businesses with the same needs as Brian for accommodation + business.  He designed Pop-Up Law – on crofting law issues he takes law to the people – a legal service that’s niche, but it succeeds.  He’s also trialled flyingsolicitors.com. 

The arrival of cloud services changed his practice – connectivity became much more powerful and a business driver, along with the hub & spokes model, with the Glasgow office as a hub, and using VOIP to link the various offices across Scotland.  He uses digital dictation, outsourced cashroom, online payments, and legal process engineering.  He had a dedicated legal process engineer to adapt the firm’s case management system, and maximise its use, eg by inputting one set of data and have it leveraged by the system.

He has an extensive web presence.  Eg he owns around 300 domains and at one point had more Twitter accounts than employees.  He blogs extensively – on property & crofting law, and the future of legal firm technology.  And has a YouTube channel.  Sponsors a comedy trial show in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

As Mitch said in his wrap-up, all that Brian discussed takes leadership and investment.  At questions there were interesting queries about time spent on the business as opposed to in the business (Brian’s phrase).  Interestingly his legal engineer and his two latest assistant solicitors in the firm were met through Twitter – all were active in blogging and tweeting.

IMG_3990As always, a fine presentation.  I was struck by the contrast between Brian’s Shetland accent, which so brought back Orkney to me, and where we were sitting in Bay St, not least because what Brian was describing was a model of distributed legal services that took the idea of distribution really seriously, right from the start of his legal practice.  He constantly experiments with f2f and online services, to get the mix right.  If his innovations seemed patchwork, they were because he didn’t have massive injections of funds: he needed to work in and on the business at the same time.  And it was clear from what he was saying that that work paid off when he moved to cloud services.
IMG_4042More than that, he had grasped the crucial relations between access to justice and legal services for remote, rural, regional areas, and the revolution in technological intermediation that was taking place around him.  So while his innovations were piecemeal, they were in fact guided by a sound sense of what was useful for technological legal services, what was useful for Scotland, and of course what was useful for Brian and his firm.  His work is a great case study for students at law school, showing what he achieved nationally (including, now, recognition internationally) by taking technological innovation seriously, while remaining local – in Brian’s case, to Scotland, Shetland and Scalloway.  My thanks to Monica for the invitation, to Mitch for hosting and to TR for sponsoring.

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The SQE is the Solicitors Qualifying Exam in England and Wales.  It’s an example of a common entrance examination, something a number of legal education regulators are interested in, or already practising.  I was discussing it last night in downtown Toronto, at Osgoode Professional Development, in the context of legal education generally, asking nine questions of the SQE and giving some possible answers.  It’s a fascinating topic because it gets to the heart of so many educational issues, not just in professional legal education, and not just in legal education, and I’ll explore some of them here.

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Reflection beyond ePortfolios

August 24, 2017

This has been a crazily busy eight-day visit to Australia but so productive.  It was marked by days of intense activities and meetings and more, making connections in ANU and UNE, giving an all day workshop on simulated clients (liveblogged in a series of posts on this blog), and a seminar on the SRA’s plans […]

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Disintermediation and continuity

August 20, 2017

Last year Michele Pistone and Michael Horn published an excellent piece on law schools and disruption that’s full of interesting thinking about law school futures.  It was published in the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and follows in the mainstream of Christensen’s thinking on disruption.  I agree with almost all of it.  I’m also aware […]

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‘Curriculum is technology’: Affordances of ePortfolios.

August 19, 2017

This is the title of a plenary I gave in ANU on Friday at the launch of the university’s ePortfolio.  Slides at the tab above and on Slideshare.  I was also on the panel discussion, and later videotaped in interview for the website.  Sections of the talk: Research design and reflective journalling: a case study […]

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Simulated Client workshop: Plenary wrap-up

August 16, 2017

Final session…  I posed the last question set out in our programme: where to from here?  One participant answered it in an interestingly oblique way.  What about the model of the encounter, he said – is it all about an expert telling the student what he or she did wrong?  Surely there must be a […]

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Vivien Holmes, Pamela Taylor-Barnett: The power of narrative – immersive video/audio work with students

August 16, 2017

Vivien and Pamela presented on the work they’re doing on using video clips to enhance the approaches taken by Mary Gentile in her educational design work and in her fine book, Giving Voice to Values.  The video excerpts, produced in ANU College of Law, are well-acted, short piece-to-camera, direct and powerful. Students watch them, then […]

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Moira Murray: Student evaluation of the use of SCs at ANU College of Law

August 16, 2017

Moira described how the 2012 pilot project was designed in the ANU College of Law.  I trained the SCs for ANU CoL back then, the pilot was held, and there was consolidated and refresher training, too, of SCs.  Each student of 104 students in the pilot had a recorded interview with a client, and had […]

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Julienne Jen: Research into SCs – The Hong Kong University experience

August 16, 2017

Julienne was presenting on behalf of her and her colleagues, Wilson Chow and Michael Ng.  The context of the use of SCs was the Postgrad Certificate in Laws (PCLL) at HKU Faculty of Law, which is skills-based, with students training to be trainee solicitors or pupil barristers in Hong Kong, and which is monitored closely […]

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