Monday, 16 April 2012

Social Media in the Workplace - Undergraduate Dissertation

Ok ok ok. I know, it's been 6 months again since my last post. But I honestly do have an excuse. I have been studying hard and I have just today handed in my dissertation.

The title of my dissertation is:

Too Much Information? Should employers prohibit the use of internet based social media in the workplace?

I will be posting it here once it has been marked, it feel great to have handed it in though, such a relief. Only 3 exams to go and all being well I should have a law degree. I can't believe 4 years has gone by so fast. Penny is off to school in September and I realised recently that I'm going to turn 40 next year. Better get a move on then eh!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Welcome back

Ok, so it's 5 months since I last posted anything. I have no real excuse other than the fact that I have been too busy doing other things. It has been the summer break from university and I have been travelling a lot with work, going on holiday, buying a new house, renovating said new house and moving house. Not a lot really. So there it is I have been too busy to write my blog and whilst I realise that a blog should have regular updates it's not always possible, so there it is.

Anyway we have been back at university for 3 weeks now and my initial flush of enthusiasm at being back has worn off in record time this year. I will be studying family law, equity and trusts, criminology and writing my dissertation, (social media and the workplace). I am already feeling the pressure on my time. We moved into the new house at the weekend and the pressure of the move on top of everything else I was trying to do made me succumb to a nasty little bug on Monday and Tuesday. This meant that I missed my Monday night session. I am worried about falling behind already so have resolved to put in extra effort over the next week to make sure I am properly caught up. I need to get good marks this year to ensure achieving a 2:1 grade and giving myself an outside chance of getting that precious training contract.

I know that my biggest challenge this year will be time management. On that note I am appealing to anyone reading this with some good time management tips to leave a comment. Any tips will be gratefully received.

I have also resolved to keep my blog more up to date and I plan to use it as a diary of my final year as a mature law student. Hopefully it will make interesting reading to me, looking back at the end of this process, if not to anyone else.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A tree in the forest and other important points from #lawblogs

Wow, what a week. Work has been particularly hectic and involved a fair bit of travelling, including 24 hours in Israel on Tuesday/Wednesday which was extremely interesting. Anyway it just so happened that I was in London on Thursday night and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Lawblogs event at Chancery Lane.

This was my first event at The Law Society and I have to admit to a frisson of excitement walking through those doors for the first time. I was trying my best to look like I belonged there. Fortunately, most of the afternoon had been spent at The London International Wine Fair so I had a little bit of dutch courage. Anyway I needn't have worried, the event was attended by a wide range of legal bloggers, students, writers and keen amateurs like me. The thing they all seemed to have in common, (apart from an interest in legal blogging), was that they were friendly and inclusive no matter what level of experience you might bring to the party.

The event/workshop/discussion was compered by the charismatic @lawyercatrin who held the proceedings together  with considerable aplomb and refreshments generously provided by 1 Crown Row Chambers. The panel was made up of the notable legal writers and bloggers @adamwagner1, @joshuarozenberg, @davidallengreen, @carlgardner @siobhainb with @charonqc unfortunately unable to attend.

The theme was"The Future of Legal Blogging" and there was an informal and conversational air to the proceedings.

Siobhain kicked us off with some comments about the blurring of the boundaries of "mainstream media", whatever that might mean these days. Joshua Rozenberg made the very important point that, (with the notable exception of @gdnlaw), mainstream media seems to have forsaken law reporting and it is the bloggers and tweeters that are stepping in to fill the gaps.

David Allen Green then spent some time describing what originally motivated him to start blogging and advocated blogging as a useful way of making complicated legal proceedings more accessible to public at large. He also warned against the dangers of "trial by social media".

Adam Wagner had some interesting points to make about the differences between barristers and solicitors when it comes to being able to comment on cases using social media. There are key differences in the respective codes of conduct which at present impose more restrictions on barristers than on solicitors. Adam seemed to be suggesting that a review of these rules is overdue.

Carl Gardner also made some great contributions to the discussion, including raising the question of whether the boundaries between mainstream and social media have become so blurred as to render the word "blog" almost obsolete. I was also taken with his response to a question from the floor, that one of the powers of social media might lie in its power to disorganise people rather than organise them, an interesting concept that bears closer examination in my opinion.

Once the discussion was opened up to the audience things got really interesting. One of the highlights for me was a question from @rjwhitaker. He posed the question of whether some blogging was the equivalent of the proverbial tree falling in the forest. If no-one is reading then what is the point? This raises the important question of whether legal bloggers are really serving the wider public with understandable legal commentary are whether they are simply creating internet noise of no real interest to anyone except other legal bloggers. I personally feel that the answer is probably a bit of both but, as David Allen Green pointed out, what harm can it do?

Another highlight was the contribution of @copyrightgirl. I know I was not alone in finding her enthusiasm for her chosen area of interest and social media infectious.

Unfortunately I had to leave quite soon after the end of the formal discussion so missed meeting up with some of the tweeters I follow. I did have time for a good chat with @michaelscutt and @brianinkster and quick hello to @ashleyconnick, (who seems to be rapidly developing his own fan club), before I had to dash off.

As a law student I found the whole evening fascinating and the hour and a half allotted could easily have been doubled as far as I was concerned. I was amazed that there weren't more students attending. What a fantastic opportunity for aspiring lawyers to start building their networks whilst learning about the direction legal writing is travelling in. In my opinion it is the current crop of law students who are the future of legal blogging, it would be nice to see a few more of them stepping up to the plate.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

It's Wednesday, must write my blog!

I haven't blogged in a little while, not because I have been too busy or because I couldn't be bothered, (although both of those excuses have applied in the past), but because I have been having a bit of a quandary over the direction I should take with this blog.

I have, over recent weeks become aware of the sheer number of legal blogs there are being published already. Having spent some time trawling through a wide number of these blogs I have realised something.

Mainly, I know nothing about the law. I may be in the third year of a law degree and an enthusiastic student but my knowledge is so basic in comparison to that of many people already out there writing regularly that I feel, in many cases, poorly qualified to comment on the legal issues that are the current hot topics. Having spent some time reading the work of well known and notable bloggers such as Charon QC, Adam Wagner, Michael Scutt, Thelegalbrat, Legaleaglemhm et al. I feel somewhat humbled and think that perhaps rather than adding my own naive two pennyworth to the mix, I might be better off just sitting back and listening to what other, more learned contributors have to say.

I also have no real desire to just add to the general noise on the internet. If I don't feel that what I contributing is worth anything to anyone then I'm not about to simply post a blog considering the colour of the fluff from my navel. I don't want anybody to take the time to read something I have written, only to think "well that was pretty obvious/pointless". Part of my original motivation for starting a blog and becoming more active in the digital world was unashamedly to try and improve my on-line footprint in anticipation of sending out applications for training contracts. Writing a load of trite drivel simply for the sake of saying "I have a blog don't you know" doesn't strike me as a particularly good advert for my skills as a potential lawyer. I know that blogging is considered by many to be an essential part of personal marketing. I just have no real desire to market my own personal brand as a noisy upstart. Perhaps I am being a little over-critical on myself, but I feel it is important to feel comfortable with any image of yourself you decide to broadcast over the public media.

I know that for some people the desire to write and be heard is irresistible and I am not criticising anyone who is prolific with their blogging but I am coming to realise that for me, less is more. I would rather post half a dozen reasonable quality entries over the year than post a load of utter crap every week.

Anyway I intend to keep posting but I will make no apology for that fact that my posts may be sporadic and may not necessarily follow a particular theme or topic. I will post when I feel like saying something, not just because it is a Wednesday.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Turn off the computer?

Apologies for the gap in posting. I am afraid that is one of the symptoms of trying to juggle full-time work, part-time law degree, two year old daughter and life in general. The clocks going forward also meant that we lost a valuable hour this week! I know everyone says that if you have a blog it is vital that you update every week at the minimum but I am of the opinion that if you haven't got anything you really feel like sharing then why bother? Posting for the sake of posting is a bit like tweeting for the sake of making noise.

The last couple of weeks have been mainly taken up with putting together a research proposal for my dissertation next year. I am going to do it on the legal issues which arise from the increased use of social media in the workplace and having found a subject I am actually able to get excited about, (finally), I am really looking forward to starting on it.

Having got that out of the way it is time to knuckle down and really get revising for exams. Last year I was guilty of being decidedly casual about my exam preparation and my grades suffered slightly as a result. This years grades weigh heavily towards my overall degree classification so I want to aim for firsts across the board. I am acutely aware that competition for training contracts is so intense that, if I want to have a decent chance of breaking into the profession, nothing less than a 2:1 and preferably a first will do. I don't want to have spent years of my life and thousands of pounds to get a degree that will be of no practical use in getting me the job that I want.

If I going to achieve my goals I will need to be disciplined about distractions. I wrote a couple of months ago about the dangers of permanent partial attention syndrome. Between that and procrastination lies a recipe for disaster. I have always had an issue with putting things off till the last minute and that urge only seems to be amplified during revision time, so I have made a decision to turn off the computer when revising! I know it sounds drastic but I feel that in the interest of my future success I really have no choice. The temptation is just too great to check e-mails, have a quick tweet, follow a distracting thread on someone's blog or any of the myriad distractions that lie behind the screen of my laptop. So there it is, I am going to go cold-turkey from the pc during revision sessions. I'll tweet from my Blackberry to let you know how it's going.

If anyone has any other great tips for avoiding distractions during times when intense concentration is required I would be very grateful if you could pass them in my direction.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Social Media - Give it a job to do and you might just get the point.

I'll be the first to admit that it took me a while to "get" Twitter. I'm afraid I was in the camp that couldn't see any value in short, 140 character status updates and I still speak to a lot of otherwise internet minded people who don't get it either. As far as I am concerned Twitter and other forms of social media only really come into there own when you link them into a definite purpose. It's true no one is really interested in what you are having for dinner or what supermarket you happen to be shopping in, so updating for the sake of updating is pretty pointless, (although I have been guilty of it myself). 

The true value of Twitter comes once you understand that it is simply another form of extremely rapid communication. Give yourself a purpose whilst using it and you will begin to understand the power you have at your fingertips. Let me give you an example. I am planning to write my dissertation next year on the employment law issues raised by the rapidly increasing use of social media in the workplace. To this end I recently tweeted a request for Twegals (legals who tweet), to point me in the direction of useful articles on the subject. The volume of material that I was able to find in an extremely short space of time was startling. As was the willingness of people to help. Within a day I had over 20 useful articles written by law firms and HR professionals from the UK, Europe and the US. I also repeated my request through LinkedIn and received a similar response. In fact I posted my request over 2 weeks ago and the articles are still flowing into my inbox. This instant connection with professionals in your chosen field is both unprecedented and incredibly empowering. So the next time someone says to you that they don't understand the point of social media ask them to try carrying out a specific task using it, they might just "get it" if they do.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Keeping mum - The equality act, equal pay and gagging clauses

During my employment law lecture last night a piece of the 2010 equality act was discussed which I was surprised I had heard so little about. Since October 2010 clauses in an employment contract which seek to prevent employees from discussing how much they are paid with one another are no longer enforceable. This makes absolute sense if you think about it. If one of the aims of the equality act is to prevent inequality in pay based upon sex, then how can that possibly be enforced if employees are prevented from discussing their pay with colleagues? It is quite easy for a firm to get away with inequality in remuneration if no-one is allowed to discuss what they are getting paid.

What really surprised me was how many people piped up that they had such a clause in their contract, or that they had been told "off the record" that it was forbidden to discuss salaries within the workplace. Many of these people are currently working within law firms. The vast majority of these people had no idea that this change in the law had occurred as it has gone largely unreported. 

To mark International Women's Day why not make a point of passing this little nugget of information around? If we are ever likely to achieve equal pay for women in the workplace surely we must first achieve transparency on pay.