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Last night I read the text of Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s lecture entitled “Does Journalism Exist?“.
This was circulated on Rusbridger’s Twitter account and sparked quite a bit of interest and comment on Twitter.
The text is quite long, but in my opinion is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the future of journalism. His remarks on the different business models being adopted and the role of the BBC in all of this are particularly fascinating.
However, the article has a wider relevance and makes very interesting reading for lawyers too. James Dunning blogged about the similiarities between law firms and newspapers last year (Law Firms and Newspapers, the same or different) and suggested that:-
“what the newspapers are suffering heavily from now is what many smaller law firms are beginning to suffer from and will undoubtedly suffer heavily from in the future – their primary product being available for free on the web…”
In this context it is worth looking at Rusbridger’s comparison between the closed, paywall, model and the open model with journalists “bouncing off each other, linking to each other… linking out… allowing response – harnessing the best qualities of text, print, data, sound and visual media.”
This may not sound so relevant to lawyers (although it certainly is to law bloggers). However, the final words of the paragraph are striking:-
“If ever there was a route to building audience, trust and relevance, it is by embracing all the capabilities of this new world, not walling yourself away from them.”
If “building audience, trust and relevance” isn’t relevant to law firm marketing then I don’t really know what is. The comments at the beginning of the piece about Search Engine Optimisation are also very relevant to law firms.
If you are a lawyer or interested in internet marketing for law firms read this article now – I can guarantee you will see some parallels to your own business.
The Divorce Day Cup focuses on the everpresent “divorce rates rocket after Christmas” press release and I await the winner with interest. However, the recent snopocalypse in the UK seems to have received a similar treatment.
Before the first flake settled, HR consultancies and law firms alike had waded in with primers on the legal position of snowed-in employees and disgruntled employers. The BBC even took a break from its 24-hour coverage of the “big freeze” to publish an FAQ on the legal implications of the snowfall.
In fact, a quick Google search revealed at least 10 law firm press releases or articles on the subject and countless HR updates.
However, when my RSS reader threw out a link to Jason Plant’s latest blog post entitled “I’m going to be late. Yeah, because of the snow” I guessed that it might be something more interesting.
Rather than dwelling on gritting and docking employee’s pay, he asks “So will this cold snap finally kick start a new wave of forward thinking employers that shift to a flexible working model, not just in terms of working hours but also in working location?”
Please read the whole post on the No Option for Lawyers blog, but I think Jason’s analysis is spot on. There is a tendency to think that fee earners can work from home, but not support staff… but actually digital dictation and remote working mean that pretty much any member of staff should be able to work from home.
The post and DX may need to be sent out, but how much of this material actually needs to go in hard copy? In any event, if conditions are so bad that your staff struggle to get to work, is it likely that the post and DX will be reliable anyway?
I’m sure the bad weather has tested a few firms’ business continuity plans, but maybe it can also provide some wider lessons about working arrangements.
The snow throws into sharp relief the distance that many of us have to travel to work. However, even on a normal day, traffic congestion, climate change and carbon footprints would all benefit from more home working.
If the technology is there (apart from the Apple iSlate of course!) then why aren’t we using it to give ourselves more flexibility and freedom?
Unfortunately, for today at least, I can’t practice what I preach as I have meetings in the office. The snow is falling past the window as I type and the concept of flexible working location is looking even more tempting (anyone know a nice hotel in the Canary Islands with good wifi?!)
How has the Companies Act 2006 (finally implemented on 1 October last year) affected day to day company administration?
Company secretaries, accountants and lawyers have had to get used to a new set of forms, but these are largely self-explanatory.
It is disappointing that four sides of paper are now required to deal with resignation as director and secretary of a company (rather than the single side which was previously needed) but this is hardly likely to cause any sleepless nights. More and more companies are using the Companies House web filing service in any event, which makes the majority of paper forms irrelevant.
However, there is one requirement which seems to have caused some confusion (including at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills) – the infamous “Statement of Capital”.
The Statement of Capital is a new concept introduced by the 2006 Act. In principle it is fairly simple – a statement of the issued share capital of the company which must be delivered to Companies House when various events take place (for example the incorporation of a company, an allotment of shares or filing of an annual return).
In practice the Statement of Capital is (in most cases) incorporated in the forms which need to be delivered to Companies House rather than requiring a separate document.
The core of the Statement of Capital is a simple statement of the total number of shares in the company and the aggregate nominal value of these shares. An example can be found on the Companies House website here.
For each class of shares the Statement of Capital must show:-
- Prescribed particulars of the rights attaching to the shares (see below)
- The total number of shares of that class
- The aggregate nominal value of shares in the class; and
- The amount paid up and unpaid on those shares (including any share premium).
The last requirement can be difficult for companies with complex share structures and BIS are currently consulting with various “stakeholders” about how these companies will deal with producing Statements of Capital. For the time being the advice is basically for them to take their best shot as Companies House will reject forms if this information is left blank in the Statement of Capital.
The prescribed particulars of the rights attaching to the shares comprise:-
- Voting rights (including those which only arise in certain circumstances – e.g. swamping rights)
- Rights to receive a dividend
- Rights to receive a capital contribution on a winding-up
- Whether the shares are redeemable at the option of the company or the shareholder
These rights will be set out in the articles of association of the company (together with any supplemental shareholder resolutions which may have been passed in order to vary those rights).
For a straightforward company with a single class of ordinary shares, the Statement of Capital will be easy to complete. The Companies House guidance note on Statements of Capital even has some standard wording (see section 13) which can be used for these types of companies if they have adopted articles based on the model articles contained in the Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008.
However, the same guidance makes it clear that particulars of the rights attaching to the shares need to be set out in full.
Statements such as “the rights are set out in the articles of association” or “the shares rank pari passu with the existing shares in the company” will result in the form being rejected.
For companies with a complex share structure, this can make completing the Statement of Capital quite a technical exercise. Indeed, the Companies House guidance recognises that companies may need to seek professional advice to assist with this.
It is less than helpful for new filing requirements to put companies in a position where they may have to incur professional fees in order to complete standard forms. However, if you do need help with this what is the best way to keep costs to a minimum?
Firstly, you will need to make sure that the copy of your company’s articles of association filed at Companies House is up to date (which of course it should be) and that any resolutions creating or amending share rights have also been duly filed.
Secondly, agree a fixed price with your solicitor for reviewing the company’s articles and any relevant resolutions and producing a pro-forma Statement of Capital for you to use.
Once you have this it should be easy to keep track of any new share issues or changes to share rights in the future.
Not since the Loch Ness monster has so much effort been spent writing about something which may not even exist.
Even the traditional media now seem fairly convinced that Apple will be unveiling a new Tablet device in January for shipping in March 2010. See for example this recent Times Online article and this slightly less complimentary piece on the Guardian Website on what may or may not be called the iSlate (as and when it is or is not released).
These tablet rumors have been around seemingly for ever (this MacRumours.com tablet post from 2007 being one of very, very many examples).
However, the rumors seem fairly solid this time around so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of Cupertino on 26 January.
Readers of this blog will realise that I am a bit of an Apple fanboy. In this case though I am more excited about the opportunity which an iSlate, iTablet, iBrick (or whatever) could present than the prospect of another shiny Apple gadget itself. Although, to be honest, I am pretty excited about that too!
When I refer to an opportunity, what I mean is that I believe that we have pretty much everything right now that is required for a lawyer to run a paperless office. Certainly the scanning technology, document management systems and even electronic signature protocols are readily available.
The missing link for me is a decent way to read and markup legal documents. I do most of my work on screen now, but when it comes to reviewing a first draft of a chunky share purchase agreement there isn’t really a substitute for hitting the print key.
Reviewing the document on a laptop (or even a nice big monitor) just doesn’t work the same. For starters it is hard on the eyes, but more importantly the ability to flick backwards and forwards, compare pages side by side and scribble notes just isn’t there for me.
The Ebook readers which are around at the moment (the Kindle 2 or the Sony Reader for example) are aimed at Ebooks rather than document review. It has been pointed out to me since the first draft of this post that the Kindle 2 can accept uploads of PDF documents – however, so far as I am aware there is no editing capability and it is limited to black and white display. If any lawyers do use these for document review though it would be interesting to hear how it works out.
The Law Society Gazette review of the current digital reader technology such as the iRex concluded that the basic technology was promising, but that “a much more user-friendly interface” was needed amongst other things for it to be truly useable.
It seems to me that an Apple tablet could be the perfect product to fill this gap. Decent sized touchscreen display? The very basis of the device. User friendly interface? For an Apple product this should really be a given.
With these building blocks in place it isn’t hard to see an application being developed for the iSlate which would allow documents to be reviewed and annotated in much the same way as hard copy (and using the multi-touch screen to flick pages backwards and forwards Coverflow style, zoom in and out and scroll). I have seen suggestions that handwriting or stylus entry could be on the cards – again, great for document review and annotation.
Add internet access via Wifi (or maybe even 3G – tethered via an iPhone) and the ability to work with Exchange servers (which is already featured in the iPhone and Snow Leopard) and this could be pretty much all a lawyer needs to work remotely. Bearing in mind how the iPhone has moved toward a enterprise offering with the ongoing OS iterations I would expect the iSlate to build on this (rather than being a pure consumer product).
Since my first version of this post, Microsoft have also unveiled their “iSlate killer” at the Consumer Electronics Show as reported by the BBC and many others. The HP consumer notebook slate could fill the same gap as an iSlate, but commentators seem to be largely underwhelmed – it seems like a solid product, but not really a game changer in the way which the iPhone (for example) was. However, it could well be a driver towards tablet computing if it takes off.
I may be wrong… and there may not even be an iSlate in the offing. If there is though, and if it is anything like an iPhone style leap forward in useability, then it could be a huge step toward a true “paperless office” for lawyers at the geekier end of the spectrum.
Now I just need to work out how to persuade the firm to buy me one!