Stand-out moments from the LawNet Conference 2017

Yet again Jane Armytage and I had loads of fun exhibiting with Athena Professional at the brilliant LawNet conference which ran last Friday, 10th November 2017.  The calibre of the speakers was outstanding.  I felt it was a day that raised awareness; there is a burning platform and the its starting to get warm under foot!

Many excellent things were said.  Twice I practically jumping out of my seat and cheering and once I was just fascinated to watch the audience open up and engage.  Here are my three stand-out moments:


Keith Coats made it plain that CONTINUOUS LEARNING is where it’s at.  Oh Yes! Music to my ears!   I was inwardly jumping up and down.  Why?  Because, there is a huge opportunity to leap-frog over the sheep-dip training mentality and jump straight into equipping people to embrace change, to drive it, because they are permitted to think, to be creative and try out new ways of working.

Coats’ rationale was compelling; exponential change is only just getting under-way.  In other words if you think the world is complex and fast-moving now, you ain’t nothin’ yet!  The pace of change will become so ferocious that the ability to respond, to be adaptable and nimble, is going to be more important than robust strategic thinking and detailed planning, “You cannot plan your way into exponential change – plans give the illusion of control”.  Ouch!  That’s a powerful message for a room full of people who are used to being in complete control.

Coats prayed in aid the case of Netflix who sold billions of DVDs in the 1990s before recruiting a couple of former Amazon execs who told them the future was streaming film.  The business turned on a sixpence.  Within months they stopped making DVDs and began streaming.  It just so happens that Netflix was the topic of conversation in my house recently.  At one point both my teenagers chimed, “Mum! Everybody’s got a Netflix account!”

Surely the idea of ditching a brilliant business model must have seemed ridiculous to Netflix at first. However, Keith Coats related the words of Jim Dator, “Any useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous”, although the rider to that is, “not all ridiculous ideas are useful”!! That idea was captured in the cartoon record of the day created by Chris Shipton..

Are we willing to learn, to take risks and engage with ideas which might seem ridiculous?


To my absolute joy, THE RULE OF LAW got a mention from Sophie Adams-Bhatti.  She asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought it was important.  Most did.  Earlier in the day Keith Coats had concluded by suggesting that people need hope and the world needs a shared sense of a higher purpose.  Well, well!  The legal sector does not need to look very far for its higher purpose.  As Adams-Bhatti observed, the Rule of Law is a crucial pillar of a democratic society.  Amen to that.


Dr Brian Marien drew us into the subject of “Emotional Literacy” in the afternoon.  It was fascinating to see this room of senior lawyers given permission to think about their feelings and behaviours.  It has been my repeated experience that established professional people feel deeply concerned, vulnerable, even ashamed, about revealing that they do not know everything, that there are some skills they have not mastered, or that they or their colleagues demonstrate some behaviours of which they are not proud.  And yet I am certain that acknowledging the truth of that sort of sentiment is the starting point for so much that is so necessary to the profession.

If you would like to see the Twitter feed of the day go to #LNConf for lots of quotes and observations.

It is worth saying that the event is beautifully run by Helen Hamilton-Shaw and her team.  The venue, Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire is magnificent.  The whole day has such friendly, good vibe, its real pleasure to be there.  This was our fourth year of exhibiting.  I think we’ve worked with about a dozen LawNet firms now, so there are lots of people it is good to see and to catch up with, and plenty more to get to know.

I should also thank Chris Marston for giving Athena Professional a name-check during his introduction for our experiential approach to learning about performance management.  It is one aspect of continuous learning which is important and there is so much opportunity for more!


Report Writing – Top Tips

  1. Make it easy to read
    1. Format the report to make it easy to navigate and refer to; use page and paragraph numbers
    2. Use headings and sub-headings to help the reader understand your text
    3. Use 1.5 or double spacing
  2. Use simple language; leave out jargon and explain acronyms
  3. Refer to data and cite your sources; numbers are convincing!
  4. Use tables, bulletin points and diagrams where possible in order to represent information; it will make your report quicker to read and more compelling
  5. Plan to write at least two drafts. Writing is an iterative process.  Get your ideas out and shape them up, then shape and polish them some more!


A Standard Report Format

  1. Title Page & Table of Contents

Give a short explanation of the purpose of the report if necessary e.g. “Hanging on the Line.  A discussion of current telephone resources and potential new approaches to internal communication”.  Include authors and date your report.

  1. Executive Summary

Keep this short; no more than one side of A4. Outline the purpose of the report, give the most important information from the report, and state briefly your recommendations.

Make this section really easy to read by using bullet points and clear headings.  Someone coming to the report “cold” should be able to grasp the rationale of your report instantly from the executive summary.

  1. Methodology

State what methods you used and why you chose them.  Identify any challenges you faced, e.g. in collecting representative data, how you over-came those difficulties or what impact they have had on the report findings e.g. if you were not able to collect data from the night-shift, then be clear about the limitations of any conclusions about the whole workforce.

  1. Introduction

Signpost what the report is about and how it will be presented.

  1. Main Body

Structure the body of your report; make it a “story” which the reader can follow easily.  Give your strongest points first.  Use tables, bullet points, diagrams etc. to make it punchy.

Being overly selective about the data or being overtly biased in your argument will weaken your report over-all and leave you open to criticism.  So, make sure your argument is rounded, and acknowledge key weaknesses or challenges.

  1. Conclusion

Synthesise what has gone before.  Bring your argument together and state your outcome. Be brief.  Someone skim-reading the report should be able to comprehend your conclusion quickly and easily.

  1. Recommendations

Make it easy for a decision-maker to commit and take the next step by setting out clearly what you recommend.  Here is where your research and the strength of your argument play out.  If you know your argument is weak, you may feel nervous about this section; you are assuming responsibility for directing a decision.  Make it count!

  1. Appendices

The appendices are an essential reference for future use.  Include your data here.  Give your sources.

9. Glossary

If required, include a glossary of key terms or acronyms or abbreviations (although you should always give the name/reference in full the first time you use it in the text too e.g. Construction Design & Management Regulations (“CDM” Regs))