Saturday, 19 November 2011

Secondees - to help or not to help?

So one issue that has come up for discussion on more than one occasion this week is how to deal with our trainee lawyers who are out on secondment at one of our clients. This is quite a common practice in a lot of the commercial firms - basically, some of our trainees will spend one of their 6 month 'seats' at one of our major clients. They will be based in the in-house legal team and so will get exposure to a whole new environment. The problem that we have encountered this year though, is that we are getting more and more research queries from our secondees. Now on the one hand, that's great cos that's what we are here for...especially when they are out of the office and don't have access to a lot of our resources. The line that we have taken in the past is that we will assist secondees when they are on secondment, but usually just with accessing things they can't possibly do when away, eg. textbooks, certain caselaw searches....however in recent months, I have started to do quite a lot of research for one of them because he's with one of our key IP clients (I work mostly with the IP team). This has caused a little bit of consternation with the bosses, just because in theory, a lot of the research is not being done on any specialist resources....and it's for the client - therefore they are making money out of us, as opposed to if the trainee was office-based and asking us to help with research that is for a fee-earner....

So the question is - where do we draw the line? It's a really tricky one, because at the end of the day, our whole purpose is to assist the lawyers, and if a trainee is on secondent, got loads of work on and needs our help, it's very hard to say no!

It looks like the solution we are going to implement is simply to treat each secondee enquiry on a case-by-case basis....if we are pushed for time - as is the case most of the time! - and we get sent an enquiry that is time-consuming, but in theory doesn't necessitate use of textbooks and other restricted sources, then we may just give a general overview of the topic, and let the trainee extract the specific bits of info themselves - or at worse, push it back to them, giving them a few ideas of searches/places to look. Have to admit I do find it hard to say 'no' at the best of times, so it's not always the easiest thing for me to push work back to the trainees - even though sometimes it's for their own good, as they do need to learn to do their own research rather than just rely on us for everything!

But in all seriousness it's definitely an issue that I have never encountered before. I'll keep you posted on how it goes over the next few months...

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Stem your 'work obsession'...

All work and no play...
Regular readers will know that because this Law Library gets so busy that at times,  it's very hard for this particular Law Librarian to switch off and put it out of my mind...However, a recent tip from Harvard Business Review explains the importance of taking time out and being able to put work out of your mind, even when things are at their most stressful:

It is of vital importance that you take some time out of every working day in order to get away from your desk and computer screen. This is something that I used to be very guilty of, but in recent months, I have been making a point - where possible - of leaving my desk for at least 20 minutes, if not longer, at lunchtime. It is all to easy to fall into a rut of eating at your desk while perhaps having a quick browse of the Internet, but it means that you don't let your brain switch off - and you return to whatever task is at hand not feeling rested, but tired and weary. If possible get some fresh air - or as HBR say, even just going to the gym gets you out of the office and refreshes your mind and brain a bit. Unless I am caught up in a time-sensitive piece of work, I always try to get away from it nowadays and I definitely feel the benefit of my 'time out' on my return to my desk.

While I don't tend to have much work to do in the evenings or at weekend - although it would be very easy to start doing bits and pieces at the weekend when you can login to work from the comfort of your sofa! But again this is something that I try and steer clear of doing as a rule, therefore I think it's of equal importance to allow your brain to switch off at these times too, and make a conscious effort not to think or discuss work-related problems/stresses. It can be quite difficult at times, but if you don't try hard to allow yourself this down time, it simply means that you return to work the next day, or Monday morning, feeling totally unrested and demoralised.

If all else fails, find a new hobby!
As HBR correctly point out, the less time you have outside of work to think about work, and login to that work email account, then the less likely you will be to focus on it to the point of obsession when you are at home! Always make time to do the things you enjoy. Again if I am worried about a piece of work, I struggle at times not to dwell on it, but I am aware of the benefits of forcing myself not to do this, and certainly not at the expense of doing things I enjoy!

The upshot is: if you find that you are beginning to eat, sleep and breathe your job - stop yourself right there, and make a conscious effort NOT to login from home, to bring in a book and get away from your desk at lunchtime, and above all remember that your mental and physical health should always be the priority...Burning out through stress is not an option!

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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Something I learned this week: searching for images using

Just a little something that I learned this week, that in all my years of using various Lexis platforms to search for articles, I didn't know was possible until now!

At present we use the American platform,, to run searches for press articles worldwide. When articles are put on Lexis, they don't come with their original images, eg a newspaper article may have a picture or several pictures, often with captions. These actual photographic images do not show up on Lexis - but the caption does, along with the word 'graphic'. I was asked if it was possible to search by image on - so we were looking for articles that had contained a photograph of a particular item. Initially I didn't think it would be possible - but it turns out that you can run a 'graphic' search, where Lexis will search the captions that accompanied the various images that were in the original article. The fee-earner was delighted, and even though we would need to resort to obtaining original copies of the article if we want to actually see the image being referred to, the fact that we could identify articles with this particular image was a great start.

I have to admit, I do love it when I learn something new like this!!

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Delivering a successful presentation

 So it has been a while since I have had a chance to mull over some of the bitsesize gems of wisdom that appear on the Harvard Business Review Management Tip of the Day website, so it's nice to be able to take some time to reflect on one that I read recently about delivering presentations successfully

Believe it or not, we are still in the throes of trainee training  even though it's November - our program starts off quite intensively for the first four weeks of the trainees' arrival, and then we hold a couple of sessions later on once they are more settled into their seats. The session that I am preparing for at the moment is to do with European law, and believe me, it's not something I particularly enjoy training people in! In my opinion, European law research can be very tricky indeed when you start to dig further than, say, just looking for a case! I have just been going over my examples for researching European secondary legislation before its published in its final form, and so this particular tip is pertinent to me right now, as I am always open to ways to improve my delivery in such sessions.

Careful preparationThe first recommendation is excellent preparation. I cannot agree more with this. It may seem obvious to some people, but you would be surprised how many people think that a sketchy knowledge is ample, and they will be able to wing it once they're up there. I personally can't think of anything more horrendous! I realise that you don't want to be too 'scripted'; you don't always want to be looking down at your notes, but want to sound natural - but at the same time, I like to know I have a thorough understanding of the background to what I am actually talking about. My informal 'mentor', a lady I worked with a few years ago and who I talked about at length in one of my CPD23 posts earlier in the year, is without a doubt the person who always stressed to me the importance of being prepared. Not only will you feel more confident once you are up there, but you will also feel more confident when it comes to answering questions from the audience. A good knowledge of what you are actually talking about will make this side of things a lot easier. It's a piece of advice I have never forgotten and I am glad to see that the Harvard Business Review agree that it's of great importance!

Doing a dry run - 1
The next crucial piece of advice is to do a number of dry runs, first in front of your computer, with the slides if you have any, and then without the slides. The point of doing it first in this way is to enable you to focus on what you are saying without having to worry about body language at this stage.  Again this is without a doubt a very important part of the presentation preparation. I like to have enough time to familiarise myself with what I am going to be saying - particularly because when I am doing trainee training, I am doing live examples on various databases and websites - and there's always at least one example that goes wrong, no matter how many times I have run it in my dry run sessions! So while you can't preempt everything when you are doing 'live' searches, it certainly helps to make you feel more confident if you have run them before and they worked - sometimes it's just that you have made a simple typing error! Knowing that your examples worked previously gives you more confidence when it comes to sorting out any problems that may arise on the day, in my experience.

Dry runs also enable you to memorise a lot more than you would if you just turned up with some notes you threw together the day before. Nothing will make you feel more relaxed and confident than knowing you know your topic and the aims of your session thoroughly.

Doing a dry run - 2
For the final stage of preparation, they advise doing another dry run, but actually in the room, or a room similar to the one you are giving the presentation in. This allows you to put the whole package together, concentrating not only on what you're saying, but how you are delivering it: eye contact, posture etc. This is definitely a valid point, and is something that I tend to forget about when I am doing some kinds of presentation - I get so caught up in the content itself, that I forget about the image I am projecting when I present. The image I want to present is that I am calm, in control and moreover, fully understand what I am talking about! I think this is something that you really need to focus on projecting, even if you don't necessarily feel it 100%. I think people do pick up on nerves in a presenter. I often find it helpful to picture someone who I think gives really effective presentations; it could be a colleague, a friend, someone you saw at a conference. Watch their body language, how they move about the stage/room etc, how they make eye contact. You can learn a lot just from observation.

I definitely found this post a helpful one. It makes some valid key points with regard to preparing to present to others. Now, however, I better get back to the joys of Eur-lex... :)

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