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“I have been hugely impressed by Melissa. She has a wealth of experience and contacts and this, together with her proactive approach, enables her to achieve first class results.” Jonathan Hand, Barrister, Outer Temple Chambers

Tommy Hill British Superbike Champion opens the offices of Fletchers, leading bike injury solicitors firm

Happy Birthday MD Communications!

August 6th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

MD Communications is four years old today – Happy Birthday to us! We are celebrating this evening aboard HMS President with our clients, supporters and friends, to whom we are extremely grateful because without them today would not have been possible.

I set up the agency back in 2010 with a vision of delivering a holistic approach to meet the needs of the legal sector, at a time of unprecedented change and challenge, with measurable return on investment.

Today, four years after we launched, we are a team of six directors competing against not just the agencies in our sector but also the big boys (and girls) in the international agencies. A very good friend of mine told me that “running your business is like a drug…. if you can’t handle the highs and lows then get a full time job”…. and he was right. There have been highs, such as winning our first Chilean client on the back of the launch of our White Paper on UK Legal Services and Latin America, and there have also been lows, such as making tough decisions in order to restructure in response to changing client demands.

One thing that has never changed during the last four years is the commitment from supporters to help us achieve our vision  -  to have people on the ground in several jurisdictions by 2015. Stephen Denyer, now Head of International and City at the Law Society, previously at A&O, has been instrumental in introducing me to contacts worldwide who have offered speaking opportunities, other introductions and of course the chance to work with them.

Elizabeth Fehnrich at UKTI has helped our international expansion with contacts and experience of overseas markets and never fails to respond to an email or promise to deliver. Our first clients (who we still retain) Gerard McDermott QC, leading cross border barrister in PI and employment and Peters & Peters, leading boutique law firm in white collar crime and commercial litigation have not only been a pleasure to work with but have provided the type of support that only a friend could give; the loyalty between us is second to none. There is nothing in it for the few people I have mentioned, besides the desire to want MD Communications to succeed.

So what point am I trying to make? Relationships. At our two year anniversary party, Keith Oliver, Senior Partner at Peters & Peters, kindly told the attendees that he thought I was better connected than Kofi Anan. I’m not sure how true that is but I can say that the success of a business with clients across several jurisdictions and an enviable team of high level directors, has thrived off the back of strong relationships, people who act as brand ambassadors and who believe that we can add value to the whole sector.

Whether it’s Twitter you’re getting to grips with, connections on Linkedin, attendance at a conference or 1:1 meetings, there is one constant.Your network is as valuable as the product or service you deliver; working hard to get people you admire to trust and believe in you will go a long way to making your business successful.

Thank you to everyone far and wide who has made this possible. Here is to another exciting 12 months.

Speaking up about female genital mutilation

August 4th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

The legal profession is often wary of the word ‘campaign’. Historically, it was perceived as the preserve of those at the (often politically-motivated) margins of the profession.

We routinely advise our law firm clients on how to structure and deliver campaigns across a wide spectrum of issues. One bubbling under the surface currently is female genital mutilation (FGM).

Reports emerged in the media last week that militant group Islamic State (Isis) had issued an order that all women and girls based around the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq should undergo FGM. Estimates indicate that this kind of ‘fatwa’ would affect around four million women and children. Although doubts have since been cast on whether or not the report was actually genuine, it was the UN that initially highlighted what it thought to be a threat, indicating just how much FGM has risen on the agendas of the international community in recent years.

It is thought that worldwide more than 130 million girls and women have undergone this horrific procedure and yet it is something that, even in the UK, it has taken far too much time to try and bring under control. Legislation was first introduced in 1985 outlawing FGM but it took 30 years for the first prosecution to happen. FGM involves the removal of either a part, or all, of the female genitalia, and is justified on the basis that it is supposed to suppress female sexual desire and ‘immoral’ behaviour. It is not a procedure that has been commonly carried out in Iraq, according to UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Jacqueline Badcock. Although it is widely practiced in Africa and a number of Muslim countries, in Iraq it has been mostly limited to isolated areas, such as Kurdistan, which is why this latest report – if true – is alarming.

Earlier this year the Home Affairs Committee (HAC) of the House of Commons released its report on FGM in which the practice was described as an ‘ongoing national scandal.’ Although the government’s July Girl Summit on female genital mutilation and child and forced marriage was convened by the Prime Minister in order to “empower girls by ending harmful cultural practices” many have highlighted that this really doesn’t go far enough. In the UK there are estimated to be 170,000 living with the scars of FGM and a further 65,000 with the threat of it hanging over their heads.

Dexter Dias QC and Charlotte Proudman, two of the co-authors of the Bar Human Rights report to the Parliamentary Inquiry on FGM, recently suggested two important measures to combat FGM in an article in the New Statesman. The first of these was FGM Protection Orders, which would give a civil court the power to intervene to prevent FGM taking place. The second was the establishment of an Anti-FGM Unit, which would provide help, assistance and expertise for young women at risk. Both of these steps would allow action to be taken to protect vulnerable young women, rather than just talking about it.

There’s such a considerable culture of silence surrounding FGM that defeating it requires involvement from just about anyone with a voice. In the legal community there is so much more that lawyers and communications professionals could be doing to help draw the issue to the attention of the those aren’t aware of how big the problem really is, and to help make it a non-issue in the very near future. Social media is a fantastic tool for this – from blogging on the subject to tweeting or even just retweeting others (follow Twitter accounts such as @FORWARDUK, @DaughtersofEve and @ENDFGM_Amnesty to keep up to date). There’s no doubt that a campaign supported and promoted by the legal community adds considerable weight to the issue – which basically comes down to the defence of a crucial human right. Law Society President Andrew Caplen has recognised this and included the fight against FGM as one of his priorities for this year.

For those of us with any voice at all, it’s about time we spoke up.

The perfect match?

July 24th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

The legal world could embrace the ‘specific formula’ approach encouraged by a revolutionary dating app.

Business lessons for law firms can come from surprising places.

You may or may not have heard of the dating app Tinder. Perhaps you’ve even tried it. I certainly have as a 30-something singleton in London and I have also spotted a few familiar faces from within the sector on there too (don’t worry your secret is safe with me).

There has been a lot of talk recently about how Tinder has revolutionised the dating world. The easy-to-use app has taken a completely new approach to linking up singles, identifying the ways in which former dating platforms have fallen short and mercilessly exploiting them.

The result? Well the Tinder CEO claimed in March 2014 that the app had already achieved a billion matches.

The clever thing about Tinder is that it is a truly ‘now’ approach to the world of online dating.

It is mobile-only – in the form of an app – and works using location services to find nearby potential matches. It is dating in its simplest form – a right swipe if you like the look of someone, a left swipe if you don’t – and it has cleverly captured the way millenials like to interact.

The reasons why we might download and start using the Tinder app are plentiful (and probably best not explored in too much depth here) but the principal motivation is basically to make a ‘match’. Essentially, flicking through the photos and brief profile details are all leading to one thing and that’s the user finding a face that they like the look of to see if that attraction is mutual.

It might surprise you to learn that there are some similar systems in the legal market – not for creating love matches but for forging attractive working partnerships.

There are some interesting similarities between spending 10 minutes flicking through profiles on Tinder, based on your current geographical location, and turning the pages of the Legal 500 in the practice area in which you’re looking for your ‘match’.

Okay, so Tinder doesn’t offer rankings (it would presumably open up all sorts of opportunities for controversy if they did…), but the action is similar – a brief judgement based on nothing more than a quick appraisal of potential. So, where do the other parallels lie?

First impressions matter – and if they are wrong can rule you out – but don’t judge a book by its cover. With Tinder it’s often very easy to get drawn in by a pretty or handsome face – that is of course the purpose of the app.

However, we all know that a photo is really just the tip of the iceberg and that alone won’t provide enough information to really determine a genuine match. Similarly, when browsing for law firms, directories are a great way to spot potentials, which then need to be whittled down to ‘the one’ through some actual contact.

Do you have a ‘type’? Whether you’re swiping right on Tinder or a client marking pages in theLegal 500, it’s likely that we all have a specific formula we respond to every time. It could be ‘tall, dark and handsome’ or ‘American, City-based firm with an insurance leaning’. Sometimes, however, it’s worth looking outside that automatic response for a match that brings something new to the table.

Dating around. With such a plentiful supply of potential candidates there’s just no need to settle for the first one that looks like they might fit the bill.

Being wined and dined, networking and spending time with a number of different options and taking the time to get to know a potential choice before making the final decision are all part of making sure that you have a match that could create a lasting relationship – with your lawyers or a potential other half.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect love match or the perfect law match, some similar rules apply.

And remember, if you start to feel after a couple of meets like you’re just not getting the attention you deserve then it might be time to move on – maybe they’re just not that into you after all…

*This post first appeared in The Law Gazette*

Please don’t send me a photo of your John-Thomas

July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

If there’s one thing that demonstrates how ‘not private’ something like Twitter really is, it’s the ability to forward on/re-tweet photos. In the age of online dating and ‘meeting’ people via apps like Tinder it’s often very easy to forget that at the other end of that Twitter handle or Whatsapp (a texting app) account there is a real person – someone who may have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about releasing your images onto the internet. There have been some very well documented cases in recent years about photos accidentally getting released when sent from one partner to another but it would seem that we are getting increasingly reckless about who we send our photos to.

An astonishing number of female friends who are either actively dating in the real world or chatting online, have confessed to receiving an unsolicited image or two of a man’s pride and joy. If you thought this kind of behaviour was limited to bored teenagers or the slightly pervy then think again as it’s widespread with numerous websites devoted to collating the best celebrity versions of these types of pictures. Perhaps one of the most prolific – and unexpected – offenders is Anthony Weiner, an American politician and former U.S. representative from January 1999 until June 2011. His ‘sexting’ issues (including sending numerous pictures of ‘himself’ to the women in question) are so well known that they even have their own Wikipedia page.

Sexuality is complicated and we all have our secrets and desires, most of which are vastly different from those of the next person. But what it is about sending unsolicited images like this via social media that makes us think this is a ‘safe’ thing to do? It’s most likely to be part and parcel of the trap that many people fall into of forgetting what’s on the other end of your social media presence: people – and in the case of unsolicited photos like this it’s usually people you don’t know very well. Sometimes posting on social media can feel like shouting into a void, which is why some people don’t clock the consequences of sending a picture of your privates via such a very public forum. Even if it’s not something as risqué as extreme nakedness, we do often forget that there can be repercussions for what we say on social media – whether that’s concerning someone else’s behaviour or publicly commenting in a way that is provocative or just plain rude.

It’s fairly unlikely that anyone reading this blog needs to be told not to send one of the aforementioned photos via a forum like Twitter or the very forward-able platform that is Whatsapp. However, there are some lessons to be learned here about the effect that the reckless use of social media can have on reputation, and how scary the snowball effect can be. One of the first things many of us get taught when entering the legal world is not to say or attach anything in an email that you wouldn’t be happy to have read out/shown in court. Perhaps that’s a lesson we should apply to social media too – if you don’t want the judge to see it then don’t ‘get it out’ in the first place…

Uber and the cabbies’ protest

June 16th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

I had my first experience of Uber taxis in New York. They have been something of a revolution when it comes to private fares and there has been a huge rise in usage since the company was first established in San Francisco in 2009.

For those who don’t know, Uber is based on a smartphone app, which shows the user how far away the nearest Uber taxi is and allows it to be ordered at the press of a touch screen. There’s no facility for pre-booking a taxi with Uber and prices are estimated – but not set – in advance.

The cost of the car is calculated at the end of the fare and taken directly from the user’s bank account by card details loaded into the app. Cars are not branded or centralised, which allows costs to be kept down. In fact, it’s probably the cost element of Uber that has made it so very popular with fares across London starting from around £9.

However when I stepped out of my office last week on Aldwych to find the entire traffic at stand still it became obvious just how much this new approach to London taxis has angered the existing taxi community.

The protest which took place last week in by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association concerned the lack of regulation around companies like Uber, as well as the lack of training for Uber drivers, something that cabbies are required to undergo before they get a licence.

The Association also objects to the way that the Uber app works out the customer fare, as it is essentially the same as using a taxi meter, which only London cabbies are legally entitled to do.  At the heart of the protest is the fear that technological developments like the Uber app will drive traditional London cabbies out of business.

Today Uber has announced that the number of people downloading the app on the day of the protest, compared to the same day the week before, saw an increase of around 850%, which would seem to indicate that the protest has actually worked in Uber’s favour rather than highlighting the plight of the cabbies.

As the protest achieved coverage across most of the national news channels, as well as broad reach all over social media, those who didn’t know about Uber before last week certainly do now. Unfortunately for London cabbies the appeal of the cheap taxi is strong in a city where taxi fares can be some of the highest in Europe.

Although there is sympathy for the fate of the iconic black cab, most people would rather take a cheaper taxi, particularly for shorter trips, and many see the development of technology that can make this possible as a good thing. London is not the only city where there have been objections to Uber and the protest last week follows on from similar events in Berlin, Rome, Milan, Madrid and Paris.

For Uber, the broad reach of the protests and their high-profile nature must have been a rather pleasant surprise – given the enormous upsurge in the number of Uber apps being downloaded as a result, this is one situation that perfectly demonstrates that sometimes there’s just no such thing as bad publicity.