Jayne Francis-Ward, head of EMLawShare, sets out the highlights from the legal services consortium's fifth conference.
On 14 October in the splendid setting of Loughborough University we held the fifth EMLawShare Conference and it didn’t disappoint.
The day began with (after my witterings) a fascinating presentation by Tom Cheesewright, an Applied Futurist. Before the session I confess I had no idea what an Applied Futurist was but in essence Tom is a consultant who helps organisations design a vision for their future. He was very clear that any future whether it’s in Local Government, the private sector or industry we will only survive if we learn to be flexible and are able to easily adapt to the changing circumstances in which we operate quickly and effectively. Darwin published “The Origin of the Species” in 1859 and it seems that his theory holds true today. The species who survives is not the strongest or the fittest but the one most able to adapt. Flexibility is the key and no doubt as part of all our transformation proposals within our own authorities we are all looking at how are services can become more flexible.
Tom gave us some fantastic examples of how businesses have had to react not least when Zayn Malik left One Direction. If you want to know the story you’ll have to log on to the EMLawShare website, all I’m saying is it involves Easter eggs and long division.
Tom also talked about one London borough which had introduced “Amelia” an Artificial Intelligence who was now responding to significant numbers of customer queries. Whilst the prospect of Artificial Intelligence and robots replacing humans seems like the subject matter of a SCI-FI TV show, it clearly isn’t. Tom was certain that driverless cars were not far from becoming not just a reality but the norm. What were we saying about needing to be more flexible!!!!
As someone leading on a data warehousing project I was particularly interested in his clear view that we would need to ensure that our decision making moving forward was based on clear data. I agree with this view but an increased reliance on good data, on artificial intelligence in fact all aspects of smarter working in the modern age bring with them a requirement to ensure employees are trained, coached and have the necessary competencies to operate in such changing environments. Hopefully the revised EMLawShare training programme will be picking up some of these wider skills.
Tom stayed with us to chair a panel discussion where topics ranged from “When would Local Government declare itself bankrupt” to the panel's opinion on the merit or otherwise of HS2. It was interesting to see the results of the attendee’s web polling especially on the issue of Local Government reorganisation and when people thought it likely to happen. The good money is on the next parliament. What’s your view?
Following a well-deserved coffee break and some useful networking the first set of breakout sessions began. These covered a variety of topics from the future of housing markets to an introduction to Myers Briggs with all sorts of other legal issues in between.
I attended the Myers Briggs sessions part I and 2. It was a fascinating couple of hours. It never ceases to surprise me that a few seemingly innocuous questions can actually highlight so much of your personality.
We returned to a highly topical session on Brexit. George Peretz QC.gave us his insights into the problems we will face as a country during the Brexit process and afterwards particularly in relation to the vast amount of EU law currently enshrined in our systems. He also spoke about his opinion on, what was at the time, the undecided judicial review challenge on the question of the use of the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50. His view had subsequently been proved correct. Subject of course to the decision of the Supreme Court and possible the European Court of Justice. You really couldn’t make it up, could you?
All the above sessions and discussions were excellent but I have to confess that the highlight of the day for me was the Scaletrix race track. It was not only fun but promoted a bit of healthy competition. I’m sure the final results were wrong and it was in fact me and not Kram Kasbia who recorded the fastest lap time on the day. I’d demand a recount but it’s already being done somewhere else.
The feedback from the day was excellent and the few niggles that people had will be taken on board and remedied next time. If you couldn’t make it this year do try to make it to the next conference.
The content is always good and thanks must go to all our partner firms Freeths, Browne Jacobson, Bevan Brittan, Sharpe Pritchard, Weightmans and Geldards for their support, input and constant encouragement. A huge thank you to all the speakers and to Karen White, John Oakley, Elizabeth Warhurst, Sam McGinty, Steve Eccleston, John Simons and Lyn Sugden from some of our member authorities for their sessions on the day.To all of our sponsors for their continued support
Finally a word to Stuart Leslie, our fantastic coordinator: “I told you it would be better without Richard III."