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After a host of interviews with international lawyers and legal commentators like Lee Pacchia (@leepacchia) of Bloomberg Law, Elliot Moss (@elliot_moss) of Mishcon de Reya and Charles Christian (@ChristianUncut) of Legal Technology, it’s time to take things a little more local.

And on to Belfast, Northern Ireland to be precise – to have a chat with media lawyer and sometimes tweeter who just switched off private settings, Olivia O’Kane (@OliviaOKane1) of Carson McDowell, one of the largest law firms in Northern Ireland. On an introductory note I should say that Olivia has been carving out a nice space for herself both offline and online as the go to person for media and libel law issues, writing on the Inforrm blog among other things.

Anyway, over to the questions.


Brian John Spencer (BJS): so Olivia, where are you now?

Olivia OKane (OK):  I‘m in the office in Belfast City Centre.

BJS: Busy? What’s on the to-do list?

OK: Very, thankfully. Preparing a defence in an online libel claim & preparing advices in relation to a contramundum injunction.

BJS:  Everyone interviewed to date has been operating in either England or America and they’ve thrown up some fascinating insights into what’s moving in the legal world. But how’s practice Northern Ireland?

OK: Its changing, developing, but exciting. Social media is on the rise, transatlantic investment, start-ups and 21st century law making.

BJS:  Never mind Northern Ireland being the centre for libel tourism, it now seems to be the location of choice for the back office operations of some of the world biggest and most exciting law firms like Herbies, A&O and Axiom. Apart from softening the unemployment numbers for QUB and UUJ Schools of Law, what does this development mean for law practice in Northern Ireland in particular and practice itself more broadly?

OK: An increase & concentration in NI of international global deals wholly taking place here as opposed to only certain aspects of the deals.

BJS: Well, while we’re half on the subject, what do you make of the non-implementation of the new libel laws introduced by Parliament? Good or bad for NI?

OK: One size doesn’t fit all. We need open public consultation. The media are public watchdogs & need protection, but we deserve good journalism.

BJS: In a previous chat with the Belfast-based international libel lawyer Paul Tweed, he was licking his lips and predicted a bright future for the legal economy in Northern Ireland. Not only on the media law side, but critically, on the mediation side of law – with the new opening of legal centre for dispute resolution. Can you give some thoughts on this?

OK: I’ve been involved in a few libel mediations. Some media cases benefit from this type of resolution. ADR is now a very common consideration.

BJS:  I’ve been really impressed by Carson McDowell’s offline activity, as per the feature I wrote here as part of the Legal Marketing Watch series on Defero Law. What’s the thinking behind the latest branding exercise?

OK: Showcasing that we are one of the most progressive and successful firms in the UK, understanding the present and planning for the future.

BJS: That’s the offline world – what about the online world? Do you and the firm have ambitions to grow your presence online with social media, blogs and the like?

OK: Plans and strategies are already committed; this is one of my personal babies. 

Very excited at our plans . . . Soon to be revealed.

BJS:  Continuing with social media, can I ask this if you may: you joined Twitter and amassed a healthy following, but you kept your profile private until recently – can you explain?

OK: Its simple. I realised someone other than friends might actually be interested in

what I have to say.

BJS: My reading of that was that you were giving expression to the fear and suspicion which social media invokes in the legal trade – am I right? If so, can you let me know how good a job Northern Ireland lawyers, law firms and barristers are doing at using Twitter and other new media platforms?

OK: Their work isn’t complete. There is a growing trend towards using and embracing social media but in NI we are only seeing the green sprouts.

BJS: You write for the Inform blog now and then, has your firm itself got a blog? If not, any plans?

OK: Yes it is part of our online strategy . . . soon all will be revealed.

BJS: Mixing online with offline activities – and I know it’s not really spoken of much in the law world – but how prominent is business development in the thinking of the leaders and actors of Carson McDowell?

OK: It is very prominent. BD is vital for many reasons. Not just about generating new business but also protecting what we have. It’s also fun.

BJS: What about internally, are the team running on smart phones, tablets and using project management software?

OK: All of the above. I have to admit I can’t live without my tablet, beats carrying a laptop.

BJS: Any big plans for the firm’s future?

OK: Growth. New ideas. We’re a creative firm-always searching for new ways to find innovative solutions to help our clients achieve their goals.

BJS: And finally, any big personal ambitions?

OK: Loads. Im afraid I won’t have time to do it all. Suffice to say, I don’t ever want to stop learning and challenging myself.