Café Culture

October 14, 2011

Living in near isolation as I do, it is always something of a shock to have to spend time in the company of others. Today’s visit to the SCL Conference, when the others in question were intelligent, erudite and informed, necessitated a lie down and a carefully managed recovery period, involving medicinal alcohol, for me to cope.
Dr Andrew Martin provoked lots of thought (and some frighteningly deep questions). DSU Charlie McMurdie from the Met Police cyber-crime unit (surely a TV series waiting to happen – starring Charlie) and Neil Hare-Brown scared the bejesus out of me (don’t ask – you don’t want to know). The greatest shock to the system was the SCL World Café session.
I had, in a moment of weakness and in defiance of my grandfather’s soldierly advice never to volunteer, agreed to host a table. What genuinely surprised me was the high standard of the off-the–cuff discussions that arose from the question posed on our table ‘How can technology help the profession cope with its greatest challenges?’ or words to that effect. One consequence of being a host was that, unlike the other participants, I stayed with that same question at the same table and was duty bound to encourage doodles, drawings and notes on the tablecloth. My guests were different each time. Despite the fact that I summarised the preceding discussion(s), each of the three discussions was entirely different – so different in fact that I recall checking the question at one point just to make sure that I had not accidentally misread it the first time (and as you can see I am still not quite sure what it was).
But the genuinely cheering aspect was that I learned something in each discussion, I enjoyed each session and I would be surprised if any of the other participants left without some food for thought.
I learned something about the very different approaches, including approaches to the use of technology, between in-house and private practice lawyers. I learned that a lawyer defending in the Crown Court was, that very day, instant messaging with a forensics lab and directing his questions accordingly. I learned the wonderful phrase ‘Technology allows you to magnify your intellectual input’, which I shall be copyrighting shortly whatever Charles Drayson says. And I learned that it is not just me that is struggling to cope with the increased demands, and increasingly intrusive demands, that arise from the use of technology in work – a significant number are haunted by it. (I was most amused by the suggestion at our table that the real answer to the question ‘How can technology help the profession cope?’ is that it could slow down.) I also learned that when I draw with a yellow marker pen on a tablecloth it just looks like an unfortunate stain.
It was a brilliant session. But I hope it isn’t repeated. I just haven’t got that amount of time to spend that long in a darkened room.

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