I had lunch today with one of the leading lights in social justice in the UK. It's a perk of the job. I'm very lucky.

We put the world to rights on a number of matters and then turned to the effectiveness or otherwise of local law societies. It's a mixed bag. The City of London Law Society is first rate, as is Bristol. But Manchester? My host expressed his surprise at what he saw as a paucity of service in England's second city.

I don't have enough information to hand to comment on Manchester Law Society's fitness for purpose - for all I know it's a shining beacon to the rest of the country. And I have never met its CEO, Fran Eccles-Bech. But I did write to her a little while ago and I got this response.

Would any of us survive in our jobs for more than a week if emails to us were greeted with "I am very important and busy, I don't have to abide by the same rules as anyone else in the business world, and if you don't have my direct line you can whistle for it"?

    Fran Eccles-Bech. Listens to her inner ninja.

If Manchester Law Society really is punching below its weight I can't say I'm surprised.



Anonymous 16 June 17 14:19

I would be very wary of anyone who has that kind of auto-response. It sounds like the words of someone who doesn't really understand professionalism and/or thinks they have to be patronising to everyone else. If you can do law, do law; if you can't, join the local Law Society.

Anonymous 16 June 17 17:05

Sorry, I am too busy to read paragraphs of utter nonsense. Find the women slightly annoying after she wrote a whole article on how, in her professional capacity and had met the lovely Mark Webber whilst smoozing on some boat in Monaco. Ergh.

Anonymous 16 June 17 15:19

It's inappropriate and a bit horrible for RoF to pick on an individual in this way. However, I also agree with the comment from Anonymous at 15/06/17 10:48.

Anonymous 13 June 17 18:00

I think this is perfectly polite, sensible and actually true too. No comment on the worthiness of Manchester's law society, but I think your example is piss poor.

Anonymous 13 June 17 18:23

This is so not a story. I know Fran and she works very hard and is incredibly good at her job. In fact she has won an award for her contribution to the law and is the main reason why Manchester is one of the leading local law societies in the country,(no I am not a member) along with Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham, the other members of the Joint V Law societies. I am not sure taking against someone because you don't like their out of office email and using that to condemn an entire local law society whom you confess you know absolutely nothing else about is remotely helpful and useful to the legal profession or to those working so hard to run local law societies. I can't see anything wrong in someone managing their time in order to deal with their emails in this way and I think the message is perfectly polite.

Anonymous 13 June 17 18:24

Anon at 5pm, you genuinely think this a sensible response from anyone of any ability or seniority? Do you work in the third sector by any chance?

Anonymous 13 June 17 18:55

However busy you are, there's no excuse for an out of office like that. Can you imagine the CEO of a law firm automatically telling clients that he or she only reviews emails twice a day?

Anonymous 13 June 17 19:19

It's fine to put in place a system to avoid distraction by emails. 24/7 availability is an unhealthy US law firm condition which has already crept too far into the profession over here. But surely all of our industry reps should be contactable during working hours. To say, essentially, 'if you don't have my number good luck' is a 'ninja move' which most resembles a 'slap in the face'. However unfairly, it risks painting Mrs Eccles-Cake as out-of-touch from, and holding the view that she is more important than, her members. Almost all of whom would be laughed back into the office, and then out of it again with a box containing the contents of their desk, if they decided to quote a wellness martial arts expert in an out of office batting back the business of the day. You need to suffer with us, essentially. Otherwise you look like a joker.

Anonymous 13 June 17 21:57

Manchester Law Society will be unable to respond to your poor attempt at humour. They are busy putting together a pro bono panel for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack.

Anonymous 13 June 17 22:22

Let's hope that the partners at the firms on said panel have Eccles-Cake's direct line...

And I don't think this was meant to be an attempt at humour. Surely it was just pointing out the unprofessionalism of the CEO?

Anonymous 14 June 17 09:06

The author of this was obviously very offended not to have an immediate response from Fran Eccles-Bech to have to stoop this low. You may be interested to know that Fran is recovering from breast cancer, yet she continued to work throughout her illness. As for Manchester Law Society, it is one of the most dynamic local law societies and has over 3200 members. Not bad for a voluntary organisation. Roll on Friday is punching below the belt.

Anonymous 14 June 17 10:10

What does her health have to do with this?

Read the article. Matthew's point is a very simple one. It's not about taking offence at a tardy response. It's all about what he considers to be an extraordinary and entirely inappropriate out-of-office. On that he must be right. I've certainly never received anything like that in my entire career. The poster at 18:19 is correct, she looks like a joker.

Anonymous 14 June 17 10:25

Ah, the third sector. Where a CEO can state on their LinkedIn profile:

"Education: The University of Life
"Degree Name: Life Skills
Field Of Study: Communication, Patience, Understanding & Humour
Dates attended or expected graduation: 1963 – 2017"

Anonymous 14 June 17 10:54

What an ill-informed and, frankly, cheap piece of writing/reporting. Anyone associated with the legal community in the north west knows that Fran works tirelessly to support and promote the profession. She is lively, committed and hard working. She has personality and is a refreshing character in what can all too often be a grey sector. So her out of office message doesn't project a corporate image - surely there's room for humour and professionalism to co-exist in the legal world? Or do we still live in ivory towers?

Anonymous 14 June 17 11:05

Is she also "bubbly" in addition to being "refreshing" and "lively"? What patronising rubbish.

Of course it is possible to combine humour with professionalism. But this doesn't. It's just unprofessional. And she represents a professional organisation.

Anonymous 14 June 17 11:11

Idiotic article. To take offence at a harmless out of office? Fair play to her and a round of applause for acknowledging that being glued to our blackberrys/iPhones/computer screens is not necessarily a good thing... I am generally a big fan of ROF but this is just nonsense dressed up as reporting.

Anonymous 14 June 17 14:27

I struggle to think of a situation in which anyone would wish to correspond with the Manchester Law Society at all, let alone as a matter of urgency.

Anonymous 14 June 17 21:09

Not quite sure what the issue is when a reply is promised the same day or that she is immediately contactable by 'phone. If only everyone promised - and delivered - that service. And Fran is the life and soul of the Manchester Law Society. She does an amazing job and is recognised not only in the legal sector but also the wider business community in Manchester. Leave our Fran alone! Now off to consult with my time management ninja....

Anonymous 15 June 17 11:48

Matthew makes a completely fair point and good on him. He is being shot down because Fran has ruled the MLS for over two decades with a rod of iron and is absolutely untouchable. Pulling her up on something is like slagging off the Queen, it's just not done. Hence the local mafia all piling in to defend their chum.