Past, present and future
There are about to be some changes to the JC so I thought you lovely hardy band of readers might like to know what’s about to happen and why.
Unlike the ’Tap this will not be some bold new direction: there is no interfering Yoko and the lead guitarist has not departed in a funk of creative differences.
Rather, the JC is going to double down on his current direction since, after a decade pulling and pushing at it, he is fairly confident he now knows what it is.
In essence, the plan is to “turn it up to 11”, create a premium “ninja” tier for legal eagles wanting specialist analysis, and see what happens.
You should therefore expect to see this rider popping up a bit more:
How will it work
There will be two JCs: the regular blue one, and a new “ninja” green one. The green one will contain all the regular information, plus additional specialist material for ninjas. Ninja content — currently found in the “general” and “details” sections of the “owner’s manuals” will gradually move off the regular site and onto the new one over coming months.
The “blue” JC will remain free: no ads, no login required, no scraping and selling your personal data.
Individual access to the “green” one — designed for wizards: specialist contract negotiators, students, market practitioners and those needing knowhow management in their actual line of work — will require login, for which there will be an annual subscription. Emma Chisit? An annual subscription will work out at the princely sum of £1.91 per week. Half a pint of draught. Also, no ads and no monetising personal data.
I haven’t yet figured out how to price corporate packages or group deals, but it would be a nice problem to have, so email me if you are interested in having me work it out.
How it started
The JC has been running in one form or another now for nearly fifteen years. It started out as one fellow trying to nut out the close out mechanics of the ISDA Master Agreement and then put it somewhere where he wouldn’t lose it. The bits he couldn’t nut out, he decided to make fun of.
It has all grown a bit since then but that is still the basic idea.
The fabulous open source MediaWiki platform — the same one Wikipedia runs on — turned out to be a really good way of maintaining and building knowhow. Creating, linking and cross-referencing material in a holistic and non-linear way is simple on MediaWiki.
Being an often-interrupted, easily distracted and essentially lazy sod — which I maintain is a paragon virtue — this way of working suits me perfectly. You can quickly create articles as the need arises, save them down, and fix and organise them later. You can edit while you are on the train, walking the dog, or being driven up the wall by middle managers on interminable weekly regulatory change stakeholder check-point conference calls.
This is content creation by a kind of alluvial process: small, inconsequential additions silt up over time. It doesn’t need a grand plan. It’s forever provisional. Iterative. That suits the erratic, impulsive nature of modern practice. It certainly suits me.
So I started silting away. Before long, the JC had fully summarised and analysed anatomies (since renamed “owner’s manuals”) of both editions of the ISDA. Manuals for other definitions booklets, master agreements, and legal resources followed. Some remained embryonic, some got deleted, some grew.
Coverage has always been idiosyncratic, following my prevailing specialisation, which has meandered over the years (you will observe: ISDA, equities, equity derivatives, prime brokerage, emissions, exchange traded derivatives, structured notes, repackaging, credit derivatives and, along the way, a fair bit of regulatory stuff).
The focus has always been analysing, explaining, simplifying, demystifying and contextualising — the last being the most important of all since the commercial context is the aspect most often lost on newcomers (and, frankly, old hands) in these highly specialised products.
The tone is defiantly non-corporate. It will stay that way. From the start, creating the JC had to be not just easy, but fun: there was no way I could have stuck at it if it was a drag. It turned out to be quite the outlet for the frustrated writer.
And, Lord only knows, there is much that is absurd about our modern corporate life and the people who populate the landscape of the financial markets which asks for satire, and precious few who are inclined publicly to provide it, so the JC found a niche.
All of this with a day-job. Mind you, the JC has largely been how I have managed to do a day job since I started it — lawyers gravely undervalue knowledge management, even though it should be the most important thing they do. Nevertheless, I owe a debt of gratitude to a sequence of employers over the last decade and a half for letting me carry on with it. In our mutual interests of plausible deniability I will not mention them by name, but they know who they are. Thank you all.
Where it’s at
Broadly the JC splits down three ways:
Noble amateurism: Substantive content about things I am not expert in, but which I’ve read about in my travels and which I thought are tangential to legal practice and office life: business management, complexity, systems theory, behavioural psychology, organisational sociology and so on. Much of this is in the form of summaries, book reviews and (often ham-fisted) longer essays which synthesize this learning into things I have found useful for modern life and career management. This material will also, for the time being, be on the free site.
Legal stuff: Detailed legal documentation “owner’s manuals”. These include hyperlinked versions of canonical legal terms, the JC’s own Nutshell™ summaries of those terms, comparisons and in-depth discussion and analysis of common practical, commercial and legal issues. Also, longer (also often ham-fisted) essays on market history, market dislocations and catastrophic events, and how regulators and banking institutions have reacted to them or, in the JC’s unsolicited opinion, should have. This material draws on 30 year “school of life” experience as a practising lawyer in the international financial markets. This will make up the bulk of the premium content.
I have plans, also, to release audio/podcast versions of key parts of the owners’ manuals. These too will be for premium subscribers only.
It shouldn’t need to be said but, let’s say it: this is an information resource and not specific legal advice. Any reader uses it at her own risk. These are strong opinions weakly held: they are personal, idiosyncratic, impatient, polemical and, surprise surprise, contrarian. A good portion of them are probably wrong. Like its author’s mind, it is also prone to impulsive change, without warning or notice. Like life, everything is provisional.
This material is, in other words, for discussion between peers. The JC is no tablet from Mount Sinai. It is meant for people who are engaged in specialist negotiation and advisory capacities, who already have a technical grounding in these disciplines and are experienced and sceptical enough to know when the JC is talking through his hat.
The JC makes no apologies for sticking two fingers up at conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is welcome to stick two fingers right back up at the JC, and often does.
Besides the explaining, that is meant to be the JC’s key virtue: offering a different perspective, tweaking the nose of the hive mind, apple-pieing the bed of perfectly reasonable preconceptions. Being nobly wrong does no harm: was Mich nicht umbringt, macht Mich stärker. The JC is not perfect. But, as the financial disasters roll of honour ably demonstrates, neither is anyone else. There are fakers, dilettantes, confidence players and “claptrap artistes” everywhere. The JC just admits to being one, is all.
“Push” and “pull”
There are a host of “push” resources out there: client briefings, newsletters, Twitter feeds and so on, shunting discrete and unconnected “timely” information at you.
There are comparatively few “pull” resources — deep, interconnected, non-linear resources where the reader comes to the material, rather than having it shoved in her face. Building a pull resource is a big job. You can’t do it overnight, and it usually takes a lot of people and coordination.
Rather by accident, the JC has become a pull resource. It gets a fairly regular flow of about 10,000 unique visitors per month. Beyond rough geographic data, which suggests the site is popular in places where people negotiate ISDA Master Agreements, I don’t know much about its readership, other than that they too are interested in whether Kilimanjaro really rises above the Serengeti. (It’s the JC’s all-time top search).
Premium subscribers will help fund technological improvements the site needs to grow, and to build out its content: better documentation of and a tidy-up to the coding to manage the technical back-end, which should make the whole thing more consistent.
There are also some far-off, dreamy plans to create a customised offering for start-ups, small firms and in-house teams, but that is a bit further off in the future.
In any case I hope premium subscribers will influence where to should focus content build out.
The newsletter is an important part of operations, not least because it is the easiest way to manage subscriptions.
Newsletters will continue to be irregular because of the extra time and effort required to create a properly edited, fully argued long form essay for a comparatively narrow audience. As mentioned, the JC’s main advantage in the marketplace of ideas is that it is a “pull” medium. Prioritising “push” communications would be rather to miss the point. The newsletter will start to highlight premium site features.
Yup, the JC still supports that, and will continue to do so.
What's with the constantly using the third person?
Dread Pirate Roberts. Say no more.
As ever, I value all the support and feedback from readers. Do let me know what you think.
The Jالی Contrarian