Let me start with a confession.
It took me a while to "get" Twitter.
The first time I tried it (which I think was 2008), I just used it to consume
information. It wasn't great for a number of reasons - firstly, I didn't put a
lot of time in to work out who to follow (and in particular I didn't
discriminate between those companies or people who had anything interesting to
say online and those I simply had an interest in) and secondly, at that time it
wasn't as widely adopted as it is now, so there were simply fewer good users.
Sam in IT security did not mess
around when enforcing the firm's policy
The next time I tried, I switched to
"broadcast mode" and used it as a one-way tool to let the world know about my
blog. Of course, because I had nothing else of any interest to say (or to be
more accurate, if I did, I didn't say it on Twitter), I got very little traffic
as a result and soon gave up.
The third time was when I got it. A
bit of experimenting, understanding the world of hashtags, retweeting and
trending, and soon I found a community of likeminded folks (two of which have
been featured on this blog in the past).
This of course led to the critical
step - engagement, which is where the value comes from.
Now I have an established community,
the news I get is both relevant and extremely timely. In terms of sharing my
content, whether it's this blog or other work-related content, the communities
are generally much more receptive and interested than simply broadcasting to
the world at large. And of course the more I engage, the more that community
grows and the more I gain.
What I don't pretend to be, is some
sort of social media guru, but I absolutely see the benefit from it.
Twitter, Linkedin and my Blog have all
provided very tangible positive benefits to my professional life (Facebook I keep separate for
personal use), and given the user numbers for social media, the valuations of
the main players, and the newsworthy status of the platforms (super-injunction
anyone?), at first look it seems strange that more law firms are not using
social media effectively.
Scratch the surface, and the reasons
are obvious. At least to me.
Perhaps the reason that's most often
cited is the perceived risk involved.
Trained to be wary of defamation,
and qualifying into organisations which are (rightly) protective of their
reputations, the more risk-averse
partners in law firms can often see huge potential danger in allowing
individual lawyers to express themselves in an informal and opinionated way.
This can lead to social media being
simply struck off the agenda ("it's just a fad anyway"), or so sanitised any
communication simply resembles a bland summary of the firm's press releases.
If you want to test this, firstly
check out the more forward thinking media and look at the amount of their
engagement. Are they tweeting, blogging and active on discussion groups? Is
their engagement commensurate with their brand and positioning?
Or in fact do the lawyers have to
engage without mentioning the firm? Or does all the comment come with the
health warning "views are the personal opinion of the author" (meaning if they
generate goodwill and thought leadership, the firm will promote the content and
benefit, but if they step out of line, they're on their own and we did warn the
reader it was nothing to do with the firm!).
Some of the other reasons are
perhaps a little less obvious, but I have some theories for you to consider.
The first is the very restrictive IT
security policies than many firms enforce. While I've written before
about the deficiencies in many firm's information security, the need to be seen
to have all systems locked-down means as well as restrictions on employee
internet use (which are becoming less Draconian over time) there are pretty
stringent controls on which applications can be used on mobile devices. In the
age of the app, this seems to come at the expense of productivity - I certainly
do much of my Twitter use remotely while walking around the building or waiting
for trains. Without the ability to exploit these micro-chunks of time, the busy
lawyer will find it difficult to contribute meaningfully to the marketplace.
The biggest unwritten hurdle is of
course time. When the primary method of measuring lawyer performance is the chargeable
hour, anything outside that category, especially something where the return
on investment is less tangible, is heresy. While those who know how to use
social media and can demonstrate the profile and connections they build for the
firm may get some leeway to invest some time, those who are new to the game are
often denied the time and encouragement to try, and it remains a mystery and
The related point is the need for
timeliness, and again, when lawyers are chained to Microsoft Office and their
practice management system, with one eye on the clock, grabbing five minutes to
check what's going on in their network, and respond in a timely fashion to
questions and comments can be doubly challenging, putting the pressure on even
the most adept online legal ninja.
Now just for the record, I'm not for
one minute saying that interacting with social media should take precedence
over client work and critical deadlines. Holding up closing a multi-million
dollar aquisition because you are engaged in a juicy debate on liability
clauses on twitter is not a bright idea.
But, if law firms are going to make
the most of the social media revolution, then they need to find ways to allow
their best people to experiment and engage which in turn will allow their stars
I've no doubt as the demographics of
firms continue to change and more lawyers who have grown up with social media
join and have a meaningful presence, the culture will of course change. The
question is which firms can get ahead of the curve and reap the benefits before
more from The Intelligent Challenge
For more information about LexisNexis
products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site.