There are two ways to distinguish how law firms can use social networking: first, externally, in order to improve brand presence, increase word-of-mouth discussion and build relationships; and second, internally, in order to facilitate collaboration and the sharing of know-how amongst fee earners.
While the former is currently considered to be the headline type of social networking for lawyers, the latter - that of internal social networking - is starting to receive greater attention.
As reported at Working.com, Toronto law firm, Hicks Morley, started its own internal social network in 2008. Set up three years ago, this was designed mainly to relieve lawyers of email overload so they could find important information more efficiently.
But the law firm soon realised that by adopting tools similar to Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and blogs internally, within a 'corporate firewall', it could enhance collaboration significantly between employees and, as a result, it managed to increase productivity.
Currently, some organisations are still somewhat reluctant to adopt modern communication tools, regarding them as time-wasters. However, a growing number of firms, particularly in the United States and Canada are looking towards social media software to improve internal communications.
Gartner Research predicted in 2010 that social networking services will replace email as the primary communications vehicle for 20 per cent of business users by 2014. Experts believe social networking within organisations will eventually be regarded as a business tool as important as the telephone, Internet or email.
A cloud-based product, social networking allows experts in the same discipline to work together regardless of their location. This can be seen most prominently from an external social media point-of-view with Linkedin Groups and, to a lesser degree, with Twitter.
For those law firms in the UK considering looking at more modern intranet technologies or revising their current internal information sharing strategy, it should be noted that the Canadian law firm mentioned above has over 200 employees across five offices. For smaller law firms with few fee earners, internal social media infrastructure may not be worth the investment. But for those firms with many fee earners and much information to share, both internally and externally, social media networking should considered as a valuable investment.
If you'd like to discuss this, or any other aspects of social media for law firms contact us today on 0845 620 5664.