11 Reasons that Law Firms should Unlock Social Media

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Not surprisingly, many law firms block social media access to a number of sites through the firm’s internet connection.  This article is about why that’s a poor decision.

Curiously, what constitutes unacceptable “social media” is an interesting thing, because most firms limit their blocking to a number of particular sites:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

LinkedIn doesn’t normally get blocked, because presumably it’s seen as “professional” and, of course, nobody really knows what to do with it anyway so it’s unlikely people will sit, mesmerized by their LinkedIn news feed for hours on end.

Google + doesn’t necessarily get blocked.  I expect this is because many law firms don’t realise that it exists (much like most people on the planet).

But, not matter what the site, the arguments are the same.  Firms take the view that social media use by their professional staff is:

  • unprofessional;
  • a waste of time;
  • risky; and
  • likely to result in a drop in productivity.

So let’s find out why these arguments are nonsense, and get into some points why firms should loosen their grip on the social media world.

1. Cynical and Distrustful

The principle reason for these controls, in my experience, is that firms simply don’t trust their staff enough.

They don’t trust them not to waste time.

They don’t trust them to engage on social media with contacts.

They don’t trust them not to ruin the firm brand.

Which is all a bit sad, don’t you think?

If you have a concern about your staff’s competence – then train them.

If you have a concern about your staff’s time wasting – then discipline them.

If you have a concern about your staff’s character – then fire them.

The answer is not to hide the lolly jar.

2. Choking the Network Expansion of Lawyers

I don’t really care what arguments many older lawyers want to put forward, the reality is that many young people (lawyers included) network through the internet and social media interactions.

In fact – we’re actually not too bad at it.

So why would you cut off your staff from this potential expansion of their personal networks in an industry that depends so heavily on such relationships?

3. Limiting the Firm’s Reach

If your staff can’t access social media from their computers (you know – the place they sit almost all day) then how are they going to share firm updates?  How are they going to “spread the word” about the firm at all?

Are you really just relying on your marketing department to expand your firm’s reach?  If so – why not capture some of the social media juggernaut that awaits by unlocking your staff’s ability to interact and share your firm’s content.

Otherwise you’re dependent on how many followers you have on your own, firm branded, social media channels.  Which is normally pretty pathetic.

Let’s say you have 200 professional staff, each of whom has 300 LinkedIn connections and 300 Facebook friends.

If 50% of those people share your firm’s updates on their social media channels, you have just instantly expanded your broadcast range by 60,000.

Or perhaps you don’t want that?

4. Hypocritical

Yeah OK I’m being a bit snarky here.  But if your firm has a Facebook page and a Twitter account, and you expect your staff to follow their own firm and share its content – don’t you think that perhaps it’s a bit hypocritical to say you want them to do that on the one hand, but block their access on the other?

5. Justifications are Ignorant

The reasons given for blocking social media are simply not proven – they are based in fears, not reality.

Here’s the truth – most young lawyers work extremely hard.  They bust their guts out, and they are dedicated to both professional advancement and doing the right thing by their client and their firm.

So seriously – you can’t trust them enough to give them access to something that they probably don’t have more than 5 minutes a day to spend on while they are in the office?

6. Demonstrates Laziness

This goes hand in hand with the ignorance section.  Really what’s happening is that the firm and its partners don’t understand how to use social media well, or effectively.  The result is that they assume they staff are time wasters and that social media use across the board would cost millions in billable time each year.

Of course, if they really wanted to explore things they would put some effort into mastering the social media platforms and actually teach their staff how to do it properly.

7. Social Media is the Present, not just the Future

I’ve ranted before about how pitifully slow we are with social media as a profession.  If you’re not on board by now and actively encouraging, mastering and teaching your staff the right skills – then in 10 years, you’ll basically be the equivalent of the person who has yet to buy a Walkman because their cassette player works “just fine”.

8. Just Because you Didn’t Do Things that Way, Doesn’t Mean You’re Right

Here’s an interesting one, because opposition frequently comes from people who are, in their own right, quite successful.  And I’m not arguing with that.

But just because something worked to help you build your network 30 years ago and you were good at it then, doesn’t mean that:

  1. the same techniques will even work now – they might, but it’s not a lock; but also
  2. there isn’t a better, more efficient, and wider ranging way for young people to do the same thing now.

This goes with the laziness issue – just because you didn’t do it (and won’t do it) this way – doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or that you’re right.

9. Losing Opportunities

Every time your brand is mentioned, your staff are mentioned, or a relevant issue is discussed on social media and neither the firm nor its staff are there to participate in the discussion – you’re losing an opportunity.

It’s an opportunity to demonstrate how nimble you are, how friendly your staff are, how expert your firm is, and how helpful you can be.

But why would you want an opportunity like that?

10. People will Use it Anyway

I admit this is a little bit like saying drugs should be legalised just because they are prevalent (which I don’t agree with). But in combination with all the other reasons, this one becomes relevant – your staff are going to use their phones, tablets, laptops to access social media anyway.

It will just take them longer and be more of a distraction because of the hurdles you have put up.

11. It’s Short Sighted

Last, but not least, it’s such a short sighted solution to a perceived problem. We’re dealing with potentially fictitious concerns and in the process almost certainly damaging our long term investment in these areas and appropriate training and success.  The result is that our staff won’t learn how to use social media well for business purposes, they then can’t teach others, and the cycle of “law firms are laggards” will continue in terms of social media adoption.

So Who’s With Me?

If you’d like to see some more firms consider unblocking their social media channels and getting their staff some training, some engagement, and some networking opportunities – then make sure you share this article with some people 🙂

Happy Lawyering!

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