I found it somewhat interesting that both of these articles came to my attention yesterday, as they both deal with something I haven't seen many people talk about, let alone firms that actually embrace the idea. They both mention the importance of non-lawyer staff of law firms in building relationships, networking, and attracting clients to the firm.
Both postsfit in to what I've been saying for a long time about Social Networking and why you should actually encourage it. It's networking, and networking, assuming you've hired good people you can trust, is always a plus for your organization. When the good people you hired go out and represent you, they make your organization attractive to potential clients, potential hires, and the public in general. In turn, during a time when it's absolutely vital that you can show your value to your organization, what better value can you bring to the table than attracting new clients or good hires to your employer?
I'm not saying this takes the place of doing a good job. Not by a long shot, but in a tight budget tough decisions about who gets promoted, or who gets a raise, or even who gets laid off, have to be made. Whenever you can bring in a little extra value, you have to try and do it!
Let me give you an example. Last year, we were facing a tough budget decision about whether I would be able to go to the ILTA Conference. No one questioned that there would be value in me going, but how much value was another question. However, when I was asked to speak, suddenly, there was no question. Now, not only was I getting the value of attending the conference and all the networking that goes with that, but I was also publicly representing the firm as a speaker. That extra value really helped clear the way to me going, and of course, that speaking opportunity was brought about by connections I've made through online networking.
Of course, I've also been heard to say that clients don't hire a law firm because their tech guy is so good, even in Litigation Support. I do still believe that in general. If a lawyer is a jerk, me being a nice guy and great at what I do isn't going to help push a client to hire us. Still, if a decision is being made between two otherwise equal attorneys, if the Lit Support person that you know you'll also have to work with to some degree is someone you have interacted with already, that can help push it in the right direction for you. Sometimes, it really is just the smallest little "extras" you bring to the table that make all the difference.
What do you think? Should firms embrace the idea that even non-lawyer staff represent them and should be encouraged to engage online? Or is that still too scary for most?
Mike, the key point here is that everyone in the firm - from the head partner to the receptionist - should be there because they believe in the firm's mission and point of view. Assuming that to be the case, why not give each person the opportunity to tell his or her story in an unfiltered manner? Microsoft did it with Robert Scoble, Google does it with Matt Cutts - and in both cases there was (and remains) tremendous benefit to the company and the public. In an era of transparency, any attempt to stifle the personalities of those working in a particular firm is a bad idea.
Jay, I agree 100%. I've been spending a lot of time telling people that the things that scare them about social networking shouldn't scare them if they've hired the right people, and if they haven't, they should have been scared of the reputation damage those people have already been doing outside of the office. People have always talked about their work, and given others an impression of the organization, now they can just do it more efficiently!