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A partner at Deloitte has warned the legal profession that its collective failure to embrace social media will have long-term consequences.

 

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Pete Williams, the CEO of Deloitte Digital, said the legal profession is a “fair way behind” other professional services organisations when it comes to its use of social media and mobile technology.

“I have spoken to a dozen law firms over the last few years and there is an interest but not really a commitment or appetite to do stuff with it,” he said. I don’t t get why they are not pumping stuff out. Most law firms write newsletters and send out emails and write newsletters and those sorts of things, but as a whole, most are not blogging, we don’t see a lot of twitter action with them and they are not using a lot of enterprise on the social side.

“They seem to be more focussed on document management than true collaboration.”

Williams has been employed within various arms at Deloitte for almost 30 years. Over the past decade, he has driven its technology and subsequent social media strategy to leave it entrenched as the most technically advanced of the four big accountancy firms in Australia.

He has regularly been sounded out by law firms to give presentations on social media, with Allens, King & Wood Mallesons and Hall & Wilcox amongst several firms that have sounded out his views.

“I did a presentation for one for one of the big legal firms where the partners were like ‘wow, this is fantastic’, but then I talked to the staff and the feedback I got was, ‘no, I am not allowed to do that, we are not allowed to do this, and we also can’t do that’.

“I looked at that and it is probably the policies set at the IT level rather than the senior partners. When I talked to the senior partners they got it and their clients were completely engaged by it, but I think it was the IT department that had blocked it,” he said.

“I think this stuff needs to be elevated around the partnership executive table, and not left with the IT operations group, because it is becoming strategic.”

Law firms have taken vastly different approaches to its social media strategy, often choosing one medium over another. They have also put in place very strict parameters around its use, with many firms banning staff from accessing various forms of social media or mobile technology.

Allens has virtually shunned Facebook and has concentrated on Twitter, where it has over 2500 followers, and also used recorded interviews with partners that can be access on the firm’s website and encourages staff to build a LinkedIn profile.

On the other hand, one of its main rivals, King & Wood Mallesons, has heavily used Facebook to anchor its graduate recruitment strategy.

“Our twitter account has three broad streams of followers: the graduate market; the media and a large number of non-government organisations and community groups,” said Chris Fogarty, the director of corporate affairs at Allens.

See Lawyers Weekly 584 for an extended piece on social media, featuring Pete Williams, Chris Fogarty and Sue Ashe, the head of communications at King & Wood Mallesons, who discusses the challenge of using social media with a Chinese merger partner  
 

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