AS law firms strive to get closer to clients and better position themselves to bid for work in the global economic crisis, social networking has become the tool de rigeur.
Law firms and their professional service counterparts are increasingly focusing on networking and collective intelligence technologies as a way to maintain market position, a new report into how social networking is used in law firms reveals.
Firms are using "Web 2.0 to communicate with customers and business partners, as well as to encourage collaboration in the firm and help manage knowledge internally," the report, Social Networking for the Legal Profession, written by Penny Edwards and Lee Bryant from Headshift, states.
Lawyers are particularly well suited to social networking, the report suggests. It has "always been an important feature of the way they do business, and there are many characteristics of lawerly behaviour that map very closely to the features of online social networking".
The Headshift report suggests however that lawyers, "traditionally conservative" adopters of technology, have not had the time to consider the implications of these social and technological developments. Some dismiss them as "passing fads" and consider them "unlikely to have any material impact on the legal world".
The popularity of sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube just add to lawyers' perception that social networking is just for the online, out-of-work and younger generation of lawyers.
The development of legal content and expertise as a social endeavour, the relationship-based business development, on top of the nature of a "strong guild-like legal community", each enhance this compatibility, it states.
Technological advances and continued evolution is offering increased opportunities for re-engineering business, the 181 page report states. "New social technologies offer possibilities for radical change in the way things are done."
In August 2008, CCH surveyed 229 professionals from the legal and professional service professions to gauge the effects of Web 2.0 usage on the way professionals access, absorb and disseminate information.
The survey found that 31.4 per cent of respondents use social network sits for frequent personal use, while 42.4 per cent thought a social online community concept in a specific professional context would be valuable.
The CCH survey found that 20.1 per cent of the legal sector respondents use social networking sites for professional use frequently. Wikis are even more popular within the legal sector, frequently used for professional purposes by 33.3 per cent of respondents. Blogs, however, remain the most popular, being used professionally by 35.2 per cent of people.