AUSTRALIAN LAW firms risk losing clients as well as talent if they don’t make use of Web 2.0 technologies, an expert warns.
Ross Dawson, chairman of Future Exploration Network, said that Australian firms are lagging far behind their US and UK counterparts, which are leading the way when it comes to adopting new web technologies.
“If you look at the corporate sector globally, the industry that has been one of the first to take up blogs has been the legal industry, primarily in the US and UK. So you’ve had a proliferation of blogs that are both external in terms of providing clients with information and internal ones used for a wide variety of means including project management, knowledge management, and effective internal communication,” Dawson said.
“One of the fundamental issues is that organisations in Australia tend to be conservative. And while it’s arguable the legal industry is also quite conservative in other countries, that can certainly be said about the Australian legal industry.”
Dawson, who specialises in assisting major global organisations to develop future strategies and innovation capabilities, said technologies such as blogs, wikis, social networks, RSS feeds and social bookmarking are of most direct relevance to information- and knowledge-centric organisations such as law firms.
“Ultimately [if you don’t embrace these technologies] you’ll lose to competitors in terms of their use of these tools and their ability to bring people together and collaborate. There is now a whole suite of technologies and tools and approaches for this purpose and if organisations don’t take that up they are not as competitive or effective as others.
“It’s also going to be a lot harder to attract young, dynamic lawyers. If you are in your 20s and a talented lawyer and completely comfortable and familiar with social networks, blogs and video sharing, are you going to want to work for an organisation that doesn’t even recognise these tools exist? The legal industry is so driven to attract talent, I think this is almost the most import single factor,” Dawson said.
According to the UK publication Internet Newsletter for Lawyers & Law 2.0, UK firms such as Allen & Overy are using in-house wiki projects for knowledge sharing and document creation.
There are also more than 130 UK law blogs by firms and individual lawyers and social networking is being encouraged by many firms via tools such as online network site Facebook. Linklaters’ Facebook group has 913 members, Allen & Overy has 866, Baker & McKenzie has 699 and DLA Piper, 632.
Sydney-based legal recruiter Dolman is attempting to use Facebook to connect with a wider audience, having started a group on which it posts notices about job vacancies.
Tania Robinson of Dolman said the initial response had been a bit slow but they were now getting responses from people who are viewing the information they post on Facebook.
“It’s just another avenue for getting information out there to people who might be interested with out them being called or feeling confronted about it — they can go there and have a look and say ‘oh yeah, that looks interesting, maybe I’ll give theses guys a call’. Or maybe that’s not quite what they are looking for, but they think we might still be able to help them.
“It’s a really good way to keep in contact with people and it’s just another string to the bow. It’s a very friendly way of doing things as well,” she said.
Dawson said law firms that embraced Web 2.0 could expect numerous benefits.
“One of the strongest benefits, particularly in the legal environment, is it starts to move activity away from email. You start to not get so many emails and there is an easier interface for your work. It can also provide a far more effective way of working on a particular case and getting involvement from people across the organisation. And I think that’s essential for law firms today to be able to draw on relevant expertise where it is located across practice groups and offices,” he said.
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