A partner at Deloitte has told a legal conference that law firms that don't embrace social media will become irrelevant.
Deloitte partner Pete Williams addressed the Janders Dean Law Firm Knowledge & Innovation Conference in Sydney yesterday (22 September) on "Social Media - Friend, Foe or Unstoppable Force".
Williams, the chief executive officer of Deloitte Digital, believes that social media is your friend and an unstoppable force, and that law firms should "get on board" with social media forums such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
"If what you are doing in IT or knowledge management doesn't have social [media] in it then stop and start again. It is as simple as that," he said.
Williams, who has provided advice to law firms and large financial institutions, said that any business organisation that doesn't embrace new means of communication will not attract leading candidates or develop modern business practices, and will do long-term damage to their reputation in the marketplace.
"Your customers, staff and potential graduates all use it," he said. "The problem I see most of the time is from the attitude of leadership and management to its usage."
Williams relayed the story of a seminar he was conducting at a large financial institution that had banned employees from using Twitter. He said it was "non-sensical" to give people responsibility to manage large sums of money but not trust them to tweet.
"I am constantly surprised by large organisations using blanket bans with this stuff," he said. "I was with a large bank the other day. I was doing a thing for their investment managers, which manages billons of dollars of funds, but they weren't allowed to use Twitter. 'Okay, so you can manage billions of dollars, but shit, you can't have a Twitter account or watch a YouTube video. That might be dangerous'."
Rather than ban Twitter, Williams told the room full of knowledge managers and law firm partners that "Twitter is your best friend".
"Twitter is the greatest way of amplifying your message," he said. "Twitter users are almost the most important users you have. The networks they have - you need to tap into."
Williams described tweeters as "innovators" and believes their expertise should be used by law firms to ascertain what experts, and those with knowledge on the ground, are doing and thinking.
"Twitter people are the influencers," he said. "They will blog, they will tweet, they will comment, they will rate. Get on board with them."
Use social media for recruitment
The shrewd use of social media, according to Williams, has meant that Deloitte now handles all its graduate recruitment internally, saving $2 million in recruitment fees in the process.
"We spent $8000 a few years ago on an idea. We were not really active on Facebook, but our staff were, so why don't we use the networks of our staff?" he asked. "We created a thing called 'Join me at Deloitte'. Our staff can now jump in and tell people on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook that there is potentially a job for them at Deloitte. The networks of our staff are the people they went to uni with and have worked at other firms with. We now pay nothing to external recruiters and we save more than $2 million a year from what we used to spend on graduate recruiting."
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Ralph Laughton, the managing partner of Dolman Legal Recruitment, said that although using social media could be effective at the graduate recruitment level, for many senior positions, employers would be limiting their choice of candidates by only using social media.
"Recruitment companies have a large database of quality candidates that are not necessarily in the employment market when an employer needs them," he said. "If you are limiting the recruitment process to simply using social media, the universe of candidates available is quite small."
When recruiting, Williams said he would only employ people that are savvy with social media, adding that all professional services organisations would benefit from having such a recruitment policy.
"I don't employ anybody who is not a blogger or a tweeter," he said. "Why would I? If they can't write, if they can't share and haven't got a network, why would I want them at a professional services firm? I just don't understand it."
Williams believes that law firms "need to employ people that are younger and better than them" with their use of social media, and that knowledge managers need to be more active in changing the culture at law firms to promote its use and benefits.
"You guys are the knowledge managers, if you are not participating in this stuff, if you are not dipping your toe in the water and hiring people younger than you that can teach you about this sort of stuff, you will fall behind," he said.
"Not everything in the world is a massive risk. Get the guy who is the great guru in an area of law that you work in and stick an iPhone in his face and get one minute of his views."