Law firm social networksStole that subject line from, ‘Learn to Love Social Network Sites,’ Mary Braid’s story in this morning’s Sunday Times about how corporations benefit by helping collaboration and the spread of ideas through employees use of social networks.

As Krishna De, a leading Irish branding strategist and my source for this post, points out, the article even cites the case of the international law firm of Allen & Overy who banned its staff from using Facebook only to be forced into an embarrassing u-turn after an avalanche of employee complaints. The law firm had to e-mail their people acknowledging the strong reaction and conceding that Facebook was used by many employees for business as well as social networking. The Allen & Overy network on Facebook had 700 members.

As you consider social networks in your law firm, consider some of the points in Braid’s article.

  • Cisco Systems aims to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between web users.
  • Social networks pull innovation up from the roots of an organization rather than expecting it to come down from above.
  • For many corporations banning social networking it’s a trust issue, not a technology issue. Innovative companies keep their people busy enough for this not to present problems.
  • Bans on bringing one’s personal life into work time is a reach when companies now harness the internet to such effect that employees can never entirely escape from work. The line between business and social matters was blurred long before the internet came along. How many business people have chugged for years around the golf course, hating it but knowing that 18 holes is good for business?
  • It’s a natural human instinct to collaborate. Technology can be used to create huge collaborative communities like Procter & Gamble’s use of a social network to link 100,000 scientists across the world to come up with new products.

Understand we’re not just talking FaceBook, often the social network of choice for reporters calling me. Law firms may be using any number of new technologies for collaboration, creativity, employee retention, and recruiting. Tools include, among other things, blogs (both private and public) and software specifically designed for corporate social networking.

Law firms would be wise to discover, learn, and experiment, rather than dismiss innovative technology out of ignorance and fear.