ibm 2012 ceo social media studyIf law firm managing partners and leaders are going to keep their law firms competitive, they are going to become social media savvy.

This is what I take from a recent study from IBM that predicts the percentage of the world’s CEOs participating in social media is going to grow from 16% to 57% within 5 years.

I don’t see why law firm leadership would be exempt from the logic and findings of the IBM study on corporate leadership and social media.

The following summary on the IBM report from Mark Fidelman (@MarkFidelman), General Manager at harmon.ie, in his Forbes column yesterday ‘IBM Study: If You Don’t Have a Social CEO, You’re Going to be Less Competitive.’

  • While social media is the least utilized of all customer interaction methods today, it stands to become the number two organizational engagement method within the next five years, a close second to face-to-face interactions.
  • More than half of CEOs (53 percent) are planning to use technology to facilitate greater partnering and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Companies that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness – often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation.
  • CEOs are recognizing that using email and the phone to get the message out isn’t sufficient anymore.
  • Using social technologies to engage with customers, suppliers and employees will enable the organization to be more adaptive and agile.
  • As CEOs foster collaborative environments employees are encouraged to speak up, exercise personal initiative, connect with fellow collaborators, and innovate.
  • CEOs and their executives set the cultural tone for an organization. Through participation, they implicitly promote the use of social technologies.
  • CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporations.

CEOs are not delegating social to marketing, HR, or PR professionals. The study finds business executives are interested in leading by example.

  • CEOs regard interpersonal skills of collaboration (75 percent), communication (67 percent), creativity (61 percent) and flexibility (61 percent) as key drivers of employee success to operate in a more complex, interconnected environment.
  • CEOs are focused on gaining insights into their customers, something they can glean through social.

Law firms know they need to innovate and evolve to compete. Smart managing partners and law firm executives view running a law firm much like leading companies their firms represent.

As Fidelman says,

Partners, suppliers, employees and customers want CEOs to communicate with them on a personal level to build trust and to help align them to the organization’s strategy. There is a lot at stake here. And if CEOs continue to hide in their Ivory Towers under the guise of some old command and control mentality, the next chapter in their career might be written somewhere else.

Who I am I to say that law firm managing partners and executives are hiding in ivory towers. I’ve never held their position. I can tell you that I do not see many law fim leaders and executives using social media yet. (opportunity for the smart and innovative?)

Given the right ear, I do get law firm leadership to listen. Some even have a paradigm shift as to what social media is all about – not marketing, but communication to foster relationships and innovation.

It’s easy to cast blame at law firm leadership that they don’t get it. That they need to start listening to social media and marketing experts. That they can’t continue with the status quo.

A better approach may be to focus on how law firm leadership can lead their firm through turbulent water by using technology to engage their firm’s lawyers, clients, and the business community as a whole. The carrot being greater revenue and remaining competitive.

To download a free copy of the IBM report go to Insights from the Global IBM CEO Study and register.