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20% of lawyers will not work for firm not allowing social media

One in five legal professionals would not accept a job in an organization that does not allow its employees a reasonable level of access to social media at work, per a Lawyers Weekly Australia story by Stephanie Quine (@stephquine).

A Hays [Legal] online questionnaire, completed in March 2012 by more than 870 employers and candidates, found almost 20 per cent of employees would turn down a job if an organisation’s Facebook and social media policy was inadequate.

The survey also found that half of respondents accessed social media at work for personal reasons. Of these, 13 per cent said they accessed it daily, while 36 per cent accessed it occasionally.

Though not a U.S. study, I think we’d see similar findings here.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers study (Talent Mobility 2020) lends more support for employees desire to use social media at work.

The Next Generation of International Assignments, found that the majority of Generation Y workers want to be allowed time to socialise on personal networks in return for remaining accessible to respond to work-related messages outside standard business hours.

Darren Buchanan, director of Hays Legal, told Quine the uptake and usage of social media is “huge”, especially among, but not restricted to, Generation Y workers. “This is an issue that’s impacting the whole of the workforce, not just entry-level lawyers.

Not all firms agree on allowing access to social media though.

  • 44 per cent agree that allowing access to social media at work will improve their employee retention levels;
  • 43 per cent allow limited access; and
  • 23 per cent allow no social media access at work.

I’m with the lawyers who would not work at a firm that would not allow reasonable use of social media. In fact I think their position is more reasonable than the law firms who would limit social media use.

What law firms limiting the use of social media don’t understand are the benefits of not only allowing, but promoting the use of social media by their lawyers.

  • Social media is an excellent way to network with other lawyers for professional development.
  • Social media, used effectively, is like networking through the Internet for business development — the old fashioned way of getting work for lawyers — via relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation.
  • Social media is one of the better ways for lawyers to stay abreast of developments in the law as well as in the industries they represent.
  • Limiting the use of social media can give a firm the reputation of being a little backwards and not trusting its people. Not a reputation you want to have for law grads, lateral hires, and clients.

Sure there will be occasions when lawyers use social media at work for personal social reasons. They’re people, not cogs or assets of the firm.

If a law firm trusts a lawyer enough to hire them and allow them to work on the legal affairs of corporations and individuals, why wouldn’t a law firm allow its lawyers to connect with others via something being used by 60% of Americans? Something being used by virtually all of the fellow lawyers and business people in the case of younger lawyers. Law firms don’t limit the use of phones.

Buchanan believes law firms should stipulate how social media can be used at work. I agree a general social media policy can be helpful. Especially one which emphasizes the benefits of social media and promoting its use by the firm’s lawyers.

Bottom line, it comes down to education of the firm’s personnel and leadership. Once law firms understand what social media is all about and how it benefits the firm, current fears are going to roll away.