When I practiced law I wanted all of my firm’s employees, lawyers and non-lawyers, to network on behalf of the firm while engaged in social activities.
It didn’t matter if anyone called it networking. I just wanted people out socializing, being themselves, meeting people, and enjoying life. Of course I wanted people to share where they worked, what they did, and to meet people they could learn from. I didn’t pound on people to do that, it was a natural by-product of being social.
I expected more of lawyers, but I wanted paralegals and other administrative employees to proudly share where they worked and what they did. I wasn’t looking for a sheepish ‘Oh, I work at a law firm’ when someone asked what they did or where they worked while at a kid’s soccer game. I wanted our employees to proudly say they worked at ‘Parke O’Flaherty’ and to share what they did. (Note I chopped off the names of 4 partners from the firm name, mine included, so everyone could say the name of where they worked)
Today it’s not just kids’ sporting events, civic groups, church committees, and spouses’ Christmas parties where your law firm’s employees get the opportunity to engage others. Social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and more is how your employees are engaging the people they know. Instead of it being right in your locale, your employees may be engaging people all over your state or, for that matter, the world.
Better yet, using social media your employees are more apt to share information and knowledge that relates to their work. They’re also apt to network with people they can learn from and vice versa. For those of you afraid of social media, this is good news.
Increasingly, it no longer pays to protect and manage information–knowledge withheld is no better than a lack of knowledge in the first place. Instead, employees are now promoting themselves and increasing their networks by sharing what they know, contributing where they can, and increasing their knowledge via interactions and experiences throughout the enterprise.
While the transparency of knowledge and information is increasing within organizations, we are also seeing transparency increase outside the organization. Employees are not employees only between 8 and 5–their actions on social networks are visible to peers, bosses, business leaders, competitors, and customers. The things people say and do ‘personally’ are no longer just personal, and we’ve seen instances of employees helping and hindering both their own careers and their employers’ objectives as a result of tweets, status updates, and other activities on social networks.
Sure, promoting your employees use of social media has risks. Just as employees could do offline, they could say things that embarrass themselves or your law firm.
But I’d rather hire smart people and trust them. Trust them to learn and trust them to network in an environment where they feel very comfortable. It’s to your law firm’s benefit.