Arik Hanson, a Minnesota digital communications consultant, had a good post earlier this week on why companies need to stop blocking the use of social media.

So, why is it that 54 percent of companies are still blocking access to social media sites at work?

Certainly that number has come down in recent years, but to think that more than half of all companies are still not affording their staff to access Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter during the day. That just doesn’t add up.

Hanson’s piece is a poignant one for law firms, which at last count 45% of them were blocking the use of social media.

Here’s five reasons why social media ought not to be blocked from Hanson that apply well to law firms.

  • Nearly all companies (94% per Digital Media Wire) are investing in social media as a marketing/communications tool. Assuming your law firm is investing in social media, but you limit social media’s use by your employees, you are saying, per Hanson, “We believe in the power of social media to help us market our products and services, we just don’t trust our employees because we think they’ll waste an inordinate amount of time on Facebook.”
  • More of your lawyers are relying on social networks to do their jobs. How often do you turn to friends and colleagues online for advice? How often do you read blogs to keep up with industry trends? Data suggests 25 percent of employees rely heavily on social networks in the workplace. It’s probably higher for your star lawyers and other professionals.
  • You’re going to lose lawyers and other professionals to competitors. Per a study by American Express, 39 percent of younger workers won’t even consider working for a company that blocks Facebook. Facebook has become the communication tool of choice for many young professionals. Why would they work for a law that’s going to block its use?
  • Smartphones and tablets. By the end of this year 50 percent of all Americans will own a smartphone. The fastest growing use of mobile? Social networking. Everywhere I travel I see lawyers with two mobile phones, a blackberry and an iPhone or Android. Your lawyers and other professionals are already using social media.
  • Breaks equal more-productive employees. Recent research suggests employees who are given short breaks to surf the Web or connect with friends on Facebook are more productive than those who don’t. No one stopped lawyers from stopping to have a cup of coffee with others, why block social media?

I’ll add one more. Lawyers receive work because of their relationships and word of mouth reputation. Social media and the Internet doesn’t change that. Social media is just an accelerator of relationships and the spread of your word of mouth reputation.

Preventing your lawyers from using social media is going to hit your law firm’s pocketbook. You are going to lose work to competitors.

Know of law firms still blocking the use of social media by their employees? I’d like to hear of them.