Implementing Web 2.0 is critical for attracting talent to legal and professional firms


A recent article in Lawyers Weekly magazine titled Firms warned to embrace Web 2.0 opens as follows:

AUSTRALIAN LAW firms risk losing clients as well as talent if they don’t make use of Web 2.0 technologies, an expert warns.

Ross Dawson, chairman of Future Exploration Network, said that Australian firms are lagging far behind their US and UK counterparts, which are leading the way when it comes to adopting new web technologies.

“If you look at the corporate sector globally, the industry that has been one of the first to take up blogs has been the legal industry, primarily in the US and UK. So you’ve had a proliferation of blogs that are both external in terms of providing clients with information and internal ones used for a wide variety of means including project management, knowledge management, and effective internal communication,” Dawson said.

“One of the fundamental issues is that organisations in Australia tend to be conservative. And while it’s arguable the legal industry is also quite conservative in other countries, that can certainly be said about the Australian legal industry.”

Dawson, who specialises in assisting major global organisations to develop future strategies and innovation capabilities, said technologies such as blogs, wikis, social networks, RSS feeds and social bookmarking are of most direct relevance to information- and knowledge-centric organisations such as law firms.

“Ultimately [if you don’t embrace these technologies] you’ll lose to competitors in terms of their use of these tools and their ability to bring people together and collaborate. There is now a whole suite of technologies and tools and approaches for this purpose and if organisations don’t take that up they are not as competitive or effective as others.

“It’s also going to be a lot harder to attract young, dynamic lawyers. If you are in your 20s and a talented lawyer and completely comfortable and familiar with social networks, blogs and video sharing, are you going to want to work for an organisation that doesn’t even recognise these tools exist? The legal industry is so driven to attract talent, I think this is almost the most import single factor,” Dawson said.

The article goes on to look at some of what is happening in the sector, including mentions of London law giant Allen & Overy’s initiatives, and what an Australian legal recruitment firm is doing with social entworks, and concludes with my comments on the benefits for law firms in implementing Web 2.0 technologies.

My framework on “The heart of professional services strategy” has received a lot of attention, including consistently ranking #1 for searches on Google for ‘professional services strategy’ for over a year now. It shows visually how Great Client Work and Great People support each other in successful professional firms. For leading professional firms today, the most vital resource that constrains profitable growth is a lack of talent. The firms that can attract the most talented younger professionals are positioned for outstanding success in an economy increasingly driven by specialist expertise.

Talented young professionals want to work for companies that are dynamic, innovative, and forward-thinking. While it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference to most of them whether say, blogs, wikis or social networks are commonplace tools at work, it does matter a lot to them that the leadership of their firms understand and embrace changes in how work is done. Seeing whether Web 2.0 tools are used is ready and easy indicator of the tenor of the firm, and whether it’s somewhere they’d like to work.

This is reflected in the situation at Morgan Stanley, which has been successful implementing many Enterprise 2.0 technologies, partly because half of its workforce are under 35, and all of them are very familiar with technology. In turn, the firm’s leadership in implementing these approaches makes them considerably more attractive as an employer than competitive investment banks that are slower adopters. Thus the cycle of great people and great client work is engaged, building a platform for long-term success.