The business of law is undergoing significant change. Competition is fierce and clients are looking for firms that will offer them more than traditional legal advice.
At the same time, companies across all industries are rapidly adopting social technologies and practices as a way to enhance their productivity, gain a competitive advantage and develop customer loyalty and advocacy.
If you are a savvy legal professional, you have realized that law firms that implement these new social tools and practices have a significant advantage over their competitors. The question then is, how does one go about the process of becoming a social law firm?
Here are ten steps to get started:
1. Set up your goals and objectives
The first thing you need to figure out is what your goals and objectives are. This will allow you to decide what your next steps should be. What are your business goals? To generate new leads? Raise awareness of your service? Provide better service and support to your clients? Enable knowledge sharing and collaboration among your firm or your practice group? Become a thought leader in your area of expertise?
Maybe you want all of these things, but you have to start somewhere. You have to walk before you run. Try and prioritize your goals and objectives by order of importance and difficulty to execute. I highly recommend you put a cross-functional team together (marketing, HR, professional development, business development, practice groups, operations) and come up with your overall business objectives. If you think the need to enable knowledge sharing and collaboration across your entire firm will prove to be difficult because you will need to convince senior leadership, perhaps it’s best to start at the practice level. Deploy an enterprise social network for your group and show some success. Once you have some success stories, then convincing others to deploy it across the entire firm will prove to be less challenging.
Same thing goes for social media marketing. You don’t have to convince everyone to redesign your web site. Perhaps you can start by creating a blog or a microsite for your practice or area of expertise. Here again, once you show some results, convincing others this is the way to go will prove to be an easier task.
Once you’ve figured out your goals and objectives, the next step is to start listening. Monitor what your clients and prospects are doing on social media. See what your competitors are doing. Discover what is already being said about your firm, or what is not being said in some cases. Investigate interesting trends or developments within your area of expertise to uncover gaps and opportunities for you to create remarkable content that will help to position you and your firm as thought leaders in that space. Notice who the influencers are in your area of practice, what they do and what social network they use to exert their influence. Identify the latest tools and technology.
On the internal side, set up meetings or presentations from vendor customers so that you can learn best practices from them. Ask potential vendors to introduce you to some of their customers, so that you can learn directly from them what works and what doesn’t as well as other things they learned from their experience. This should not be a sales pitch or a demonstration of product features and functionalities, but rather a conversation that will give you and your team real examples of how other organizations have failed or succeeded with their internal social strategy.
3. Conduct a Self Audit
Once you have figured out your goals and objectives and have identified where the opportunities in the market exist, then you need to perform an organizational audit to determine what resources already exist within your firm to help you reach your objectives and where you need help. If you need help in conducting an audit, hire a consultant who has experience in performing these types of audits. The result should be a true evaluation of what you have and what you need in order to create a strategic plan.
See: The Social Law Firm Index 2016: Is Your Firm a Social Law Firm?
4. Create a Strategic Plan
Once you have conducted an audit, the next step is to create an overall strategic plan. Match your long-term goals and business objectives with your resources and determine what you should tackle first. The strategic plan should lay out all of the different initiatives you want to undertake, the resources and budget required, a set of key performance indicators to measure your success, a communications plan, an adoption plan, training and education, senior leader adoption plan and a deployment schedule.
5. Develop Content
Regardless of whether you are starting with a collaboration project or a social media marketing project, you need to start to develop content that is useful to your audience. Figuring out your content strategy is critical. Developing an editorial calendar will assist you or those people on your team or in your organization to plan and develop the content that is needed for your project. Content must be useful and it must be current and engaging. See: How to Deliver the Right Content to the Right People at the Right Time.
6. Executive Sponsorship
The buy in from leadership is crucial. Even if you are starting at a practice or group level, it is critical that leadership understands the value of a social firm and what the process is to get there. Firm leadership needs to understand how by using social technologies and processes, the firm will benefit in the short and long-term. Firm leaders also have to agree to lead by example. Simply saying they are on-board is not enough. They need to actively participate and encourage others in a proactive manner to become advocates and participants of your social firm strategy.
The concept of a social firm is a new concept that requires you to properly educate members of your team, practice or firm, on the value and return on investment of such an endeavor. Every person needs to understand “what is in it for them.” The answers may be different, but they will all need to figure out the value. If they don’t then your project is doomed from the beginning. Executive support and sponsorship is a critical component to ensure success. Everyone in your organization needs to be reassured of the importance of this initiative and there has to be a system in place that rewards people for their advocacy and involvement.
8. Create Use Cases
Before you begin with the implementation of your project, it is important to create business use cases. In terms of internal collaboration, create business use cases on new or existing projects or matters. Try to identify projects that can leverage the functionality of social technologies and can benefit from the improved collaboration and communication capabilities. With social media marketing, put yourself in the position on a prospective client. Imagine what that client needs, what they might be looking for and how they would be able to discover your expertise, evaluate it and decide to hire you. Or perhaps think about how your current clients might be better served through the knowledge sharing and collaboration that social technologies are capable of.
9. Communicate Effectively
Communication across your team, your practice or your entire organization is crucial. Communicating your success stories, promoting your project, letting people know what you are doing and what you intend to next is a critical component of a successful social firm. Every person in your firm needs to be informed of the importance of what you are doing and how they may be able to help and participate. Approach your communication plan like an external marketing campaign. Get people excited and interested in what you are doing and trying to accomplish and celebrate success at every opportunity. Continue to communicate well beyond launch, sharing tips and examples of how to be effective and successful.
10. Identify Champions
Not everyone in your firm or your practice will be an instant proponent of your strategy for becoming a social law firm. It is important to identify influencers at every level of your organization and convert them into champions. A social firm transformation should be promoted and championed at every level. Champions do not necessarily need to be those that are social media wizards or technology enthusiasts. Rather, it is better to identify those individuals that are natural influencers and that people usually go to when they are looking for help or advice.
Updated and republished June 30, 2017.