There was an interesting article in The New York Times last weekend about the growing importance for companies of all sizes to embrace the mindset of the up and coming Millennial generation.
As we have written – the Millennials will be the first wave to enter the workforce having been weaned on social media – their social and intellectual frame of reference has been directly shaped by Facebook and Twitter; they show up for work on the first day already steeped in a cultural ethos of openness and collaboration.
How will this incoming wave of Millennial law students be received into the world of BigLaw? A few weeks ago we had a fascinating glimpse into how that drama will play out when we attended a roundtable discussion here in New York. It was an assembly of lawyers and professional staff from 8 of the most influential law firms in the country, the top tier New York firms who often serve as a bell-weather for the industry. In the first part of the meeting, Bethann Cregg shared her insights into the concept of social business based on her experience as VP of Social Business Transformation for IBM. After that, the floor was open to general discussion on the topic of the Social Law Firm. What is it? Is such a thing possible or desirable?
Since Good2bSocial helped to organize the event we had a chance to sit and listen and sometimes chime in. The views expressed were all over the map. Some of the attendees right away jumped at the concept of the Social Firm. The most receptive seemed to be a few of the KM experts in attendance, who drew the distinction between the software and document based solutions typically provided by KM in the law firm environment, compared to the more people and process oriented solutions made possible through the use of social business technology.
A few attendees seemed interested but bemused, intrigued by the concepts but dubious there would be any movement in that direction, at least not within the likely career-span of anyone sitting around the conference table — given the backward leaning tendencies of the legal market.
The most vehement reaction against came from three attendees from one particular firm – we won’t name any names since the discussion was held on a not-for-attribution basis. Let’s just say these were senior folks from a top firm – and one that is generally well-regarded for being run in a business like fashion. And their basic thinking seemed to be that the key concepts of social business – promoting collaboration and information sharing – were antithetical to their firm’s culture and management style. A billing partner doesn’t want junior associates chiming in on an open chat line – that would only serve to undermine the necessary lines of command and control.
So there you have it. A word of advice to the members of the class of 2014 from Boalt Hall to Harvard Law. Take careful note which law firms come ready to woo you where you live on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn a lot about what it feels like to work somewhere by making a few basic observations about cultural differences from one callback to the next.
Speaking of which, Good2bSocial is pleased to announce we’ll soon be releasing (in conjunction with our publishing partners at Above the Law) a brand new study called The Social Law Firm Index. Using a broad range of criteria we developed together with ATL, we’ve reviewed the use of social technology of each of the 50 largest law firms in the country and our study will assess the effectiveness of their performance. Stay tuned to this space….