How to become a change agent within your firm

About 3 years ago the law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP or “Curtis” had a problem.  Or your could say they had a series of challenges:

1. To increase their visibility on law school campus’ in order to continue to attract top law students
2. To raise the visibility of the firm in targeted key markets
3. To enhance the collective networking efforts of their lawyers

CHALLENGE: They didn’t have a lot of money to spend to solve these problems.

Andrea Stimmel faced the problems head-on, and although as business development director she was not in a position where she could make all the decisions- she had the ability to influence multiple parties that inevitably would.  In my recent conference call with her, Andrea shared 5 steps to implementing social media within a firm.  I believe these 5 steps can help any organization bring about organizational change.  

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1.  Plant the seed.  For months before Curtis took the plunge into the realm of social media, Andrea was feeding articles to the management committee at Curtis.  Some of the articles were about what other law firms were doing, but many were from what other industries were doing with social media.  The accounting industry, management consulting and others were a pretty good predictor of where law firms where headed when it came to social media.  Prepare your firm for change  by planting the seed in advance with good articles.

2.  Start small. The low hanging fruit for law firms to use social media is to bolster the recruiting efforts with the help of Facebook.  Curtis was the first law firm to use a Facebook page for recruiting.  There were some concerns that the Facebook wall could be used to criticize the firm, but this doubt was overcome by having a staff member within the firm moderate the wall posts to the Facebook group, only once having to remove a post that wasn’t deemed relevant.  Starting small with an obvious tool like Facebook, and seeing some quick results through a growing number of fans across the country, Andrea was able to gain more buy-in from the firm and set up for the next stage.

3.  Create a social media policy. The social media policy isn’t for the employees, it isn’t really to protect the clients either.  The social media policy is the key convincing a number of different parties within the firm that social media is a safe place for attorneys to network.  From the IT department to the General Counsel to the Management Committee, there must be buy-in at multiple levels.  This is part of the reason Andrea was so successful, she was able to overcome the fears and doubts of a number of very different groups within the firm.  How strict should a social media policy be?  At Curtis all blog posts must be approved by a Partner and Andrea.  My personal opinion is that with more gatekeepers for content, you risk creating a chilling effect and discouraging creation of materials.  You do need a social media policy though.

4. Attorneys must join the party. The obvious next step is to have attorneys across the firm join LinkedIN, update their profiles, and start building their list of contacts.  Even if your attorneys aren’t ready to be active on LinkedIN, at least boost the firm’s visibility by having some level of participation and a firm awareness of what is going on there.  This same step could be done using Twitter, Martindale-Hubbel Connected, AVVO, Legal OnRamp, or JD Supra- just don’t make the mistake of having your attorneys join too many networks.  Just pick a couple.

5.  Let them blog. Andrea explained that at Curtis the purpose of the blogs is to be seen as subject matter experts.  Do you know anything about Oman law?  Curtis does.  In fact, at http://curtisoman.blogspot.com/ you can read all about Oman Law.  A small niche, maybe, but if you do a Google search for “oman law blog” you will find http://curtisoman.blogspot.com/ near the top.  Curtis has also created a Tax blog and IP blog as well.

So what are the next steps for social media at Curtis and other mid-to-large firms?

-Video

-Mobile devices

-3d? (just kidding)

Start small, get a few quick wins, and then build on those successes.  Listen to hear the entire call below.  A special thanks to Andrea for coming on the call!

 

Next Friday at 12pm EST join us when we speak to Paul Lippe, Founder of http://legalonramp.com to hear about how in-house counsel are using Legal OnRamp, and how law firms can gain valuable exposure by participating. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE WEEKLY CALLS

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