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Web 2.0 and law firms

post # 527 — April 18, 2008 — a Client Relations post

A question from a reader:

Though plenty of examples of “Enterprise 2.0” show tangible ways that social media can improve business, I have not been able to find many examples of law firms taking advantage of Web 2.0 technologies. In the UK at least, it seems that although some niche blawgs are very popular and have done quite well in establishing the author(s) as authorities in their respective fields, law firms as organizations have yet to take advantage of new platforms in substantive ways (as have eg investment banks with internal use of wikis/social networking).

Am I right in thinking that this is pioneer territory for law firms? If not, could you please point me to some good examples of firms that use social media – internally or externally – to improve productivity/efficiency/client services (ie beyond business development/HR/recruitment functions)?


Ian Hull said:

We are a law firm in Canada that practices in the niche market area of Estate, Trust and Capacity Litigation. My partner Suzana Popovic-Montag and I have been podcating for over a year and have been doing a weekly podcast on estates issues. Our firm of 17 lawyers also takes turns podcating another weekly podcast on estate matters. We also share the task of a daily blog. We have found the whole social media effort a tremedous help to our clients, our referring sources and internally for our lawyers. Based on the informal feedback and the numbers our social media efforts have paid off.

posted on April 18, 2008

Niall Cook said:


Take a look at what Allen & Overy in the UK have been doing with social software in their organization, supported by the experts at Headshift.

Here’s a slideshow presented by Ruth Ward of Allen & Overy and Lee Bryant of Headshift: http://www.slideshare.net/leebryant/allen-overy-social-software-project-case-study


posted on April 18, 2008

Struan Robertson said:

There is a misconception that all-things-Web 2.0 are right for law firms. That’s not necessarily what clients want.

Blogging can work well for a small firm; but the larger the firm, the harder it is to blog effectively. Most legal blogs that I’ve read are awful. There are exceptions – I regularly read Patently O and IP Kat; but too many are just badly-structured websites with long, rambling essays written in legalese and devoid of opinion.

A good blog is opinionated, pithy, edgy and spontaneous; but that’s hard for a large firm to do: an argument that appeals to one client could upset another. It can be done, but it’s tough. Also, the people with the most interesting things to say are often the people with least time to say them. When postings are infrequent, a blog will suffocate.

Some people get over-excited about wikis. There’s only one Wikipedia – but the web is strewn with the corpses of dead wikis. Why? Because most people don’t want to spend time building or editing someone else’s content. There are circumstances where they can serve a clearly-defined purpose well, particularly internally – but too often they’re launched with naive expectations.

Podcasting can be a great thing – though again there are some dreadful legal podcasts around, badly produced and badly presented. We launched the weekly OUT-LAW Radio in 2006 and we’re really proud of it. But it takes far more effort than just switching on a microphone and waffling, which is how podcasting seems to be approached in too many cases.

I suspect most large firms are currently experimenting with blogs and wikis internally – at least that’s the impression I get. But it will take a while for any firm to find out how they can best serve the business. Too often these technologies are introduced mainly because they’re shiny and new.

On the web I think the most important thing is to give clients what they want. That’s useful legal information written in plain English. That’s what we’ve been focusing on for years – we’ve written over 8,000 pages of it – and clients tell us they love it.

When you’re thinking about Web 2.0, don’t forget that Web 1.0 is alive and well.

Struan (Editor, OUT-LAW.COM)

posted on April 18, 2008

Mark Gould said:

Niall is right to single out Allen & Overy — they are in the vanguard. However, my impression is that many firms are looking at these technologies, and some have done more than just look. For an example in the US, check Doug Cornelius’s blog: http://kmspace.blogspot.com. His firm is just rolling out wikis using Sharepoint.

I think there may be many reasons why law firms appear to be behind the times. Lawyers are not easy people to persuade, and the premises behind Web2.0 technologies are antithetical to some lawyers’ ways of thinking. Also, we do a lot behind the scenes that is not apparent to people outside the firm, or to non-clients — just because you don’t see something, that does not mean that it is not happening!

posted on April 18, 2008

Mark Gould said:

Niall rightly points to Allen & Overy as a leader in this area, but I think a number of firms are beginning to use Web2.0 technologies. Doug Cornelius’s blog (http://kmspace.blogspot.com/) gives some insight into what Goodwin Proctor are doing, for example.

I think Struan is justified in his concerns about law firm blogging, but I think what those blogs have actually done is make it obvious that their publications are dry and uninspiring generally. Very few law firm publications (and I have always included Out-Law on the positive side of this equation) actually address their readers meaningfully. They don’t have the distinctive ‘voice’ that a blog demands.

posted on April 18, 2008

Jeroen de Miranda said:


In Healthcare Web 2.0 and Social Media are used more and more.

You can find information on Web 2.0 and healthcare on my blog.

Specifically, this blog post decribes how Web 2.0 is used for communication between patients, and for dissemination of medical information:

Kind regards,

Jeroen de Miranda

posted on April 18, 2008

Kevin OKeefe said:

Had lunch in Boston yesterday with knowledge management attorneys in large law firm who were using blogs and wikis for greater efficiency in working on large cases. They’re also going to explore Facebook for some alumni and summer associate networking.

We’re running a couple internal blogs for large law firm clients. One for communications across the entire firm – after large merger wanted to get people to know of others in the firm and their successes. Second is for knowledge sharing in practice groups. Like the Boston firm, knowledge is not lost among lawyers in a practice group when they are sharing and commenting on what each other are seeing.

posted on April 19, 2008

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posted on April 20, 2008

Linas Simonis, Positioning Strategy said:

In all businesess blogging is still a rare phenomenon.


I think, that most managers are uncomfortable with the settled blogging rules. But in business blogging rules are different!

For example, post frequency. For a CEO, or a partner in law firm it is not necessary to post frequently.

If you are interested in further reading on this topic, please check my new free e-book ‘The New Rules of Business Blogs’ posted in my blog at http://www.positioningstrategy.com

Sorry for promotion, but it is free and I am sure it will clarify a lot of issues raised in your original question.

By the way, this David’s blog in my e-book is praised for being an exellent example of the way how comments should be handled. If you want to start a business blog, or a law blog, you should consider how David handles comments – he does it perfectly!

So, start a blog, being the first is crucial!

posted on April 23, 2008