A clear sign that firms are waking up to social media is the fact that Mike Fieldhouse is getting busier and busier. I met him for tea this week and he told me he had just signed up a Top Ten firm he'll be advising on social media usage and policy. A former lawyer, Mike works closely with the very wonderful Heather Townsend, author of the FT's 'Guide to Business Networking' (both online and offline) whom I've interviewed for this blog before.
Mike and I were discussing how law firm attitudes to social media have changed in just a very short space of time. Not much more than a year ago the typical response from a major firm was 'social media may be great for some businesses, but it's never going to be relevant in the legal/accounting sector because our work is so discreet/confidential/and things our employees say could be held against us'. Today the conversation is different. 'Social media is clearly important, so how do we manage these issues... that our work is so discreet/confidential/and things our employees say could be held against us?'
"Firms are now doing it and they are starting to think more and more about how to formalise and professionalise their approach", says Mike, "which is where Heather and I come in. Our role is to help set the parameters for social media usage, devise policies that work with the culture of the firm, recommend baseline programmes of social media activity for people and train them in how to do it.
"The next challenge though, is how to perfect who is doing which part of the firm's social media activity: what should the partners and fee-earners be doing? What should the marketing/PR team be doing? Does it work having a junior marketing exec tweeting on behalf of a busy department head, or should the partner be doing it himself? And how does it link with PR? What sort of opportunities are there to work with the established media on social media platforms?"
This is a subject close to my heart of course. We talked about the MIPIM blogging and tweeting for Estates Gazette and The Lawyer we organised for one client this Spring; the various opportunities for guest blogging on the websites of established media titles, nice nationals such as The Times and the FT and the fun opportunities eg inviting employment law clients to tweet from their sofas watching The Apprentice on TV using a special hashtag for The Lawyer magazine.
And yes, I did take that opportunity to step on to the soap box and sound off on one of my favourite themes: the opportunities for firms' senior partners on social media platforms. So many times the senior partners will opt to 'leave the likes of twitter to the younger generation'. But they only need to reconnect with someone they've done business with before but have lost touch with over the years, and with no track record to prove in the way that 'the youngsters' have to, their reputation already soundly established, work can follow far more immediately.
There's lots more here to talk about between me, Mike and Heather as firms get really serious with social media. The idea of some joint talks and webinars was mooted, linking social media policy, training, tactics and PR.
Watch this space....
The most arresting story of the week has to be the one about the defendant in a murder trial who was brought to court in his hospital bed to give evidence at the Old Bailey. He made legal history no less.A suicide attempt while in custody left the defendant extensively paralysed. News reports describe him in the well of the court lying down in his hospital bed propped up by pillows and surrounded by nurses.
But it was court artist Julia Quenzler's classic pastel and charcoal depiction of the scene that caught my attention. Immediately recognisable in the papers as an official courtroom sketch, but so incongruous with the hospital bed at the centre.
There must be a God up there... Those of you who know my passion for film will understand my excitement this week reading in The Evening Standard that a second branch of the London Film Museum will be opening this April. The article featured this wonderful image of Marilyn Monroe going over her lines between takes for The Misfits; also a wonderful snap of Charlton Heston on the set of Planet of The Apes, taking a break with a colleague in full ape costume. Just two of the delights on display at the new museum. Halfway through the article I started to obsess - where is the new site? I must go to the opening.... before reading the Museum opens in Covent Garden, less than five minutes from our office!
Someone up there is definitely smiling down on me!