Recently I seem to have been talking either about Law Firm 2.0 (a governance structure I work on with law firms and which I wrote about last year), Charity 2.0 (a discussion about improved engagement I had with a medium sized charity) or Web 2.0. It seems that "2.0" is suddenly being used by firms as a way of saying "look at us - we're up to date!" and seems to be used as a proxy to suggest "revolutionary"change.
The recent Web 2.0 discussion was started for me by the excellent blog from Peninsulawyer (Jon Bloor) on the subject (see here). He speaks very well about the use of interactive technologies, their applicability in the world of the law firm web site, and what he thinks is the way forward. He suggests that firms of the future will have a core web site which is publication rather than interactivity but which links to external sites.
This sounds enormously sensible to me - and is the way I've tried to arrange my own site, with "flat" information and connections to this blog, my Twitter feed and Skype which hope to encourage participation.
his blog. He speaks very sensibly about the importance of remembering that new technology must form part of a communications or marketing or strategic plan - it cannot and should not hope to replace previous technologies. I love technology and am delighted to be working virtually most of the time (or virtually working as a colleague prefers, unkindly I think, to describe it) - I don't have a permanent office, I use Skype to provide a "land-line" number and all I need, most of the time, is my laptop and an internet connection. I use LinkedIn, Twitter, email, and Skype - but still make telephone calls, go to see people, and use a paper note book to scribble ideas, thoughts, messages and, well, notes. The new must work seamlessly with those good and reliable existing parts of your business.
The same is true of Law Firm 2.0. Yes, it's a new way of thinking for most law firms and, yes, this will be difficult. It does not mean, however, that everything is going to change. The best change is not destructive - instead it builds on what is already good and efficient in an organisation, adds carefully new ideas and best practice from other industries, and raises the organisation to new levels.
The Living Rainforest - but I think that is a good example of engagement (and follows Jon Bloor's model) in having a core site which includes blogs and has links to Twitter and Facebook where supporters and visitors can become involved in the Rainforest and the issues of sustainability which are core to its presence. There are lessons here for more commercial organisations - engagement, debate and involvement. The lessons for law firms are that engagement does not mean free help - it is an additional way to build a relationship so that you and your firm become the first people the client thinks of when it needs something done.
In my view the "2.0' metaphor should not be a revolution - it is an evolution. Organisations are (slowly in some cases) learning how best to use the technology which is available to them and are starting to relax a little about breaking down the barriers between the firm and its clients or supporters. This - properly thought out and properly managed - can only be a good thing. People want to do business with people - not with firms. Web 2.0 technology already exists - so why try to re-invent it. The same is true for Law Firm 2.0 or Charity 2.0 - best practice is out there in other industries, so why try to re-invent management? Why not choose the best that exists and use that?