Guest article by James Fabricant, CEO & Founder of IdeaPlane and former MySpace International executive

Social networks have changed the way we communicate in our personal lives, and they have begun to change the way we communicate, collaborate and share knowledge in the enterprise. Like many other regulated industries, there’s an appetite within law to unlock value and productivity enterprise social networks offer, but the fear of losing control over sharing of information has limited the extent of significant take up.

Enterprise social networks offer law firms the chance to build high touch relationships with clients and partners, capture and share knowledge easily, find experts quickly, collaborate with colleagues effectively and a whole lot more. However, if a solution can’t be used securely, its value is very limited.

IdeaPlane is an enterprise social network (ESN) designed to offer businesses in regulated industries benefits in a safe and secure environment. Built in partnership with one of the world’s biggest investment banks, IdeaPlane is built with enterprise-grade security, compliance and privacy controls in its DNA, combined with the easy-to-use social tools we now naturally communicate with. Currently there are a number of firms employing IdeaPlane successfully. Here is a selection of some of the most relevant examples.

Property

One example is within property law. Buying property is obviously a stressful time for clients and often the infrequent nature of emails, letters and phone calls don’t satiate their need for updates. The firm has created a network using IdeaPlane and opened it to their clients, enabling them to give smaller real time updates, continue conversations as it suits them. The control the platform affords means that clients will never see information they shouldn’t, but they do get more frequent communication and more openness to ask questions. This means more effective communication from the firm, and happier clients.

Business development

Another example is within a firm who are inviting prospects onto their network. Again there is the benefit of real time updates, but the additional benefit of using IdeaPlane is how it enables corporate knowledge sharing – prospects get to see the expertise shared from across the firm, a ‘try before you buy’ without sacrificing hours of unbillable work. As IdeaPlane offers full control of privacy settings and security, it is ensured that information cannot be shared with anyone it shouldn’t be.

While an open social network such as LinkedIn is great for networking and as a business development channel, the knowledge firms want to share will not always be suitable for an open forum. IdeaPlane allows firms to conduct this kind of two-way conversation with their intellectual property remaining secure, turning the benefits of effective communication and knowledge sharing into a prospect conversion tool.

Alumni networks

The War for talent has encouraged law firms to invest in alumni network building initiatives. An increasing number of law firms recognise benefits of engaging with former employees. This in turn has raised the proportion of rehires and increased participation in client referral programs. In times of financial downturn, companies that can leverage all of their human resources, whether they are currently inside or outside of the organisation, will gain significant financial and reputational competitive advantage. IdeaPlane offers a secure and branded environment for growing alumni network and harnessing its benefits.

Supporting a legal network

A further use case for IdeaPlane is within a legal network. For example, lawyers with specialisms spanning IP, conveyance, family and corporate can be connected on the platform, allowing them to support each other through shared expertise. As an industry where specialist knowledge is so valuable, working this way represents a huge opportunity and can bring a legal network to life in a way that at present just does not occur.

Onboarding and professional development

Another advantage to sharing knowledge on a secure enterprise social network is the ease of access for new employees and potential for professional development. Enterprise social networks have huge potential as training tools, both via the legacy of information shared and the access to knowledge from across the organisation. Deloitte’s Chief Learning Officer Nick van Dam says 90% of all corporate learning is informal learning, including information gleaned through social networks.

As a new starter, an ESN is a great place to start learning about the organisation and its clients, build relationships across the company and ask questions. This makes getting up to speed easier for new employees, particularly those new young graduates who will be naturally at ease with the social tools, but it also equates to general ongoing professional development for everyone in the organisation. With communication taking place on the network that otherwise wouldn’t have done, everyone is afforded the opportunity to learn.

Law firms should be able to use social technology to communicate collaborate and share knowledge in a secure, simple, fun way, and the requirement to be secure and compliant should not be a hindrance.

For further information see www.ideaplane.com