Reuters Editors

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Law firms as media companies


I was in Cape Cod last week to talk about social media – blogs and social networks and all that — at Hubbard One’s ‘Innovation Forum’.  (Hubbard One is a Thomson Reuters company providing website services to law firms.) When first invited I had reservations. I know very little about the legal profession and, while I try not to take this personally, my lawyer friends are openly contemptuous of the media and reserve particular scorn for bloggers. But the organisers said not to worry — they needed someone with “out of industry experience who could stimulate new thinking”. Perhaps sensing my scepticism they added that the guest speaker a few years ago had been a chef.

On the plane from London I was still worrying about how to engage the lawyers (or were they attorneys?) and increasingly discomforted about the idea of following the chef, who by this point had become in my mind a natural entertainer with a slick live show almost certainly involving dramatic knife-work. But then I stumbled across a line in the book I was reading (Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li’s excellent ‘Groundswell’) suggesting that all companies were now media companies since they have to manage complex information flows to both their staff and to customers, and this seemed to offer some hope.

Entering into what I saw as the spirit of the event, I recast my presentation around the motion that law firms are quasi-media companies. And in the discussions that followed I did note at least five ways in which these firms are having to face up to challenges that parallel ours at Reuters News:

1. Struggling to throw off the shackles of the broadcast model
It’s hard to take an organisation used to broadcasting information and to get it to start engaging with customers or readers as individuals.