I’ve been thinking about communication within law firms for a while, thinking there has to be a better way than email. For a few years in my new year top 5′s I’ve had instant messaging within law firms or more specifically Microsoft’s Lync platform, this is starting to take off now and I suspect for those adhoc short emails it is slowly becoming a replacement.
But I tweeted last year about how Lync still feels like email systems back in the early 90′s, they were mainly internal mail systems with no link between firms and people external to the firm. It was only when email was “set free” that it really took off and became the deluge it is now, so I think until federation really takes off linking Lync systems between firms and individuals (via Microsoft’s Skype) it will only make a small dent in helping reduce our email mountain.
Another Microsoft product that is making some waves within law firms is Yammer. For those not used to Twitter, Yammer can bring some confusion. “How is this different to sending a message via Lync?” I’ve heard asked. I answered this in a tweet last year, Internal “broadcasts” = Yammer, Conversations = Lync, What’s left = email. There is some overlap between them all off course, but primarily I think these are what should be used for each type of communication.
You do need to be a little wary with Yammer though. First off it’s in the cloud, it isn’t solely stored within your firm. The second issue is the security. The free model has a method of authentication that allows access as long as you can confirm your login via an authenticated email domain. So if you are using the free version care needs to be taken about what is communicated. To explain in some more detail how the free model works, lets take a firm jasonplant which has an email domain of jasonplant.co.uk. So if I sign up with my email I will get an authentication link sent to my jasonplant.co.uk email address, so there is a check to see whether you work for the firm. However, if I leave the firm my email stays valid. Others in the firm can mark that I have left and this will trigger an email to re-authenticate (if I’ve truly left my email will have been retired of course and/or I won’t have any access to the firms email system). Of course beyond the free version there is a paid for enterprise version of Yammer, here security ramps up with IP filtering, synchronisation with the firms user access systems, single sign on, enterprise administration etc
This weekend I’ve been involved in an important piece of work, something that started off in a very sudden way on Friday afternoon and involved people from Leeds to Melbourne via Amsterdam, Dubai and Hong Kong. Looking back at how this played out I think it would have been great to spin up a Yammer type ”community” to allow all the relevant people to communicate and share information around this specific piece of work. Once completed the “community” could have been dissolved. In this case email was our tool, but as most people will agree with it isn’t the ideal tool in this situation.
I think Yammer could be an answer to this “community” communication, there is also some fantastic work being done by HighQ Solutions which hopefully will be great at bringing these communities together allowing the relevant communication to take place and reduce our 20 year dependency on email!
However remember, as one presenter at these years LawTech Futures said “If a community doesn’t communicate well at the moment, they won’t start to communicate just because you give them a wiki, blog etc”