Summary

Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox is providing its clients with more diverse thinking, better service and more successful outcomes – assets it attributes to using enterprise social network Yammer.
It’s no longer just lawyers contributing to solving client problems. With Yammer, every client has access to knowledge management experts from across the country, people with research and technology skills, project management skills and commercial skills, all of whom are working together to solve problems or provide ideas.
Using Yammer to communicate, connect, collaborate and innovate is a key component in Smarter Law – Hall & Wilcox’s response to disruption in the legal industry. Yammer, along with data from SWOOP Analytics, also gives insight into Hall & Wilcox’s company culture, something that has allowed new staff to smoothly integrate into the business, said Chief Operating Officer Sumith Perera.

As for all-company emails, they are almost non-existent thanks to Yammer.

Challenge

Yammer was initially introduced in December 2011 to connect the firm’s people, who despite being in the same building in Melbourne, were spread across five non-contiguous floors. That had an impact on collaboration and efficiency within the office.
“We didn’t have stairs between each floor and even though we were in the one building, we felt that there were culturally three or four independent firms emerging within the one firm,” Sumith said.
“We needed some way to keep people informed in the moment of what was happening across the firm.” In the first 12-18 months after Yammer was introduced, Sumith says activity was fairly low. It was used more as a broadcast tool and some people questioned its worth. But as the company grew, so did the Yammer network.
With new offices in Sydney, Newcastle, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra, Hall & Wilcox’s Yammer network was the tool that connected them all.
Sumith says using Yammer is consistent with Smarter Law by engaging people in servicing clients and ensuring it’s not just a team of lawyers who are delivering the service or contributing to the solutions.

Strategy

Hall & Wilcox Technology Trainer Jason Soo attributes the company-wide success of Yammer to the engagement from Managing Partner Tony Macvean and Sumith, who both endorse Yammer as a tool for working out loud. “If it was just a community manager shouting at people and trying to push them onto this platform that they don’t really care about, there’s only so much shouting and pushing you can do before people are like; ‘Leave me alone, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care’,” he said.
“But because we had the buy in from the very top, we had a lot more success.”
Tony and Sumith post a weekly Friday update on Yammer, usually a summary of what’s been happening across the firm during the past week. Sometimes they’ll record a short video on the phone and upload it, other times it’s a written summary and it usually includes photos from the past week.

Results

Sumith said as a result of Tony’s posts, many other partners across the business are following his lead, highlighting individual staff members, informing colleagues about visitors or updating everyone on an issue.
“There are a lot of mentions of people in all of those posts and it’s got a natural life. It’s been replicated across the firm in offices, in sections and so on,” he said.
Sumith said even 18 months ago, posts from himself and Tony were more “one-way” and often failed to engage staff. In an effort to boost the network, Jason presented to the executive leadership team and highlighted best practices, including asking questions and to find answers and praising staff. He also advised @ mentioning people in Yammer posts.
“Now we’re finding people are starting to contribute what’s been happening in their day or their department or in the office in which they work,” Sumith said.

Sumith said another objective for implementing Yammer was to reduce all-company emails. He said they have “absolutely achieved that. The volume of all-firm emails is miniscule compared to what it was,” he said.

We’re not just getting lawyers contributing to client problems. You’ve got people from a knowledge management perspective and research people with technology skills, people with project management skills, people with commercial skills, all putting in commentary into how they might approach a particular problem or providing ideas. "

- Sumith Perera

Chief Operating Officer
Hall & Wilcox