Last week I attended a private meeting of large law firm knowledge management professionals. About 50 people from almost as many firms attended. In preparation for the meeting, the co-organizers (of which I was one) asked all invitees several questions about KM priorities and interests. I present here the results.
We asked invitees three questions:|
1 What are your top 2013 priorities?
2 What did you focus on in 2012? (What consumed most of your KM resources in past year?)
3 What would you like to discuss with the group?
Each respondent answered with a free-form, text answer and categorized that answer using one of about a dozen pre-set categories. Because we used same survey instrument last year, we were able to compare 2012 and 2013 responses. The charts below show the comparison, in addition to a roll-up of the 2013 responses.
About 70 invitees responded in both years but the mix of people changed. The year-to-year results therefore do not compare identical populations, which can affect the conclusions. Separately, because we allowed multiple categories per answer – and, in fact, many respondents did choose several per answer – percent values do not add up to 100.
This chart displays answers for 2013, collected in late 2012. The categories appear, left to right, ranked by 2013 priority.
Comparing 2012 Expected Priority and Actual Focus
These two charts compare stated 2012 priorities as of late 2011 with what respondents actually focused on in 2012. The first chart displays the answers from both years; the second highlights the difference.
Comparing 2013 Priority to 2012 Expected Priority + 2012 Actual Focus
The bars in the chart below represent 2013 priorities. Markers represent both the 2012 expected priority and the 2012 actual focus. See if you can draw any conclusions about how our priorities changed based on experience. One possibility is that changes reflect the tension between aspirations and the combination of business demand + the ability of lawyers / firms to change. Another is that changes reflect the natural cycle of projects and movement from one project to another.
2013 Priorities Compared to Discussion Interests
The scatter chart below shows how 2013 priorities compare with discussion interests. Most topics lie close to the diagonal line, meaning the priority and interest in discussing align closely. Highlighted in red and labeled by topic are the four topics with the greatest divergence from the line. Values above the line mean greater interest in discussing the topic than there is priority in doing it. Values below the line mean the topic priority exceeds the interest in discussing it.
This is a live blog post from a private meeting of large law firm knowledge management professionals. The topic is new model intranets / portals with a focus on user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
BACKGROUND AND PRINCIPLES OF GOOD DESIGN
Perhaps the most important element of any software system is the user experience. User interface is a subset of user experience. The UX reflects the overall experience whereas the UI refers to screen design.
Refers to Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford around 2005: Jobs attended a Lloyd Reynolds class on calligraphy and typography and reporting that led to his focus on design. Jobs quote: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”.
Design is not just about how something looks. You have to start at the beginning with design. “Behavioral design is all about feeling in control” say Don Norman, an engineer and industrial designer. Example: door handles that don’t tell you whether to pull or push. Similarly, software should convey to users what it does.
“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” Douglas Adams.
“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration” Jeffrey Zeldman
“The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design” Douglas Martin
PRINCIPLES OF LAW FIRM PORTAL DESIGN
Many law firm intranets are ugly. Joshua Fireman cites comments of many lawyers about their firms intranets, for example, “The first page is where you don’t want to be”
The first generation of intranets focused on putting physical binders on the web. The second generation moved to “matter centric” because all law firm content has a client-matter number. Designers reasoned that aggregating this way would be useful. It had limited utility. Now, in third generation, the focus is on the practice and how lawyers work.
In moving forward across generations, we have learned:
- Focus on consumption and produce. Make sure you understand use cases.
- Overcome the obsession with legacy content and legacy design. Users may be wed to old designs - get over it!
- The practice of law is about more than data integration. Lawyers don’t practice around data integration - it may not matter to them. Focus on problems lawyers are trying to solve not data integration.
- Matter numbers are NOT purpose. Don’t put too much reliance on matter numbers. Matter numbers say nothing about roles and work to be done (personas). You need to design around different “user journeys”
CASE STUDY OF A WELL-DESIGNED LAW FIRM INTRANET
Firm rolled out its fifth generation portal in March 2012. The firm had several primary goals: functionally driven, personal and role based experience, mobility focused, unified collaboration system. Secondary goals: social and search. It took almost one year to roll out.
Functionally Driven. Firm interviewed lawyers to learn what they do and how. Design portal around functions that lawyers need to perform. Process was driven by the ethos of mobile apps: think about what needs to be done and how to optimize interface and experience for that. Acknowledges, however, that lawyers had a hard time articulating this. Firm showed lawyers a lot of wire frames to get feedback. Also involved staff.
Roles and Personas. Work to understand how different users do different tasks. Responsible partner has different role than associate than secretary. Audience member points out that interviewing lawyers about their needs is a difficult task. Firms may need to hire outsiders, including designers or anthropologists to capture the real requirements. Alternatively, firms may need to conduct field studies, where someone sits and watches how lawyers actually work. Firm presenting used volunteers in firm to determine this.
Audience questions use of volunteers, expressing concern that the volunteers may not be representative. Many don’t respond to surveys. Some say they have been able to involve the nay-sayers. Engaging lawyers has two purposes. One is to understanding real needs. Another is to build acceptance and support (change management). A few interviews may give you 80% of what you need to design… but do many more to assure buy-in and vet results.
Unified Collaboration. Unified internal and external system.
1. Conceptual requirements
2. Current state analysis (figure out purpose of existing features)
3. Business requirements
4. Card sorting
6. Functinal requirements
Discussion and Audience Participation.
In the current generation portal, users can change virtually as screen elements except search, App Store, and “take me to” button.
Secretaries focused on who (can help), what (needs to be done), and how (the firm’s policies).
App Store has 40 apps. Most are around financial data. Also includes a project management and budget tool. Eventually - the grand vision - is that all vendor-specific, thick clients will become apps on portal.
Question: how does customized selection of apps affect support? Portal team has to provide support to help desk.
Question: with paradigm of iOS or Android app store and MSFT Surface, do we need to shift paradigm, specifically that we have a single operating system and all the apps live in OS? One answer: NO, because too hard to make apps aware of each other and integrate data across apps when they live independently in the OS.
What is knowledge management today? Recent developments in the legal publishing world provide one answer – and the answer may not be what you think.
Early in January, I was struck when Thomson Reuters (TRI), which owns Westlaw and other primary and secondary legal content, acquired the Practical Law Company (PLC). Legal KM professional know that PLC, with its precedents and legal updates prepared by very experienced and specialized lawyers, substitutes for much of what professional support lawyers do.
I can say the same about Reed Elsevier’s Lexis Nexis. For example, see my August 2012 post, LexisPSL - Automating and Standardizing Practice Support , which describes a product that I suggested competes with PLC. In it, I took special note of additional tools for lawyer such as checklists, forms, and calculators.
At minimum, we can conclude that two major legal publishers “are getting more into KM.” That’s true, but rather limited. The bigger conclusion is that legal publishers are moving from providing content to solving problems.
If I had any doubt about that conclusion, it was erased by a product and strategy roadmap session that TRI held for bloggers in mid-January. Reports from it make clear that TRI is explicitly shifting its focus. Jean O’Grady, at her Dewey B Strategic blog, wrote on 17 January 2013, Thomson Reuters Legal Announces New Strategic Direction: Content no Longer King, Shift to Client Centric Platforms. She reports that “TR Legal was evolving from a content company to a software company focused on providing integrated platforms supporting total workflow, collaboration and mobility.” Ryan McLead, at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, wrote on the same day On the Tendency of Vendors to Release New Products and then Seek Publicity. He reports “Thomson now sees itself as primarily a software and solutions company, rather than an information and news provider.”
Those of us in legal KM should not be surprised. After all, we are undergoing a very similar transition ourselves. For much of the 1990s, legal professionals did not even use the “KM word”. Instead, we talked about work product retrieval and precedents. That continued into the new century until we finally realized how hard it is to find work product and to write, maintain, and organize precedents.
Moreover, we also recognized that “content is not enough”. We broadened our focus to finding experienced lawyers and finding relevant matters. Both of these have value in their own right and lead to relevant content. Of course, we were aided by the development of software that automated much of the effort to accomplish all this.
More recently, KM has shifted again and I choose “shift” carefully. Many KM professionals today focus on legal project management, alternative pricing arrangements, and process improvement. In my view this reflects more a discontinuity or abrupt shift than ‘evolution’.
Legal KM, like legal publishers, sees the light: content is only a means to an end. Even software is only a means to an end. The real end, the real goal, perhaps the Holy Grail, is improving lawyer productivity; is solving real problems. To use Mary Abraham’s words, KM is becoming a “force multiplier” (in her November 2011 blog post, Is KM a Real Force Multiplier?, Mary explains the “key to force multiplication is not to settle for incremental improvements, but to aim for dramatically improved results. “)
At one time, we thought it sufficed to make it easier to find cases (Lexis or Westlaw) or to find work product or precedents (KM). Today, anyone who supports lawyers, whether in firms or provider companies, sees the need to do more. The “more” is improving how lawyers work and serve clients. The “more” is improving how law firms operate as businesses. I think we are making good progress and that our progress will continue.
The bigger question may be, will lawyers see the light and embrace what providers and law firm professionals are doing? I have no doubts some will and some will not. In the 1990s, the answer turned out not to matter. In these challenging economic times, in these times of price pressure, in these times of profit pressure, I think we will see that the answer indeed matters.
[This post first appeared on the ILTA KM blog yesterday.]
Last week, courtesy of Nick West, Director, Legal Markets for LexisNexis UK, I viewed a demo of LexisPSL, an online knowledge management (KM) and practice support tool for UK lawyers and professional support lawyers (PSL). It illustrates how the right combination of content, technology, and process improvement can help firms practice more efficiently.
LexisNexis PSL appears to compete directly with the Practical Law Company (PLC). I mention this to frame how I think about the product, not to set up a comparison. When I wrote about PLC in The New Imperative for Professional Support Lawyers (June 2011), I described PLC as a “shared services model”.
I view LexisPSL similarly. It centralizes and de-duplicates a portion of the work that PSLs do across firms. This frees PSLs to focus on higher value work and, indeed, Nick reports that PSLs in the UK today do more billable client-facing work than in the past, for example, training clients and assisting them develop and maintain their own precedents.
Perhaps the greatest value though, is for practicing lawyers. Nick, and the LexisPSL site, describe the product as adding the “what, how, and why” to the underlying primary and secondary LexisNexis content. That seems an apt description. Lexis has hired many lawyers to provide rich and deep editorial content, which includes:
- Short and crisp practice notes
- Checklists, diagrams, and flowcharts.
- Precedents with associated drafting notes
- Forms, many of which are government PDFs that Lexis has enhanced to make easier to fill-in, submit, save, and re-use)
- Calculators specific to each area of law, for example, damages. There are 55 so far.
- Document assembly based on Business Integrity’s Contract Express
Lawyers can navigate the system via search or a reasonably-sized, two-level taxonomy. Throughout, LexisPSL includes key case law, legislation and secondary content (books, procedural rules) and also links to Lexis primary and secondary content such as Halsbury’s, Butterworth’s and Tolley - some of this content is only available by separate subscription via a set of links segregated from the main text.
Lexis started developing LexisPSL around 2008, initially focusing on High Street law (that is, “Main Street” or consumer law). Since then, the company has moved into the business-to-business market. LexisPSL covers 25 topics, 15 of which were released in the last year. The company continues to add content across the service and is particularly focused on adding further productivity tools, similar to the calculators and document assembly capabilities.
The interface appears carefully considered and well designed. It has a clean, “Web 2.0 look” with clearly labeled embedded links, liberal use of mouse-over for details, and navigation to other resources cleanly segregated and consistently placed. Even the website promoting the service, http://www.lexislegalintelligence.co.uk/intelligence/lexispsl, is snappier than the typical vendor website; I particularly like the short animated video explaining precedents. For those interested in learning more, Nick suggests a visit to http://www.trialpsl.com/, where you can sign up for a free trial.
I have long thought that lawyers need software like this, integrating content and tools directed at specific tasks and problems. The LexisPSL approach could serve as a basis for lawyers to standardize the tasks and workflow of many common matters. I am not close enough to practice to know if it actually does, but the overall framework strikes me a good architecture for doing so. Given lawyer resistance to standardization, however, I would not promote this idea were I LexisNexis. I can see though, how forward-thinking firms can use a tool like this in support of standardization.
I believe a product like this would also do well in the US market; the US equivalent, Lexis Practice Advisor, is already available now along with an Australian version.
Legal knowledge management professionals frequently discuss Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFA). The discussion typically focuses on why and how AFA should be good for KM. But absent appropriate internal allocation of fees, I am not so sure that is true.
This post is a work in progress; I am “thinking out loud” about how law firms and KM professionals should view pricing as more work moves to AFA. My concern is that BigLaw thinking seems to translate AFA to hourly rate equivalents. That mentality could eventually undermine KM efforts…
Hourly rates have never closely reflected costs. The average cost of an associate hour is high but the marginal cost is almost zero. That is another way of saying law firms are a high fixed cost business: occupancy, staff support, malpractice coverage, IT, and especially associate salaries are all, in the short term, fixed costs.
Other high fixed-cost businesses use variable pricing to generate more revenue and profit. Airlines use yield management. Electric utilities use time-of-day or demand-based rates (where technology and regulations so allow). Even consumer electronics makers do so: older models stay in production but are sold at a lower price. While that strategy may take advantage of price elasticity, it also helps recoup the very high fixed research and development cost of developing any new product and the relatively low marginal cost of producing an extra unit. All need to consider carefully how fixed and variable “factor inputs” contribute to their final product or service.
In addition to lawyer salaries, offices, and staff, law firms have another high, fixed cost: accumulated lawyer experience and work product. Because firm management tends to translate all fees into hourly rate equivalents, I believe they undervalue the high fixed cost of experience and work product. Consequently, firms likely “give away” prior work product and undervalue the one or two hours of rare expertise that ‘cracks the case’ (and that KM enables finding). If true, then doing so may, over time, undervalue the fruits of KM. Anything that is undervalued risks underinvestment.
In the age of AFA, we can reasonably argue that some portion of AFA should be allocated to cover KM costs. To be sure, this will benefit KM professionals. But it also will benefit law firms and partner profits. Unless law firm internal allocation of fees to “factor inputs” accurately reflects costs, firms will over-invest in some resources and under-invest in others. That would not be good for KM.
Two mainstream media articles last week illustrate the power of collective intelligence. Both make me wonder whether large law firms take full advantage of their scale.
Herds on the Street (Jonah Lehrer, Wall Street Journal, 19 March 2011) describes how traders at one hedge fund exchanged information with instant messages (IM). With the “the average trader engaging in 16 IM conversations at a time… this ceaseless messaging wasn’t a distraction. Instead, it allowed traders to pool their information” to make more winning trades.
Users Help a Weather Site Hone Its Forecasts (Daniel E. Slotnik, The New York Times, 20 March 2011) reports that a weather channel taps 20,000 amateur-operated weather stations around the world to ‘crowd source’ real-time weather data. With data readings from more locations, forecasts can improve.
Both examples illustrate collective intelligence, one within an organization and the other in the world at large. With social media, such “crowd sourcing” examples abound.
How many large law firms meaningfully access their collective intelligence? Knowledge management (KM) tries to do so with processes, incentives, and systems to capture, share, and re-use know-how. Even successful KM program rarely tap the full potential and many firms lack active KM programs. BigLaw marketing touts its global reach and full service but I cannot recall seeing claims that high lawyer headcounts yield better advice or results. A missed opportunity?
If we could quantify the amount of sharing by firm, I wonder if it would correlate with client win rates - or with firm realization rates. And might we see a big differences that turn on partner compensation? I wonder whether the legal market lags other professions in tapping the collective intelligence of a large organization.
What’s hot in legal knowledge management? What would KM managers not do again? And what legal KM topics are of most interest now? KM professionals at about 50 large US, UK, and Canadian law firms answered these questions in a recent survey in advance of a private meeting.
The survey asked open-ended questions, meaning respondents wrote completely free-form text answers. One of the meeting co-organizers and I subjectively categorized answers so we could provide an aggregated “directional sense” of the group’s views. Below are results for each question. We also do a subjective trend analysis to assess how the answers trend over time. (Totals across questions vary because respondents could provide multiple answers and/or skip questions.)
|1. What’s hot or tough
|DM, EM, S/P, RM, Search, or Collaboration
|Legal project management (LPM)
|Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFA) + Budgets
|Social Media + Web 2.0
|Lawyer Adoption or Sharing
|Forms, Precedents, and Document Assembly
|Litigation Support and e-discovery
|2. What would you not do again?
|Forms, Brief Banks
|Ask Lawyers to Change
|Search or Document Management (DM)
|3. What would you most like to hear from your peers?
[Note: only lists topics with 3 or more votes; many topics received 1 or 2 votes]
|AFA / Budgeting
|Client facing KM
We have asked similar questions for a few years. (See 2010 What’s Hot in KM? results.) In an even more subjective assessment, a co-organizer and I also put together a list that assesses how answers have changed over time. Changes in level of interest do not necessarily equate to to changes in level of activity.
KM organization, budgeting, alignment, change management
Blogs and wikis
Content, DM, SharePoint, and software challenges
Change management challenge
Social Media (but below prior expectations)
Client facing KM (at a low level)
A new report on knowledge management from the UK highlights KM best practices, barriers, and outcomes.
The February 2011 report, The Knowledge Imperative (14-page PDF), is by OMC Partners, a “a management consultancy that works with leading legal and professional services clients to reduce costs while increasing the effectiveness of their operations.” The KM report was commissioned by the Practical Law Company (PLC). (For additional OMC reports, see the OMC News & Events page)
To write this report, OMC interviewed 50 lawyers, knowledge managers, and other professionals at 10 leading UK law firms. It is not a “how to KM guide"; rather, it provides an overview and brief analysis of KM best practices, barriers to KM, and the benefits (outcomes) that can be realized when KM is done effectively.
The findings suggest an optimal ratio of Professional Support Lawyers (PSLs) to lawyers (at 50 to 1). The findings and analysis suggest that firms should rely on a 3rd party service for significant KM support:
“Creation of generic knowledge is pushed ‘down or out’. That is, it is either allocated to cheaper internal resources or passed to external providers, benefiting from economies of scale. There is an openness to collaborating with external providers, creating strategic partnerships that help the firm meet client demands.”
Given the impact PLC has had over the last decade on the number of PSLs in large UK law firms, this finding is not surprising. From my day-job perspective working for a legal outsourcing provider (Integreon), I have long believed in the compelling logic of relying on a “shared service” where possible. PLC is, of course, an example of this. Prior to its advent, a significant portion of PSL work across UK firms was duplicative and did not provide competitive advantage. By relying on PLC, many large UK law firms have been able to reduce the ratio of PSLs, allowing them to focus on higher value, firm-specific, competitive-advantage creating work.
The report is also a good reminder of the difference between the US and UK market when it comes PSLs. Few large US firms, at least in their US offices, have PSL ratios even approaching those commonly found in the UK. (Some large US firms are now increasing the number of PSLs though in my view, it is premature to call this a trend.)
Experienced KM professionals will find few surprises in this report; nonetheless, I recommend reading it. It has a business perspective meant to appeal to law firm management, a perspective that KM professionals must always keep in mind.
In my prior post, Knowledge Management Reincarnated, I argued that KM is expanding beyond its core remit today because KM professionals span multiple disciplines, think laterally, and can handle complex problems that fall outside the boundaries of other support functions. Three experienced KM professionals wrote great comments, which I reproduce here.
Patrick DiDomenico, CKO of Gibbons P.C. and www.lawyerkm.com
Great post, and a much-needed one. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve always noticed that legal KM is different wherever you go, and it often depends on the background of the people involved in KM. I’m head KM (CKO) at my firm, but I also manage the library and litigation support department, have an active role in our E-Discovery Task Force, and am the social media evangelist (among other things). My role as a former practicing litigator at my firm has a lot to do with what I now do for the firm. The fact that I do these things does not make them “KM activities.” Rather, these are some of the things that the head of KM happens to do.
Meredith L. Williams, Director of Knowledge Management, Baker Donelson
Great post and comment. I couldn’t agree more. These days CKOs and KM professionals are being asked to expand their roles further and further in addition to continuing many traditional KM tasks. As Patrick referenced, I too aid in multiple projects that are not traditional KM such as Social Media, Competitive Intelligence, E-Discovery, Legal Project Management, Alternative Fee Arrangements and Mobility. In addition, our firm expands KM into the client relationship role. We look at KM tools as aiding with risk management for the client. The interesting question will be where will KM be in 10 years?
Rob Saccone, VP, Product Management, Thomson Reuters ||
Hubbard One, founder of XMLaw
Great article and comments. As a former KM’er and now a vendor, I’m also seeing the role of the KM professional change within many firms. But this is not limited or isolated to KM. In some firms, particularly those without a formal KM function, I’ve seen other senior positions such as the CMO or CIO take on such projects that require a broad, cross-functional understanding of both the practice and business of law. I’ve argued that, as law firms become more business-minded, many senior level non-attorneys (or non-practicing attorneys) will evolve into more “traditional” business management roles. In many firms, the combination of marketing, business development and knowledge management is looking more and more like product management in the corporate world. It’s interesting to observe how firms adopt corporate best practices, though at times they choose different names to describe them.
Last week in KM is Dead - Long Live KM, I suggested that large law firms have moved beyond traditional knowledge management to legal project management (LPM), alternative fee arrangements (AFA), and other endeavors. I also said I would offer a theory for the shift in focus.
Even before the economic re-set, large law firms tapped KM professionals for more than just KM. Examples include deciding on or planning IT infrastructure; solving tough marketing problems such as CRM; and managing e-discovery.
So why does KM continue to expand beyond its core remit today? My theory is that KM professionals span multiple disciplines and think laterally. They can handle complex problems that fall outside the boundaries of other support functions. Moreover, successful KM professionals have gained the confidence of lawyers; many come from the practice; others have worked closely with lawyers for a long time. Whatever their background, they develop excellent rapport with partners and practice groups. Of course, many are lawyers and in the caste system that defines BigLaw, that is a big plus.
My KM friends argue that they now work on LPM and AFA because KM supports both. True enough but I ask, when firms confront new problems like LPM and AFA, where else should firm management turn? Finance can run the numbers but is usually not so close to the practice side. Legal assistants may make fine project managers but often lack the status of senior KM staff (this is an observation, not judgment). Marketing may not be close enough to the practice and the tech elements of LPM and AFA is not its strong suit.
When partners face tough new problems that lawyers cannot solve by billing time, turning to KM folk seems natural. Partners have seen KM professionals in action so trust their understanding of law practice, business, and the technology. The cross-disciplinary views of KM is in otherwise short supply in BigLaw. KM professionals have, in my view, been morphing for a long time into practice support professionals. New market pressures merely accelerate and make even more visible this trend.
Do I overstate the case? I welcome comments, as always.
Knowledge management may not be dead but it certainly has changed.
Absent today are previously dominant “pure” or “traditional” legal KM topics such as precedents, forms, work product retrieval, experience location, taxonomies, and the role of practice support lawyers. Instead, knowledge managers now discuss alternative fee arrangements (AFA), matter budgets, legal project management (LPM), and social media.
Consider the agendas for two leading conference. ILTA 2010 sessions designated as knowledge management include many document management, social media, extranets, enterprise 2.0 sessions but just a handful explicitly KM. Likewise for the Legal Tech 2011 program: Leveraging Technology for Better Firm Efficiencies and Enterprise Search Technology: Changing the Game will likely touch on KM but the only explicit KM-titled session is “KM: Beyond Search”.
Or consider less public evidence. At a private legal KM event I attended this fall, the main topic was LPM. From personal conversations, I know that in addition to LPM, many large-firm KM professionals are also working on AFA.
Reasons traditional topics have faded from discussion could include that the problems they encompass have been solved, declared unsolvable, or proven not worth solving. Yet KM professionals remain as busy as ever. In a future post, I will offer another theory for the shift in focus.
American Lawyer magazine has just released its 2010 large law firm library survey. The results are interesting but not surprising.
Law Librarian Survey 2010: More Bang, Less Bucks writes-up the results and has links to survey data (free registration required). Almost one-half of the 86 firms replying (45%) reported staff cutbacks. The article raises a good question - what next? Here’s the quote:
But in interviews with a dozen library chiefs, one big fear kept resurfacing: How long can they keep cost-cutting? “There was a lot of fat,” says one library chief. “But now you’ve gotten rid of the fat.”
In general, firms seem to recognize that they can no longer cut their way to profitability. Whether that recognition spares libraries future cuts, however, is not yet clear.
I enumerate below some of the results I find most interesting. Before doing so, however, I offer my usual caveat about ALM surveys. Year over year comparisons are most likely not reliable. Unless the same 86 firms replied in both 2009 and 2010, inter-temporal comparisons are risky at best. For example, in answer to “What other departments within your firm are you responsible for?” knowledge management rated 19% in 2009 and 40% in 2010. That is not consistent with anecdotal data I hear and I suspect a good part of the seeming shift reflects changes in the respondent mix year-over-year.
So, for my interesting finding, I focus only on same year data:
- Of 35% of firms anticipating moving to to a single online legal research service, 70% lean toward Westlaw and 30% toward LexisNexis.
- 82% or respondents do NOT plan to subscribe to WestLawNext in 2010. [Updated 15 Jul 10 - I inverted the yes/no responses accidentally when I first posted]
- 72% firms answered yes to “Is your firm’s library function centralized?” Yet in answer to “How many of the firm’s offices have libraries and library staff?", 37% answered more than half. Either I’m missing something or respondents have a different idea of what ‘centralized’ means than I do.
- About 85% of firms have flat rate contracts with both Lexis and Westlaw. I’ve heard a lot of talk about moving to sole source but it sounds like few firms have pulled that trigger yet.
- The average firm spends about $3.7mil for online resources; the median about $3.0mil. (I added up results of 3 questions to get to these totals.)
- WestLaw takes in almost 70% more than LexisNexis. Respondents spent, on average, $1.7 million with WestLaw and $1.0 million with LexisNexis.
What is the state of the practice support lawyer (professional support lawyer or PSL) among US large law firms?
I have not heard PSLs discussed much lately. So at a recent knowledge management meeting, I asked each attendee to report his or her firm’s number of PSLs. We had 10 large, US-based law firms attending, with the number of lawyers ranging from about 200 to well-over 1000. Assume that this group is not representative; by definition, these firms self-selected for above average interest in KM.
The PSL numbers are low:
- Average: 1
- Range: 0 to 3
- Mode: 0 [5 firms]
However we slice it, the numbers are so low that normalizing for firm size does not even pay. And these reported numbers might even be bit of a stretch. Of the reported PSL, not all have that title or exact function. A few of these PSLs are staff attorneys who function as PSL. A few were simply characterized as “like PSL.”
Based on my KM experience over the last decade, these numbers were only a little bit lower than I expected. It’s not that the recession or Practical Law Company (PLC) did in PSLs, they never caught on in large numbers in the US or at that many large firms.
It will be interesting to see whether the alternative fee arrangements (AFA) become big enough to change the economics of employing PSL.
Mary Abraham’s recent blog post Librarians vs Knowledge Managers? created a bit of controversy over the role of both. At the risk of adding fuel to the fire…
In her post, Mary reports and comments on librarian Morgan Wilson’s post reflection on KM and libraries in law firms. He suggested that it’s not good when libraries report to KM. Mary assesses this suggestion and concludes “perhaps the battles (real or perceived) between librarians and knowledge managers are really the death throes of an obsolete system”.
Nina Platt commented at length in Musings on the Librarian’s Role in Knowledge Management in Law Firms. Mary in turn wrote Catalog Content Not People, in which she gracefully synthesizes and reconciles potentially opposing perspectives on the role of KM “versus” library.
My own observation is that KM began some time ago to morph into a broader practice consulting role in many firms, which I first suggested almost five years ago in KM Morphing? (I returned to this theme in many subsequent posts). That trend continues. Today, many KM professionals focus on alternative fee arrangements, e-discovery, project management, process mapping, and business analysis.
To the extent that there is any tension between KM and library - and I’m not persuaded there is - I think it will diminish over time. So I agree with Mary’s “death throes” comment, though I mean that in a positive not negative way. My guess is that in a decade, BigLaw will have more clearly defined business process experts and analysts and a range of practice support professionals. Some of the them will do KM and library work; some will be KM professionals or librarians. But I’m with Mary in her view that we need “assign the right people to the task based on their talent, experience, temperament and inclination.”
That said, one of the themes in the referenced posts is the caste system. It is alive and well, which is truly unfortunate. My hope is that one of the silver linings of the economic challenges law firms face today is that the pressure will help break down the caste mentality. Hope springs eternal.
Here’s a thought experiment designed to think about knowledge management, open source law, and the process of law practice. The goal is to identify one way lawyers might save time and money and deliver more value to clients.
In a thought experiment, we can throw away constraints. So assume that confidentiality, privilege, and competitive issues matter not, that law departments contributed a significant portion of work product - generated internally or by outside counsel - to a common pool ("The Corpus"), and that lawyers had software that allowed easy and effective searches of the Corpus.
The experiment’s goal is to to learn if lawyer efficiency would increase with access to the Corpus. The metric is the time lawyers would save (the “Savings") versus not having access to The Corpus. What are some possible findings?
If the Savings were quite low (say under 15%) we might conclude that most of what lawyers do is “one off”. So we might agitate to simplify the world, trying to figure out whether the complexity stems from clients who demand more than they really need, lawyers who do more than need to, or from laws that are too complex.
If the Savings were quite high (say more than 65%), we might conclude that corporate counsel should find a way to share more. Or would it? We would need to answer another question first: just how big a Corpus is necessary to achieve the Savings? Large law departments already have, at least in our thought experiment, easy access to a big corpus of their own documents. It may turn out that this subset of the Corpus provides most of the benefit (the 80-20 rule). If true, then we would want to invest more in KM. If not true, then we might have the impetus to find ways to share more, to create a bigger body of open source law. It might then pay to consider ways to relax some of the practical constraints such as privilege and confidentiality. As for mechanisms for sharing, several possibilities already come to mind: ACC, General Counsel Roundtable, or Legal OnRamp.
If the Savings were somewhere in the middle (say 20% to 60%), we might decide to re-run the experiment on less than all of law. For example, we could look at just asset purchases or just employment agreements? Looking at “smaller slices” might identify areas where more sharing would be hugely beneficial because few organizations individually achieve critical substantive mass or because everyone does it but there is too much variation not driven by business requirements. The outcome might be focused efforts to share particular types of documents.
Conducting this experiment, I’ll state one definite conclusion: we lack sufficient data to begin to estimate the Savings. And this is a problem. In the Value Challenge age, the legal market needs a better sense of how its processes work, what really drives work effort, and how to save time.
Some end notes:
- You can learn more about thought experiments at Wikipedia.
- I was prompted to think about open source law by spending more time with Kiiac, which has tools to analyze collections of transactional documents, and by reading about Series Seed a website by a Fenwick & West lawyer that offers open source law documents for start-ups.
- I have previously written about open source law; not to be confused with the law of open source code.
- I have focused, implicitly, on business to business law (Big Law). Open Source Law raises an equally interesting set of questions for consumer law.
- I welcome comments on the thought experiment. Better yet, I welcome someone to re-run the thought experiment and see if they reach different outcomes.
Update (April 20, 2010): Fellow blogger and contract drafting expert Ken Adams has an excellent commentary on the above at his post Open Source Law and Contract Drafting—A Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road. Plus see the one comment as of this update. I’ll see if there is more reaction before weighing in again.
Update (April 21, 2010): Fellow blogger, KMer, and contract analysis expert Kingsley Martin of Kiiac has chimed in on this discussion at Open Source—A Dose of Tomato Juice. Ken’s thesis is that a lot of language in Corpus is bad, so don’t copy; Kingsley’s is that the Corpus can offer important insight into what business terms are important.
Update (April 21, 2010): Ken Adams has updated Open Source Law and Contract Drafting—A Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road to comment on Kingsley’s post. [Hmmm… what’s the the best platform for this type of dialogue? I’m not persuaded comments to blog is best approach.]
Last week I saw a great example of live knowledge management - an “after action review” at the Georgetown Law School conference, Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business As Usual?. Jeffrey W. Carr - Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary led it.
Jeff is a well-known GC who manages outside counsel efficiently and effectively and encourages other GCs to do the same. He was a conference panelist and participant. At the end of the conference, in an unscheduled session, he led an after action review.
“After action review” is a KM technique that captures key learning in real time so that participants can improve future similar actions. The US military excels at “AAR”. The technique has broad applicability though, as Jeff ably illustrated.
In a session lasting less than 10 minutes, Jeff led the audience in a review. He used an easel and flip chart, so a low-tech approach. He divided the flip chart vertically in two. On the left, he made a column for ‘what went well’ and on the right for ‘take a look at’. The idea is to get fast, brainstormed, uncensored audience comments on what worked well and what could be improved. He spent two minutes laying out simple ground rules (e.g., say what comes to mind, think of positives as well as negatives, as scribe he would write down whatever was said without judgment).
Then the audience got going with short comments. In just minutes Jeff filled several sheets with many helpful comments. The audience liked the exercise and the conference organizers were delighted with all the helpful feedback for use in planning the next one.
While anyone can perform an AAR, it’s clear that Jeff is good at it. And no surprise since he shared that he does such reviews every day in running the FMC law department. I wonder how many other GC regularly conduct AARs - and why so few do.
Participating in this review was a great illustration that KM need not be complicated, high tech, or ‘extra work’. We did spend a few minutes but no one viewed it as hard, boring, or besides the point. In fact, it revived the audience when we are all a bit flagging after two intense days.
I suspect Jeff made some converts. I am one of them.
The International Legal Technology Association’s Knowledge Management Peer Group is conducting its biennial knowledge management survey to probe the trends, hot topics and development of KM in the legal industry.
Survey results will be published in the KM White Paper, scheduled for June. ILTA encourages all legal organizations to submit survey responses. The 30-question survey will take about ten minutes to complete. ITLA wants only one response per organization, so you should make sure the most appropriate person in your firm, department, or organization completes it.
As an incentive to participate, ILTA will draw three names from respondents –– two winners will receive $500, and a third will receive his/her choice of $500 or a waived registration fee for ILTA 2010, the annual conference (a $1,025 value).
To take the ILTA 2010 legal knowledge management survey, click here.
What’s hot in legal knowledge management? What would KM managers not do again? And what legal KM topics are of most interest now? US, UK, and Canadian large law firm KM professionals answered these
questions in a recent survey.
In advance of of a private KM meeting of about 50 people, the organizers ask three questions:
1. What’s hot or tough?
2. What would you not do again?
3. What would you most like to hear from your peers?
Each respondent wrote a completely free-form text answer. To help guide a session in which we discussed answers, a meeting co-organizer and I subjectively categorized answers to provide a “directional sense” of the group’s views. Below are summary tables for each question. (Totals may not be identical because not all people answer all questions and because some people provided both a “hot” and “tough” answer.)
|1. What’s hot or tough
|Content management and software
|KM org, alignment, and budget
|Project and process management
|Client facing KM
|Web and Enterprise 2.0 +
|2. What would you not do again?
|Requiring lawyer input
|Heavy customizing of app
|Experience location - specific approach
|3. What would you most like to hear from your peers?
|Useful Applications and Tools
|Client facing systems
|Metrics and ROI
|Future of KM
We have asked similar questions for a few years. In an even more subjective assessment, a co-organizer and I also put together a list that represents our thinking of how answers have changed over time. Changes in level of interest do not necessarily equate to to changes in level of activity. Answers simply reflect what participants want to discuss.
Dropping in Interest
Rising in Interest
Alternative Fee Arrangements
Project and process management
Staying Level in Interest
Content and software challenges
KM organization, budget, alignment, and change management
This is a live post from a private large law firm knowledge management meeting. This session, Change and the Growing Importance of KM, was also presented at the just completed CIO conference held in connection with Legal Tech.
Oz Benamram, White & Case
Michael Mills, Kraft Kennedy, formerly of Davis Polk
Brent Miller, Cleary Gottlieb
Jeff Rovner, O’Melveny
Act 1: It’s a Mad, Mad World - Challenge to the Way We Used to Print Money
Abbreviated - we all know that the printing press is not working the way it used. Rates can’t keep going up. Profits likely to remain flat. Realization is down. Alternative Billing is expected to grow. Still a gap in surveys of GC v law firms. Former expect more than latter but e-billing folks say it is actually still only 5%. Hildebrandt says billable hour is not dead but is shrinking in importance.
Act 2: The Devil Wears Business Casual - The Impact of Millennials on Legal IT and KM
Baby boomers: Born 1946-64
Gen Xers - born 1965-79
Millennial or Gen Y - born post 1980
- Prefer smaller ogganizations
- Look f or’good’ employers
- Skeptical and question rhetoric
- Not as focused on work
Millennial Learning Styles:
- Networks, teams, searms (leaderless)
- Multimedia / tech savvy. Intuitive. But can’t drive a stick shift.
- Engaging / stimulating methods
- Strategy guidesand visualization, not throughg experts and bosses
- Segmentation - stick ‘newbies’ together, let the ‘gamers’ advance at different rates
- Failure is ok
- Want to be included
- Want constant feedback
- Military is using games to teach but CLE certification would not allow games.
- Meritocracy replaces bureaucracy
- Those who go into law may self-select to be more like boomers
- As Millennials gain work eperience, they may become more like older generations
- Millennials want KM check lists and guides because they are used to getting instructions
- Information sharing is part of their culture (think Facebook and Twitter) so they support KM; but they won’t pick up the phone and talk
- Higher attrition (even before lay offs)
- Less committed to partner track
- Tend ot communicate online instead of in-person
- Expect greater work flexibility and options to work remotely
- Fewer boundaries between work and home
Law Firm Economic Implications
- Traditional motivators less important
- Training more important
- Rise of alternative career paths
- Demise of time-based billing likely a positive
Law Firm Technoloy Implications
- Comfort with social media mean firms need to adapt. For example, think social tagging and additional communication and collaboration channels
- Constant connectivity
- Reduced toleratnce for hierarchy
- Expect coll interfaces. Without a good user interface (UI), your app is dead
- Want more tools and toys (multiple monitors, gadgets, options)
- IT and KM may have to allow work outtside firewall and outside of firm-controlled content
- Rethink training / planning: this gen may be more tech savvy than the trainers
Knowledge Grid in Millennial Era
- Tacit to Tacit (Socialization): online networking and teaming
- Tacit to Explicit (Externalization): tagging, crowd sourcing, auto categorization
- Explicit to Tacit (Internalization): search based precedent, reliance on wikis, blogs and other unapproved resources
- Explicit to Explicit (Rationalization): smart search; page-oriented; personaolzied and small gorup data management, Web 3.0
- Millennials attuned to how advertisers are collecting behavioral data. Watch the advertiser to learn how to bring info needed when it’s needed.
Act 3: Fixed Fees Magic - Change to the Way Law Firms Deliver Legal Services
The Grim Reality
- Business model is in peril
- Imagine a law firm that does one litigation matter in a year, for which it gets $100
- Assume 40% margin on this. $60 is salary and other costs
- Realization has fallen so what used to be $100 is now $85
. Clients getting discounts
. Auditors chopping bills
. Clients refuse to pay for junior associates
- Now, assume revenue base is $85 >> that means profits go from $40 to $25 (absent changing cost base)
. That means margin drops by more than one-third
- So firms have tried to lower cost. But this is hard to do quickly
. Firms have cut lawyers and staff and outsourced but the model has not really changed
. How can firms lower cost base without further cuts
- Reduce admin costs
. Can firms cut these further after 2009? Seem unlikely
- So firms need to think how to reduce the cost of delivering legal services
. Perform tasks in less time
. Perform work with lower-cost personnel
. Reduce low-value effort that gets written off
. But firms need to profit from improved efficiency
- For law firms, fixed fees are better than discounts
. With fixed fee and efficiency, firms can maintain margin
. With discounts, impossible to maintain margins
How can law firms improve efficiency? Consider Orrick’s fixed fee deal with Levi-Strauss. Doesn’t Orrick have an incentive to be more efficient?
Challenges to efficiency
- Many lateral partners, each trained differently
- Lots of litigation teams, each with its own ‘way’ (vendors, processes, resource mix)
- Each associate plays for multiple teams, so can’t learn to be efficient
- Firm-wide model to conduct litigation
- A common and efficient tech platform
- Ease of adopting new tech and process
- Substantial saving to pass along to clients
Ways to Improve Efficiency
- Adopt a production-lline mentality
- There is more to learn from manufacturing than service businesses think
- How would we litigate if we were starting from scratch
- Example: invention of mutual funds to simplify building diverse portfolios without high transaction ccosts
My firm gets a lot of pitches from outsourcers for administrative work. It’s not that they are smarter or better. But they’re willing to follow processes, and we’re often challenged to do that consistently.
Deconstruct the current Litigation Approach
- What does a firm produce? How can you produce the truly necessary components more effectively?
- Use tech to streamline processes
- Litigation consists of many sub-processes or modules
- Subject each sub-process to a best-practice analysis
- Replace sub-processes with cheaper or better ones as developed
- Outsource or insource sub-processes as competitive pressure dictates
- Each sub-process dictates personnel needs.
Fixed fees are a way to lock-in revenue as you improve the overall process.
- Firms may need tools to support fixed fee analysis
- Baker Robbins is developing a good tool
Act 4: The End of Lawyers? - The Efficiency Game
Where do we find places in our practices to improve efficiencies?
Consider replacing KM with “practice engineering”
Richard Susskind looks across practices to to find areas where lawyers can practice more efficiently
Lawyers in large firms believe all they do is bespoke but most is actually not
Even in a truly one-off deal, many elements can be systematized
. No matter what the deal, if big, there will be many routine filings and processes
One-off > Standardized > Systematized > Packaged >|> Commoditized
Truly one-off work starts with a blank piece of paper. So, in theory, all a lawyer needs is a word processor.
But in fact, most practice relies on either standard forms or prior similar documents
Where there are enough similar deals, firms can develop check-lists, some automated
Lawyers can go still further with document assembly to automate commonly used forms
Davis Polk Netting system is example packaging expertise for delivery online
- Enterprise search
- matter info and analytics across life cycle
- Project management tools
- Auto-categorization and entity extraction
- Communications and collaboration
- Cloud computing (possibly the client’s cloud)
- Social media, transparency,
- Doc automation
From a private large law firm knowledge management gathering, here is a near real-time report on Engaging Lawyers in KM.
What motivates lawyers to participate in KM efforts? Research shows that extrinsic motivators (e.g., money or recognition) do not lead to better results for cognitive work. Instead, you need to focus on intrinsic motivators, for example, purpose, mastery, and autonomy.
What are the intrinsic motivators in a law firm? Examples might be
- working on a project of one’s own choosing
- exploring a new interest
- opportunity to get deeper expertise
- psychic reward of teamwork (for anyone who is social)
- doing the right work because it matters
So, the answer to get content is not offering Starbucks cards. Use extrinsic motivators for adding content and reviewing document; use intrinsic motivators for creating content and revising documents.
An alternate theory is that the environment affects behavior and so you have to create an environment that encourages engagement. For example, consider grocery store lay-out (staples at back so you have to walk through store or shelving sweet cereals at child eye level). Are there variables one could change in law firm environment that would encourage KM engagement.
Yet another theory is tha the interface affects behavior. See for example thefuntheory.com by Volkswagen.
A different perspective, from a 2nd panelist: Need to use extrinsic motivators with lawyers: fear, humiliation, shame, sense of crisis, desperation. Bottom line: wait until lawyers are in a panic or in a jam, help them, then they will seek you out in the future.
From a private large law firm knowledge management gathering, here is a near real-time report on a competitive intelligence (CI) in law firms by Ann Lee Gibson, who blogs at Law Firm Competitive Intelligence.
Peter Drucker said that 90% of info used in organizations is internally focused only 10% externally. It should be the other way around. So, CI is not competitor intelligence; it is information that allows firms to be more competitive. Information sources are a prelude to CI. CI allows making an informed decision. But CI is not predicting the future - it does help narrow the options and decide which future to aim for. Given that goal is to make informed decisions, it makes sense that CI should be directed at decisions with the biggest impact on the law firm.
The ‘intelligence cycle’:
- Planning and direction. Understand the goals of the decision-makers.
- Collect data (primary or secondary) and do research. This may require personal networking and conduting interviews
- Analyze, synthesize, and produce. Good CI is not just a book report. It is forward looking and analytic.
- Disseminate to decision makers
- Take action
Don’t bother with CI if no one in your firm is actually making decisions. Audience member suggests that it can be helpful to queue up info for decision-makers in hope that they will focus on the issue. A CI assignment anticipates specific questions and decisions. [RF comment on that: beware the managers want information without having a clear idea of how that will change their decision. It’s costly to collect information is I agree info and analyzed must be geared to change or at least consciously deciding to keep status quo and reject the alternatives.]
Many Fortune 100 companies have established CI functions; likewise leading service organizations such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young. Potential drivers for starting CI include: changes in pricing, competing for new business, expanding into new markets. How do you start a law firm CI function? Find a champion with clout, stay close to the revenue, focus on deliver analysis not just info, actively market the CI function, build a network of primary sources, and emphasize early warnings. It’s better to know what other firms are about to do rather than what they are doing.
What are the skills and attributes of a good CI professional? Factors include: broad background with multiple points of view, curious, comfortable with amiguity, looks for patterns, has lived in multiple places, skeptical, read voraciously, elicitation skills (can get info out of people by asking smart questions and listening well - also means providing info back), tech and KM focused, build human networks, and listens well.
Law firms need to ask clients questions. [I comment that partners seem not to understand or believe that asking clients simple favors builds relationship capital rather than diminishes it.]
Some typical law firm CI assignments….
1. A law firm wanted to find ‘the next Vioxx litigation’. Look at what PI are doing, read medical journals, download adverse event reports from FDA database, read more on FDA website, interviewed ex-FDA employees, create list of clients who had drugs that might be subject to massive litigation. This CI led firm to winning major engagement for Avandia litigation.
2. CI led a firm to identify issue with OTC drug. Firm called the drug company and got meeting. The company said, “we know we have problem but we didn’t think others did”. The firm went in, not with qualifications but with an action plan reflecting the law by jurisdiction.
From a private large law firm knowledge management gathering, here is a near real-time report on a relatively unusual KM topic, usability issues.
A usability expert from one of the attending law firms presents. Her prior job titles include include Visual Designer, Interaction Designer, Information Architect, and User Experience Researcher.
She starts with an illustration from the “real world", a car dome light (in a rental car) with no obvious way to turn it on. That’s bad! Likes the usability of DropSend web interface because it make very clear what it does and how to use it. In contrast, she shows a PeopleSoft interface, which she calls ‘horrifying.’ There is a science behind usability; for example, many studies look at where to place labels on a page, how to design forms, whether to use check boxes or radio buttons. All of this falls under the rubric of “interaction” usability.
Quantitative research is one approach to improve usability. Studies look at timed tasks, eye tracking, observing behavior from behind a 2-way mirror. Qualitative research, another approach, includes recording in-depth interviews (suggests recording interviews and transcribing because certain issues jump out in transcript in a way they don’t in interview). Some leading KM practitioners have, in prior meetings, talked about field anthropology; this sounds quite similar. Metrics tie together the quantitative and qualitative.
Who can do usability work? Qualifications include
- Ability to withstand looking like an idiot”. Lesson: identify the nice people in an organization who will help you learn gently
- Genuine fascination with human behavior
- Can balance focus with flexibility. (AKA knowing when to take a stand)
- Good at building and maintaining relationships
- Customer service oriented
- Eye for detail
- Draw towards complex problem-solving
I ask how do you know when a site is sufficiently usable? There may be some users who ‘just don’t get it.’ The general rule is 80-20. You may never be able design to meet 100% of the need - 80% is likely good enough. In a law firm, one approach is to design the interface for the most senior people likely to use the system (assuming the more junior ones are more likely to be able to learn quickly).
So what can a typical KM professional do to improve / work on usability?
- Don’t fear white space on a page.
- Not enough a white space is a huge problme - it leads to clutter.
- Don’t assume that ‘easy to build’ means ‘easy to use’. It takes a lot of work to make something easy.
- You are no your audience.
- Research first, then build prototypes. Consider agile design.
- Test with users.
- Use wireframes to test
- using Net Promotor score to assess web site usability.
- “Card sorting”. Put names of pages on index cards, ask users to group and order. If you do this with multiple people, you will see patterns. There are online tools to help with this.
- Use personas to make sure you have the right design target. Have a picture and top level demographics of a typical user. This helps communicate to developers who the end user is. For example, have personas for senior lawyer, junior lawyer, secretary.
From a private large law firm knowledge management gathering, here is a near real-time report on knowledge management (KM) and Return on Investment (ROI) by Joshua Fireman of ii3.
Here are some of the highlights I find most interesting:
- Given that law firms can barely do profitability analysis on their own matters, practices, or clients, it is odd that firms would ask about the ROI of knowledge management
- Firms focus today on cost cutting, profit improvement, and productivity enhancements. KM is a cost center and thus it is hard to link KM to profitability. So, can KM projects be tied to either cost savings or improve productivity.
- What do we mean by ROI though? It has different definitions across industries. For our purposes, we should view it as ‘earnings per dollar of investment’. Don’t focus on intangibles such as work-life balance or does it make our lives easier. So, for example, an ROI of 25% means that you get back your investment plus an additional 25%. Another way to define it is ‘(net solution benefits / solution costs) x 100′.
- How do you articulate cost savings from process improvements? This is an especial challenge where firms pay workers a fixed salary (exempt staff) and there is no marginal cost for an extra hour. So you need to view cost savings from process improvement as allowing knowledge workers to re-focus their activity to higher value activity.
- I ask whether this a game of “whack a mole” because how do you measure the value of hours freed up? If lawyers could bill they would. And most firms don’t do ROI on biz dev or other uses of time. Joshua argues that there is still good discipline in being more explicit in prioritizing time and allocating hours. [I agree with this.]
- Participant points out that if you free up enough hours, then you can avoid another hire. That’s real money. So if KM can avoid need to hire more PD or risk management professionals, that’s a real savings. But others argue that this too is just moving dollars and time around from one group to another. But if fee-earners are freed up to do billable work, they can generate more work. If, however, lawyers don’t have enough billable work, then “freeing them up” has no value.
My view is that trying to figure out ROI on KM in a law firm is a losing battle in a typical law firm environment that does not measure most of what it does. One audience member points out that firms spend huge amounts on marketing, hiring laterals, opening or closing offices, all without ROI. So why should KM be subject to ROI analysis. I agree. It’s not clear that much has changed over the last few years in dealing with this conundrum.
The American Lawyer, in Law Librarians: ‘No More Sacred Cows’ (3 Sep 2009), reports on its annual survey of AmLaw 200 law libraries. The results, while not pretty, are perhaps not so surprising given wide-spread BigLaw lay-offs..
Here are the findings I found most interesting:
- About 1/2 of the 86 responding librarians reported cutting budgets and almost 60% cutting staff.
- Digital and print resources cutbacks are widespread.
- Almost one-third intend to use just one of Lexis or Westlaw. Comment: That’s a big change from past practice.
- Though two-thirds report that the library is the main source for marketing research, librarians report that they receive little recognition for this work. Query whether, given increasing demand for business research, firms are under-investing in business research or need a new strategy to fulfill demand.
- New software products now allow librarians to track online data usage, which arms them for tougher vendor negotiations. “The metrics can be compelling: A firm paying for 200 user licenses for a product may discover that only 50 lawyers are actually using it … Suddenly that resource may not be indispensable. And suddenly the vendors may budge.” This gives new meaning to “information is power”.
- Lexis and Westlaw spending fell slightly year over year but outlays for other databases were up. (I have previously noted that other Incisive surveys compare data from different respondent sets in each of two years and that therefore annual comparisons may not be reliable.)
- Librarians continue to report “wacky licensing and bundling schemes”. My librarian friends have complained about this since the days of CD-ROMs in the early 90s.
- Several respondents had favorable comments about SharePoint as a sharing and distribution platform.
- Year over year comparisons suggest firms recover less Westlaw and Lexis spending from clients. As noted, I am skeptical about Incisive year-over-year comparisons but suspect this is nonetheless true given current market forces.
- Only about 20% of librarians report having knowledge management (KM) reporting to them. Almost double that percent having records or conflicts reporting to them.
What I could not tell from the survey is whether law firms and librarians have fundamentally re-thought how the library operates and delivers services. My sense is that change has been significant over the years but nonetheless incremental. That is, other than the shift from print to digital and shrinkage in the physical space libraries occupies, firms have not stepped back to re-envision library services. Comments from readers on this?
Update (16 Sep 2009). For good follow-up discussion of whether the change has been incremental or transformative, see
- Reevaluating BigLaw Library Services - Two Views at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog
- BigLaw Firm Libraries: Looking Back From a 20-Year Old Perspective at Law Librarian Blog
How is KM doing in the economic crisis? Are law firms taking advantage of other law firm departments to support KM ("baking KM into processes")? I am the author of a just-released ILTA survey that answers these and other questions.
In June 2006, Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services at Wilson Sonsini, and I explored the idea of tapping into existing law firm processes in the June 2006 ILTA KM white paper. Three years and one economic crisis later, we thought it was timely to re-visit this topic. Rather than rely on anecdotal evidence of how law firms “power their KM windmills,” I thought that a survey would provide a better way to answer our fundamental question: Are law firms baking KM into their processes?
Today, ILTA released the survey results: Baking KM into Everyday Workflow: An Analysis of Knowledge Management Survey Data. The bad news is that law firms are not baking KM into processes as much as they could. The good news is that KM does not seem to be suffering unduly in these tough times.
As the author, I’m obviously not disinterested, but I think that anyone interested in legal KM will find the survey interesting reading. And I personally look forward to reading to the ILTA white paper released today, Knowledge Management: More than the Sum of Its Parts.
ILTA’s knowledge management peer group hosts a webinar on June 8th called “Where Is KM Now and Where Is It Going?"
The topic will cover the current state of KM and its possible future direction in the context of the global economic crisis. This is a basic to moderate webinar for Knowledge Managers, Practice Support Attorneys, and IT Directors. Where Is KM Now and Where Is It Going? registration page.
- Stuart Kay, Director, Global Business Systems, for Baker & McKenzie
- John Gillies, Director of Practice Support at Cassels Brock & Blackwell
- Wendy Small, Head of Knowledge Management, Eversheds LLP.
The ILTA Knowledge Management peer group, in prep for a KM white paper, is gathering data to help assess the state of legal KM. Legal KM professionals, please consider participating.
Respond to the ILTA KM survey here. It’s a brief questionnaire. Bonus incentive just for ITLA members: your name will be entered into a drawing for a waived conference registration fee! (Offer not valid for non-ILTA members.)
You must provide yourr business e-mail address so that ILTA professional staff can verify and de-duplicate responses and enter ILTA members in the drawing. Complete anonymity is guaranteed, and your identifier will be removed from the data before analysis. A report on the findings is scheduled to appear in a white paper this June.
I’m especially eager for KM professionals to participate because I am writing an article based on the aggregate data. The survey focuses on how many firms have incorporated ("baked in") KM to firm processes and functions. This article will follow-up to Baking KM into the System that I co-authored with Chris Boyd of Wilson Sonsini in June 2006.
The survey will be available through close of business May 6, 2009.
My post last month Measuring the Consistency of Legal Documents reported on pioneering legal document analysis by Kingsley Martin led to an interesting follow-up dialogue about standardizing transactional documents.
Doug Cornelius (Compliance Building blog and DougCornelius.com) posted a public comment on that post. It led to a private e-mail exchange among Doug and Kingsley (www.kiiac.com or e-mail to kingsley dot martin at kiiac dot com). With their permission, I reproduce the e-mail exchange below.
The discussion raises issues similar to ones in my December 2007 post, Dressing the Emperor: Jones Day M&A Lawyers Speak Out, reporting on comments in an article by Jones Day lawyers Robert A. Profusek and Lyle G. Ganske. They observed that lawyers seldom add value to deal-making, that document creation is now a commodity, and reported on “spearheading an initiative to rethink deal documentation.” I don’t know if that initiative has moved forward but I think Kingsley’s approach would facilitate the creation of document standards and give attorneys the tools to rethink their role beyond document drafters and move towards business counselors.
It also relates to the theme of contract simplification that Kenneth A. Adams raises in his article Retooling Your Contract Process for the Downturn (PDF, also in New York Law Journal, 19 Feb 2009). Adams is a legal drafting expert and has long written about contracts and discusses in the article how simplifying contracts can save money. A combination of simplification and consistency would go a long way to improving the process of law practice, lowering costs, and reducing risk.
Here is Doug’s and Kingsley’s e-mail exchange:
Doug’s Comment on Blog Post Measuring the Consistency of Legal Documents
You need to throw out the Interest Rate Swap Agreement. That is a standardized document. Although the financial implications may be complex, the transaction is fairly straightforward. Standardization removes the transaction costs and allows the market to exist. The derivatives market would not exist without this standardization.
You see a similar standardization in residential mortgages. This allowed the RMBS market to exist. Besides the financial failure, a big failure of the CMBS market was not standardizing the document package.
On another note, one of the difficulties of a work product retrieval system for transaction documents is that the words and provisions are very similar. Much of the value of a particular document is the information that is not in the text of the document itself: industry of the transaction, the bargaining strength of the parties, etc.
As a former real estate practitioner, I can tell you that leases and P&S agreements for real estate are very similar. Since you took your collection from EDGAR you are only seeing the biggest and the most highly negotiated of these types of agreements. That may skew the results.
As for merger agreements, I think the existence of EDGAR has changed that practice. You have a big collection of these documents, so everyone can look at these for guidance. The other side is that your collection of merger agreements is for public companies. You may get a bigger spread if there were more private-private merger agreements.
I think the results show the benefit of document automation systems. The majority of provisions in a document do not change from transaction to transaction. A lawyer’s time is better spent on the pieces that distinguish that transaction from others.
Standardization will be good for the legal profession. It reduces transaction costs, which is good for the client. It allows the lawyer to focus on the key issues and language in agreements which should make the lawyer’s practice more interesting.
Doug Follow-Up E-Mail Comment
One of the interesting features for markup is the approach taken by Fannie Mae in their DUS [Desktop Underwriting System] program for multi-family mortgage loans. All changes to the document are in an addendum rather than incorporated into the document. Anyone can quickly see how that document differs from the standard form.
Of course, for a document with lots of changes, it gets very difficult to read. The Fannie Mae documents are very fair to the borrower so there is generally very little negotiation. (As a result, legal fees are low.)
The Rouse Company used to take the addendum approach for their smaller retail leases as well. That worked, not because their lease form was fair, but that they rarely agreed to changes. There was a big imbalance in bargaining power.
Kingsley Replies to Doug’s Comment
Thanks for the feedback.
I included the ISDA document as a yardstick or control, but I do agree that using a standard form is hardly a satisfactory measure of consistency.
I also agree with Doug that one likely direction for transactional documents is a Master Document, configurable through Definitions and/or a term sheet.
Indeed, this is the way the ISDA document works.
We are beginning to see industry groups, such as the IACCM in the US and the ICC in Europe, develop standard documents that can be rapidly drafted and customized with an addendum. Mortgage lenders, for example, have for a long time used riders.
The challenge is still to identify the standard terms and to secure agreement of interested parties. Individual corporations and law firms are starting to create their own standards. Where the effort involves an industry group, the process can take many years, as with ISDA. And in this case, parties to the OTC Derivative contracts are often the same organizations, sometimes on different sides of the deal. In other words, they have a shared interest in conformity and fairness.
Where there are divergent interests, it is likely that the process of standardization will take longer, unless as Doug points out one side can dictate terms. However, one of the goals I seek to achieve is to narrow the points of divergence. Whether it is a loan agreement or an asset purchase agreement there are a few key provisions; the remainder are already fairly consistent, or in some cases inconsistent for really no good commercial reason.
Doug Replies to Kingsley
I found it interesting that the ISDA was not higher. I would have expected 99-100% consistency. Again it could be that that the documents you pulled from EDGAR are highly negotiated for that type of document.
There was some effort to standardize early investment documents from a Silicon Valley legal association. They never got very far.
The one standardization I saw over the last few years was the inter-creditor agreement between a mortgage lender and mezzanine lender in real estate documents. The form was drafted by Dechert as counsel for S&P. Lenders started requiring that form or a comparison to that form in securitized mortgage loan originations. That financing market has now disappeared so I am not sure if the form will stick.
Too many lawyers think of themselves at artisans for these agreements and that they must use their template. Having a common starting point would make the legal work easier on the lawyers and the client. Your study goes a long way toward showing the need to have at least common outline.
Kingsley Replies to Doug
I too thought the ISDA documents would be 100% conforming. I think there are two reasons for this slight discrepancy. First, the ISDA document has gone through two main iterations (1992 and 2002) and the differences between the drafts may be causing the some divergence. Also, I have come across many cases where lawyers have amended some of the language, despite the fact that it is indeed intended to be a standard–some lawyers probably cannot help themselves and make a few edits!
Friends of mine who practice in this area have told me that they have changed from attaching the Master Document, to incorporating it by reference, and more recently they are executing the term sheet as if the Master Document were incorporated. This may be in part to prevent the terms from being edited.
Transactional lawyers spend huge amounts of time drafting and negotiating documents. Yet few have the tools to assess how their documents compare to similar ones drafted by other lawyers. That is changing.
My former consulting client, Practice Technologies’s RealDealDocs makes it easy to find and compare public disclosure documents and like clauses.
An emerging product applies statistical metrics to compare like documents and help both lawyers and clients understand how to improve document drafting. More specifically, it facilitates building standard templates and knowing where to focus efforts on customizing. Kingsley Martin, known to many knowledge management professionals, has formed KIIAC LLC. His web site, which has the documents used for his initial analysis, is available at www.kiiac.com.
I have his permission to publish an e-mail message he sent to me. His note describes some interesting initial findings from his metrics-driven approach:
As part of our work to create document templates automatically, quantify differences among like documents, and develop very accurate searches for transactional documents, our research has discovered an interesting correlation: the more complex the transaction, the more likely the document consists of standard terms and conditions.
The table below shows a range of agreements and their consistency, measured by document structure commonality and clause language consistency. We base our analysis on 250-500 publicly available samples of each document type. We need to increase the sample set but the early trends of consistency from the document collection are emerging from our research:
|Interest Rate Swap Agreement||97%|
|Finance Agreement: (e.g. Term Loans, Credit Agreements etc.)||85%|
|Corporate Formation: (e.g. Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws)||85%|
|Employment, Consulting Agreements||65%|
|Purchase or Lease of Real Property||60%|
The statistical methods used to measure commonality are based on three main elements, simplified here for purposes of explanation.
- First, the presence of articles, clauses and sub-sections, namely the building blocks of a deal document. For example, the technology identifies whether each document has survival, amendment and waiver clauses, irrespective of where they may appear in a document. We also identify and count the number of deal-specific clauses that do not typically appear in a particular type of document. The ratio of standard to non-standard clauses gives us the clause commonality measure.
- Second, for clauses that have sub-sections, we measure the commonality of such sub-clauses. For example, in a merger agreement, what are the clauses in the representations and warranties article and how do they compare to the list clauses in this section from other documents? The ratio of common sub-clauses to non-standard clauses gives us sub-clause commonality measure.
- Third, the analysis measures the commonality of the words in each of the matching building blocks. The analysis identifies the common words for a particular clause, and then using this information computes the uncommon or deal specific terms. The ratio of common words to uncommon words in each matching clause gives us the measure of word commonality.
Using standard statistical techniques, we aggregate the commonality measures for each element to compute the overall document score.
We’ve performed the statistics. We are eager to hear from readers, especially practicing deal lawyers, why more sophisticated transactions tend to be more standard. Is it because sample documents for complex deals are more available online, thus causing a de facto trend to standards? On a related note, are the deal-specific terms the critical differentiator that marks the value of the document and the negotiating skill of the author?
If anyone has answers to Kingsley’s questions, you can e-mail him (kingsley dot martin at kiiac dot com) or leave a comment or contact me.
Is There a KM Role for Administrative Staff? That was the topic of a session I moderated today at a meeting of large law firm KM professionals.
Staff roles in KM vary widely. At one firm, secretaries reguarly contribute to KM in both litigation and corporate practices. This “institutionalized” role is an exception, not the rule. A participant pointed out that years ago, secretaries typed everything a lawyer wrote and so really knew the lawyer’s work. I’m not suggesting returning to that model but if firms systematically defined the secretarial job, weaving in some KM would be easier.
Another firm invests to collect data during matter intake to support KM. I’ve long thought that if firms put in any extra effort for KM, it should be during the intake stage to capture industry, matter type, issues, and other “meta data” that can support not only KM but also marketing, finance, and business intelligence.
A participant reported asking support staff to volunteer to help with KM and had many takers. With rampant lay-offs, staff seem eager to add value. KM professionals who seek help may find more volunteers now than in the past.
If you attend Legal Tech in NYC next week, you might want to attend the ILTA KM cocktail party.
Register for the ITLA KM Cocktail Reception, which takes place Wednesday, February 4th 2009 from 5:15pm to 6:30pm at the Bridges Bar in the Hilton (main conference venue).
I’ve found it worth attending in years past. It’s a good chance to network with other KM professionals.
One of the leading KM professionals in the legal market has changed firms.
Effective December 1, 2008, Oz Benamram is the Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) at White & Case, responsible for developing and implementing the systems and processes to capture and share the firm’s collective knowledge throughout the firm.
Previously, Oz led knowledge management for many years at Morrison & Foerster. While at MoFo, Oz oversaw the development of AnswerBase, an advanced approach to KM based on Recommind. (For background on AnswerBase, see the article I helped Oz write, Lawyers As Shoppers – It’s All About Finding Information). He also was active in KM professional events and conferences. Tanisha Little, MoFo’s Knowledge Exchange Attorney, will lead the KM Department after Oz’s departure.
I am sure I speak for the entire legal KM community in wishing Oz the best in his new job. We hope he continues to innovate and remain as active professionally.
I am at a large law firm knowledge management conference. The morning session was Does Enterprise 2.0 = 2 Knowledge Management 2.0 and featured Dan Keldsen, Director of Market Intelligence and Carl Frappaolo, VP Market Intelligence, both associated with AIIM. This was one of the more interesting KM sessions I’ve attended in a while.
Here are highlights of the session:
Interesting group exercise to define themes [conference organizers take note - this is a great approach]
i. Split into 2 groups
ii. Write terms on Post-It Notes - keep to 1 or 2 words - to describe E2.0 and KM2.0
iii. Put all the Post-It Notes on a wall
iv. Each group de-duplicates Post-It Notes and organizes by theme
Enterprise 2.0 Themes
ii. Social networking
iii. Knowledge sharing
v. Virtual organization
KM 2.0 Themes
i. Training and PD
ii. Forms and precedents
iii. People and processes
iv. Taxonomy, content organization
v. Sharing, gathering, and re-using
Comments on excercise
i. Paper exercise illustrates the wiki approach of group authorship
ii. Exercise shows that tools do not help reconcile differences of views in groups
Commonalities across the KM and Enterprise 2.0
i. Search, collaboration
iv. Sharing information
What’s new if we accept premise that the basic tenets of KM don’t change because of Enterprise 2.0?
Four elements of KM, irrespective tools and jargon
i. Business strategy and purpose
iv. People (allegiances, incentives, inclinations, respect, trust) - this does not go away, irrespective of technology. Open access to technology does not mean everyone has an equal voice.
Legacy technology and KM
i. Intermediation - Groupware, profiling, e-mail [sharing views and info]
ii. Externalization - doc man, visualization, portals [to capture explicit know-how]
iii. Internalization - search, taxonomies, agents [to help users find info]
iv. Cognition - workflow, decision support [to help drive decision making]
New tech and KM
i. Intermediation - wikis, blogs, social network analysis [sharing views and info]
ii. Externalization - wikis, blogs, podcasting [to capture explicit know-how]
iii. Internalization - RSS, mashup, search, social tagging [to help users find info]
iv. Cognition - RSS mashup [to help drive decision making]
New in technology (From Q1 2008 research available from AIIM).
i. Low barrier and ease of implementation
ii. Web and widely accessible
iv. Low cost
vi. Emergent and heuristic [drastically reduced delivery time for new applications]
Critical to understand if an organization is ready for a new technology. You cannot use new technology to drive organizational change
Many law departments struggle with knowledge management. Sun Microsystems has put a big dent in the problem using wikis.
Legal Departments, Law Firms Weighing Wikis (The Recorder, 25 Sep 2008) reports “Between January and the start of September, there had been 1,200 articles published internally [on the wiki] at Sun with over 8,000 edits among them”. It also reports that global sales and services law group built a library of common legal clauses in a specialized wiki, reducing the time the project would otherwise have taken from months to weeks.
Large law firms create specialized positions to gain efficiency and improve service. Dickstein Shapiro’s innovative research attorney role is a recent example of a new and focused role.
Research Attorneys Offer Focused Services, Training (National Law Journal, 15 July 2008, by Hollye R. Mann, Amy J. Spencer and Joanna Hudson-Therway) describes how Dickstein Shapiro has innovated in legal research. The firm’s research attorneys are former practicing lawyers. Beyond doing legal research, they mentor and train associates on research and resources:
“The chief expertise of research attorneys is the ability to combine their knowledge as career research professionals with their experience as practicing attorneys to produce thorough, premium legal research…. A research-attorney department can serve as a key member of the firm’s knowledge-management team, creating and establishing methods of research collection and retrieval to benefit the firm and its clients.”
I think the role makes sense given that many graduates of US law schools lack good research skills. Already 15 years ago I know - based on first hand survey work, personal observation, and many discussions with law librarians - that many junior associates had weak research skills. For example, few really understood online searching (e.g., Boolean or proximity searches) on Lexis or Westlaw. With the advent of Google, I imagine the situation has gotten worse.
This new role also makes sense because of client sensitivity to hours billed. Having a specialist conduct research likely saves time in comparison to having a typical associate do so. Clients presumably receive better work product and the firm presumably faces fewer write offs.
The role overlaps with practice support lawyers (PSL) but differs. PSL have never caught on in the US as they have in the UK. I suspect that the research attorney role is a better fit in the US. First, BigLaw partners understand what research is and the need for it. Knowledge management professionals’ efforts notwithstanding, many US partners have not accepted the PSL idea. Second, research attorneys are presumably a centralized role in contrast to the typical practice-focused PSL role. That’s a better fit for US firms. And third, I assume that research attorneys can be fairly billable. I know that PSLs do bill some time but much of their work benefits the practice rather than specific clients so is harder to bill.
Anyone interested in experience location should read the cover story of the current issue of Business Week (8 Sep 2008) about research underway at IBM.
Management by the Numbers (subscription required) is an excerpt of a book by Stephen Baker. The article sub-title says it all: “By building mathematical models of its own employees, IBM aims to improve productivity and automate management.”
IBM’s research goal is, in essence, to take principles of operations research, which drive supply chains and optimize manufacturing processes, and apply them to people. If successful, IBM could model how best to staff an engagement with its 50,000 tech consultants around the world. I was struck by one paragraph:
“This is management in a world run by Numerati. As IBM sees it, the company has little choice. The workforce is too big, the world too vast and complicated for managers to get a grip on their workers the old-fashioned way—by talking to people who know people who know people. Word of mouth is too foggy and slow for the global economy. Personal connections are too constricted. Managers need the zip of automation to unearth a consultant in New Delhi, just the way a generation ago they located a shipment of condensers in Chicago. For this to work, the consultant—just like the condensers—must be represented as a series of numbers. ”
So much for lawyers who argue “I don’t need a system to find the right lawyers, I can make a call or two to find just the right person.” Law firms that are already global and getting bigger may want to read this book and educate their partners about their “one phone call myth.”
Another angle of the research is to break down complex work into its most discrete tasks. It’s industrial engineering used on the assembly line applied to knowledge work. Some lawyers will doubt that such techniques apply to legal work. The highest value work in complex matters may resist such analysis but I suspect there’s far more law practice that can be dissected this way than most lawyers realize.
It’s not clear to me where IBM’s research will lead, but it’s certainly provocative reading for knowledge managers. For reference, see also my Learning from IBM in Experience Location post of 1 Feb 2008.
The Knowledge Management Peer Group of ILTA is hosting several sessions at the International Legal Technology Association annual meeting next week. Listed below are the KM sessions.
Monday, August 25, 2008: KM Peer Group Sessions and KM Luncheon
KM1 - Starting a KM Program 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Speaker(s): Elizabeth Ellis - Torys, Cherylyn Briggs - Dickstein Shapiro LLP, Nola Vanhoy - Alston & Bird, Mara Nickerson - Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
With all of the KM tools and possible projects flying around the legal industry, it’s hard to know where to start. Everyone has ideas and expectations on what a KM program can achieve. If your firm is just venturing into the KM arena and you are wondering where and how to get started, learn from some who have been there and survived.
KM2 - Experience Management - Case Studies in Tackling a Difficult Challenge 1:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.
Speaker(s): Catherine Monte - Fox Rothschild LLP, Kathrine Cain - Winston & Strawn LLP, Stan Wasylyk - Michael Farrell Group
A request frequently made of KM or IS professionals in law firms is to implement a way to efficiently track and report the experience of individual attorneys. Doing this can help both sell work and deliver work. However, experience management has proven surprisingly difficult. Just defining the type of work to be tracked can pose a stumbling block, as it can be tough to find the “just right” level of detail between the “too broad” and “too narrow.” This panel explores ways to manage law firm experience through case studies from firms who have made good progress. Each panelist will discuss the business challenge they faced, the tool they built or adapted to address it, the processes they deployed to ensure good tracking and reporting and the results realized.
KM3 - Enterprise Search - Impact on How We Do Business 2:30 p.m - 3:30 p.m.
Speaker(s): Robert Guilbert - Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Jeff Rovner - O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Rachelle DeGregory - Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, Chad Ergun - White & Case LLP
Description: Knowledge workers spend approximately a quarter of their time searching for information, but how successful are they at locating what they are looking for? Our panel members have had enterprise search engines implemented at their respective firms for over a year and discuss the changes they have encountered with enterprise search.
KM4 - Wikis in Law Firms 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Speaker(s): Michael Mills - Davis Polk & Wardwell, Douglas Cornelius - Goodwin Procter LLP, Ayelette Robinson - Morrison & Foerster LLP
Wikipedia has over 2,000,000 articles created and edited by users. Can you have a wikipedia for the knowledge inside your law firm? Wikis provide an easy-to-use platform for capturing content and facilitating collaboration. We discuss some of the technical, cultural and procedural issues you need to address in setting up wikis for your law firm.
Tuesday, August 26 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm: KM Luncheon
Longhorn C8&9. Join us to meet and converse with others interested in KM. Pick up your food in Longhorn Hall D (ILTA Bistro) and follow the signs to the adjacent private dining rooms (C8&9.)
I always get excited when I see a system that brings together some of my favorite themes: knowledge management, open source law, and best practices.
My former client Practice Technologies, Inc. provides a web-based service called RealDealDocs. It allows you easily to search for a wide range of legal agreements from leading law firms. The product pulls documents from EDGAR and other public sources and adds value by making them searchable by many criteria; you can even search by clause. I find this interesting for four reasons:
- The irony that this product does better KM across firms than many firms are able to do internally.
- Arguably, this serves as a form of open source law, that is, freely shared law. Inside and outside counsel can mine these documents for good ideas, if not actual language. (I will leave any potential copyright issues to others.)
- Corporations that want to develop best practices can systematically compare clauses and agreements to develop best guidelines. Many lawyers resist this idea, focusing on a few truly one-off cases that require totally original lawyering. But from the GC perspective, many matters look similar, so why not try to determine who is writing the best documents and use those?
- The June issue of Inside Counsel magazine has a long article, Proper Proposals [PDF], about law department RFPs. Instead of investing so much in RFPs, GC might in some instances be able to search for law firm work product and select the firm based on its past merits.
Some firms may resist but forward thinking ones will embrace the sharing enabled by public disclosure rules. PTI co-founder, at his blog John Seigler’s blog, discusses this in his post Is Displaying all these Legal Agreements legal and ethical?. In it, he describes a future feature that will allow firms to upload marketing material to accompany their documents. If GCs do start shopping by looking at actual work product, then this would be excellent “point of sale” advertising. Perhaps lawyers will learn from package good makers - the best marketing and advertising takes place when the consumer is ready to buy.
The International Legal Technology Association is conducting a knowledge management survey for an upcoming KM white paper. It is open to non-ILTA members.
An e-mail from ILTA, which I have permission to share, states “In preparation for an article which will be published in a future ILTA whitepaper, the ILTA KM Peer Group is conducting a survey to assess the scope of knowledge management initiatives in the legal sector. We are interested in compiling trends about KM strategy and projects as well as collaboration points with administrative departments. We hope to learn more about current activities, ascertain how far we have come with KM initiatives to date, and map out where we see ourselves heading in the future.”
Click here to complete the ILTA KM survey. This is a link to a Zoomerang survey with 25 questions, several demographic, the rest substantive.
Update (22 April 2008): The ILTA web site now includes a launch point for this KM survey.
Knowledge management professionals spend a fair bit of time examining what they do, how it works, and if it matters.
We have looked at times with envy and awe at marketing department budget and headcount growth. Law Firm Marketing: R.I.P. in New York Lawyer (6 March 2008), by marketing consultant Elizabeth Anne “Betiayn” Tursi provides an in-depth assessment of problems in law firm marketing. The rebuttal is Legal Marketing: The LMA Strikes Back (13 March 2008).
Will see published “KM is Dead” followed one week later by “KM is Alive and Thriving"?
A long knowledge management article appears today in the The Wall Street Journal.
Putting Ideas to Work (10 March 2008, p. R11, $)) by Thomas H. Davenport, Laurence Prusak and Bruce Strong is subtitled “Knowledge management can make a difference – but it needs to be more pragmatic.” (Update: The article is also available for free at the Sloan Review.)
The authors point to a focus “solely on technology at the expense of everything else” as a key reason for KM’s limited success. That surely resonates with many legal KM professionals. They define KM as “a concerted effort to improve how knowledge is created, delivered and used” which differs considerably from my favored “the art and science of capturing and re-using know-how, whether written or not.”
Their solution to improve KM is a three-prong approach: knowledge creation, knowledge dissemination, and knowledge application. It seems to me though that the authors simply re-characterize numerous other corporate activities such as R&D, web technologies, partnering programs, portals, communities, e-learning, and after action reviews into these bins. I miss the common thread they seem to see.
I’ve frequently written about legal KM morphing into practice support. As I read this article, it suggests that corporate KM is being absorbed by the building blocks of other functions. Sounds like a similar theme to me, only one that is not articulated.
Last week I attended a KM function. (Doug Cornelius provides additional reports at KM Space.) At the end, we went round the room and large law firm participantss shared their top KM priorities for 2008.
This was, by design, a fast exercise - “state your priority in under 15 seconds.” Below is the list, in random order based on seating. This gathering self-selected for firms committed to KM. For such firms, I think it’s a pretty good picture of current KM priorities:
1. Incorporating e-mail into KM
2. E-mail categorization and auto filing
3. Revise Intranet, e-mail filing, enterprise search
4. SharePoint workflow matter intake
5. Contextual push of info out to lawyers
6. Intranet revamp
7. Finish search engine roll out , document assembly
8. Align competitive intelligence function and KM
9. Automatically extract meta data
10. Wikify the firm
11. SharePoint overhaul
12. Blogs and wikis
13. New document management implementation
14. Matter profiling
15. Finish portal and search
16. Enterprise portal and search
17. 4th generation of business intelligence (BI) and grow BI team
18. Educate execs on KM and KM plans
19. Full time coordinator for KM
20. Enhance globalization of knowledge resources
21. Portal and search and auto categorization
22. Enterprise search
23. Training and outreach
24. Release KM client program
25. Upgrade portal
26. Training and communication
27. Better matter profile and better search
28. SharePoint 2007
29. Reconstruct matter centric DMS
30. Update precedent collection
31. Regain ground lost in a merger by rolling out firm-wide intranet and wiki
32. Complete matter intake automation - unify categorization
33. Improve info architecture
The Knowledge Management Peer Group of ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) is hosting a reception at Legal Tech NYC on Thursday, February 6th.
For event details and to register, click here. See also details on Legal Tech 2008 in NYC.
Congratulations to Tom Baldwin and Reed Smith.
Reed Smith Hires Two to Run Firm as Global Business (The Recorder, 9 Jan 2008) reports that Tom will be the new Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO). Tom has been a visionary at Sheppard Mullin, where he has been a KM pioneer and early proponent of firm-branded blogs. Tom is also a fellow KM blogger: Knowledgeline.
KM must be moving up in status. Not only a published article, but also a press release!
In my prior post, I cited a survey that found a dichotomy between corporate knowledge management adoption and satisfaction. I asked but did not answer the question why. Now, a potential answer.
I received a thoughtful e-mail message from a senior and long-tenured KM director of a large law firm that answers the question. I post it here with permission. It reflects well some of the inchoate thoughts I had as I wrote my prior post.
I read your blog post yesterday about the Bain study and the conclusion that KM usage is relatively high but satisfaction with it is relatively low among the executives surveyed. You also wrote that “I can’t explain why adoption is so high if satisfaction is so low.” I agree that this seems paradoxical, but one possible explanation might be that the users of those KM resources are much more likely to be the people working for the executives than the executives themselves, and that therefor the value of the tools isn’t apparent to those executives.
Based at least on measured usage in our firm, KM resources tend to be used much more by the “grinders” to do the work than by the “finders” to sell the work or advise the client at the board or executive level. Even when KM is used for finders (and it often is), it’s lower-level folks using KM to do the research and draft the decks or RFP responses rather than the higher-level execs. It may be, then, that the surveyed executives see that KM is present (and costs money!), but don’t derive direct satisfaction themselves from that presence and usage, because it is largely invisible to them.
The same dichotomy the Bain study found in corporations would probably be found if Hildebrandt, BTI, or Altman Weil interviewed managing partners and practice group leaders in law firms. Partners might well agree that their firms had KM and seemed to be using it, but weren’t particularly happy with it because they themselves weren’t personally using it and deriving direct value from it. However, if you talked to associates, paralegals, and secretaries – generally the main users of KM resources – you might get a different response.
I realize that this is just one explanation; another might be, of course, that the KM resources in the surveyed companies weren’t very good or useful, and that the executives’ lack of satisfaction with the resources was perfectly representative of organization-wide sentiment. I just wanted to make the point that sometimes when surveyer takers talk to executives (or senior partners), the opinions given in response aren’t always so perfectly representative…
Knowledge management is popular among corporations but not viewed as very effective. That’s the alarming finding of a Bain & Co survey of corporate executives.
Bain has conducted since 1993 a management tools and trends survey in which it asks over 1,000 executives about management tools they use. The tool set numbers 25 and includes benchmarking, business process reengineering, corporate blogs, knowledge management, loyalty management tools, mergers and acquisitions, mission and vision statements, outsourcing, six sigma, and strategic alliances.
KM usage ranks high, #10, with 69% of companies using but satisfaction with it ranks low, #22. The findings note “Knowledge Management increases usage, despite itself - Knowledge Management moved into the top 10 most used tools in 2006 despite being ranked in the bottom 5 for satisfaction in every survey for the past ten years.” (Presentation PDF pages 29, 59, and 28 respectively.)
I can’t explain why adoption is so high if satisfaction is low. Do corporations feel obliged to try? The study does not make clear the relative effort but it does note (p. 56) that “Perhaps some tools should not be used on a limited basis at all.” The results of a similar study of law firms would be fascinating. I will leave speculation about what the results would be for another day.
More from the Ark Knowledge Management Conference in Chicago. A real time report on “The Evolution and Impact of the PSL Model”
John Worall, a Practice Support Lawyer at White & Case, presents on “The Evolution and Impact of the PSL Model.”
The London office has 400 lawyers and 12 PSLs. The PSL program at W&C London started in London in 2000 and now has PSLs in multiple offices around the world. PSL role emerged as a way to stop re-inventing the wheel. “Law firms need to realise that knowledge and experience are the core and rationale of their very existence.” (Stephen Mayson book).
The ratio of lawyers to PSLs in London is 1:26 (PLC 2003 survey). London offices of US firms have hired PSLs because London-based lawyers expect this. The typical PSL is quite experienced (minimum of 4 or 5 years, often much more). PSLs are practice group based, internal facing, 100% non fee-earning, work fixed hours (some part-time), are paid less than fee-earning lawyers (typically 10 to 20% less), and report to local partners and central resources. Achieving work-life balance is one motivator to become a PSL. But its important to make sure that candidates will enjoy the work.
Activities of PSLs:
- standard forms ("models")
- create, capture, store, and deliver know-how
- current awareness / legal updates
- attend professional meetings
- business development and marketing
Specific KM initiatives at W&C:
- International law firm directory
- Knowledge bank
In knowledge bank, auto-summary from software is not that useful. So paralegals work aside PSLs to produce document descriptions that make finding and re-using documents easier. The know-how search system ONLY includes vetted and described documents. The PSLs are gate keepers for what goes in the system.
How PSLs make KM happen:
- Active presence in practice
- Credibility with practicing lawyers
- Create as well as manage knowledge
- Assess IT from lawyer perspective
- Recruitment and retention
- Capture expertise
- Consistent work product
- Risk mangement
- Cheaper than using equivalent associates
- Lets fee-earners be more billable
- Increases profits on fixed fee work
- Reduce time written off
PSL success requires institutional support. An element of lawyer evaluations focuses on contributions. This makes KM a part of a lawyer’s job.
- Outsourced professional support (e.g., Practical Law Company)
- Automation and IT challenges
- Career development
- Meeting client expectations that firms will share know-how for free
More from the Ark Knowledge Management Conference in Chicago. A real time report on “KM: In the Crosshairs Between lawyers and Technology”
Scott Rechtschaffen, managing shareholder at Littler Mendelson, presents on the “KM: In the Crosshairs Between lawyers and Technology.”
KM group at Littler consists of 8 full-time lawyers, all experienced employment lawyers in 5 offices, plus2 technologists and content administrators. The KM lawyer is a serious career path. One KM lawyer became a shareholder (partner) last year. KM is distinct from but works closely with IT.
What does KM mean to lawyers? In Scott’s experience, most lawyers do not know. They may value outputs but don’t always know who does the work. The danger is that lawyers really don’t care. Will KM be like electricity - at one time, there was a “VP of Electricity”. That position no longer exits.
Some critical distinctions about KM at Littler:
- KM did not stem from IT at Littler. The firm, as part of its strategic plan, created some ancillary businesses. In considering how to take this initiative forward, KM grew out of the strategy. It was a top-down initiative. The firm views KM as a new form of client service, a competitive advantage, a marketing opportunity, and a way to help bring in laterals. It is part of the glue that holds together 46 offices.
- KM is someone’s job: The firm realized that to do KM, it had to be someone’s “real” job. The firm has other experienced lawyers in non-billable positions who have specialized jobs. One focuses on e-discovery, another on class actions. Both focus on these specialized areas. The firm defines the job and measures results.
- Top firm management believes strongly in KM. They talk it up with clients, with the press, and within the firm. Managing Shareholder said “KM is the Cornerstone of the Littler Value Proposition.”
- KM is attorney focused, not staff focused.
- Not focused on technology. We are tech-interested, not tech-focused
- We have revenue goals (direct and indirect). (For example, library will adopt the help desk tracking system. This will enable demonstrating value without tying service to revenue.
The firm talks about the “Knowledge Concierge.” Lawyers can just call KM attorneys - like a help desk. KM lawyers will also use the help desk tracking system to track the work they do and value they add. KM is also serving as a more general practice support service (though this does not include litigation support or e-discovery). The practice support element serves both practice groups and internal function such as marketing and business development.
Example of project - Arbitrator Database - and lessons learned It lists a couple of hundred arbitrators. Firm lawyers can rate arbitrators, track wins and losses. This database pulls info from CCH service that has bios on arbitrators. The firm let the lawyers guide this project too much - they asked for a design that asks for too much information. With the number of fields they requested, few complete them. So KM lawyers now do the work. On the next database like this, KM team will pare back the number of fields. Lesson learned: get lawyer input but don’t let them drive completely. [editorial comment: lawyers are subject to the “be careful of what you ask for, you may get it."]
Example of a project - Collective Bargaining Agreement Online System. These agreements have traditionally not been computerized. The firm invested to custom-build a system to present these complex agreements in an easy-to-use online system. This has been very popular with the client for which it was built. The firm is considering extending this service to other clients.
Example of a project - Overtime Exemption Compliance Audit. Twenty firm lawyers interview 6000 client employees. Needed software to track all the survey results. Built a custom app for this in 3 weeks. System has scripts that drive lawyer interviews. Ensures consistency and that data is captured and re-usable. The firm is now rolling out a similar system to track bulk interviews in class action matters.
Example of a project - Guide to Policies by State. This is a guide to state employment law for 50 states. Firm lawyers use this system and the firm sells it to clients. Did a version for one company where the company white labels it from the law department to the HR department. It is kept up to date by a KM lawyer who keeps on top of it; plus spidering state web sties and using multiple commercial databases. Research librarians contribute. A similar product monitors Recent Legislation by State.
None of the examples require huge tech resources. The development time is person-weeks, NOT person-months.
Other KM functions at Littler:
- Organize the content for an annual conference that 500 clients attend and some 300 shareholders attend. KM does not create the content - it finds it across the firm and organizes it and negotiates sessions among the shareholders.
- Manager publishing and content distribution. (Manage some 6000 pages of content published each year.) The KM department rationalized the publishing process, reducing costs by 50%. More importantly, KM attorneys changed how lawyers contribute updates, reducing lawyer time required by 50%. KM department contracted with Lexis for publishing distribution, which means more copies are now sold instead of given away.
- Generate newsletters for in-house counsel to send to their inhouse clients (white labeled). Clients love this and it generates revenue for the firm
- Created a firm-branded privacy law blog
- Participating in Legal On Ramp (from LOR web site: “Legal OnRamp provides content, connectivity and execution services to help legal professionals deliver higher quality work in less time and lower cost. We’re working with leading professionals from major corporations and leading law firms to provide technology and services that will meet the business imperatives of the future.")
More from the Ark Knowledge Management Conference in Chicago. A real time report on the non-traditional notions of knowledge management….
Brent Kidwell, a partner at Jenner & Block, presents on the “Changing Landscape of KM in the Law Firm.”
One definition of KM (Wikipedia) is to “identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for re-use and learning across the organization.” Wikipedia also states that there is no agreed upon definition of KM. At Jenner, the definition is
1. Identify and extract existing data
2. Collect new data
3. Manage or manipulate the data
4. Deliver back the results in meaningful manner
5. Refresh and update.
Example of KM at Jenner: One challenge at the firm was to give partners more visibility into what associates were doing and their utilization. A key goal was to optimize lawyer deployment / allocation. The firm had to extract data, then manage and manipulate it. The data came from finance system but needed to be massaged and presented via a web interface so that it was meaningful. The system also needed to be refreshed regularly based on constant stream of daily timekeeping. It is being extended now to include information and analysis that will help match associate professional development interests to new projects. Brent considers this an example a KM project.
Brent’s issues and thoughts about KM:
- Is KM a distinct function in the firm?
- Automated vs. manual KM processes
- Lightweight KM ("KM 2.0″)
- Migrating from overhead (cost) to revenue
- Finding insertion points in every case.
The firm is rolling out a new SharePoint Intranet / portal now. Each practice group will have a blog, wiki, and document library. We see the blog and wiki as a key way to disseminate administrative information throughout the firm. The blog will be for daily, short-half-life information; the wiki will be for information with longer shelf-life. For example, firm policies have all been re-built as wikis; this makes it much easier to update wikis. The firm sees a role for KM functions across almost all firm operations.
On automated vs. manual approaches…. Brent’s informal survey found that most lawyers in his firm and at other’s in the US want automated approaches. Lawyers have trouble sustaining efforts actively to contribute to systems. So interest in automated approaches is much higher, though there are frequent short-lived manual efforts.
On overhead vs. revenue…. Historically, it’s been hard to show ROI on KM efforts. So we end up saying KM can make lawyers’ lives easier, let them work faster. Monetizing KM in a clear way is very hard. But if you like at e-discovery, there are more clearly direct impacts on the bottom line. More generally, consider the continuum of KM to practice support: there are many touch points for helping: marketing, client development, conflicts and new business intake, case management, workflow management, accounting /finance, discovery management, work product retrieval, trial support, records management (RM). Brent sees opportunities for applying KM perspectives to all these areas.
A case study of the “KM continuum” notion… litigation support and e-discovery. Lit supp attributes:
- Challenging and broad collection efforts
- Large data volume (terabytes)
- Processing to usable formats
- “Mining” for knowledge
- Providing robust review environment
- Potentially complex workflow managment
- Risk management and quality assurance
We can view all of the above as KM-related problems to solve.
Question: What are implications of above perspective.
Answer: Brent manages an applied technology group of 12 technologists and data managers. Is very involved in risk management issues. His staff are all fee-earners - they work on specific matters. So they cannot always take on non-billable projects.
More from the Ark Knowledge Management Conference in Chicago. A real time report on the role of tech in KM….
This is a debate between Stuart Kay (SK) of Baker McKenzie and Joshua Fireman (JF) of ii3:
SK: Technology is just an enabler. It’s one thing to find a document, another thing to understand what it means and how to use it. You still need the human connection.
JF: US firms have not invested in practice support lawyers. Yet with technology they are finding what they need. Realistically, lawyers do not willingly contribute to systems - there are simply no incentives to do so. One-half dozen years ago, technology did not exist to make sense of the mass of data. Now, however, with an array of enterprise search tools, software can yield the right information. So the human element is less and less necessary.
SK: In a firm the size of Baker McKenzie, even with the best search system, we have so many documents, the results list will be way to long. So we need PSLs to identify the highest value documents. The PSLs go to lawyers and ask for precedents. With the personal interactions, lawyers will give documents to a central system. PSLs just don’t have bandwidth to visit enough lawyers and to collect enough documents. So you are missing a lot of valuable work product.
JF: Sure, if you have the bodies, PSLs can seek out contributions. But this is still a sub-opitimal level of contribution. Your repository can never be complete. The “good documents” exist in digital form somewhere - the technology can seek it out and bring it forward. The search technology can narrow the filed sufficiently to provide value and provides a far bigger trove than you can hope to develop manually.
SK: This is a Utopian view of what tech can achieve. There are too many ways of working and too many variations for technology to deal with it. Plus, when PSLs are involved, the value of what you capture is so much higher. The views of PSLs vary tremendously by geography. Our surveys show that lawyers in Europe, Asia, and Australia value PSLs much more than in North America. Plus, experience shows that once you put PSLs in place, lawyers will use them effectively. Lawyers who were skeptical about PSLs became big believers and supporters once PSLs were brought on board an integrated. (Stuart shows survey data from his firm to support these statements.)
JF: What is the role of your new portal in supporting this work?
SK: PSLs were very important in the design and roll out of the portal. In old portal, lawyers complained that content was not useful. With new system, value of docs was much higher because of the higher value of docs identified by PSLs (and they regularly promote the system).
Audience Member 1: Once PSLs are on-board, it’s likely lawyers will say they are useful. That does not prove very much. Any help is welcome and no one wants to see colleagues’ jobs disappear.
Audience Member 2: Large US firms will never persuade senior management to hire PSLs. In our London office, we do have PSLs because that’s what lawyers there expect.
Audience Member 3: What about the Richard Susskind thesis of commoditizing knowledge and selling. Shouldn’t we be combining knowledge and tech and selling it.
Audience Member 4: I’m from London, a PSL. We’ve had PSLs for almost 10 years. The role is expanding so far beyond its original concept. It’s the bridge between IT and lawyers and marketing. Not just precedents. ROI
Audience Member 5: Firms are not punished for being late adopters - so why rush with hiring PSLs? Plus look at rapid growth of marketing relative to KM. What do we make of that?
JF: Marketers are better at selling themselves.
SK: US clients are less willing to change outside counsel than elsewhere in the world
Audience Member 6: KM is like a help desk for attorneys. Look at the growth of help desks. KM can become like help desks.
Just finished a session on cultural change and social networks at the Ark Knowledge Management conference in Chicago.
A few interesting points:
- Technology has caused the collapse of more traditional in-person social connections and mentoring.
- KM has emerged as a substitute for the sharing that used to happen naturally.
- A few firms are trying to design physical spaces (e.g., library - cafe combos) that encourage old-fashioned in-person interaction.
- Sharing may occur as readily across firms as within firms at the associate level. (Many raised eyebrows at this; one participant countered “how much original work is really done anyway?")
- Examples of Linkedin, FaceBook, and MySpace for business uses cited: recruiting and biz dev but not much for substantive work.
- One firm uses IM and has determined associates really use it for collaboration and know-how sharing.
- Some: It’s not realistic for KM to drive cultural changes in large law firms. Others: You have to ride existing trends / opportunities and steer those trends.
Knowledge managers frequently discuss the number of document categories (types) in the document management system.
The accepted wisdom is that about a dozen types is right. Even then, lawyers often will not select the appropriate type. Some firms started with 100+ types and pay the price of confusion and mis-use. I’m at a conference now and a speaker just told a great story illustrating this. His firm has 100+ types, including one called “Quit” which was created for a T&E practice that wanted quitclaims categorized. When the KM department looked at the documents in this category, they found 40 letters of resignation!
Social networking (e.g., Facebook or MySpace) is the rage. Can it support knowledge management efforts?
The Water Cooler Is Now On The Web (Business Week, 10/1/07) reports that the software “turns out to be an efficient way to mine for in-house expertise, discover new recruits, and share information within their own walls.” Ok, I admit it. I don’t have much hands-on experience with social networking. And therein lies a problem. I’m more techie and adventurous than the typical BigLaw lawyer. I have a hard time imagining lawyers creating profiles and using social networking (whether public or behind the firewall) to describe their experience. So I am skeptical that social networking will solve any KM problems in the near term. Granted many lawyers are on Linkedin, but I would hardly call that a serious experience location system. Am I missing something?
Knowledge management in North America has long had a different flavor than KM in the United Kingdom.
At the risk of oversimplifying, UK firms have focused on a relatively labor- and human-intensive KM, relying heavily on practice support lawyers (PSL). In contrast, the US firms have focused on relatively technology-intensive KM, relying far more on software than on humans.
The traditional role of the PSL, however, appears to be changing. One sign of the change is the upcoming September 20th conference in London, Capitalising on the client-focused professional support lawyer role by the Ark Group. I have co-chaired Ark KM conferences in the US, so know that Ark gives careful thought to constructing an agenda that reflects current issues.
I am intrigued to see that this conference “will review the drivers for the PSL role becoming increasingly client-focused and how professional support needs to be able to encompass elements of client service, marketing and business development in order to remain competitive with other firms.” Speakers are from leading firms, including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Allen & Overy LLP, DLA Piper UK LLP, Eversheds LLP, Herbert Smith LLP, Norton Rose, CMS Cameron McKenna LLP, Addleshaw Goddard LLP, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP.
Lawyers seldom actively contribute know-how to knowledge management systems so KM professionals increasingly turn to alternatives. One interesting approach relies on user self-interest to create KM value by inference.
Almost everyone knows what it means to bookmark a web page. Originally, bookmarks were private, for the convenience of the user to find the same web page again.
Part of the “Web 2.0″ revolution is “social bookmarking or tagging.” In brief, if enough users tag a page as relating to a topic, search engines can better find and rank that page. For example, if every reader of this blog tags it with “KM” using a service such as del.ico.us, this blog would rank higher in search results than other KM resources with fewer such tags. The premise is that self-interest drives users to tag content and that collectively the tags serve as “votes” on the value of the page.
To the extent that social tagging adds value on the web (an open issue I think), can it do so within a single enterprise? Crowd Control (eWeek, 8/13/07) is a must-read article for anyone interested in the enterprise potential of social tagging for KM. It reviews enterprise tagging products but also has excellent analysis and commentary; some highlights include:
- “Pundits for new, enterprise-oriented social bookmarking and tagging systems claim they can provide what knowledge management systems haven’t: easy and secure storage, retrieval, and sharing of valuable documentation within an organization and around the Internet.”
- “While [corporate created] taxonomies might have been static at times, at least they provided consistency…. Nevertheless, IT cannot ignore the emerging area of enterprise social bookmarking.”
- “Of course, user buy-in is critical to successful deployment of these systems. Reaching such a critical mass among the Internet’s millions of users is difficult, but doing so on a closed intranet is an even bigger challenge.”
I’m at the 2007 annual conference of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) in Orlando. Today was the day for knowledge management. Fortunately a fellow blogger covered the sessions.
Practicing real estate lawyer, KM lawyer, and blogger Doug Cornelius of Goodwin Proctor provided real time coverage of the four KM track today. The sessions he blogged:
Two of my observations: The first session ("Alignment") was packed - standing room only. Obviously there is much interest in the RM aspect. The other KM sessions had respectable attendance but MUCH less than this one. I moderated the IT/KM Governance session. I was surprised that the panelists came down in favor of “KM is about technology” more so than “KM is about content and process.” That’s a bit of a simplification, but also explains why, at least for this audience, KM is more often a part of IT than a stand-alone function.
Ark Group hosts its third annual legal KM conference on Oct 24-25, 2007 in Chicago.
Joshua Fireman of ii3 and I will once again co-chair the conference (click here for preliminary details). For a flavor, here is the cover letter that Joshua and I wrote that Ark will include in the program:
Over the last decade KM has emerged as its own discipline in law firms. It now encompasses formerly distinct and narrower undertakings such as work product retrieval or “forms and precedents libraries.” KM has expanded but it has also experienced its share of bumps along the way. Some firms never liked the idea of KM. Some like it but hate to call it KM. While others that embraced it have lost some steam. But many firms are still going strong. On balance, the signs suggest that KM is alive and well - but still evolving.
So what is KM becoming? Some have given up on engaging lawyers and view it increasingly as a technology project or problem. Some continue to place great value on the refined knowledge of practice support lawyers. Some are coupling KM more tightly to marketing and finance. Still others have dropped formal names in favor of just doing whatever it takes to support law practice and law business with high value information and know-how.
Has KM lost its way? Is it really about technology? It appears that in many instances KM has taken the simple route of technology and is at risk of disappearing as a well-defined law firm function. For years KM professionals have touted that KM is “only about 20% technology.” But some of the US KM leaders are clearly investing heavily in technology, minimizing extra work for lawyers or staff. Will law firm CIO’s soon be commandeering KM projects as their own? Which raises a more general question of what’s the best way to evaluate this technology?
At this year’s KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN THE MODERN LAW FIRM conference, attendees will examine and discuss how KM is shifting in emphasis from supporting pure legal knowledge to supporting knowledge that relates to the business. We hope you’ll join us as we take a closer look at the high aspirations, false-starts, cultural limitations, resource limitations, and technology challenges faced by today’s legal KM community.
I’d love to hear with comments on these themes from anyone attending the ILTA 2007 KM track next Monday in Orlando.
The Knowledge Management Peer Group of the International Legal Technology Association hosts educational sessions at the annual ILTA meeting on August 20, 2007 in Orlando. The entire ILTA conference runs from August 20-23.
The annual ILTA conference is arguably THE annual legal technology conference. Both the educational sessions and networking opportunities are excellent (ILTA registration info here). Among the extensive set of sessions (see the 50-page PDF agenda) are four KM sessions on Day One (I am moderating the fourth one).
The Alignment of Information Management, Knowledge Management and Records Management. A panel discussion on where these management disciplines converge: how firms deal with the convergence; the issues and goals; who is looking after the collection of electronic records; and the risk management issues.
Speakers: John Szekeres of Cleary Gottlieb; Peter Krakaur of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; Mara Nickerson of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP; and Sally Gonzalez of Navigant Consulting.
Stories from Client-Facing KM Implementers. Panelists from several large law firms discuss their experiences of implementing client-facing KM solutions. Each showcases examples that worked and didn’t work as expected. They also discuss the effort involved and the perceived value to their management/firm.
Speakers: Clint Moore of Littler Mendelsohn; Catherine Monte of Fox Rothschild LLP; Chad Ergun of White & Case LLP; and Fiona Gifford of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
How Wikis, Blogs and Discussion Forums Relate to Knowledge Management in the Legal Field. A panel discussion on a selection of Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used in a knowledge management capacity. The panel includes two well-known attorney-blogger-technologists and a knowledge manager from an AmLaw 100 firm.
Speakers: Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog; Dennis Kennedy of DennisKennedy.com, LLC; Lisa Kellar of Hunton & Williams; and Gloria Fox of Blank Rome LLP.
Developing the Right IT and KM Governance Structure for Your Firm. What’s the best way to govern IT and KM? This panel offers tips on building productive alliances between IT and KM, specifically covering three KM/IT governance approaches: separate departments with informal alliances; together under the IT umbrella; and separate departments with a formal joint governance structure for technology requirements.
Speakers: David Hambourger of Seyfarth Shaw LLP; Deborah Panella of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Janis Croft of Nixon Peabody; and Ron Friedmann of Prism Legal Consulting, Inc.
How many search engines does the average law firm need?
Learn the answer to this question at an upcoming ILTA webinar: Knowledge Management When One Search Is Not Enough: Case Studies in Using Multiple Work Product Retrieval Tools on July 13, 2007 at noon Eastern. From the registration page:
Panelists will discuss the reasons their firms decided to use multiple tools, the process it used to evaluate them and, for those firms that have implemented them, how well each tool has worked in practice. They will also describe the technical, process and cultural conditions they believe may make a firm better suited for a combination of tools and/or for one product as opposed to another. Products covered will be West KM, Real Practice, Recommind, Lexis TotalSearch and LawPort. SharePoint 2007’s touted search capabilities will also be discussed.
Browning Marean, partner, DLA Piper
Ali Shahidi, regional director of information technology, Bingham McCutchen LLP
Clint Moore, manager of KM technologies, Littler Mendelson.
Amy Halverson, manager of litigation KM, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Knowledge management in corporate law departments is a glass half-full, glass half-empty situation.
On the (less than) half-empty side, only 15% of legal departments have “implemented a KM process,” 54% have not, and 31% don’t know. This according to an InsideCounsel magazine poll published in June 2007 (at p. 13). I’m less surprised that only 15% have KM than I am that 31% don’t even know (which I equate to “no"). Contrast this with BigLaw: various surveys show that at least 1/2 and perhaps much more have some KM.
On the half-full side, an excellent feature article in the same issue, Knowledge Management: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful KM Initiative (PDF), gives good guidance for successful law department KM. Important steps include specify an objective, gain buy-in, put someone in charge, consult stakeholders, and maintain what you build. Sidebars offer good war stories and other tips. Though targeted at in-house counsel, this is good reading for any legal KM professional.
Law firms should understand the difference between customer relationship management (CRM) and relationship discovery.
CRM is hard. Lawyers must enter and share data. Few large law firms use it effectively. BigLaw should ask where the value in relationships lie.
Much value lies in tapping relationships for business development and client service. Figuring out, however, who knows whom, is hard. CRM is neither necessary nor sufficient to identify connections. What I call “enterprise relationship discovery” software (ERD) solves this problem. And lawyers need not input data for it to work.
ERD easily leads rainmakers and marketers to connections their lawyers and staff have. Savvy lawyers use this not only for business development but also for making connections for their existing clients. ERD works by analyzing e-mail traffic and contact; it has mechanisms to protect relationship owners.
Rich Rifkin, formerly of Hummingbird, now with Contact Networks, recently demoed his company’s flagship ERD product. It looks good. Firms wanting to tap their own relationship assets should consider ERD. (I cannot comment on alternative products; I have no relationship with Contact Networks.)
ERD is close to “something for nothing.” Sure, it does cost to buy the software and users do need a bit of training. But this effort is much less than what’s required for many knowledge management and all CRM projects. With ERD, lawyers don’t have to change what they do - this avoids the failure point in many law firm initiatives.
[ERD should not be confused with social network analysis (SNA). The latter is typically a more customized analysis designed to understand your own organization at a deeper level.]
Is knowledge management sometimes dangerous?
Sun General Counsel Michael Dillon’s blog post Contracts with clarity implicitly raise this question. Dillon describes an effort at Sun to simplify contract language. He notes that
“attorneys seldom create agreements from scratch. Instead, in the interests of efficiency, we build off existing templates and add additional language covering any contingencies that we have experienced or imagined. When the next attorney uses your template, he or she rarely challenges the necessity of the additions that you have made. With each revision, the agreement grows in size and complexity…. The result is lengthy and verbose documents that create more ambiguity than they resolve.”
KM is all about re-use. How many lawyers try to simplify as Dillon suggests? Simple requires re-thinking, not re-using. I am not sure how many Practice Support Lawyers fundamentally re-think documents when they develop models. And re-using the last deal’s documents certainly does not encourage simplification.
I’ve seen the high cost of a bad model document. I was recently involved in negotiations for a complex service as an IT department’s business representative on a team of lawyers. We spent 50% of our time just trying to understand the provider’s convoluted contract. The provider believed its document was clear, complete, and consistent. It was not. Frequently, after multiple discussions about a clause, the provider would finally say “Oh, now we see your point, we can change that language.” Once they clarified the language and we understood what it meant, we could either accept or negotiate on the business merits.
I am still a KM advocate, but Dillon’s post illustrates that KM has the potential to close our eyes to altogether better approaches.
What’s hot in knowledge management? What are some unfulfilled KM desires?
In 2003, a group of NYC law firm KM professionals assembled a list of 20 useful KM resources and ranked them in importance. The top 5 were:
3. Experience location system
5. Matter database
In December 2006, this group surveyed its own members plus firms around the US, Canada, and the UK. Respondents indicated the degree of actual usage of the top 20 resources - the graph below shows key results. The survey is not representative; it is biased toward firms more interested in KM than average.
The results are a classic glass-half-full versus half-empty situation. For #1 precedents, only 60% of firms have “widely” or “regularly” used systems; for #2 forms, fewer than half have systems. And #3 experience location systems are in wide or regular use in only 20% of firms.
I believe the apparent divergence between the 2003 ranking and the 2006 usage reflects a combination of high aspirations, some false-starts, cultural limitations, resource limitations, and technology challenges. All of the top 5 resources require significant substantive involvement by lawyers. Practice support lawyers (PSL), who support these resources in the UK and Australia and to some extent in Canada, are relatively rare in the US.
Though regular use is lower than I would have guessed, I nonetheless believe that KM is on the upswing. (Regular readers of this blog know that I have been skeptical on this in the past.) On the one hand, the data are the data. Plus numerous firms avoid saying “knowledge management.” On the other hand, even the ones who don’t say KM do it. And I see more firms attending conferences and new groups forming. Plus KM, marketing, finance, libraries, and professional development are converging in some of their interests and goals (especially taxonomies and matter databases).
So for me, the survey indicates both the progress made and the challenge of executing KM the right way. I’ll soon cover some additional survey findings that expand on these themes.
Morrison & Foerster is a big law firm that knows how to have its cake and eat it too. They developed an award-winning knowledge management system and use it as competitive differentiator.
A MoFo team led by Oz Benamram, Director of Knowledge Management, developed “AnswerBase,” which won the Fourth Annual Law Technology News “Most Innovative Use of Technology by a Law Firm” award. AnswerBase is “an intelligent knowledge management system that allows users to find answers about documents, people, and matters from across a rich array of MoFo data sources” reports the 1/28/06 ALM press release. (For background on AnswerBase and its development, see Lawyers As Shoppers – It’s All About Finding Information, an article I helped Oz write.)
The firm also differentiates itself with AnswerBase. AnswerBase has its own page on MoFo’s web site, including a narrated demo (link on left nav bar). Furthermore, the firm retained law firm consultant Bruce MacEwan of Adam Smith, Esq. to write a report explaining the system and its value.
AnswerBase is a legal tech grand slam: a great system, promoted effectively, and appealing to to three key audiences: clients (for enhancing efficiency and effectiveness), potential new associates (for making work easier), and laterals (for enabling cross-selling).
The knowledge management peer group of the International Legal Technology Association is hosting a reception at Legal Tech on January 30, 2007 in New York City.
The 2007 Legal Tech trade show takes place Jan 29-31 in NYC. On that Tuesday, the KM Peer Group of ILTA hosts a Happy Hour Reception sponsored by Practice Technologies, Inc., developers of RealPractice. The reception is from 5:15 to 6:30pm at Bridges Bar at the The New York Hilton (the show venue). To attend, register here.
Law firms face many knowledge management hurdles. KM success might be easier by focusing on high value activities. Empirical data can help establish where that is.
For transactional work, identifying where KM can have maximum impact is not hard. The non-profit International Association for Contract & Commercial Management recently released its survey of most commonly negotiated contract terms in 2006. Top terms include limitation of liability, indemnification, and liquidated damages.
KM professionals could work mainly on clauses that appear most frequently. An “80-20″ approach - meaning focus most effort on the limited set of clauses used most often - might make KM more manageable and valuable. This survey could be a good starting point for deciding the best focus.
Firms can also review the most commonly negotiated clauses to see how their own lawyers draft them. But finding representative clauses can be hard because top terms appear across many agreement types. Some firms, however, already have tools to simplify this. For example, RealPractice by Practice Technologies makes it easy to find like clauses across contracts. (The related Public Access product allows searching other law firm’s clauses, via access to SEC filings.)
In litigation, one could apply similar logic, analyzing the most common substantive issues and jurisdictions. This would help guide what research and which model documents have the highest value.
Disclosure: I have a consulting relationship with Practice Technologies.
What does a law firm that takes KM seriously look like?
Knowledge management consultant Gretta Rusanow of Curve Consulting answers this question in KM and the Law (KMWorld, 1/07).
Rusanow describes the KM program at leading Australian law firm Allens Arthur Robinson (AAR). The firm has one KM staff person for every 22 lawyers. It also “requires each lawyer to spend 50 hours a year on KM-related work.” Moreover, “that contribution is considered in each lawyer’s performance assessment.” These facts confirm my long-held view that Australian firms are way ahead of the US in KM. (The article also spells out in detail many other aspects of AAR’s KM program.)
AAR “also leads other law firms in managing knowledge relating to internal processes. By focusing on developing methodology and processes, and collecting and sharing lessons learned from past projects, AAR can use that knowledge to work more efficiently (and profitably) in future matters.” I’m not 100% sure what this means, but it sounds like developing best practices for how to work. US firms should pursue this avenue. In February I will moderate a discussion on best practices at a KM meeting and hope to have more to say about it afterwards.
The recently released ILTA 2006 IT Staffing Survey indicates that KM is on the rise.
The survey (PDF here) asks “Who Manages KM?” (chart p. 10, table p. 15). Across all 4 categories of firm size, from small to very large, the percent of firms reporting “no one manages KM” fell from 2005 to 2006.
Focusing on very large firms (500+ users), the “no one” percent fell from 49% to 27%. That means that 13 firms added a KM manager (22% of 61 responding). I find the 2005 versus 2006 data on where knowledge management reports a bit confusing. At first I thought I could tell whether the new KM managers were in IT or not but now I’m not so sure. What seems certain - and a surprise to me - is that KM reports to IT in 37% of firms responding in 2006.
At the Ark KM Conference in October, I moderated the session “Management Views of KM.” So what do “customers” think of KM?
I suggested and moderated this panel (moderator questions here) because full-time, practicing lawyers rarely attend KM gatherings. All three panelists (participant info here) are practice group leaders and a couple are on the firm’s management committee; their firms range in size from 100 to 400 lawyers. Their views on KM were similar, all supporting it and saying it is important. The panelists cited many KM drivers; three stood out for me:
- Informal dollar caps on matters. Clients may not ask for budgets but for some matters, lawyers know that if they go over a certain amount, it’s asking for trouble. So they want tools for efficiency.
- The need for speed. Clients often face deadlines they can’t control. If outside counsel can deliver work product and advice quickly, it helps make the client look good.
- RFPs, which frequently ask about the firm’s KM capabilities.
The panel agreed in concept about the value of KM but acknowledged that getting lawyers to change how they work is hard, though some elicited “good KM behavior” in their own practices. One way they suggested to get around lawyers not contributing was to rely more on secretaries to contribute to KM efforts.
I may be guilty of seeing what I want to, but I think the panelists confirm my view that KM needs to rely more on automated approaches and morph into a broader practice support role. For additional views on the panel, see Tom Baldwin’s comments over at his Knowledgeline blog.
Knowledge management typically focuses on capturing and re-using a firm’s own work product. What if you could just as easily tap other firm’s work?
Looking Outside the Firm for On-Point Work Product (Legal Tech Newsletter, 12/8/06) by Justin Hectus of Keesal, Young & Logan explains the benefits of reviewing work product created by other law firms. His firm uses software from Practice Technologies that makes it easy to search SEC filings (via EDGAR), including the many attachments corporations file.
Hectus observes that though some lawyers “might be loathe to admit it… much of the practice of law involves the recycling of documents and information that has proven successful in the past… We’d be doing our clients a tremendous disservice if we tried to reinvent the wheel each time we had to create a new agreement, instead of leveraging previously successful work product and adding the artful interpretations and additions relevant to the current situation.”
Beyond the traditional KM goal of re-using work product (in this instance, across firms), Hectus reports that searching other firms’ work is a competitive advantage. In one instance, his firm used it to gain insight into how opposing counsel approached various issues by reviewing multiple documents it had drafted. In another, his firm refuted opposing counsel’s claim that no lawyer in his firm had ever agreed to a particular provision by finding five examples of just such a provision.
Almost 3 years ago, I wrote about the potential of ”open source law.” Open source has tremendous traction in software and virtually none in law. I don’t hold out any immediate hope that this will change, but at least with access to other firm’s work, we are one step closer to the ideas behind open source.
Disclosure: I have a consulting relationship with Practice Technologies.
Law firm knowledge management leader Freshfields is considering KM cutbacks and re-organization.
Freshfields profits drive targets Italian partners and City back-office (LegalWeek, 10/20/06) reports that the firm may reduce staff to enhance profits. Freshfields has “put forward proposals to review its London back office functions this week and is currently consulting with the affected staff.” Nothing is definite but the “main areas under consideration are knowledge management and business development, which are set to merge.”
I’ve heard other reports that Magic Circle firms seek to reduce their KM investments. Top London law firms have employed many Practice Support Lawyers. In contrast, US firms have only a handful, relying instead on automating KM. That the London firms would cut back on PSLs or KM is not surprising. Nor is combining KM with business development or marketing. These functions naturally overlap and KM might show a better return were it more closely aligned with a revenue generating function.
Thanks to fellow blogger Joy London for alerting me to this. Joy co-edits Law Librarian News / excited utterances, a global electronic newsletter for law librarians and legal knowledge managers (for subscription information, contact Joy at jlondon at inch.com).
Another live report from the Ark KM conference in Chicago about an innovative approach to search and workproduct retrieval. Session title: Linking KM & DM Systems at Skadden Arps. Presenters: Charmaine Polvara, Knowledge Systems Manager and Rudy DeFelice, CEO of Practice Technologies.
Skadden did not want to create a new interface for search. Rather, the firm wanted to use its existing document management system, but more efficiently. A long-standing goal has been to put more and better information in document management (DM) profiles, but without asking lawyers to do more. This approach means that lawyers get more from a tool that they already know well.
The firm chose Practice Technologies’ ACE Profiler to extract document information about each document to populate the profile automatically. The DM profile will have an Advanced Search button that will invoke the new profile data generated by the ACE energy. This solution will be portable to future upgrades of the document management system. And this approach allows searching across all the DM libraries, which has been a long-standing challenge because of the number of DM libraries and servers.
Issues with this new approach include how far back to go in time and deciding when a document is actually final and no longer a work in progress. The firm will, over time and with experience, adjust the business rules controlling this decision.
Here is background information on Skadden Arps provided by Polvara: 22 global offices with 1750 lawyers; 5 data centers around the world; 450 applications run on 300 Citrix servers (all lawyers access all apps via Citrix); PC Docs v.4 is the document management system (with an upgrade to DM 6 planned for next year); 34 Docs libraries, 15 Docs servers, almost 10 million documents; 280 document types; more than one-half of documents are categorized as “other” in the document management system; full-text search in Docs is impractical; attorneys crave a single-search access across all libraries.
Here is background on the profile data that is automatically extracted provided by DeFelice: document type, objective of document, practice area, parties and lawyers involved, legal topics, judges involved, controlling law, jurisdiction, clauses in the document.
DeFelice reports that Practice Technologies is considering other ways to use these data: other search tools (including full-text search), CRM (populate certain contact fields based on how companies appear in documents), populate a marketing database with more granular information on firm experience, experience database re experience with specific judges.
Posted at 3:12pm Central; full disclosure: I have a consulting relationship with Practice Technologies.
I’m still at the Ark KM conference in Chicago. Ali Shahidi, the CTO of Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan is presenting a fascinating empircial comparison of three work product retrieval solutions. This is another “real time” post.
The firm has 3 KM products in production: RealPractice (RP) for 2.5 years, WestKM (WKM) for 0.5 years, and LexisNexis Total Search (LNTS) for 2.o years. Before reporting on what Alschuler found, some context: The firm has one million documents, operates in a single location only; it is 60% litigation, 40% transactional. The empirical findings below are based on interviews and surveys the firm conducted over 2 years. Though Shahidi included Recommind in his presentation, the firm is not using it; since it is in my opinion really a different product category, I am not including it here. Here are the key work product retrieval empirical findings from the firm:
- Resources required to roll-out: RP easiest, followed by LNTS, then WKM
- Usability & Training: Little new training required for LNTS or WKM because of similarity to research interface; but the interface of RP is very easy to use.
- Practice Group Library: RP has it built in; LNTS and WKM do not. Lawyers like this feature
- Control of Results Sets: WKM provided most tools to fine tune which documents end up in the work product collection.
- Speed: Running on the same document collection and similar hardware platforms: LNTS and WKM are fastest
- Custom Taxonomy: RP is the only one with this.
- End User Interface and Design: RP is designed from scratch to optimize results list. RP results are much easier to use than results lists in WKM or LNTS. The latter two are more designed around the companies’ research tools.
- Relevancy: RP followed by WKM gave most relevant results. With RP, documents are displayed with actual document names (generated by the software), not the title in the document profile. This makes browsing results easier.
- Expertise & Cross Selling: LNTS is best because of Lexis ownership of Interaction (a CRM system)
- Work Flow Features: Lawyers like RP best. Once lawyers do a search and find a document or clause they like, they can save the result to a personal, practice group, or firm library. This allows maintaining the equivalent of “favorites.”
- Embedding Hyperlinks: LNTS
- Hyperlinked Cites: LNTS and WKM do better than RP
- Use by Litigators if no Citations: RP
- Use by Litigators with Citations: WKM and LNTS
- Transaction Document Searches: RP or WKM
- Transaction and Clause Management: RP
- Personal Library: RP
One interesting finding from this study was that relevancy ranking is different across the three products.
So, why did the firm buy 3 products? Half the lawyers use West and half use Lexis for research. The total cost to have all 3 products was not that high.
Originally posted at 11am Central, at finish of this session
This is a bit of an experiment. I’m at the Ark KM conference in Chicago now and am taking notes and will post in real time with
little editing. The current session (10am Central) is The Expanding Surface of KM by Brent Kidwell of Jenner & Block.
Kidwell takes a very broad view of KM. His team will not work on infrastructure but he suggests they will work on anything that has a practice-facing element. Kidwell offers a five-part definition of KM:
1. Mine existing data
2. Collect new data
3. Manage or manipulate the data
4. Deliver back the results
5. Refresh and update
Examples of recent projects at Jenner & Block. Some are traditional KM, some are not - that’s part of the point Kidwell is making that KM is not that well-defined:
- Marketing: This example is close to core definition of KM. Kidwell’s team helps collect the core information that marketing needs. For marketing to be able to find and mine data (e.g., find a blurb from a one-year old RFP) is critical. The firm has an internally-built tool called KMDocs; it allows easily foldering documents into categories. All contents is full-text searchable and browsable via a taxonomy. By putting all content into this system, marketing is able to find and re-use its content. Search results show all locations of where a document resides, which helps provide context to understand what a search hit is really about. So this is an example of “real KM” that mines existing data and manages them with a taxonomy. Other marketing support includes CRM and full-text search support.
- Docketing: The firm had a long-standing docketing system. Kidwell’s team decided to mine the data. First it had to be “groomed,” then it was made searchable. Now, users can, for example, find out colleagues who have argued cases in front of the same judge. Searches can be narrowed by judge, jurisdiction, type of matter. This serves as a form of experience location. This system also has marketing functions because it allows answering prospects about types of cases and jurisdictions worked in. Kidwell calls this traditional KM because it mines and then delivers existing data.
- Accounting: This example moves a bit away from traditional KM. Practice group leaders needed specific information to help them assign lawyers to matters. They need real-time information on who is busy, stratified by number of years of experience. Kidwell’s team developed a list of business requirements by talking to practice group leaders. No commercial product met the requirements, so the firm created its own tool. The tool also allows comparing each lawyer’s budget for hours against new requirements so that work goes to lawyers who need work.
- Legal Recruiting: The Recruiting department talked to Kidwell - they wanted to deliver recruiting information to law students digitally, on USB drives, rather than on paper. Why did recruiters go to KM? First, the recruiters knew KM would say yes. Second, the KM team has developers. And third, recruiting has data that they need managed and re-used. The KM team developed a “web page on a stick.” It includes detailed information on the firm. The information is customized for each law school that the firm visits (for example, bios of lawyers visiting that school and alum from that school at the firm). Kidwell puts this in the KM model: mine and re-use existing data. Perhaps a couple of years ago, we would not call this KM, but now most of us would call this KM.
- Summer Program Support: It’s hard to manage work assignments and evaluations for summer associates. The managers of the summer program wanted an online work flow management system. The development team went through a requirements definition, created wireboards to sketch out functionality, then built a system. The work flow includes : 1. Submit Request. 2. Assignment approved or returned. 3. Summer associate can review available assignments and request one. 4. Assignment approved (or not). 5. Evaluation process kicked off. The tool lets summer associates to put their work product into the system so that the actual work is sent to the right lawyers for evaluation and review. Kidwell has a hard time squeezing this into a traditional KM model.
- Professional Development: PD digitally tapes all inhouse education programs. The KM team posts all recording on the firm’s portal, along with accompanying materials.
- Litigation Support: Kidwell, in addition to KM, also manages the firm’s lit supp (and EDD) department. The volume of potentially responsive data in discovery requests is enormous. Kidwell says he cannot distinguish EED challenges from KM. Both involve large volumes of data from mulitple sources and the firm has to do something with the data to make it usable to lawyers. For EED, the firm has to collect, filter, de-duplicate and analyze the data. Lawyers then need to review it for responsiveness and privilege - is there knowledge in the documents useful to the case. So this is similar to creating a precedent library for a practice group. The shared challenges are: 1. Expansive collection efforts. 2. Large data volumes. 3. Processing to usable formats. 4. Mining for knowledge. 5. Providing a robust review environment.
My one immediate editorial comment is that this supports a topic I presented at a prior Ark conference - Is KM Morphing into Practice Support. Kidwell presented a range of what I would consider more traditional practice support than traditional KM.
Originally posted at 10:55am Central
How can law firms understand and take advantage of knowledge management? What are typical KM challenges?
These are some of the questions I tackle in a recorded webcast, Knowledge Management: Asking the Right Questions, an interview with David Snow, editor of the technology section of law.com. Free registration required. This is a 15-minute, pure audio recording available via Webex. Some of my answers flow from my article, KM - The Right Question (at prismlegal.com), also at llrx.com as Pragmatic Approaches to Knowledge Management.
Lawyers may have to toss a coin to choose caffeine versus constantly updated legal news. Now, it’s easier to have both.
New tools ease finding and digesting legal updates while sipping coffee. I recently spoke with Todd Berkowitz, an executive with Newsgator, an “enterprise RSS” company that makes software to manage and deliver information. “Enterprise RSS” sounds daunting but the concept is simple. It lets law firms centralize updates from multiple sources such as West, Lexis, and BNA to deliver updates tailored to individual practice groups.
Lawyers get their critical updates in one place – Outlook or portal – rather than as a stream of e-mail or print publications. Blackberry delivery is also an option. Newsgator and other enterprise RSS systems let lawyers customize pre-selected practice group info by adding their own “feeds” from their favorite blogs or other sources. Lawyers can also easily share updates with their colleagues, which sure beats penning names on routing slips.
Berkowitz reports that multiple AmLaw 200 firms have licensed Newsgator software or are considering it. Given that I posted about enterprise RSS in 2005, I’m glad to hear that the product category appears to have traction now.
Unlike legal technology of yore, this does something for lawyers, not to them. Plus it makes life easier for librarians and CIOs. Firms can now monitor which sources are used and what lawyers actually read. This provides data to rationalize source selection and allows further customizing content over time. Now, lawyers who yell loudest about favorite publications won’t necessarily get their way.
Although the capability exists today, Newsgator will soon release a hosted version that makes it easier for firms to feed content to clients. Firms go much deeper substantively than most law departments can, so sharing selected updates with clients can increase client satisfaction and retention.
Delivering information to clients (and even internally) hinges on dealing appropriately with copyright and license constraints. Some publishers are more flexible than others in this regard. Obtaining appropriate rights may cost a bit but will keep lawyers informed and help buy client loyalty.
With budget season at hand, BigLaw should be considering enterprise RSS solutions for 2007. And for those who do, please consider adding my feed, which is http://www.prismlegal.com/wordpress/b2rss2.php. By the way, NewsGator is delivering a set of educational Webinars tomorrow and Wednesday (register here).
What’s my knowledge management strategy? That’s a good question but a better one is “what’s best for the firm?”
KM is mainly about reducing lawyer effort. That’s a good goal. Better still is to improve profitability, focusing on projects, technologies, staff, or processes that can grow revenues. Maybe it’s KM. Or maybe it’s a new business intake process, improved work force allocation, a proposal generator for marketing, or relationship discovery software.
I expand on this premise in Pragmatic Approaches to KM, published on August 17, 2006 by LLRX.com (also here at prismlegal.com). It’s based on a presentation I gave at the May 2006 Interwoven Legal IT Leadership Summit, a conference that brings together leading IT leaders from large firms to discuss pressing issues and develop actionable strategies.
The article reviews the current state of KM and trend toward automated approaches and proposes an analytic framework for firms to use in considering what projects to pursue. That framework compares “Reduced Effort” and “Enhanced Revenue” in a scatter-gram (where circles proportional to costs represent projects), as illustrated in the chart below. While it may be hard actually to measure effort saved, revenue generated, and costs incurred, the framework seems the right way to think about where to devote resources. (Contact me if you want the spreadsheet that generated this; it’s not automated and assumes you know Excel but has some instructions.)
Ark Group will host its annual knowledge management conference in Chicago on October 10-11. I’m helping develop the program. We’re looking for a law firm willing to present a case study on new collaboration approaches, especially blogs or wikis.
A new generation of collaboration tools is, at minimum, a data source for KM to mine, if not a KM tool in own right. Press reports suggest that blogs and wikis are big in corporations but penetration in law firms seems small.
In one conference session, we would like to discuss the state of collaboration tools in large firms and how they may affect KM. If anyone knows of a law firm using a new generation of collaboration tools that would be willing to present, please contact me.
More information on the conference will soon be available on the Ark events page.
The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) has just released a new white paper on Knowledge Management.
The KM white paper has several articles of interest. Chris Boyd, Director of Professional Development & KM at Wilson Sonsini, and I wrote one of the articles, Powering a KM Windmill, which is also available on this web site under the title Baking KM into the System. I also wrote Going Beyond E-Mail Queries, which is a case study of the RealPractice work product retrieval system at Littler Mendelson (click here for a related version at the Practice Technologies web site).
Perhaps the first and most popular legal KM blog is excited utterances by Joy London. Joy recently announced an expanded offering that will be of interest to many legal professionals.
In a recent post, Joy explains that she is joining forces with Law Librarian News. excited utterances moves to a new location (http://www.practicesource.com/excited/) and now offers a subscription-based newsletter called “Law Librarian News & excited utterances.” Joy writes that
“Pairing my award-winning KM blog with editor Sean Hocking’s acclaimed Law Librarian News, the semi-monthly “Law Librarian News & excited utterances” will deliver direct-to-desktop news-you-can-use – by, for and about the global legal information and knowledge management market. While excited utterances will continue to deliver the same reliable online coverage of legal KM that its readers have come to rely upon, our new combined publication creates the perfect vehicle for legal knowledge managers and law librarians who want to understand the machinations of the current market.”
With Joy’s permission, you can view the inaugural issue with excited utterance here. KM professionals and law librarians should consider subscribing. Some additional information:
- To access the excited utterances blog and the LLN archive via http://www.practicesource.com (free access until July 1, 2006), you will need a password and user name.
- The content will be available every other week (on Fridays) delivered as a PDF by e-mail.
- Multiple subscriptions for enterprises are available.
- PracticeSource.com is Australia’s leading independent source for info about legal blogs, firms and news.
Is knowledge management on the rise or fall? Not just skeptics ask; so do legal technology consultants and KM professionals. Some takes on answers….
It’s down. So I thought when I looked at the down-sloping line of the Google trends graph for “knowledge management,”. Scientist wannabe that I am, I checked this metric for reliablity. When I looked at the flat to down-sloping line for “electronic discovery”, a topic I know is hot and rising, I decided not to draw conclusions from this approach.
I’ve written and spoken about how KM may be morphing into more inclusive approach of practice support consulting. One spin on that idea is that we are doing more KM but just using the KM-word less.
Then there’s expertise location (prior posts on this here). Many firms now automate work product retrieval (for example, see RealPractice - a product I know from consulting I do for Practice Technologies). As the “document problem” is solved, firms can shift more to helping lawyers find experienced colleagues.
If press coverage is any indication, then experience location is on the rise. The Business Solutions column in the Wall Street Journal (5/15/06, $) is titled A New Way to Keep Track of Talent. It describes the move from self-rating systems, which have generally not worked, to systems that infer experience from documents and e-mails. I have some qualms about the article but was glad to see recognition of an important issue: “For companies using expertise tools, dealing with employee resistance can be as challenging as any technological issues.” This is the second WSJ article on the topic this year (blog post about it).
If we use the WSJ as a gauge, then it looks like KM is at least holding its own. Oh, there’s more in the article: “Indeed, Microsoft Corp., though it won’t discuss specific plans, is looking at expertise location as a feature in future versions of its Office software suite.” That should get any KM professionals attention! If anyone knows about these MS plans, please drop me a line.
Update (5/19/06, 10pm EDT): : See Microsoft search wants to pick your brain on ZDNetUK for some detail on Microsoft’s approach to expertise location (spotted on excited utterances and Knowledgeline).
The Ark Group is hosting a knowledge management conference in Toronto on June 13-14.
As a speaker and co-chair at prior Ark conferences, I can say that Ark puts on outstanding conferences. This one will explore the intersection of “information management” with KM. I agree that Info Management is a topic of growing interest, driven by huge data volumes, “systems sprawl,” and retention/compliance issues.
Other conference topics include the law librarians and KM, portals, creating a knowledge sharing culture, and KM for professional development. Conference information and registration.
Here are two reports on this blog from the Ark KM conference in February 2006 in NYC: KM Morphing into practice support consulting and KM Haiku (really!) and links to conference materials.
The first International Legal Technology Association knowledge management webinar is this Thursday, April 27th.
The recently formed ILTA KM peer group is hosting KM 101: The Three Stages of Knowledge on April 27th at 2:00 PM Eastern / 1:00 PM Central / 12:00 PM Mountain / 11:00 AM Pacific:
“Join us for an overview of Knowledge Management focusing on the three stages in the KM Systems Maturity Model. This will be a discussion on what a firm just beginning a knowledge management program should focus on to develop a successful program and things to consider in developing projects for intermediate and advanced knowledge management programs.”
The presenter is John Szekeres, Assistant Director of Knowledge Management for Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP. The fee is per connection; $25 for ILTA members and $75 for non-members (register here).
I recently blogged (here) about a good knowledge management article in the The National, a publication of the Canadian Bar Association. In Knowledge Uprising (PDF), journalist-author Patti Ryan interviewed several KM practitioners. The full-text of her interview with me is now available.
Questions she asks include the history of KM, why lawyers are reluctant to participate in KM efforts, what motivates law firms to do KM, the benefits of doing KM, whether law firm size matters for doing KM.
I recently created a new “Roundup” blog category, in which I list (with links) articles, blog posts, and vendors sites that I find. This has given me an idea for a new blog feature, offered here for comment.
As a personal knowledge management tool, blogs are pretty good, but have limitations. Searching and reporting are limited, at least compared with databases.
When I blog, it would be useful to cause selected text to appear not just in the blog entry, but also as a database record. Some might argue that I should just use a tagging system such as del.ico.us. But I’d like something as an author that is more integrated and database-like.
Does this feature exist? Would it be useful to bloggers? To law firm librarians or knowledge managers?
It’s an old adage that knowledge management is 80% process and culture. But if people don’t play, process won’t work.
In US law firms, the success of manual KM is mixed at best. I’ve suggested previously that automated approaches may be preferable (e.g., 2006 (Not) Technology Prediction, Is Manual KM Doomed?, KM - Why Automated Approaches Are Easier).
The Wall Street Journal reports in Skills Tracking Lets Firms
Measure Bench Strength (2/13/06, $) that some US businesses have developed skills databases “to help fill specific needs.” Employers create databases that track employee skills and credentials. It’s simple in theory but not in practice. “Employees can misstate or deliberately overstate their qualifications. And some managers may withhold information, fearing that their most skilled employees will be poached by others.” The article details several companies that have developed skills databases and the limitations they encounter.
So law firms are in good company. Those that have built self-rating experience location systems find that lawyers hate rating themselves and tend to under- or over-state their experience. This is just another reason driving firms to automated solutions. For experience locations, systems are emerging that can infer experience based on matters worked on and time billed to those matters.
Yesterday I reported on the Ark KM conference last week. One participant was Jack Vinson, a KM expert not from the legal market. Via his Knowledge Jolt blog, Jack provides two good reports on the conference.
In his report on conference day one, Jack highlights some comments that caught his attention:
- “Lawyers don’t really collaborate. They happen to work on a file at the same time.”
- KM is about the stuff in the crevices, where technology doesn’t fit.
- There is no single solution that will solve all KM-related needs. Again, another familiar refrain, but it was interesting to hear in context.
- “Why can’t it work like Google?” in response to focus groups. This is a familiar refrain everywhere.
- What is the “return on investment” from the perspective of the lawyer? If they provide information, does the system give it back “with interest?” I see this as a very strong link to the personal perspective of What’s In It For Me?
- How do I take the knowledge and improve business?
Highlights of his day two report:
“Day 2 of KM in the Modern Law Firm is over, and it seemed to have more energy, even amidst the normal outflux of people catching flights or responding to calls… There was much debate around the idea that KM was becoming common-enough that it is just one of the things firms do to support the practice of law. On the other hand, not all firms treat the concept of practice support in the same way, and KM might be something other than supporting the practice. One of the balancing acts in the discussion was the tension that firms feel between delivering content and delivering a capability…
The last session was an entertaining brainstorming session… [with the goal of coming up] with ‘radical’ ideas for developing a client-facing KM solution…. [my vote goes] to the suggested creation of a Automatic Resolution Tool that would work from the existing litigation decision trees and build to a more sophisticated tool to help close the lawsuit.”
Last week Joshua Fireman and I co-chaired the Ark Group conference, Knowledge Management for the Modern Law Firm (PDF of program). The theme we set for 70+ participants over two days was “what is KM, what is not, and where are its boundaries?”
The session KM Beyond Document Management covered many themes: financial reporting systems for partners; analyzing process flows to enhance the value of interactions between lawyers and clients; associate care and feeding; tracking external developments; automatic classification and entity extraction; the pressure on PSLs to work on professional development and marketing; portals versus Outlook as the primary interface; and the problem that marketing, finance, and KM are silos. What I found interesting is that much of what we discussed is not traditionally in the realm of KM.
The session Is KM Morphing into Practice Support Consulting, which I moderated (my outline of questions), was a lively discussion about KM boundaries. Some argued KM is just one of many aspects of practice support (the majority it seemed to me), others that it must remain a separate discipline. There was more consensus that, either way, a critical success factor is developing a close working relationship with lawyers.
Some other interesting points from this session:
- The tensions and trade-off between a functional focus on a KM or Practice Support department versus a practice focus. I likened this to an issue many companies struggle with – product versus market or customer focus.
- The group spent a bit of time discussing the relatively simple challenge of helping lawyers with basic firm operations such as scheduling conference rooms or knowing whom in HR to contact. The point is that if lawyers struggle with such basics, it may be hard to move up the chain to KM or other practice enhancements.
- A panelist suggested a concierge, someone who could answer any question. A participant suggested that lawyers want psychic computers, ones that anticipate needs. This humorous comment illustrates the tough question of how easy is easy enough?
- The need for KM and practice support professionals to initiate project and improvements but the frequent and often inevitable slide to reactive mode.
All in all, I conclude that KM is indeed morphing, at least among US firms. Whether it subsumes practice support or is absorbed by other departments remains to be seen.
Day one of Knowledge Management for the Modern Law Firm conference was excellent. Reports and materials to follow but in the mean time, haiku.
Joshua Fireman and I co-chair the conference and for the day one wrap up, we asked participants to submit a surprising insight, valuable lesson, or unanswered question. We had many great responses, but the most unusual were two haikus (anonymous) - the first KM ones I’ve seen:
Hidden wisdom pearls
Scattered throughout firm silos
KM seeks to find
KM dirty word
But we do it anyway
Useful nuggets sought
Update (2/25/06): original haiku corrected (above); haiku from comments promoted to main text:
Talking to clients
Not talking to each other
Talking in the dark
- Simon Chester
Wisdom moves in light
Knowing touch is most profound
Clumsy bears break stuff
- Andy Havens
Notes to participants (Updated 2/27/06):
1. Matter Centricity presentation - ppt download
2. Is KM Morphing to Practice Support Consulting? discussion outline
3. Making KM Client Facing - ppt download
4. We discussed the impact of practice group management. A couple of us mentioned Susan Raridon Lambreth as a leading thinker on this topic. Her recent book is Achieving Peak Performance Through Practice Management. Chapter 9, is “Knowledge Management and the Use of Technology” by Sally Gonzalez.
Last fall I wrote about an effort to form a new national knowledge management group. The group now exists as the KM peer network of the International Legal Technology Association (ITLA).
Here is the ILTA announcement circulated late last week:
“We are happy to announce our new KM Peer Group, a topical peer group established to focus specifically on legal knowledge management. Though informal regional groups meet in major metropolitan areas such as DC, NYC, LA and Toronto, no other formally organized group exists to support legal KM professionals.
Many colleagues, particularly those in areas with no regional legal KM groups, felt there was a need to connect with other like-minded professionals in order to learn from, and network with, each other. For those firms that have not yet established a full-time KM role, a “national” KM group could also provide a forum to learn more about legal KM and how to apply it within their firms.
Goals & Benefits
So what is the KM Peer Group’s mission and what are our goals this year? One of our first goals is to create an understanding of KM as it relates to the legal environment. KM encompasses all aspects of knowledge within organizations through the analysis of business processes including: knowledge creation, documentation, codification, sharing, and how these activities promote innovation, learning, effectiveness, and profitability. Examples of knowledge repositories in law firms include: libraries of model and sample documents and information about the expertise and experience of attorneys and practice groups; and profiles of matters, clients and industries. These repositories typically require a strong cultural, business process, and technological support infrastructures.
With this in mind we hope to offer:
- Educational programs - to provide learning and training opportunities throughout the year including case studies and vendor demos
- Networking opportunities - to allow members to learn from each other, whether they are seasoned KM professionals or just getting started
- Meeting at ILTA&\’s Annual Conference - to facilitate an understanding of KM information resources and how to incorporate information resources into work processes
- Directory of members and a listserv with archives - to allow members to participate in discussions and stay in touch between webinars and the annual meeting
- Articles in ILTA’s publications - to provide information to a wide audience on an array of KM topics, ranging from primers to more in-depth themes.
As we are getting underway, the steering committee would appreciate feedback from all members and disciplines. I encourage you to contact me or anyone on the committee with ideas and questions. Subscribe (or have the KM specialists in your firm subscribe) to our listserv from http://lists.iltanet.org/read/all_forums/subscribe?name=ilta-km
Stay tuned for more details in the coming months - we look forward to an exciting year!
/s/ [The Steering Committee - see below]”
To the best of my knowledge, the the listserv is available only to ILTA members. Here are the steering committee members:
-Catherine Monte, Peer Group VP, Fox Rothschild (contact: cmonte at foxrothschild com)
-Nina Platt, Faegre & Benson
-Nola Van Huy, Alston & Bird
-Chris Boyd, Wilson Sonsini
-Lisa Kellar, Hunton & Williams
-Janis Croft, Nixon Peabody
-Dave Hambourger, Winston & Strawn
-John Szekeres, Cleary Gottlieb
Update (2/21/06): 1. FAQ about peer group now available. 2. The KM listserv is for ILTA members only.
US legal trade press coverage of knowledge management seems to have declined in the last few years. In Canada, by contrast…. .
The National is the magazine of the Canadian Bar Association. Knowledge Uprising by Patti Ryan in the Jan/Feb 2006 issue (flash or PDF - I found the PDF version easier to read) offers an in-depth look at current issues in KM. This coverage may well reflect greater interest in KM in Canada than the US. It is worth reading for any KM professional.
I recently reported that only 49% of large law firms have someone in charge of KM (knowledge management). What’s the deal? I’ll ask a panel that question at an upcoming KM conference.
The Ark Group’s “Knowledge Management for the Modern Law Firm” conference is on February 22-23 in NYC (details at excited utterances). Joshua Fireman of ii3 and I co-chair it.
I moderate a session called Is KM Morphing into Practice Support Consulting? with Dave Hambourger (Technology Partner, Winston & Strawn), Jim Lantonio (Executive Director, Milbank Tweed), and Eugene Stein (Chief Knowledge and Technology Officer, White & Case).
We’ll explore whether KM is/should remain a separate domain or if large law firms should focus more on practice support, which can include KM. I planned this session before ILTA released its ILTA staffing survey. It reports that 250+ lawyer-firms have about 3% of IT staff focused on KM. In contrast, they have 12% on practice support and almost 20% on application development and administration. That means almost 1/3 of IT staff that could focus on anything from lit supp and basic apps to pretty interesting and advanced practice support consulting.
Given the percent split between KM and practice support + apps, we’re not just talking semantics. KM v. a broader vision is key to what staff deliver to lawyers, appropriate skills and experience, and reporting structures.
The Ark conference will be small and I expect a good dialog not only with panelists, but also participants. I hope to answer some of these questions here after the session.
The Wall Street Journal has a good column today on knowledge management. It addresses the question of my prior post, is the KM cup half-full or half-empty, albeit from a different angle.
Companies Struggle To Pass On Knowledge That Workers Acquire (WSJ, 1/23/06, B1, $) notes that “one of the modern workplace’s most vexing problems [is] the issue of knowledge management.” Though everyone is now a knowledge worker, few organizations have figured out how to share or preserve know-how, despite repeated attempts. The value of informal sharing is very high, but this has limited scope. “Employees rarely learn from colleagues they don’t already know… Hence the urge to collect tips in centralized computer databases. But it’s not easy to create the critical mass that makes these databases worthwhile.”
The bottom line: “Managers keep trying because the notion of sharing knowledge remains as captivating as it is elusive.” So, is the cup half-full or half-empty?
The 2005 ILTA staffing survey says the KM cup is half-full only.
In 49% of 500+ lawyer firms, no one manages KM. Will the cup fill over time? We’ll know more if ILTA keeps asking this question. I’ll also have more to say soon about the evolving role of KM and what this result might mean.
The survey includes about 2/3 of all 500+ lawyers. 38 500+ lawyer firms responded; the 2004 AmLaw 100 lists 62 firms of that size. So I think the data are quite reliable.
Morrison & Foerster is one of the leading US law firms for creating and developing an innovative and highly effective approach to knowledge management.
Last month, Law Technology News published IT @ Morrison & Foerster: Lessons Learned from Retail (free registration required or PDF version at MoFo web site). I co-wrote this and an earlier version with Oz Benamram, MoFo’s Practice Resources Attorney. For those who missed the LTN piece or who would like more details, the unabridged version is now available on this web site, here.
MoFo has ambitiously tackled two related problems simultaneously: enterprise search (using Recommind) and work product retrieval. Working with Oz, I learned a lot about enterprise search. At about the time I began writing with Oz, I started a partnership with Practice Technologies, developers of RealPractice, which is a work product retrieval solution. Seeing both search and work product retrieval up close has been illuminating.
Though differences abound, one common element in MoFo’s implementation is automatically profiling documents. As the article explains, relying on lawyers to profile documents does not work, so you have to look to software to do so automatically. For CIOs evaluating the two approaches, the important lessons are to define the requirements carefully, weigh the costs (out-of-pocket and soft), and make sure your choice addresses the most pressing needs.
Will lawyers contribute to knowledge management efforts? In the US, the answer is probably not. Even among corporate counsel, where the billable hour does not create perverse incentives, lawyers do not contribute.
Fellow blogger and law department consultant Rees Morrison writes (12/21/05) that law department Intranets “languish in a state of desuetude because lawyers, the custodians of substantive knowledge, can’t be bothered to contribute.”
I wrote an article a couple of years ago that compares manual and automated approaches. In the US market, manual efforts seem limited to practice groups; big institutional efforts typically do not work. I have also written why automated approaches are better.
Many knowledge management professionals say that KM is 80% process and 20% technology. Perhaps true but if honored, requires often unrealistic cultural changes. A new article about work at Morrison & Foerster illustrates how applying modern software creatively can achieve important KM goals.
IT @ Morrison & Foerster: Lessons Learned from Retail (free registration required) in Law Technology News (December 2005) describes how MoFo provides “relevant search results in a fast and easy way.” Three key insights drove the work at the firm:
1. Attorneys need context to use precedents
2. Attorneys use precedents to find experienced lawyers
3. Attorneys demand simple and relevant systems
To meet these needs, the firm wanted a system to “identify hidden and explicit contextual information from multiple sources and automatically make inferences..” MoFo selected a federated search system and supports drawing valuable inferences by collecting more detailed information about matters and by profiling documents automatically.
Oz has demonstrated this system to other large law firms and the consensus is that this is one of the most innovative approaches today. (I am not disinterested however because I helped Oz Benamram, the practice resources attorney at MoFo, write this article.)
Last week at the Marcus Evans Law Tech Forum in NYC, Phil Crowley, Assistant General Counsel of Johnson & Johnson and I presented on knowledge management in corporate law departments.
We discussed the demand for KM and processes, technology, and staffing to support it. Though law departments do not face the billable hour barrier as do firms, KM is no cinch for them.
J&J is fortunate and unusual in having a dedicated KM person and, as a result, has done some interesting KM work. For example, the law department created a practice guideline on the corporate Intranet to guide business people through the process of divesting a business. I am partial to this because I think that documenting processes is an under-developed aspect of KM. Separately, the company has crystallized significant legal information in an e-learning and compliance system that reaches all employees.
Phil emphasized that KM is about process and culture, not solely technology. Since in-house lawyers are no more willing than law firm lawyers to “do extra work” for KM, law departments do not have any “magic bullets” that law firms do not. Both benefit from dedicating the efforts of “practice support lawyers” or equivalent in pushing the effort. Given the economic barriers to dedicated staffing, however, we also discussed some emerging automated paths for doing more KM.
One path is “baking it into the business,” meaning capturing additional information in established processes. We explored the potential for “baking in KM” to case/matter management. Phil confirmed what I have often heard, that law department matter management systems are a bit like manual KM systems. They rely on lawyers doing something extra (with nothing in it for them personally), so they are not uniformly used. We agreed though, that law departments with the collective discipline to use matter management probably have lurking KM opportunities.
Another automated path to better KM is deploying a specialized KM tool. For example, many law firms are evaluating or deploying RealPractice or West km. These products seem to have less traction among law departments. [Full disclosure: I work with Practice Technologies, Inc., the developer of RealPractice.]
In sum, I would say that law departments are fellow travelers with law firms on the KM road.
Two of the older, more established vendors of advanced full-text search software are combining.
The Financial Times reports today that Autonomy has purchased Verity for $500 million. Details are outlined in the Autonomy press release.
Though I’ve not seen industry data, my impression is that there are a lot companies with full-text solutions relative to the size of the market. On balance, my guess is that some industry consolidation will be good for law firms that are considering enterprise search solutions. I believe that a smaller number of larger players will ultimately offer law firms better products and services.
An upcoming teleconference features DuPont’s legal model and knowledge management.
Spotted on LegalLines, the Montague Institute is sponsoring a teleconference, Dollars & Cents of KM: The DuPont Legal Model Story: “Featured guests are Marybeth Davies, Paralegal Manager, and Pam Martin, IT Manager, for DuPont Legal Model. They will discuss their experiences with corporate programs to manage legal costs and work more effectively with external law firms.” The event is November 17th.
Last week at the Ark KM conference in Chicago, Joshua Fireman of ii3, Inc. and I co-led a workshop on making KM client facing. A dozen plus experienced knowledge management professionals participated and developed several potential plans.
Joshua and I summarized the key issues of client-facing KM systems and then formed three break-out groups, giving each a different scenario with the goal of creating and justifying a client-facing KM system. (Issues and scenario presentation.) All three groups proposed solutions involving a combination of extranets and/or blogs and RSS feeds.
Personally, I believe that interactive online systems (e.g., expert systems or document assembly), contract management, or compliance assistance is ultimately more valuable than content alone (whether delivered via extranets, blogs, or RSS). But the fact that three groups of experienced professionals from multiple firms converged on extranets and content delivery suggests the difficult challenges of creating innovative client-facing systems.
The Ark KM in the Legal Profession conference just wrapped up day 2 of 3. Leading knowledge management practitioners from the US, Canada, and England are participating. My take away is that KM may be morphing.
Jason Marty, Global Director, KM, Baker McKenzie and Julia Randell-Khan, Director KM, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were among the presenters. At both firms, KM appears to include many elements of what traditionally has been separate practice support functions (i.e., the more general application of technology to law practice). Both firms have carefully aligned their efforts with their firms’ strategies. At Freshfields, my sense is that KM is, at least in part, driving the firm’s strategy, not just supporting it.
Outside the conference, I have seen firms that say they “don’t do KM” but that provide significant practice support (e.g., deal databases) that is arguably a knowledge management function. And at some firms, KM professionals get pulled away from traditional KM work to act as the “translation layer” between IT and lawyers as firms roll out major upgrades.
If these firms are early adopters rather than outliers, it will be interesting to see how KM evolves. A dozen years ago, TQM and business process re-engineering were the rage. You rarely hear these terms now, but elements of those disciplines have been widely adopted. A dozen years from now, perhaps we will no longer talk of KM; it just may be embedded in other practices and departments, with a scope broader in some respects and narrower in others than today.
A group of legal knowledge management professionals recently met by conference call to discuss the need for and interest in forming a national/international group focused specifically on legal KM.
We agreed that a national group would be useful. Those on the call, including participants from law and consulting firms in the US and Canada, decided to seek feedback and gauge interest from a larger segment of KM professionals before taking the next steps at organization. Please take a few moments to complete this survey and provide your opinion. If, when you click this link, you get a screen saying you need to enable cookies, then copy and paste the following link directly into a browser address bar and it should work: www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=827061357009.
Assuming a group does form, as seems likely, I will post information about it in the future.
Two recent articles remind me why US law firms should focus their knowledge management efforts on automated approaches.
The September Harvard Business Review reports in Create Colleagues, Not Competitors on knowledge sharing in executive recruiting firms. Researchers found that e-mail traffic (and therefore presumably knowledge sharing) among professionals is much higher where compensation incentives focus on group rather than individual performance.
My friend Eric Mankin, a business innovation expert, in his weekly update titled Forced to Change, writes about the challenge of changing behavior. He notes that even when individuals face serious health threats, the chances are 9 to 1 against the person changing dangerous behaviors. Similarly, organizations typically change only in the face of powerful external motivators such as supply disruptions, new regulations, or new competitors.
So change is hard and behavior follows external incentives. Law firms should therefore not expect lawyers will change how they work to share knowledge absent significant changes in compensation and difficult change management programs.
Consequently, automated solutions that tap existing information to share and re-use knowledge are much easier to execute than approaches that assume lawyers will work differently. For example, I recently affiliated with Practice Technologies, developer of RealPractice, a work product retrieval solution that makes it easy for lawyers to find useful work product from all other lawyers in the firm. The only behavioral change is learning to use a very simple, Google-like interface.
Other products that help automate KM include West km, LexisNexis Total Search, and enterprise search products such as Recommind and Autonomy. Except for firms willing to engage in big organizational change and/or hire many practice support lawyers or staff who manually collect and catalog information, automated solutions like these or RealPractice seem to be the logical choice.
I frequently suggest that law firms make knowledge management client-facing. There is an easy but overlooked way to do so.
Secondment: “the detachment of a person from their regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere.” Some law firms second lawyers to clients. Why not second a senior KM professional to a client?
Law departments would gain a lot. Few have deep KM resources and a law firm expert on-site would be a way to learn a lot fast. If the department lacks a KM plan, the visitor would assess needs and develop a plan. If a plan is in place, he or she would help execute it. (Joy London at excited utterances has already pointed out the value of interim KM and project management appointments.)
Firms would also benefit. They would see first-hand what firm content and KM services they could deliver that would actually be useful. Moreover, the seconded person would meet many in-house lawyers. Because KM cuts across practices and lines of business, a KM professional might well return with more relationships than a seconded lawyer.
How do you do this if you don’t have a KM person to spare? Firms can view hiring an extra KM person as a marketing expense. I suspect the return would be much higher than for many other marketing activities. Marketing is all about getting to know your client and meeting their needs; how better to get close to your clients than sending an emissary?
I recently visited DC-based 60-lawyer Spriggs & Hollingsworth, which built an innovative case management system that illustrates how knowledge management can be embedded into a process.
To to support the firm’s complex litigation practice, a substantial portion of which involves pharmaceutical product-liability claims and which involves claims of many plaintiffs in serial and multidistrict litigation, partner Marc Mayerson (who leads the firm’s national practice representing policyholders), CTO Todd Haley, and Director of Litigation Support Jeff Slater supervised extensive customizing of Legal Files, a case and matter management system.
The firm embedded significant know-how about managing cases in a sophisticated set of menus and corresponding screens with many fields. These screens systematically walk a lawyer through collecting relevant data about a plaintiff (e.g., counsel, nature of the claim, and details of product usage). The software not only helps efficiently prepare for each plaintiff, it also helps manage the entire portfolio. And in the future the system will support an all-digital file for each plaintiff. (Those attending ILTA’s upcoming conference can learn more; Todd is presenting Thursday, August 25th at 2pm about the firm’s work.)
Most KM discussions focus on precedents, document retrieval, or experience location. Here, the KM is about best practices, specifically for handling a class of cases. It is a relatively uncommon - and highly valuable - way to make explicit know-how that typically remains tacit (i.e., capture process know-how of lawyers and litigation support professionals in software). I suspect that any firm that handles a volume of complex matters could benefit from this approach. Doing so would require more collaboration among lawyers, knowledge managers, and lit supp professionals than is typical.
The Ark Group USA is organizing KM for the Legal Profession in October (at which I will co-conduct a workshop).
The conference takes place October 4-6, 2005 in Chicago. Complete information is here (PDF); sessions include:
- “Strategies and tactics for successfully implementing a KM initiative in the law firm environment” by Browning Marean of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US
- “The Human Factor: Addressing the cultural and structural elements of KM for the legal profession” by Jason Marty, Global Director, Knowledge Management, Baker & McKenzie Global Services LLC
- “Meeting the work product retrieval and content management challenge” by Tania Daniels, Senior Consultant, eSentio Technologies and Peter J. Ozolin, VP Enterprise Solutions, Practice Technologies, Inc.
- “Expertise location: Enabling enterprise-search systems to identify potential knowledge brokers within the firm” by Brent E. Kidwell, Chief Knowledge Counsel, Jenner & Block LLP
Day 3 of the conference consists of two in-depth workshops. The first is “Making KM Client Facing", presented by Joshua Fireman of ii3 and me. The second is “Developing Matter Centric Taxonomies to Support Enterprise-Wide Business Initiatives” presented by Tania Daniels and Mark Horne of eSentio.
Book by August 15th to receive a 20% early bird discount.
I recently suggested that Enterprise blogging and RSS (really simple syndication) could have interesting knowledge management implications. Here is some follow-up.
RSS Goes Corporate in Red Herring (July 18, 2005), spotted at LawLibTech) describes the market for and players in enterprise blogging. The article reports that “enterprises are starting to realize that the strengths of RSS [really simple syndication] are great fits for the corporate environment. Email, web browsers, and databases often fall short when an enterprise wants to send a message to hundreds of thousands of global employees, to measure buzz about its products, to filter industry news for relevancy, or to synchronize employee’s web needs between work, home, and travel use. “ The article lists several companies offering enterprise aggregators. So far, the focus appears to be on providing aggregation features plus some content to the enterprise.
Separately, a blog post NewsGator Enterprise Server in beta! (which Rick Klau pointed me to) describes Newsgator Enterprise Server. According to the post, this product emphasizes managing content for the enterprise and distributing that content efficiently to multiple platforms.
Two comments to my original post provide additional perspective. First, forward-thinking people in the trenches are also considering enterprise RSS. Toby Brown of the Barchives.org blog commented “The Utah Bar has met with a librarian for the State. We have talked about an enterprise aggregator for Utah government. My goal is a government site where lawyers can subscribe to content by subject. We’re still working on the idea, but it will be a while before anything happens.” And second, Lars Ploughman of the mind this blog notes that Rojo provides social tagging for blog entries. Following up to his post, I found on the Rojo site: “Our vision is that the next generation of feed reading requires new forms of organization so we built in the ability to tag your world, your content, your feeds, and even your friends.”
These items suggest a still-evolving effort to resolve basic functionality of managing RSS feeds and content at the enterprise level but you can see how a new framework could eventually support added functionality for knowledge management.
Is systematic records management (RM) – a pressing topic for law firms and corporations alike – good or bad for knowledge management (KM)?
Many RM policies call for both saving certain records and destroying others. Any business process designed to manage content, can in theory, provide a vehicle for capturing content for a KM system. For example, indexes created for RM purposes can help the KM cause.
Unfortunately, however, RM requirements can also work against KM. For example, a policy to destroy records can interfere with KM efforts. At a recent meeting of legal KM professionals, we discussed how to square the RM mandate to destroy with the KM mandate to save; we touched on several concerns but did not reach definitive conclusions:
- Old documents often have precedential value. Some practices find that 20 year old work product has current value. There was interest in a “carve out” to a destruction policy.
- A carve out, however, raises difficult RM concerns in the event documents become subject to discovery. Especially if a firm’s engagement or matter-closing letter states that certain records are destroyed, keeping a copy could raise difficult risk issues.
- We did not have an ethics lawyer participating so did not know whether “sanitizing” documents would resolve the issue. By removing all references to parties and identifying information (whether via human or software processes), the theory is the document would no longer be client-specific.
- As a practical matter, we were concerned that if sanitizing or scrubbing a document is effective enough to remove a document from the grip of an RM policy, it may also make it very difficult to find for KM purposes. (A separate issue is who owns the work product and a firm’s right to re-use it; some in-house counsel argue firms have no re-use rights.)
- Aside from KM issues, we observed that destroying records is hard, especially since lawyers often freely copy a document from one matter for use in another. The same document, with different document management profile data, can then exist and remain outside the scope of a destruction policy.
- Though not a KM concern, we observed that a destruction policy has implications for lawyers leaving firms. Some lawyers keep personal files of their own work product and may take these when they leave the firm. This can raise RM problems (and others). Apparently some firms ask incoming lawyers not to bring any prior work product because of RM and other risk concerns.
RM will continue to drive many decisions, both in corporations and law firms, so bears careful watching by KM professionals.
Here is another post about blogs but this one is different. First, a question for readers and second, some thoughts about knowledge management implications.
Last week I met with librarians at a large law firm. They asked if I knew of any enterprise aggregator software. Aggregator software lets individuals automatically collect new posts from multiple blogs in a single interface. It also aggregates other “RSS” (Really Simple Syndication) content, which includes many sources, for example, major newspapers.
The aggregators I know are for individual use - are there any for the enterprise? With an enterprise edition, the library or other department could maintain some subscription lists centrally. If anyone knows of enterprise aggregator software, please let me know (here).
This question got me thinking about the potential benefits of enterprise aggregators. I envision folders centrally managed (firm-wide, by practice, or by opt-in) to present relevant blogs and ones individuals manage, some private and some partially or fully public within the firm. With this model, interesting KM possibilities emerge:
- Lawyers can share subscription lists easily.
- Subscription choices can be used, among other sources, to infer both lawyer expertise and interests.
- Lawyers could nominate posts for firm- or practice-wide posting (to, say, a portal, with or without vetting).
- Users can save posts of interest, either for private or broader re-use.
- Firms could deliver valuable content more easily.
Delivery of other content seems particularly appealing. Many firms already invest heavily in update services and circulate these to lawyers, digitally or in print. In an RSS world with enterprise aggregator software, some of the challenges and overhead of this process would be easier.
And new opportunities could open up. For example, it might be possible to deliver alerts about new work product. Right now, in large firms, lawyers have no easy way to be aware of their colleagues’ new work product. Were new documents properly tagged (including RSS classification), notification would be automatic. Of course, most lawyers won’t tag work product but a tool such as RealPractice, which automatically identifies and classifies useful work product, might eventually also automatically RSS-tag. [Full disclosure: I recently formed an alliance with Practice Technologies, Inc., the developer of RealPractice; press release here.]
I am not certain about all the “moving parts” required to achieve these benefits but with Microsoft incorporating RSS in Longhorn (see Jeff Beard’s excellent explanation or the recent eWeek article), the infrastructure for this vision is fast emerging.
What’s hot in knowledge management? Tania Daniels, an experienced KM professional and consultant with eSentio, and I collaborated to answer that question.
The occasion was a presentation we gave jointly at at eSentio’s annual CIO Roundtable Retreat yesterday. Here are some of the highlights of our discussion:
- Is KM a separate initiative or just part of law practice? This raises questions about firm staffing/organization and information repositories. Our view is that the better answer is “part of law practice.”
- Can KM be “baked into the process” of practice or firm management? We concluded that the best opportunity is when opening a matter. If a firm does any change management related to KM, it should do a better job of characterizing new matters.
- What’s the best approach to expertise location? This is a fast-evolving area. It depends how you view expertise. There are several products that can help, but many firms are creating their own solutions. The focus on expertise reflects the realization that it’s often more valuable to talk to an expert than look at a document.
- What are the future trends? Our call: a focus on automated solutions with less reliance on lawyer or staff intervention; a resurgence in online collaboration, which will give rise to new KM opportunities; the possibility that e-discovery semantic analysis tools will be re-purposed for KM; marketing departments as important KM supporters; and finally, internal firm blogs or wikis.
An article in Forbes (How to Be a Pack Rat) describes knowledge management research underway at Microsoft. As described in this article, I wonder if MS really understands KM.
The article describes a research project called MyLifeBits, designed to store everything a user has ever created or viewed. Discussing the challenge of searching so much data, the article reports that
“The problem is twofold. First, you have to label it properly going in. Then you need to be able to search to find it at the other end–and quickly. Microsoft may have solved that problem with MyLifeBits software, still in development, which is letting users annotate their stored data with hyperlinks and voice notatations [sic], while automatically recording web pages, IM transcripts, radio and television. The software also makes it easier to sort and query the database. The key to archiving files is to tag and index files intelligently”
Anyone involved in KM understands the challenge of tagging and indexing files intelligently. UK law firms have invested substantial human resources in this process; US firms are focusing on automated solutions. It is clear that most users will not invest the time to tag and index documents. A random search of most any law firm’s document or file management system reveals numerous documents with cryptic titles, which shows that even when users MUST provide information, its value for finding and re-use may not be high.
A KM solution that presumes users will tag, index, or annotate items seems destined for failure. A couple of asides on this. First, the idea of voice notations seems counter-productive as there is no way to skim them quickly. And second, Apple’s new Tiger operating system, reported on extensively yesterday, received a rave review by Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal for its operating system level full-text search capability.
According to LegalIT, knowledge management expert Matthew Parsons has joined Linklaters.
The article also reports that Parons “will also be in charge of Linklaters’ high-profile online legal services unit, Blue Flag.” I have long believed that KM would fare better if it were client facing (see my presentation and article), so it will be interesting to the impact of putting both KM and online legal services under “one hat.”
A new survey by Bain & Company shows that knowledge management has gained ground over the last few years in corporate America.
A Bain press release on April 11th reports on the management consultancy’s 2005 Management Tools & Trends survey. As a former Bain consultant, I know that Bain does excellent strategic thinking backed by outstanding surveys and market research, so I give more weight to these findings than I would many other surveys.
Among other findings, the survey shows that KM has “made substantial gains in use since the early ’90s.” Though small and large companies adopt KM at equal rates, small companies are more satisfied with their KM efforts than are large ones. On first thought, I would have expected the opposite result - that large companies, by virtue of being large and having expertise scattered, would find more value in KM. Upon further consideration, I think it is likely that the small companies have a more coherent culture and their employees, because of personal connections, may be more willing to share. That would explain higher satisfaction with KM efforts, though other explanations are possible.
KM traction in corporate America is good news for those law firms committed to KM. If clients “do KM,” then law firms should find doing KM easier, at least psychologically.
Can knowledge management move from “nice to have” to “must have?” Tying it to making money is one way.
Supplying Labor To Meet Demand in the March 21st issue of Information Week is a must-read for knowledge managers. It begins by describing a system the US military uses to match the right people to open jobs:
“This [DOD] system reflects a new trend to manage the workforce much like a traditional supply chain, where assets are matched to specific orders in the most profitable way. Backing the trend: software and services that are much smarter than traditional labor-management and human-resources tools because they let businesses more effectively match employees’ expertise and knowledge to customers’ needs and deploy the right people in much the same way assets would be deployed in a supply chain.”
In the private sector, IBM is leading the charge with its “Workforce Management Initiative.” The company
”built a taxonomy, or structure, that outlines internal and external skills and provides a minute-to-minute view of IBM’s labor-supply-chain activities. The system runs on IBM’s DB2 database and WebSphere business-integration software. ‘It catalogs skills, creating common descriptors around what people do, what their competencies are, what experiences and references they have, which goes beyond a basic job description,’ says Patrice Knight, VP of business transformation at IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain division.” (emphasis added)
The taxonomy of skills, combined with numerous other systems, allowed IBM to achieve a 3% to 5% increase in time consultants spent with clients and reduce expenses.
Large, multi-office, multi-practice law firms surely could benefit from better matching the needs of clients with their lawyers worldwide. Beyond the potential to boost billable hours, better matching would improve client service and professional development. Building expertise locators today is often difficult because lawyers typically don’t provide updated expertise profiles and software makes imperfect guesses. If law firms could better deploy lawyers through the approach described in the article, there would be a much bigger institional motivation to capture expertise accurately than exists today. And this approach would also require classifying matters into a taxonomy, which would also help on the KM front.
The article does not mention any off-the-shelf products that provide the functionality developed by IBM and the military but IBM plans to commercialize its offering.
At Legal Tech a few weeks ago, I moderated a session on clients paying for KM and subsequently posted session notes. That prompted interesting comments from panelist Jeff Rovner, Director of Knowledge Management for the Americas Region, Clifford Chance US LLP.
In my follow-up notes, I wrote that one session highlight/conclusion was that
“Firms should be willing to invest in KM where they face a lot of competition or offer services on a fixed price basis. That’s ok as far as it goes, but large law firms tend to “move up the value chain,” meaning as practices commoditize, they tend to do less work in that area and move to new, higher value areas. So the impetus for KM is rarely that great. ”
In a follow-up e-mail message, Jeff wrote
” I’d amplify your point about the value chain as follows:
1. The strategy of moving higher and higher up the value chain to seek greater and greater premiums strikes me as exactly the approach that Clayton Christensen described as so often leading to disaster in the Innovator’s Dilemma. If the big firms leave enough work behind, then innovators will eventually figure out how to do that work in a very economical fashion, and then all clients – including those generating what we now call premium work – will want to use the new approach. If the big firms don’t prepare to play in that new world, they’ll find themselves at a big disadvantage when it arrives.
2. It’s true that law firms have a hard time figuring out how to apply KM to non-commodity work, but that’s because they’re viewing KM too narrowly. Sure, explicit knowledge tools, such as brief banks and document assembly systems, aren’t the right approach to one-off work. Instead, collaboration tools, expertise location systems and things like my “servicing manual” deal distillations may be a better fit. [Jeff explained at the session how one client paid for a manual explaining how to manage certain debt after the deal closed.] And if we look beyond the law, there are plenty of examples of companies using KM to generate new products, establish new work processes and achieve other non-commodity objectives.”
I agree entirely with Jeff’s comments. Given my experience trying to develop interactive online services for the legal market, however, I am not optimistic that law firms will in fact avoid the Christensen disaster. I’ve recently heard at least a couple of inhouse counsel speak highly of content provided by LRN for training and compliance. LRN and its ilk could be the harbinger of the type of “disruptive force” Christensen describes (see for example, my post re the WSJ article on compliance training, which features LRN).
I also agree with his second comment. But adoption of new tools and processes, however, has been glacial; in general, lawyers are very slow to adopt new ways of producing or delivering their work, sometimes even under direct client pressure. This creates a real opportunity for firms that can adapt new ways to deliver better service. My favorite example would be using web conferencing to deliver updates to clients. It’s technically trivial and would, I suspect, be of value to clients. Yet I see few firms doing this. Similarly, in spite of all the hoopla over blogging, only a few large firms have firm-branded blogs.
In a recent post, I said individual lawyers have little incentive to contribute to KM efforts. Now, experienced law department consultant Rees Morrison confirms that in-house lawyers resist KM for this reason.
In Altruistic Information Sharing Doesn’t Happen: Intranets, Case Management Systems and Knowledge Management, Morrison writes that in-house lawyers “do not want to take the time to make what they know available to other lawyers.” He enumerates reasons why individual lawyers do not contribute and suggests that to do KM requires dedicated staff or an automated approach.
Motivating lawyers to do KM is what caused me to write several recent posts about clients paying for KM. If the economics and culture of doing KM fail in law departments as Morrison suggests, then it is not clear why they should succeed in a law firm. Food for thought.
I hope the cryptic title piques your curiosity. It’s inspired by Group Mentality: Lawyers Are Moving to New Firms En Masse on law.com and Rick Klau’s KM blog post The Long Tail and KM. They raise questions about institutional and personal motivation to do KM.
In Group Mentality, The National Law Journal (2/23/05) reports the growing number of groups of lawyers moving firms. “Since the beginning of 2005, several firms have bulked up with groups of attorneys who have decided to find a new home… attorneys’ loyalty to their firms is diminishing… they also start to scrutinize their own firm’s future in the changing market.” Acquiring firms face challenges integrating new groups, from inaction leading to discontent, to motivating native partners to cooperate with laterals.
In the Long Tail, Rick explains that Amazon recognizes significant revenues from books not stocked by stores and asks what if “more than half of the institution’s knowledge wasn’t even captured, let alone leveraged?” The idea is that knowledge, like hard-to-find books, may not be used that often but is nonetheless valuable and should therefore be stored for re-use.
Groups of lawyers moving raise institutional KM questions: how important is KM to a cohesive group of lawyers and how important is it when that group needs to integrate in a new firm. Arguably, a relatively small group can probably do KM by talking to each other, so has little motivation to formalize efforts. But if the group moves, a formal effort can make the group’s expertise known to new colleagues. If, however, groups are increasingly portable, some lawyers may fear sharing too much, especially contacts, since the sharing could dilute the value in the event of another move. I would be curious to hear from readers if they have evidence of which way the sword cuts - does the move of a practice group cut for or against doing formal KM? (My Law Firm Mergers and KM post, which links to a good article by Shaw Pittman director Cindy Thurston, also addresses this issue.)
Rick’s post implicates the individual cost of doing KM. Unlike Rick, I see little incentive for individual workers to take extra steps to memorialize their knowledge on the off chance that someone else may find it useful some day. As I read his argument, making it very easy to memorialize know-how means workers will more likely do so. I suspect that unless a workers think they will personally need the info again or there is institutional incentive to capture it, they will think “why bother?” no matter how easy. Especially with desktop search options exploding, there’s a good chance a search of the hard drive will turn up a relevant e-mail or document. And personally, as someone who has had a lot of experience with search and retrieval, I worry that the more I save, the harder it will be to find what I really want!
Both items are good reminders that the key issues in KM are culture, process, and incentives.
At Legal Tech a few weeks ago, I moderated a session on clients paying for KM (and posted about it here). Now, with the permission of panelists Christian Liipfert and Jeff Rovner, I am posting pre- and post- panel materials.
Christian Liipfert of BP America and Jeff Rovner of Clifford Chance are speaking in their individual capacities and not for the institutions for which they work. Furthermore, both offer these as ideas for discussion only and do not intend to be bound by them.
Christian wrote an article for the panel that was available on the conference CD; because it has wider interest, I wanted to make it available here: Christian Liipfert’s KM Article (PDF will open in new window).
In advance of the panel, Jeff prepared a list of 20 KM activities. The idea here - and a good one indeed - is that in talking about “clients paying for KM,” it’s useful to examine specific KM activities. Below is a table with Jeff’s list of KM activities on the left and Christian’s response as to whether he’d pay for it on the right. (Don’t stop with the table; there’s more below it.)
KM Activities and One View as to Whether a Client Might Pay
|Jeff Rovner KM Activity||Christian Liipfert Response|
|Classifying a matter by its legal topics and industries||No real value for me|
|Adding metadata to a document to describe any important knowledge included in it||I might pay for something here, but am not sure without more information|
|Classifying a document by its legal topics||Maybe 25%, maybe 50%; show me an example|
|Adding a document from a client’s matter to an area of the firm intranet devoted to that client’s preferences and forms||This looks like 30 seconds. Am I missing something?|
|Providing news about the client||To me? |
|Providing updates on important legal developments||May be worth something; the more general, the less value. If specific to my industry, possible value. People pay firms for tracking specific issues. Baker Botts’ Texas Industry Project is one example. And look what you can do through a Trade Association.|
|Repurposing client work product as a form for use with all clients||No|
|Repurposing client work product as a form specifically for use with that client||Yes|
|Repurposing client work product as a document assembly tool for use with all clients. ||No; and let’s talk about works made for hire and the obligation not to disclose or use my confidences|
|Repurposing client work product as a document assembly tool specifically for use with that client||Yes|
|Producing a physical or CD bound volume at the conclusion of a deal/case||For me, yes; I prefer electronic; I don’t have the storage space for the books|
|Producing an online bound volume at the conclusion of a deal/case||See item above|
|At the conclusion of a deal, producing a summary document that explains how to administer the deal documents||May have large value for me; let’s discuss first|
|Memorializing the business and legal lessons learned from the deal||Maybe; more likely if we do it together; not sure you have the skills to do it. You may. I fear a major elephant wash, and I want focus.|
|Conducting a post-mortem review with the client to learn whether the client was satisfied by the firm’s work on the matter||No|
|Creating a checklist or other analytical tool to improve the firm’s work on a particular type of matter||No|
|Distilling the firm’s legal knowledge in a given area for use by clients||Maybe, depending on how focused; subscription basis; see the LRN model|
|Distilling the firm’s business knowledge in a given area for use by clients||Less likely, but maybe|
In follow-up to the panel presentation, Christian further refined his thoughts, providing the following lists:
Christian Liipfert Will Pay For
- AAR’s [after action reviews] at the end of appropriate stages
- Doing an outline before doing the memo
- Memos re phone calls (one)
- Memos re meetings (one)
- Lessons learned re the other party, maybe
- Deal book for me (preferably in electronic form)
- Consolidated briefing (1) of entire team on appropriate topics
- Digests of agreements I’ve requested (the digests)
- Working manuals I’ve agreed to have prepared
- Attending the legal training of your associates
- Review of prior lessons learned you have about the judge, the opponent, the opposing lawyer
- Customizing your standard form for me
- The Learning Before that we discuss in advance
- A full blown retrospect if I commission it
- Some instruction by the expert to the non-experts (but only some; and do it efficiently; better yet, let me sit in)
- Things I’ve agreed to in advance (hint: let’s chat before you do it)
- Usage of materials from your form files
Christian Liipfert Finds Questionable
- Multiple memos on the same phone call or meeting
- Briefing new additions to the team who could have been anticipated at the time of the initial briefing
- Access to your form files
Christian Liipfert Will Not Pay For
- CRM entries about me or my client
- Lessons learned re the judge
- Lessons learned re opposing counsel (most of these, anyway)
- Collecting deal books for you
- Turnover of an associate who’s been trained on my clock (whose risk is that?)
- Training associates in basic legal skills for this transaction/matter
- Your DMS (it’s overhead)
- Your computer
- Your library
- Converting what you did for me to a standard form
- Right to use your ‘prior art’
- Overstaffing to collect KM for you
- Fundamental legal research on basic points
- Memos not for me (if I didn’t ask for it and I don’t get as copy, why should I pay for it?)
- Conflicts checks
- Papering the file?
On Monday I moderated a session on clients paying for KM (see prior post). Turn out was excellent and the discussion lively.
Jeff Rovner (KM at Clifford Chance) and Christian Liipfert (senior lawyer, BP) were the panelists. We had a standing-room-only crowd with a mix of law firm and law department and lawyer and non-lawyer attendees. We showed NO slides; instead, the three of us, with much input from the audience, covered a range of issues around whether clients should pay for some KM.
One conclusion is that future discussions will need to focus on more specific KM activities. For now, we laid out some of the general issues. Overall, the willingness of clients to pay for KM seems limited. As moderator, it’s a bit hard to take good notes, but some of the highlights for me were:
- Clients really want expertise more than anything else. This means firms need to focus on expertise location. Clients will pay top dollar for real expertise, but are less likely to pay for many KM activities, especially tangible KM artifacts (that is, documents)
- KM is a “way of being” so it’s hard to imagine paying for it. The other side of the coin: even when clients are willing to pay for KM by the hour, it can be hard to motivate lawyers to actually “do KM” (whatever flavor you chose).
- Firms should be willing to invest for KM where they face a lot of competition or offer services on a fixed price basis. That’s ok as far as it goes, but large law firms tend to “move up the value chain,” meaning as practices commoditize, they tend to do less work in that area and move to new, higher value areas. So the impetus for KM is rarely that great.
- Firms should ask clients what they want, not just in the way of KM, but generally. The in-house counsel present reported that their outside counsel rarely ask them what they want. For me, the lesson on this point is that the right KM strategy is unlikely to emerge until law firms fix relationship management more globally.
- The greatest willingness to pay for KM is probably during a matter, to capture intermediate results for re-use during the matter. Perhaps a more accurate way of saying this: sessions to review what worked and what did not and why.
- There is an argument that law firms do not own the work they produce for clients and, unless they distill it (at their expense) to non-client-specific learning, it cannot be re-used without client permission. (The work for hire doctrine.)
If any readers were present and have other or different take-away points, please comment or e-mail me. I hope to post some material from the panelists in the near future.
I previously posted about an upcoming Legal Tech session that will examine whether clients should pay for aspects of KM. This topic led to an interesting e-mail exchange with Guy Borda, an Associate on the Defense Systems Team at Booz Allen Hamiltion who works on KM issues.
I started the exchange by raising the idea of clients paying as an agenda item for a local KM meeting. Guy asked a question in turn, which led to several rounds of messages. Reproduced here, with editing limited to correcting typos, is our exchange:
Ron: If the [upcoming KM meeting group] will indulge me, I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss the idea that clients should pay for some portion of KM. At Legal Tech in NYC on Jan 31, I will moderate a session with Jeff Rovner (KM at Clifford Chance) and Christian Liipfert (senior lawyer, BP) on this topic. Would love to get feedback from group on some of the topics I plan to raise then.
Guy: Can you elaborate on what you mean by clients paying for the KM?
Ron: The best example is at the close of a matter, it would often make economic sense, I think, for lawyers to collect key documents and lessons learned and catalog them systematically, including providing meta-data descriptions and taxonomical categorization. That rarely happens now and it’s not even clear it would happen were it a billable activity. The client would benefit by having a set of high value documents, meta-data, and possibly “lessons learned” summary. The law firm would also get to re-use the material. The reason law firms are looking primarily at automated KM approaches (e.g., Recommind) is that there is no motivation to identify documents for re-use or to describe what a matter was about (independent of the underlying documents that were produced for it).
Guy: It does. And, I couldn’t agree with you more. Although, if I compare what you just wrote to the previous email… are you saying clients should pay for the lawyer’s inability to conduct KM?
In our space, IT and strategic consulting, we reuse as much as we can for our benefit (e.g., responding to RFPs, RFQs, RFIs, marketing, outreach, and more), and for the benefit of our clients (e.g., design, requirements, development, operations, analysis, and on and on). Reusability of our materials, documentation, methodologies, and software is key to our success.
Our big problem is that we don’t change our own culture, no amount of automation will resolve the underlying KM issues… people’s willingness to share data, catalog data, expand beyond their existing social/professional networks, use web-based KM methods are still barriers to entry.
Ron: I would not argue that “clients should pay for the lawyer’s inability to conduct KM”. My argument is more that the “inability” is really an economics issue, specifically that in a time-based billing world, lawyers have no incentive to spend time on KM when they could be billing other clients. If they could bill for their time at the close of a matter to assemble, catalog, and describe key elements of the work, then they would more likely do it. There are issues of course, as some of the benefit of that work accrues to the firm as well as to the client. But a lot of the work a lawyer does for one client ultimately accrues to the benefit of other clients, so it’s not obvious an after-matter KM task is all that different.
Of course, the real problem may not be economics. In corporate law departments - and for that matter, consulting firms - which do not typically operate on a purely hourly billing model, the economics ought to be cleaner. That is, if investing in KM really had a return, it should just happen. So that leaves several possibilities:
1. KM does not have a good economic return and individuals are making correct and rational decisions about how they spend their time
2. KM does have a good return, but individuals are simply irrational
3. KM does have a good return to the enterprise, but from an individual perspective, the returns are not adequate and institutions have not figured out how to deal with this externality problem
If, as you suggest, non-hourly organizations cannot figure out how to motivate individuals to engage in KM that benefits the institution, then I have little hope for hourly billing law firms. This is one of the points I want to make at Legal Tech - if law departments can’t do KM because of cultural barriers, why do they expect their outside counsel to do so?
PS - It would be interesting to see if clients in fact did allow lawyers to bill for some KM if those lawyers would actually do the KM work.
Guy: Interesting. I like points one and two. I think depending on the organization and business, either or both could apply. One of the ways we’ve kicked around trying to shake-up this lack of KM culture is by revamping our competency assessment process. Our current process is extremely detailed and we evaluate our consultants (yearly) based on a number of criteria related to their performance. However, we do not currently rate them with regards to their ability to share knowledge, conduct knowledge management, or even implement knowledge management measures or methods.
We have about six levels in our firm before someone becomes partner. And, for each of those levels we’ve discussed assigning KM metrics related to performance (e.g., someone posted 99% of their documentation into the firm’s enterprise KM portal, or someone assigned metadata to each document they develop over the last six months). This would be one way of slowly trying to change the culture. The extreme (which we are not yet pursuing) resembled an “up or out” model, except for KM it was going to be a “publish or perish” model… meaning get your content/documentation published to the KM portal if you want to be considered for advancement.
Ron: In general, I think it’s fair to say that people do what they are compensated for or what they find fun (and the latter is, by economists, considered psychic compensation). Unless KM is somehow “baked in” to other processes that workers must do and remains an extra step, we have to be concerned with motivating them to do it. I don’t see how to bake it in, so that leaves KM as an extra step. If we want it done, we must compensate/evaluate for it. My recollection is that McKinsey has a good KM system and seriously considers KM activities in performance evaluations. That, to me, is the answer.
As a consultant at Bain & Co I worked with one client that wanted to change the product mix sold to increase margins. We did lots of analysis and had grand plans for how the mix would change. They told sales people what the mix should be but were unwilling to change sales compensation. Not surprisingly, the mix did not change. Sales people sold what maximized their commissions, not company profit. The moral is you get what you compensate for.
The alternative to changing behaviors and compensation is to try to substitute technology for human action, which is the direction most large law firms are moving. That, or hiring a few people whose job is KM but who are not actual practitioners.
I have previously suggested the possibility that clients should pay for KM (here and here). I will moderate a discussion on this and related questions with two leading KM experts, one law firm and one law department, at Legal Tech in NYC later this month.
The Legal Tech Conference takes place in NYC and KM at the Crossroads (on January 31) will be a discussion that I moderate between Christian Liipfert of BP America and Jeff Rovner of Clifford Chance. Here is the session description:
“The promise of greater efficiency, more billings and the ability to generate new clients has long driven law firm investments in the promise of knowledge management systems and technologies. Recovering those investments and justifying those expenditures, however, continues to be a challenge for many law firms. Clients have the right to expect - even demand - greater efficiencies, but should they also share in the investments required to deliver them? Does KM add value in the eyes of the client and are they willing to pay for that value? If so, should clients pay for KM before, during, or after a matter? Join us for this moderated discussion between knowledgeable practitioners on both sides of the aisle as we highlight the conflicts and agreements and help define a path that makes sense for both sides.”
This conference requires registration.
Large law firms are hiring general counsels. Will this have an impact on knowledge management?
Spurred by Insurers, General Counsel Posts Popping Up at Large Firms in Corporate Counsel magazine (December 2004) reports, citing an Altman Weil study, that “63 percent of the nation’s 200 largest firms had designated a general counsel and 10 percent planned to do so in the next year.” Malpractice claims and conflicts are among the factors driving this trend.
Corporations employ various quality control (QC) measures to avoid both defective design and manufacture. Legal advice can be defective in its “design” or “manufacture,” that is, the theory of the case or transaction can be wrong or the execution can be flawed. Presumably, one function of a law firm GC will be risk management and reduction - the moral equivalent of QC.
One way to control risk is with knowledge management. KM can help assure that lawyers have access to vetted documents, prior research, and the right experts within the firm. Other ways include training and systematically reviewing work product prior to delivery to clients. It will be interesting to see if any law firm GC become advocates for KM, arguing that the cost of KM is warranted by risk reduction.
Playing devil’s advocate to my own argument, a GC might argue against KM. A systematic program of KM, including vetted precedents and best practices, would demonstrate that a firm had determined the “best” or “right” way to deliver certain advice. If so, and if a lawyer failed to use the KM system, it might be easier for an aggrieved client to make a malpractice claim than in the absence of the system. This seems a weak argument to me though - to the extent it has any legs, the answer is to ensure consistent use.
A group of large law firm knowledge management professionals recently compiled a list of KM resources.
This list was compiled in November 2004. It is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive. It lists both free and for-pay resources.
Thanks to my professional colleagues who compiled this list.
Suggestions for additions are welcome.
I have also added a link to this list on the Useful Links page of prismlegal.com
Enterprise search - the ability to conduct full-text search across multiple information repositories - comes up at many of the knowledge management meetings I have attended over the last year. Anecdotally, it seems that many firms are evaluating Recommind. So it is interesting to see that Freshfields has chosen Verity.
According to a Verity press release, Freshfields has selected Verity K2 and associated products to “form the basis of a know how system designed to help the firm’s lawyers and clients based in different countries to locate business critical information more quickly and efficiently by providing an intuitive browser-based knowledge interface.” Rollout is scheduled for early 2005.
Many newspapers and magazines have reported on the new Google Desktop Search. What I find interesting, and somewhat disturbing, is Google’s positioning of this tool as a “photographic memory."
Google now has a beta version of software that allows searching the contents of the local disk drive. “Google Desktop Search is how our brains would work if we had photographic memories” is the opening sentence of the overview web page. “We really want to make this a photographic memory for computer users” says a Google product director according to a New York Times article on October 18th.
I chaff at the idea that a photographic memory is the goal of information management. Being able to find any item has value but I think the higher goal, and certainly the goal of KM, is to be able to find the “good stuff.” Most professionals see far too much information over the course of a day and a week. While full-text search of everything is useful, I fear that the hype around the new Google desktop search will overshadow the bigger KM challenge of finding what you really need.
I may be swimming upstream here. Bill Gates writes in the October 18th issue of Information Week’s Special Anniversary Report that “the growing capacity and tumbling cost of storage is enabling unimaginably large databases so that it soon will be possible for people to store every piece of information they encounter.”
On a separate note, I have downloaded and tried the Google Desktop product. So far I prefer 80-20, a product I have used for some time to search my hard drive. The main reason is that Google Desktop does not index as many file types as 80-20 (e.g., PDFs or Outlook items other than e-mail messages). I suspect that the introduction of this product will shake up the desktop search market and we will have more and better options, including Google Desktop enhancements, in the future.
Joy London posted in Excited Utterances that Paul Hastings is hosting a vendor-sponsored luncheon roundtable (sponsors are Practice Technologies and Recommind). This should be an interesting session and nice follow-on to an article that Peter Ozolin, CKO of Paul Hastings recently wrote.
In the September 2004 issue of Law Technology News, Peter described in Case Study: Paul Hastings (free registration required) his firm’s quest to locate relevant work product. Peter outlines common KM challenges such as too many hits, poor profiling, and under-inclusive results. He acknowledges that a manual effort is a good way to address these problems, but takes significant cultural change.
The challenge of that change management and investment in human resources led Paul Hastings to explore automated approaches to identifying useful work product. After reviewing several products, the firm settled on a pilot test of Practice Technologies, which uses a classification engine to select and profile documents automatically.
Separately, for searching across multiple repositories, the firm selected Recommind. In the article, Peter suggests that the “targeted search” of Practice Technologies yields more useful results than the universal search of Recommind. But he makes clear the jury is still out.
So it will be interesting to hear from both vendors and perhaps an updated from Peter on the relative merits of each. Of course, both products represent “automated” solutions rather than manual ones. Some firms, especially in the UK, do opt for more manually intensive approaches. In the US, given the interest among large law firms in West km and Recommind in particular, it is clear that the market favors automated approaches.
See my article What’s Your Strategy for Collecting and Cataloging Documents? for a discussion of automated v. manual approaches.)
My client ii3 will host a Webinar on October 14th on “A Fresh Outlook - MS Outlook as a Knowledge Hub.” Attendance is free but registration is required. Panelists include Teresa Grote, CIO of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP and Ted Graham, Worldwide Director of Knowledge Management Services at Hill & Knowlton.
The two prior Webinars were very well received and I expect this to be as good. Quoting from ii3’s invitation:
Some of the issues to be discussed:
• If Outlook already dominates the desktop, should it become even more central?
• Is it difficult to develop and deploy information consolidation solutions with Outlook and Microsoft Office?
• Should we still focus on web browser based solutions exclusively?
• Where have solutions been built on top of Outlook and Office? What value have they created?
• How are vendors treating Outlook? What should we learn from their strategy to leverage (or not) Outlook?
The discussion is designed for:
• Knowledge and Content Management Professionals
• Business Executives looking for practical business solutions
• IT directors and CIOs who want to learn more about content, practice, and process issues.
• COOs and Executive Directors who evaluate Information Technology and KM budget requests.
See my related posting for a link to the Q&A follow-up to the prior Webinar on Information and Knowledge Portals.
Last June, my client ii3, inc. hosted a Webinar on Information and Knowledge Portals. Panelists included Jamie Booth, CIO of Hunton & Williams and Margaret Grottenthaler, a partner at Stikeman Elliott who spearheads KM at the firm. An interesting written Q&A follow-up is available.
In the follow-up Q&A, the panelists address such questions as:
Does web content management have a role in a law firm’s knowledge management and how does this relate to portals?
Often portals are developed and KM teams have the attitude of ‘build it and they will come’. What are the panelists’ views on building support solutions that focus on participant interaction rather than solely delivery?
Can you explain how you encourage contributions to the knowledge bank?
How is content publishing and formatting handled at your firms? Can anyone publish or is publishing limited to a select group?
Concerning taxonomy development: How difficult has it been to develop and maintain a unified taxonomy vs. a fragmented approach driven by individual groups or practice areas?
What is your opinion of the trend towards matter centricity? - is this another fad? Can portals deliver in this area? Will lawyers see matter centric access to information, knowledge and workflow a useful thing to do? Can you change the way they are used to working now?
For knowledge and technology managers interested in portals and KM, the Q&A set is worth reading.
ii3 will host its next Webinar on October 14th on “A Fresh Outlook - MS Outlook as a Knowledge Hub.” See my related posting for details.
On September 15th, both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is taking at aim at Google with a new search tool called A9, which has some interesting KM features and bears watching.
According to the articles, A9 is a “search engine with a memory.” Features include saving a record of searches and sites visited, annotating sites visited with personal notes, storing and editing bookmarks, and creating lists of web pages for easy navigation among them. I have long believed that saving searches and search results would be a useful feature for online legal research, document review in litigation support, and web surfing. Likewise, the ability to annotate searches or results is powerful.
The challenge, however, is converting data to knowledge. The more files, e-mail messages, saved searches, and other data an individual or organization has, the longer the search results hit list tends to be. While it’s good to be able to find prior work (writ large), absent sophisticated search tools that surface the best items or user-created annotations, results can be overwhelming and therefore not all that useful. It will be interesting to see if consumers / users of A9 use the annotation features and how they react once they have accumulated a significant amount of history.
If A9 takes off in the consumer market, it may set a higher bar for the tools that large law firms provide their lawyers. Capturing and re-using search results, especially if the searches span multiple law firm systems (e.g., document management, web surfing, and CRM) and are supported by appropriate finding tools (automated or human-assisted via annotations), could be a promising addition to current KM efforts.
Last week at I attended LawNet, one of the leading legal technology conferences. I had a an “aha” moment about knowledge management and return on investment.
A recurring KM question is return on investment (ROI). I have always been a fan of demonstrating the benefit of KM in quantitative terms. The “aha” moment occurred in a “peer to peer” meeting of large law firms consisting of 30+ CIOs and other senior tech managers. I posed a question to the group: how many had been asked by law firm management to justify tech investments with ROI? Not a single hand went up. Why, I thought, is it that firms invest heavily in tech without asking about the ROI yet want to prove the value of KM, even the expenditure is relatively small?
I have no answer. It reminded me that firms spend a lot on marketing, a discipline (in law firms) of roughly the same vintage as KM. I have spoken to marketing professionals at many firms and my sense is that few analyze their return on marketing dollars. In fact, I am not sure how many firms even rigorously track lead generation and new client acquisition that stem from planned marketing. One CIO with whom I spoke at LawNet told me that his firm regularly spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing events and no one ever asks what the return is. Separately, my sense is that many firms open new offices with nary a thought about ROI.
In a prior post (Applying Solid Business Metrics to KM and Other Decisions) I argued that firms should be consistent in their decision making process. My experience at LawNet only emphasizes this. A firm that quantifies all its decision should apply the same standard to KM. But a firm that does not - and I suspect this includes most - should not apply one standard to KM while it applies a different one to all other investments.
For firms that do not measure ROI for other investments, I think they need to decide whether they want to do KM or not. It’s that simple. Yes it will cost money. Yes there will be benefits. Yes quantifying the benefit is hard. But that is true for most decisions. The lawyer-decision-makers at large firms need to decide how they want to practice and what will keep them competitive.
I happen to think KM makes practice better (for lawyers and their clients) and makes a firm more competitive. But if law firm managers do not believe this, they should just say so rather than couch the discussion in terms of ROI.
Taxonomies are an integral element of many large law firms’ knowledge management programs. But building, maintaining, and using a taxonomy can be hard.
In my recent post on Developments in Full Text Searching, I cited Sharon Flank, a computational linguist, of DataStrategy. Sharon has just released a white paper, Why Taxonomies are Doomed (PDF), that is worth reading. In it, she raises many of the issues that can make taxonomies troublesome.
I don’t necessarily agree with all her conclusions, especially with respect to the legal domain, but the issues she raises are certainly worth considering. My sense is that most large law firms do find taxonomies useful. The debate seems less one of “taxonomy or not” than one of “how deep should the taxonomy be.”
I have seen firms all over the spectrum on this latter point, some with very deep and complex taxonomies with hundreds of entries nested 5 or 6 levels deep, some with only a few tens of nodes in two levels. Partly for the reasons Sharon covers, I tend to lean toward keeping taxonomies simple. But I ultimately view this as an empirical question; the answer for any give firm will depend on its practices, its view of the world, how lawyers use PCs, the number of dedicated KM professionals, and a host of other factors.
One point that Sharon makes that seems especially apt for law firms is the importance of training users on how to search properly. A relatively small investment in the mechanics of searching can have a big pay-off. I recently had the chance to visit with a large firm where I was suprised to see that lawyers really understood how to use wild cards and Boolean techniques to find material of interest. One might think that is the norm, but in my overall experience, more lawyers need to know these techniques. If lawyers don’t know how to search, it’s not obvious to me that a sophisticated taxonomy will help them all that much.
Most of us working on knowledge management say that KM is 80% culture and process and only 20% technology. That is true, but sometimes the technology can be a challenge.
I was looking through some of my files and came across a grid I developed a while back. Click here for grid. It illustrates, for common types of explicit (written) and tacit (unwritten) knowledge, the possible computer file formats and computer storage locations. I have indicated primary and secondary file types and locations using a solid and empty block. The many file types and locations illustrate the potential challenges of gathering knowledge artifacts into a single system. Perhaps the complexity of this grid explains what appears to be a growing interest in “federated search,” that is, the ability to search multiple repositories of information simultaneously.
Viewing the grid also helps explain the challenges of dealing with tacit know-how. The relative sparseness of the lower half of the grid illustrates that tacit data, unlike the explicit, cannot merely be copied or searched. It often has to be created from scratch.
Apologies for not including the grid in the post itself. I created it as a Word table and my blog software seems not to like the HTML code Word saves. For the same reason, the formatting is not perfect, but I think the point is nonetheless clear. RF
Jeff Beard, aka LawTech Guru, has an interesting post today about KM. In KM Thought of the Day he argues that KM should shift its focus to individual effort in place of institutional effort. I disagree.
I agree with Jeff that doing institutional KM is hard. I also agree that there is much value in personal KM and personal productivity (along these lines, I recently started a new blog category, Personal Productivity). If we concede Jeff’s point, however, I fear that we will confirm that large law firms are nothing but a collection of solo practitioners sharing some overhead.
In my view, a large firm should offer several benefits to its client, including a broad range of service, deep expertise, and an ability to deploy to large numbers of lawyers on deals or litigation. KM supports offering the range of services and deep expertise. If I were a client, I would not be happy retaining a large law firm if I could not benefit, at least indirectly, from the know-how of the partners and associates of those lawyers with whom I happened to be working directly. Furthermore, if I were a lawyer at a large law firm, I would not be happy if I could not tap into the expertise of my colleagues.
That said, I recognize that institutional KM is a struggle. UK and Australian firms have been doing it with pretty good success for quite some time but not US firms. It seems to me that US firms recognize that they should be doing KM, hence the interest in automated solutions (e.g., Westkm, Recommind, or LexisNexis TotalSearch) if not in more staff-intensive approaches. Also, in my anecdotal observations, which span quite a few large law firms, I see many signs that even firms that say they are not doing KM and are not interested in it and actually have pockets of KM activity operating under other names (or no name).
I agree the challenges are many. But I think the answer is to continue to work at institutional solutions. This does not, of course, preclude supporting individual lawyers’ KM efforts or ways to aggregate those efforts.
Large law firms have used document management systems for over a decade. What are the lessons for knowledge management?
Originally, I and many others thought that DM would solve the work product retrieval problem. That turned out not to be true but we have learned many lessons about knowledge management from DM. Fellow legal technology consultant Dennis Kennedy and I discuss the lessons in a mini-roundtable format.
For our published discussion on this, see Strategies for Successful Knowledge Management in Large Law Firms: Lessons Learned from Experiences with Document Management Systems in Law Practice Today (June 2004), published online by the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association.
Matthew Parson, in connection with Joy London’s Excited Utterances, has conducted a knowledge management survey. Share the knowledge in LegalIT.net reports a summary of the findings.
“The objective of the research was to investigate current practices, roles, leadership turnover, resources and structures for KM in law firms.” Based on some of the summary findings reported, I suspect that there is a fair bit of sample bias toward large law firms. The findings are nonetheless interesting and worth reading. Key take aways for me:
UK firms are still far ahead of US firms
For firms doing KM and reporting on growth, budgets and activity have increased for the most part and will continue to do so.
Firms are more willing now to look outside for KM leaders.
Only a minority of firms with KM program use outside consultants. [Bad news for me]
“quality, service and non-financial objectives [are] the most important objectives.” I suspect this means more UK firms participated then US firms!
In Making a Market in Knowledge (The McKinsey Quarterly, 2004 Number 3), author Lowell L. Bryan suggests that for KM to succeed, organizations must create an internal marketplace. The framework proposed is interesting but ultimately, not that useful I think.
Bryan begins by noting that specialized knowledge can create competitive advantage but that it is very hard to share in large organizations. Companies have tried several KM approaches, none of which have achieved great success. The key problem he notes is that the workers with the most valuable know-how “will be unlikely to exchange their knowledge without a fair return for the time and energy they expend in putting it into a form in which it can be exchanged.” Bryan suggests that companies can create an internal market place that will motivate the knowledge holders to share.
The user (or “buyer") of knowledge will only use the know-how if it is easy to use and understandable. So suppliers (meaning experts or authors) must be motivated to produce useful documents with sufficient contextual information. The motivation is to increase reputation and visibility. To ensure this requires adequate recognition, pay, or promotion as well as ensuring that credit is not stolen. Bryan argues that with the right structures in place, “competition among authors for recognition” will keep the knowledge banks supplied.
The right structure is not trivial to create. It includes standard formats for knowledge objects, a taxonomy, adding contextual information, and a knowledge review process. This is in turn requires “facilitators.” Bryan suggests that a large investment bank would need about two dozen (I wish he had expressed this as a ratio). “The alternative—relying upon authors and knowledge seekers to follow protocols and standards and to regulate themselves—simply does not work: they lack the familiarity, the interest, or the time.” Also necessary are “knowledge domain owners,” who are senior executives for particular business units.
I have to say I find the article interesting but disappointing. To me, it seems to take some of the issues with which KM professionals have long struggled and with the voodoo of marketplaces, make it all seem simple. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in markets (for example, two of my articles A Marketplace Trial and Federalism & Foundations, rely on market-based arguments).
The problem is that Bryan does not really explain how the market would work in sufficient detail. Assuring adequate recognition, pay, and promotion for knowledge contribution is difficult to implement and, in a real market, why not use real currency? (Some organizations have indeed experimented with micro-payment systems for internal knowledge sharing.) Moreover, deploying facilitators (which, in law firms, would be practice support lawyers) is expensive and the return on that investment is hard to quantify. Bryan likens facilitators to brokers in other markets; but brokers in other markets are revenue and profit centers while here they are cost centers.
On balance, unless I’m missing something, it seems to dress old problems in new clothes without really providing new solutions. Moreover, many law firms have tried going down the path suggested and encountered numerous obstacles (e.g., changing compensation systems). But I applaud Bryan for the effort to frame KM as an economic and market issue.
“Despite the popularity of enterprise portals, portal projects aren’t delivering the expected benefits.” So reports the column Analyst Watch: Portals Underperform in Information Week (5/3/04). More on this, and a Webinar that explores portals follows…
The column cites a Forrester Research survey (fee-based) on portals. Among the problems identified are weak alignment with business goals and too many choices. Overall, the column tends to confirm my impression that portals are over-hyped. Law firms considering portals or that already own one should be sure they know what problem they are trying to solve.
To help identify problems and solutions, you may want to attend a Webinar that my client ii3, Inc. is hosting on June 2nd. This Webinar, which I helped plan, will focus on how portals help law firms solve practical problems, covering topics such as
Key factors and needs that drive law firms to buy and roll out portals.
Can portals address the perennial KM challenge?
Distinguishing between information and knowledge content for portals.
The importance of a “matter centric” approach - hype or reality?
The challenges of achieving adoption, especially given the ubiquity of Outlook.
The Webinar will be a moderated session with three panelists:
1. Margaret Grottenthaler | Partner, Stikeman Elliott (Toronto, ON)
2. Mark Zoeckler | Managing Director, Global Knowledge Management, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (Los Angeles, CA)
3. Jamie Booth | Director of Information Technology, Hunton & Williams (Richmond, VA)
To register (no charge), click here and complete the registration on the ii3 web form.
Thomson Elite has acquired Expert Ease, the developer of Deal Proof and other software. This adds to Thomson’s already strong offerings in knowledge management.
The press release on PR Newswire provides additional detail. I could not find any information on this story on either the Thomson Elite or the Expert Ease sites.
I have never been a hands-on user of Deal Proof, but I have evaluated it and the related Quicksift product. Both are very interesting and promising technologies. I believe the press release that this will help Thomson and West extend Westkm to provide greater functionality in transactional documents. It will be interesting to see how the merger is managed and what combined products are offered.
Many law firms continue to struggle with their “portal strategy.” Is the goal unifying applications? Is it knowledge management? Is it matter-centric views? A recent article in LegalIT is helpful in considering these questions.
Knowledge Management Portals: It’s just a phase asks what is the purpose of a portal in a law firm. This is a good question because, as the article notes, “the sheer breadth on the subject matter illustrates the peril inherent in talking ‘portal’ before you know exactly what you are trying to achieve.” Once a firm defines its goal, it has three broad portal choices: (1) build one on top of the document management system, (2) buy a dedicated product such as Plumtree or LawPort, or (3) build from components such as Microsoft Sharepoint. The article goes on to describe how UK firm Dentons is building its portal using Hummingbird and how Freshfields is building one using Microsoft components and Interwoven’s Worksite. One of the concerns at Freshfields is allowing lawyers to do as much as possible in Outlook - a concern I hear increasingly voiced among large law firms.
Thinking about portals reminds me of a great line about computer standards (attributed to Esther Dyson when I first heard it): “The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” Similarly, with portals, the great thing is that there are so many platforms, features, functions, and design choices. Of course, that means a firm should think carefully about what it wants before embarking down the portal path.
For more on portals and KM, see my prior post on this topic at Portals and KM - Part II.
I do not recall seeing many articles about knowledge management in the legal market outside of legal trade publications. So it seems noteworthy that Toronto’s Globe and Mail has a lengthy article today about legal KM.
Knowledge management crucial tool for law firms (4/12/04, p. B12) notes that
“Facing an increasingly competitive market, a drive to specialization and a need to operate globally, major law firms must share knowledge more effectively than ever before. So they are turning to knowledge management – a combination of technology for organizing knowledge and techniques for using it better.”
The article then explains how most large law firms have some type of KM program in place and goes on to explore how several firms are approaching KM. Legal KM professionals probably will not learn anything new from this article but will perhaps be pleased to see that KM as a topic is now considered newsworthy. Even the general computer trade press has limited coverage in my experience; my post KM Update in Information Week of September 4, 2004 reflects the most recent significant coverage I have seen in the tech press.
Personally, I was pleased to see that my clients ii3, Inc. and Hummingbird are specifically mentioned.
In the “never rains, it pours” department, Federal Computer Week has not one, but three related articles on KM today: Plug-and-play expertise - Army help-desk portal taps knowledge management tools to solve staff problems, Pieces of the KM Puzzle, and Knowledge vs. content management.
Some law firms use manually intensive approaches to knowledge management; others eschew creating specialized knowledge management positions and instead rely on automation. What are the pros and cons of the manual versus automated approach?
My article, What’s Your Strategy for Collecting and Cataloging Documents?, which appears in the February issue of Capital Connection (a publication of the Capital Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators, explores this question, comparing and contrasting the two approaches. Not to give away the punch line, but my article does not conclude that one is better than the other - it all depends on what a firm wants to accomplish, the resources it has available, and the culture.
The issue of manual versus automated approaches is not limited to KM. In Depressing Innovation in Pharmaceuticals, my friend Eric Mankin of Innovation & Business Architectures, analyzes automated versus manual approaches in the research and discovery of new drug compounds. Highly automated approaches are turning out to be less successful than the industry had initially hoped. I am not sure that one can draw too many conclusions about KM from this, but the lesson I take away is that human input and understanding context is pretty critical.
Separately, I am reminded of the importance of culture in any KM initiative by another article. Peter Krakaur of Orrick alerted me to Turn on the know how from an October issue of Federal Computer Week. It discusses the change management required to cause workers to use any KM system.
In Rethinking ROI: Managing Risk and Rewards in KM Initiatives (LLRX, Feb 23, 2004), Bryan Cave partner John Alber makes a compelling case that law firms must have appropriate business intelligence analytics in place before undertaking a knowledge management program.
Alber writes that return on investment (ROI) analysis has become popular, if not essential, to justifying KM and IT projects. He points out, however, that ROI is easily manipulated, both arithmetically and substantively. To counter this problem, he suggests measuring leverage, the “effective” (that is, blended) hourly rate, and profit contribution. To do so he says, firms must invest in business intelligence ("BI") solutions first. BI refers to software and processes that allow quantifying the leverage, effective rates, and profits. Without proper BI discipline, the ROI is too easily manipulated.
I agree with Alber’s argument that firms should use BI to analyze their business and apply rigorous metrics to KM initiatives. I would, however, both temper and extend his argument. On the tempering side, BI has two limitations. First, even with careful analytics, it may not be possible to separate the impact of a KM or other new initiative from other changes occuring simultaneously (e.g., a business up- or down-turn or a change in the mix of matters). And second, firms facing decisions must still predict impacts; BI may help limit losses, but it does not guarantee that the predictions will be true. That is, any business decision carries inherent risk that cannot be managed away.
On the extending side, firms should apply the same analytic approach to any new initiative. Firms make all types of decisions - create a marketing department, hire a lateral partner, open an office, lay off associates, or invest in professional development. Why not apply the same strict analysis to all investment decisions? Were firms to do so, they might find that many cherished decisions are not easily supported by the data. Moreover, they might find that, when applying the same yardstick all around, justifying KM is no easier or harder than any other decision.
I applaud Alber for raising this important point and encouraging firms to quantify their thinking. I think that is the first step in rationalizing law firm decision making generally.
In a November posting, Portals and KM, I discussed how law firms should think about portal strategies in connection with knowledge management. A column in Portals Magazine, Viewpoint: Maximizing the Movement, by an Accenture consultant, argues that KM can justify portals.
The column opens with an interesting statement: “It is a dangerous time for portals. We have been hearing the hype for two years, and organizations are now looking for the value. ” The author goes on to argue that KM, which previously went through hype, is now delivering business value, in part because the KM can be delivered via the portal: “By integrating knowledge management capabilities with specific business processes, the portal becomes a significant way to meet and address these concerns but getting started may be confusing. ”
To clear up the confusion, he suggests a seven step process to align KM, portals, and business processes. I don’t agree with every detail in the list, but do agree with the author’s emphasis on defining needs, establishing metrics, starting with a pilot, and managing the cultural changes. For me, this column just reinforces my view that portals are not a magic answer - it’s what they deliver that’s important.
“Social Networking” was front page business section news in the New York Times yesterday. Broadly speaking, it’s a form of knowledge management in that it can facilitate relationship management and expertise location. But will it really work?
The idea of social networking is that you can tap into friends of friends for business purpose (along the lines of the six degrees of separation theory). The New York Times article, “Social Networks: Will Users Pay to Get Friends?,” raises the question “whether social networking [web] sites can ever make a lot of money by connecting friends of friends in mini-networks of trust.” It explores the arguments on both sides of the question but, in my reading, leans toward the view that the answer is no.
I am listed on Linkedin, one of the companies the article mentions. While there is an element of fun, if not competition in seeing how many connections one can list, I have not yet used Linked in for business purposes. I have neither issued a request to connect to someone nor received one. I have no complaint about Linkedin; I suspect I’d have the same reaction using the competition.
Social Networking is not limited to start-up web sites. Interface Software’s flagship product Interaction offers social networking features. A third-party white paper on Social Networking and Interaction is available free with registration. In my opinion, the paper is a bit thin on details and examples, but for those interested in the topic, it is worth at least skimming.
For law firms, which depend on personal relationships to maintain and generate business, the idea of social networking is critical. Whether it can translate to software, however, and the changes in behavior implicit in software, is a question that remains unanswered.
Effective knowledge management requires a multi-prong approach: collecting documents, identifying expertise, capturing context, the ability to browse and search the materials collected, among others. An important element of any KM system is the ability easily and effectively to conduct full-text search across multiple collections. A recent article describes how (Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton is addressing the full-text search aspect of KM.
In The Engine That Could on law.com (2/5/04), Brenton B. Miller, director of knowledge management at Cleary, writes about how and why his firm acquired a full-text engine to search their knowledge repositories. Miller describes how the firm has created numerous useful KM systems and points out that
“We have become victims of our own success, however. With dozens of intranet practice sites and Notes-based discussion forums and other databases to choose from, our lawyers are often baffled by where to begin and frustrated with the incompleteness of any one internal content source. ”
To address this issue, his firm decided to acquire a full-text engine that would index the multiple forums and databases and produce useful hit lists. Miller describes the evaluation process and selection criteria, which included integration with their document management system, effectiveness of the search results, and various technical considerations. Though the project to install the full-text engine is still underway, the results look promising.
The approach at Cleary is a good illustration of the multi-prong approach. The firm appears to have various “human processes” in place to create valuable KM content. Now they are adding “automation” in the form of sophisticated search to provide better access to the collected content.
In a Complex World, Even Lawyers Need Lawyers (New York Times, 2/3/04) reports that an increasing number of law firms are creating the position of general counsel to advise on ethics and other issues. It is possible that the GC could become a proponent of knowledge management.
I do not claim expertise on the details of ethics and conflicts rules, but it strikes me that a KM system could help manage the legal risks a law firm faces in three ways. First, a KM system could be a source of information to check for the existence of parties that might create a conflict. One type of KM system is a transaction database that tracks deals. In some firms, these databases include party names and the record is created or updated at the end of the deal. In theory, a firm should update its conflicts checking system with any new parties after the matter is opened. But it certainly would not hurt also to check transaction databases for party names.
Second, a KM system might also help avoid positional conflicts. Positional conflicts arise when a firm inadvertently takes positions on both sides of an issue.
And third, a KM system can reduce the chance of malpractice by arming lawyers with vetted legal know-how.
I would not try to sell a law firm on KM based on these arguments. But a GC trying to managing his or her firm’s legal exposure might do well to consider how KM systems could help.
My client ii3 is hosting a Webinar on how McCarthy TÃ©trault, the largest law firm in Canada, has successfully deployed a KM solution.
The Webinar features Joshua Fireman, the KM Director of McCarthys . He will talk about how his firm created a successful knowledge sharing solution using ii3’s software, AdvanceKnowledge. The focus of the Webinar is on the business context for KM and deployment practices.
The Webinar takes place on Wednesday, February 11 at noon eastern. Click here if you would like to register.
This week I attended a meeting of legal knowledge management professionals. The discussion turned to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, focusing on using a CRM to find colleagues who have useful contacts. Managing relationships was not an apparent concern.
I am not a CRM expert, but my recollection is that this class of software emerged to meet the needs of sales people. The idea was to track all “points of contact.” Eventually the concept expanded to encompass a 360-degree view of the customer, meaning that a single system would monitor the entire relationship. That system would also provide tools to manage and, in some instances, analyze relationships.
Law firms started looking at CRM some years back. My sense is that they wanted to use these systems to manage client relationships more effectively. I was therefore surprised at this meeting when our CRM discussion centered on identifying who within an organization knows someone else. For example, such a system would help lawyer who needs to identify someone in a government agency or a lawyer in a corporation.
While identifying the contacts of colleague’s has much value, so too does managing client relationships. I am not sure if I can generalize from my experience, but perhaps in the legal market, the “R” for relationship is slipping out of the CRM.
The Fall 2003 issue of Chief Legal Executive magazine has an interesting article by the managing partner of Arnold & Porter, The Inside Story on the Outside Firm. James J. Sandman discusses five key questions clients should ask their firms. One of the five is what KM system the firm uses.
Mr. Sandman begins the article by noting that law departments ask many questions in RFPs and law firm interviews but frequently do not inquire about important ways the firm operates. The five questions the GC should ask are about compensation, KM, diversity, associate attrition, and training. I’ll focus on Mr. Sandman’s comments about KM.
He notes that “firms vary greatly in their ability to identify and use their own most pertinent precedents.” This ability depends on whether lawyers submit their work product, QA systems to identify and catalog best practices, search tools, and how lawyers use the system. He makes the very interesting point that the client should ask to test the firms KM resources “so that he or she can make a personal assessment of their utility.” He also notes - quite correctly - that good KM covers more than just work product. Though he does not use the term tacit, he writes that a KM system should also include tacit knowledge such as what the firm knows about the client and the client’s industry and competitors. Inability to share this information means wasted time and lost value.
It is rare to see a managing partner focus on KM and write so clearly about the importance of KM. And it verges on revolutionary for a large law firm lawyer to suggest to the client to test a firm’s KM system. I agree with Mr. Sandman and hope that GC will follow his sage advice.
LegalIT reports in Top Scottish firms pool know-how on KM project that several Scottish firms have teamed to create a “groundbreaking KM project to share knowledge across sectors." This is the first time that “a large group of competing firms have decided to pool and share their knowledge.”
The project is driven by a product called Orkell from Legal Data Solutions. I spent some time on this web site and the company has a very interesting idea. The company provides a content management platform and, more importantly, uses that platform to aggregate and re-distribute (essentially syndicate) content from multiple law firms. Firms contribute content to the company and the company in turn re-distributes the aggregated content back to the contributors.
The Orkell product demonstration is worth reviewing. It is positioning the service to help law firms that serve consumers avoid losing share to publishers and start-ups offering alternatives to traditional legal services. The aggregated data is designed to help consumers via question and answer pairs, fact sheets, and documents. Providing this information can be a form of marketing or can be set up to generate revenue by charging for documents. The company provides content management and web sites, branding each site with a contributing firm’s unique look and feel.
While this new and innovative service appears targeted at consumers and smaller businesses, there are two potential lessons here for large law firms. First, it makes knowledge management an external facing activity. By developing know-how that is delivered to the outside world, a feedback loop is automatically created. If providing know-how generates neither leads nor revenue, presumably this is an economic signal that the activity is not viable. Many internally focused KM programs lack such signals.
Second, it makes KM a collective undertaking. While there are many business and potential legal issues involved in syndicating legal content, it is a very interesting business model. The presumption appears to be that the participating firms do not have the scale to provide content across all areas of client interest. Large law firms can offer more content on their own, but it may be that even the largest firms do not have all the answers (if they did, why other than conflicts would any one corporation have more than one outside firm?). I am not suggesting that large law firms rush to share content, but it is an interesting idea. It seems to me that from a client perspective, that would be a desirable outcome.
Law firms that are considering purchasing a portal product should read the November 3, 2003 issue of eWeek magazine for its review of the leading portal products (ATG, BEA WebLogic, Computer Associates CleverPath, IBM WebSphere, Microsoft SharePoint, Plumtree, Sybase Enterprise Portal, and Vignette). This issue updates a prior review and focuses mainly on WebSphere and SharePoint (reviewing both favorably). Not reviewed in this issue but of interest in the legal market is the “vertical market” portal product, LawPort by SV Technology.
Any firm that is thinking about a portal should make sure also to consider its knowledge management strategy and how the portal fits with it (or how KM fits with the portal). Portals are excellent enabling technologies and can serve as a platform for KM, but standing alone, do not constitute KM products. Portals present simple interfaces to numerous systems and allow integrating content from multiple sources.
But these features alone do not enable KM. Firms still need a way to capture useful documents and provide contextual information about them. Separate processes and/or software may also be required for expertise location. The firms that have attained success with portals typically have invested significant time and resources to customize the software, integrate disparate systems, and collect and catalog content.
While this may be obvious, I have been struck by anecdotes over the last couple of years of law firms that have portals and still struggle with content management and KM issues. The bad news is that KM requires more than just portals. The good news is that a portal can be a very important part of a KM strategy.
One of my legal technology friends saw my posting What if Clients Were to Pay for Knowledge Management (23 Oct 03). In this posting, I suggested that it makes sense for general counsels to pay for law firms to perform a matter de-briefing or post-mortem for KM purposes. My friend relayed an experience in which he proposed this idea to the GC of a large company. Here is what he reports:
“My last direct encounter on this idea with the GC of a large company was so stunning that I have been somewhat at a loss ever since. His basic position (repeatedly stated) was that it is not for GCs to find ways for their vendors, including law firms, to become more efficient and effective. GCs ‘have enough other things to worry about.’ He believes market forces will achieve the desired outcome and repeatedly referenced his great faith in the market. For him, the “market” meant the cost-quality mix that directs work to increasingly lower priced vendors as the means to ensure improvement in services.’ My effort to redirect the conversation to explore the benefits that might accrue to his own staff, including career-development points (i.e. items he was then lamenting) were to no avail. This, too, he believed, would improve due to market forces. I left the encounter wondering which of us was smarter and questioning how many other major GC’s held to a position which, to me, seemed very simplistic and painfully reactive. I believe in markets, but I want to see change faster than his model would seem to allow.”
Regular readers of my blog know that I generally believe in market forces. I am not sure, however, that I accept this GCs perspective. Certainly any GC is free to direct legal work to the outside counsel he or she sees as best or most cost-effective. My question is very simple: by what metric does or any other GC measure quality and cost? I am not aware of any rigorous approach to measuring cost and quality trade-offs for law firm services. And to the extent that some law department have devised measures, my guess is that the extra cost of the KM debriefing, because it is likely to be such a small percent of the total bill, would be lost in the statistical noise of the analysis.
There is another serious weakness in this GC’s argument. He or she is not considering a kind of externality – that the market is not currently providing his or her law department with crystallized know-how that could be re-used and therefore lower future costs. If law firms are retained only once, they certainly have no incentive to invest the extra day or two to prepare a de-briefing. Only the client has the incentive aligned with this goal.
It may be that there are good reasons for GC not to pay for KM de-briefings, but the GC who put forth this argument seems, in my opinion, to be taking an ill-considered view of the question.
Many large law firms are trying various approaches to knowledge management (KM). The goal is to capture and re-use know-how. In a meeting of KM professionals earlier this week I had an “aha” moment….
First, two observations/concerns:
(1) I have always been concerned that without tying KM efforts back specifically to client-facing activity, that law firms will not continue to support KM.
(2) Most in-house counsel struggle with how best to capture and re-use the work product and expertise of their outside counsel.
The “aha” moment is that inhouse counsel should cause their outside counsel to create “debriefings” at the conclusion of most large matters. Such debriefings would require some or all of the lawyers who worked on a matter to:
- Summarize the matter, probably using a series of pre-defined questions
- Collect the final version of the most important documents, and, where necessary, explain in a cover sheet how the document relates to the matter
- Explain how this matter relates to other work the firm has done for the client
- Provide a list of the lawyers and any outside experts or consultants who worked the most on the matter
Clients could benefit directly from this type of KM effort, especially if they asked all their outside counsel systematically to perform such debriefings (sometimes called “post-mortems"). There would, of course, be some issues to resolve such as the most appropriate way to store and access this information.
So how should the client cause this to happen? One could argue that law firms should do this as a client service. But realistically, given billable hour targets and a tradition that any work done specifically for a client is billed to the client, it makes sense for clients to pay for the de-briefing. Clients often spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on a specific legal matter. For a very small additional expenditure, clients could cause law firms to create a systematic de-briefing that the client would then have readily available for its own re-use, or for the re-use of outside counsel.
Of course, law firms would benefit as well because they would have incentives (the usual billable hours) to do the work and because they themselves would find it valuable to have their own work systematically “cataloged.” But if most clients did this, they would benefit indirectly from the collective effort of law firms. Costs for all clients should fall if firms are more readily able to re-use know-how across matters and clients.
While there would be details to work out (e.g., sharing the debriefings and documents across outside counsel), a “pay for KM” system would work to the benefit of both inhouse counsel and law firms.
When knowledge management first emerged as a distinct discipline several years ago, the focus, at least among law firms, was on capturing and re-using documents. Now, at least anecdotally, it seems there is as much discussion of locating experts within one’s organization as there is on documents. And this is a good thing. Ultimately, it is often more useful to find an expert who can explain the context and point to documents rather than to find a document, which, standing alone is often hard to use.
The “expertise location management” product space is evolving and new options arising. I just came across an interesting product announcement from Entopia. According to a recent press release, the company has new software that helps identify experts: “By combining Entopia’s dynamic expertise location with its visualization techniques, Entopia’s latest application identifies the social networks within the enterprise related to a specific topic. These “people maps” instantly illustrate the subject matter experts, information bottlenecks and disconnected communities with an enterprise.” I have not had a chance to learn more, but it sounds interesting.
Knowledge managers in law firms should consider their expertise location strategy as well as their document strategy. Like any aspect of KM, expertise location is more about process than technology. But there are interesting technology options that can help automate the process. By way of example, two horizontal expertise location management products are Kamoon and Tacit and two legal- market specific product (though both have broader functionality) are LawPort and AdvanceKnowledge.
Law firm knowledge management professionals frequently discuss the impact of partner compensation systems on the interest in and ability of a firm to invest in KM. The general consensus is that firms with “lock step” partner compensation are better able to support significant KM initiatives than are firms with “eat what you kill” compensation. “Lock step” means that partner compensation depends only on partner seniority, not on new business nor on hours billed. In contrast, “eat what you kill” means compensation depends on new business generated and hours billed. Of course, many firms have a blend of the two models.
KM professionals have three good reasons for thinking that lock step systems support KM:
(1) Lock step firms tend to view clients on more of an institutional than individual lawyer basis. On balance, this makes the firm more willing to invest generally.
(2) Partners compensated based on their tenure do not need to worry on a daily basis about business generation or hours billed. On the margin therefore, partners are more willing to invest their time - or have associates invest their time - in contributing know-how to a central system.
(3) Firms with lock step systems tend to be more collegial and therefore more open to KM.
The link between compensation and interest/investment in KM has not been empirically proven to my knowledge. That said, there is some pretty good evidence. In particular, the large London-based firms, which tend to have lock step compensation systems, have invested significantly more in KM than have most US firms, which tend not to have pure lock step systems. Furthermore, a few of the US firms with lock step systems (or at least leaning heavily in that direction) are the ones that tend to invest more in KM.
So, it is with interest that I read an item on law.com today that suggests pressures may be developing against UK firms maintaining their primarily lock step systems. In Clifford Chance Loses Four Partners to Weil Gotshal, the New York Law Journal reports that Clifford Chance has just lost four top antitrust partners to Weil Gotshal. The departing partners say that compensation was not a factor - the problem was conflicts. Nonetheless, these departures come “at a time when the British firm [Clifford Chance] is conducting a review aimed at determining whether or not it should bend its traditional lockstep compensation scheme.”
Of course, many in the legal profession will watch the large UK firms and their compensation systems for a variety of reasons. KM professionals should especially keep an eye on this issue with particular emphasis on the impact on KM initiatives.
Knowledge management professionals frequently consider the question of how best to identify and locate experts within a large law firm. The current issue of the McKinsey Quarterly has an article titled Do You Know Who Your Experts Are? (Appears in the 2003, #4 edition - subscription required to access.)
The article notes that finding experts in a large organization is difficult. The authors note that companies that carefully manage other assets such as inventory and cash are rather cavalier about how they manage expertise. This is changing: “a growing number of companies… have adopted more systematic approaches to both finding and leveraging expertise.”
The traditional approaches say the author - an expertise database or “mining” documents for pointers to expertise - can be replaced with new search technologies. “Achievements” of employees define their expertise. The authors say that using typical internal corporate sources, it is possible to find people with relevant achievements. They say that “internal databases can usually be assessed with considerable precision.” All it takes is the right search engine that can access and sift multiple data sources (such as HR, accounting, knowledge management, and recruiting databases).
This article is helpful in increasing corporate awareness of the need for expertise location. I fear, however, that it oversimplifies both the process and technology and makes some unsupported assertions (for example, the reliability of internal data sources). The article would have served readers better had it presented some case studies and some specific technology solutions working against real databases.
Many law firms have struggled with expertise location and few have found a perfect solution. KM professionals discuss the automated approaches suggested by this article, as well as purely manual approaches that rely on lawyer self-assessment of their own expertise.
Though the article does not mention it, I suspect the authors have in mind a product like ExpertSeek Services by Digital Self. Future posts will discuss in more detail approaches to capturing expertise.
Last Friday (9/19), I attended an all-day meeting of KM professionals from large NYC, Toronto, and West Coast law firms that I co-organized and co-moderated. Separately, last Tuesday (9/16), at Legal Tech I co-presented with Kingsley Martin on KM; our topic was determining an organization’s readiness to undertake KM. Both events were interesting and useful exchanges of current law firm KM practices and illustrate the many different approaches possible. I will use this posting and a couple of additional ones to explore some of these different approaches.
I’ll start with my presentation with Kingsley Martin. Kingsley and I have been professional colleagues and friends for many years. He is the author of a West-published KM workbook (really, an extensive treatise) and an LLRX.com article titled “Show Me the Money” - Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management, among others. Like me, Kingsley is a consultant, a lawyer, and has years of experience focusing on technology in large law firms.
Kingsley’s favored approach to KM is to collect, catalog, and classify a firm’s work product as the first step. Using automated tools such as LexisNexis Total Search or WestKM, it is possible to gather a significant portion of a firm’s work product with relatively little human intervention.
I agree that this is valuable. For firms unwilling to invest lawyer time or employ numerous non-practicing lawyers to gather and catalog work product, it may be the best and only feasible step. My reservation is that this automated approach may not create a “feedback loop” within the firm that shows that the activity is worth continuing. Many firms undertake KM programs but most do not put in place metrics to assess whether the program is succeeding. Without measuring the impact (for example by monitoring usage or surveying lawyers), it may be impossible to ascertain the return and the value created.
My favored approach is to start with a practice or sub-practice group that wants to define a set of best practices. As part of their best practices, they would inevitably need to define model documents or collections of research as “inputs” into the best practices. A forward-thinking firm would use the best practice both for marketing to clients and for internal “production.” Especially if the best practice is “exposed” to clients, either directly through some type of web-based access or indirectly through relationship management, the likelihood is that the appropriate feedback would occur to sustain the effort. As firms see the value in discrete and measurable settings, it might create more support for a broader effort.
Of course, neither Kingsley’s “broad” nor my “narrow” approach is mutually exclusive; moreover, the right approach depends on many factors, especially a firm’s culture and business. In fact, for a firm committed to KM, there is merit in using both. We had fun presenting in point / counter-point style and hope that our friendly “reasonable people can disagree” approach helped illustrate the choices firms face.
Stuart Kay, the Knowledge Manager of Sydney-based Gilbert & Tobin has written a very good and thorough analysis of knowledge management called Cost, Value and ROI for Knowledge Management in Law Firms, which appears in the August 31st edition of LLRX.
Kay starts out by saying that “in a knowledge intensive industry like law, knowledge management is simply a critical component and an overhead cost of doing business.” But he then acknowledges that many law firm managers and partners will want “hard” metrics to support a KM program. After summarizing Kingsley Martin’s “Show Me the Money” - Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management in 15 Oct 02 LLRX, Kay sets out his own analysis of how best to measure the cost and value of KM. His analysis, particularly the cost and value financial models, are important reading for anyone interested in KM. He acknowledges that the assumptions driving his models can be tweaked to yield different outcomes, but the models present a very useful way to think about returns.
Consistent with his introduction, after laying out a detailed approach to analyzing the value of KM, including many impossible to quanityf benefits, Kay concludes that “it is important not to get lost in the minutiae of internal measures of cost… It is valuable for all the intangible benefits previously listed. The bottom line is that knowledge management enables us to be better, more effective, more productive lawyers, and to give better service to our clients.”
The August 18th issue of Information Week has an in-depth report on knowledge management, The Need To Know . It reports that although companies expected too much from KM and have experienced disappointments, many continue KM programs, albeit with simpler efforts. According to the article, “[c]ompanies are focusing less on technology to gather lots of data and more on processes for reusing information and on tools to locate and connect people with information and experts.” Part of this shift is reflected in an emphasis on more sophisticated search tools and expertise location management software. Collaboration tools are increasingly important. The article also reports an increasing awareness of the importance on focusing on how people work and incentives to share. It’s a good overview of current KM practices and issues in the corporate sector.
Last week I posted two items related to knowledge management: “Advertising Practices Applied to Law Firm Marketing” discussed mining documents to determine client interests; “Relationship Mining” described software that allows determining who knows whom within an organization.
After writing these, it occurred to me that some lawyers may wonder why KM systems are necessary. Of course, addressing this is a big topic, so I will only touch on a couple of key points. One reason systems are needed is that memory is imperfect. An example illustrates this point. In 1990, I was involved in creating work product retrieval systems at Wilmer Cutler. A managing partner wanted to use the system, so I showed it to him. He did a search and reviewed the documents returned. One of them caught his eye as being particularly on point. He became curious who the author was. When he scrolled to the end, he was surprised to find that he himself had written the document a couple of years earlier. We both had a good laugh as we realized we had just demonstrated the value of the beta system. In my experience - observing my own workings and others’s - it’s just hard to remember everything you’ve ever written.
Just as we don’t always remember what we have written, we don’t always remember, especially out of context, whom we know. Even a lawyer inclined to answer an all-points e-mail asking “does anyone know someone at company XYZ” may not, in a vacuum, remember that she in fact has a contact there.
The automated systems I described last week would do far more than jog memories. But as law firms consider how technology can advance their business, it is useful to keep in mind that even seemingly simple things like remembering what you’ve written or whom you know may not be as easy as we think. Technology can help with this - plus do far more.
In a July 14th press release, LexisNexis announced a new service, Total Search. According the the press release, “LexisNexis Total Search provides easy access to internal work product including briefs, pleadings and memoranda while simultaneously searching the comprehensive and authoritative content available from LexisNexis.” I have not had an opportunity to evaluate this product, but it appears positioned to compete head on with West KM.
Continuing my reading of the July 14th issue of Legal IT (UK), I came across another interesting feature article. Knowledge Management: Capturing knowledge describes how Linklaters is creating its own knowledge management software. The firm’s system uses both a taxonomy for classification and full-text searching. It interacts with other firm systems including HR, customer relationship management (CRM), and document management (DMS). Users will be able to personalize the interface.
This sounds like a significant undertaking. It would be interesting learn what commercial products the firm considered and how it approached the decision to develop its own software. In my next posting, I will offer some thoughts about the make versus buy decision for legal technology.
The July 14th issue of Legal IT (UK) has a feature article by Matthew Parsons of interest to knowledge managers. Knowledge Management: Measuring success reports on KM cutbacks at US firms.
The article notes that in March of this year, Jones Day eliminated its 2-year old, multi-million dollar knowledge management program. Writing that this “pattern is being repeated in other US law firms,” the article then reports that, prior to its demise, Brobeck lost its CKO. Given the ultimate demise of Brobeck, it’s not clear how much weight to ascribe to that data point. Any two points indeed form a line, but I am not convinced that there is trend here. While US firms do struggle with KM, and Jones Day has made this cutback, and there has been staffing changes among knowledge managers at other firms, my impression is that law firm interest and investment is growing on balance, not shrinking.
This quibble aside, the article is worth reading for its analysis of the role of KM in a large law firm. I do not agree with every point made but the article covers a lot of ground and raises several interesting ideas.
Law.com has posted an interesting article from The National Law Journal by Elizabeth D. Kenney, the director of libraries at Dechert in New York. In her article, Revolution or Evolution for Law Libraries, the author offers a useful discussion of the trade-off between the “digital” or “virtual” library versus traditional print products.
A key point is to understand what lawyers need: “A potentially money-saving move away from print resources to online services seems particularly attractive these days. The difficulty comes when a firm focuses on one type of format or the other, without doing sufficient library due diligence.” I second this idea.
Some years ago I was very impressed with the approach of my colleague Jean O’Grady, the Director of Information Services at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. She wanted to get a better sense of how often certain print volumes were being used so that she could make an informed decision about whether to continue updating them. She placed a paper band around some of the volumes. On the band, printed clearly, was a statement to the effect that the library was conducting a useage survey and if anyone needed the book, they should simply tear the band. Measures like this, combined with more traditional circulation control systems, helped provide a solid analytic basis for deciding what print to keep.
I also second the point in the article that training is essential. Online searching is not always intuitive. I have met lawyers who do not understand the basics of Boolean searching (that is, combining key words with connectors such as AND, OR, and NOT and using parentheses), even though they should have learned this in law school. Just yesterday, I spoke to a contact at a large law firm who told me - with some mortification - that one lawyer had no idea of what using quotes around a search term would do in Google or other search engines. Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated event.
In my experience, the themes of collecting data (whether formally or informally) to make informed decisions and training users are consistent across both basic and advanced uses of legal technology.
As my blog grows, I wonder about some of the KM implications of blogging. Of course, I am still relatively new (one month) to blogging and have yet to explore the various software options. But it strikes me that blogs are yet another source of potentially useful knowledge to capture and re-use. As with collections of documents, some blog postings are worth keeping and others not (yes, even some of mine are not worth keeping!). So the question is how to capture and re-use the good postings.
As someone who is pretty disciplined, I would value a feature that lets me add fielded meta-data to my blog postings. I would use these to assign a taxonomical classification and a measure of “half-life,” that is, an indicator of whether a posting might still be interesting in 3, 6, 12, or 24 months. Without some type of meta-data like this, capturing postings will rely either on manual review or advanced semantic analysis. The former is expensive and the latter not necessarily reliable.
I would love to hear from any experienced bloggers if I’m overlooking an issue or if there is an easy software solution.
I will leave my blog readers to ponder this for about 10 days as I will be on vacation starting June 29th for about one week
Full text retrieval and semantic analysis software are useful software applications in the legal market. Software developers are making available increasingly sophisticated techniques to work with in very large document collections to identify potentially relevant ones and classify or otherwise automatically analyze them. These tools are very useful in knowledge management and litigation support applications, but law firms using them or considering doing so must keep in mind the need for human intervention and review.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal carried an article on page B1 titled “Online Job Hunting Is Tough. Just Ask Vinnie.” The article is about how large companies use software to screen resumes for job applications submitted on their Web sites (and that for some companies, the majority of their hiring is via the Web). A consulting firm tested the Web-based job application process by inventing a fictional job applicant named Vinnie Boombotz and sent the resume to 400 big companies. The resume was “patently ridiculous,” containing many misnomers but with some “plausible” work experience as well. To make a long - and very amusing - story short, the made-up resume made it through quite a few automated screens, whereupon a human rejected it.
I claim no expertise on how automated resume screening software works, but the challenge with screening thousands of resumes is similar to the challenges of identifying useful work product or discovery documents among thousands or more. The article ribs the companies where the resumes passed the screen. I agree, however, with a quoted spokesman of one company. He argues the technology is doing its job and that the humans did theirs, saying that’s the way the system is supposed to work. I think the same is true for the application of technology in KM or litigation support. It is helpful, arguably essential, to screen documents and automatically do a first-pass analysis, but that does not eliminate the need for review by people who know what’s going on.
Cindy Thurston, Director of Knowledge Development, at Shaw Pittman LLP, alerted me to an interesting column by Tom Davenport, A Measurable Proposal in the June issue of CIO magazine.
In the column, Prof. Davenport explores the idea that one can apply process improvement methods to improve the effectiveness of knowledge workers. In his own words: “I believe that the next big process change initiative should involve knowledge work. Let’s examine how we do strategy, marketing campaigns, mergers and acquisitions, and R&D programs. Maybe we could even take on the process of management. This timeÃ¢â‚¬"unlike in days gone by with reengineeringÃ¢â‚¬"we should involve those who do the work. I see no reason why participative, creative efforts can’t improve knowledge processes just as they improved the more structured, less knowledge-intensive type.”
I see a positive spin when I read his column. He appears to suggest that knowledge workers need more help than they now receive in the effective use of technology plus facilities and an organization that support their work. Furthermore, one can potentially identify best practices and share them. I certainly believe this is true for lawyers. Some of the comments appended to the article, however, seem to take a dystopian view of his suggestions.
Earlier this week I read an interesting article in the McKinsey Quarterly called Knowledge management comes to philanthropy that appears in 2003 Number 2 (for the full-text, you will need to register). I was planning to post a summary when I received a very nice one by e-mail from Shy Alter, the CEO of ii3, a Toronto-based consultancy that focuses on KM. The company also sells a KM product called AdvanceKnowledge.
The article focuses on Baltimore-based Casey Foundation, which “has for over 50 years been a leader in improving the lives and opportunities of disadvantaged children and their families by financing programs, conducting research, and promoting the reform of public-service systems.” Here is Shy’s summary of the article:
Philanthropic foundations are knowledge-intensive bodies
Casey’s new staff members had a limited understanding of the history of the foundation
Senior associates were now working in areas beyond their expertise, they needed more information from colleagues to do their work successfully
What they needed to know wasn’t written down; it had remained in people’s heads
Casey soon realized that if it was failing to share its expertise adequately with its own staff, it must be failing to do so with the recipients of grants and with external policy makers
Casey began to develop processes that would help senior associates set down their knowledge quickly and efficiently
Developing a comprehensive knowledge strategy and thinking through knowledge management in detail are essential
Casey’s program defined the entire process: what knowledge should be harnessed, who should codify it, how it should be maintained and disseminated, and who should receive it it had started to build the institutional memory that would support its future works
Legal Technology Insider alerted me to a survey of Australian law firms sponsored by PA Consulting Group and CCH. The survey results are based on responses of one-third of the managing partners or CEOs of Australia’s largest firms. The survey also offers comparisons to a similar survey PA conducted in the UK.
On knowledge management, the survey found that only 38% of Australian and 32% of UK firms have been successful in managing their knowledge. The report identified problems with both knowledge capture and access, noting that fewer than one-half of firms provide easy access to the information and in fewer than one-half is knowledge capture a formal part of everyone’s job. PA comments that “it is processes, not the information repositories on their own, that deliver value.” These findings are especially interesting given that most KM professionals acknowledge that Australian and UK firms are ahead of US firms on KM.
On IT investment generally, the survey found that 85% of respondents believe that they could get more value from IT investments. This result is consistent with the finding that fewer than one-quarter of respondents think that existing IT investments have reduced costs and fewer than one-half think client satisfaction has improved as a result of IT spending.
The June 2003 issue of Corporate Legal Times, in an article titled Legal Departments Struggle to Harvest Internal Knowledge (p. 12), reports on a knowledge management study conducted by the Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida School of Law. Only 48% of 130 law departments responding have initiated KM programs and less than 20% have KM budgets. Of those departments with KM initiatives, only 18% think there are sufficient resources to achieve KM goals.
In my opinion, law departments would benefit by investing more in KM. The economics of the billable hour mean that law firms have limited incentives to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Law departments, however, have incentives to do more with less. In all likelihood, investing in KM would pay off for corporate counsel. [I confess that I am not disinterested. I have teamed with the Legal Research Center to offer a KM Assessment for in-house counsel.]