It is a truism that most law firms engage in some knowledge management activities, it is also normally the case that without a strong central KM management structure and a corps of well-managed professional support lawyers (PSLs), the process is undertaken half-heartedly and in lawyer’s “spare time”. The desire to avoid “reinventing the wheel” is usually strong, but the flesh is often weak.
In a firm that engages in the provision of ‘high street’-style commodity legal services it can be argued that the use of commercial precedents, forms and other know-how materials are ‘good enough’. However, for any firm fortunate enough to be in specialist markets where key expertise is valued and recognised it is vital that the firm learns to manage and exploit its considerable store of specialist know-how in its chosen areas not available to its competitors – otherwise how does it differentiate itself?
To do this there needs to be a program of activities designed to ensure that the firm’s ‘Crown jewels’ – in the form of precedents and other materials – are gathered and made available to others. After gathering this material it needs to be quality assured and classified, and have value added to them in the form of enhancements, instructions, warning and so on.
“Made available” means having these materials stored in a repository which makes it easy and convenient to find when required. There are many different ‘brands’ of repository, but what is far more important is having a really well-crafted and easy to use Enterprise Search engine on top of that repository which provides both search and browse access utilising appropriate metadata and taxonomies.
As with CRM, the primary issue is not the technology – although that has to be very well crafted – but the establishment and following of processes and procedures in order to make sure that the right information is captured, processed and made available – this involves a lot of change management, and lawyer motivation, even to the extent of modifying personal objectives and annual appraisals.
All this is becoming even more important in today’s climate as clients increase their demands for both transparency, and consistency of legal advice.
We have experience of both the underlying and enabling technology relating to knowledge management, as well as the change management and implementation practices that must be in place to exploit them.