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When it comes to knowledge, Vincent Polley preaches socialism, but practices capitalism. Polley, deputy general counsel for information technology and training at Schlumberger Limited, the international oil field services company, oversees an information-sharing program that he calls “a more socialist approach to knowledge.” But the Sugarland, Texas-based Polley gets lawyers to use it by dangling the capitalist carrot. Those who share their knowledge will get bigger bonuses. Polley’s quest for egalitarianism started three years ago, when he looked around Schlumberger’s legal department and saw a very unequal distribution of knowledge. Lawyers scattered around the globe were barely talking to each other. Many attorneys, generalists by training, were losing ground in a rapidly shifting and niche-bound market. Old hands and new hires weren’t collaborating. Polley’s troops were losing track of their knowledge — in the hard drives of the company’s far-flung computers, the file cabinets from Paris to Buenos Aires, and the void left by employee turnover. So he decided to shake the department up with an eye to restructuring. He visited law firms and corporate law departments and devised a knowledge-management program that would simultaneously rearrange his department structure and provide a more collaborative work environment. The goal was to retain knowledge and to open lines of communication. First, management rearranged the department, previously set up along regional and business unit lines, into a dozen practice groups. This meant that a lawyer in Jakarta and a lawyer in New York who were both working on IP matters would have some reason to talk to each other. Next, Polley put the law department — and its new practice groups — onto the company’s secure intranet, or internal Web site. Called “LawHub,” Schlumberger’s law department intranet can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from a wireless connection in New York to a dial-up modem in Oman. LawHub is arranged by subject matter, like the department itself. Each practice group has its own area where the group can arrange corporate and external news, model policies, contracts, and training material. One lawyer, for example, put online an annotated version of a standard licensing agreement; other lawyers can peek in, and consult it when they write their own agreements. Some parts of LawHub are gradually being made available to nonlegal Schlumberger employees. Other categories include a skills bank, entertainment area (games and other diversions), and a list of research tools, like a Lexis-Nexis link. Polley estimates that there are about 1,500 items on LawHub. The site has about 120 users, including lawyers, patent agents, and support staff. LawHub is also a communication center in Schlumberger’s sprawling department. Now faraway lawyers can talk via real-time chat threads, post announcements and memos, and sound off on an ad hoc forum called “Speaker’s Corner.” Currently, there are 26 threaded discussion groups. Some are more popular than others. The chattiest bunch, the Internet law and e-commerce group, clocks in with more than 600 messages. Socialism goes only so far. No one but authorized administrators, such as practice group heads, can reach inside the site to make such alterations as adding a form. Polley says this keeps LawHub from getting too cluttered. But it’s fairly easy for junior lawyers to spread their wings: They just send their contribution to a supervisor. Polley estimates that about a third of the site’s content comes from junior lawyers. He says LawHub is a fluid, constantly changing site. Polley can track how much stuff gets posted in any given week. “Socialism” has other limits: Polley says there are “noble motivators” for attorneys to get on the knowledge management bandwagon, like respect, mentoring, and stature. But these help only so much. So bring on the capitalism: Polley devised an incentive system that encourages people to share. It comes in the form of cool cash. Starting this year, knowledge management will make up about 25 percent of the criteria for performance review, which in turn will determine a lawyer’s yearly bonus. But getting the information in shape inside the company is just step one. The next step is implementing a similar system on an external level. If in-house lawyers and clients can share their work, shouldn’t they be able to do it with others? Polley, for example, would like to get law firms to share some of their prepared documents and policies. In return, he says, he could share Schlumberger’s bank of model policies. But he’s having trouble finding any takers. “I have had no huge successes,” he says. Charles Kerr, a partner at the New York office of San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster, one of Schlumberger’s outside counsel, is willing to give it a try but notes that confidentiality and privilege issues arise when more than one outside firm participates. But he and Polley keep talking. “We haven’t chosen the magic formula yet,” Kerr says. Even so, Polley has received praise for his efforts from general counsel James Gunderson and chief executive D. Euan Baird. They like LawHub so much, he says, that they’re using it as a model in other departments. Back to “The Power of Knowledge Management.”

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