Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
I started computing in the good ol’ days of DOS 3.3 and WordPerfect 5.0. I cranked out documents left and right and, with my trusty Hewlett Packard LaserJet II printer, they looked professional every time. I stored my WP files on the computer hard drive and used FastBack to save files onto floppy disks. I didn’t use a time and billing system and case management consisted mostly of knowing who had the file. Boy, have times changed. We now face information overload, with data in so many different places, in so many different formats, on so many different platforms. It’s no wonder the legal profession finds itself overwhelmed. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The answer is not all about technology, it’s knowledge management. KM has been around for quite some time. But those of us in the KM pit will be the first to tell you that there is more to KM than technology. People and processes play a much bigger role in a law firm’s KM strategy. To get an initial understanding of KM in the legal profession, here are the software “pieces” of knowledge management — it may help explain where KM is going. First the “big six:” � Financial management systems handle time, billing and accounting. Most firms have this type of software already in place. � Document management systems manage documents in an organized fashion. About 50 percent of the profession is using some form. � Case/matter management systems help manage cases or matters. Roughly 30 percent of the legal profession uses a CMS. � Legal research systems typically include legal research using Westlaw, Lexis, online services and the Internet. Most firms are onboard. � Litigation management systems provide software support for litigation and come in many flavors, depending upon the particular litigator’s task. These include case chronologies, evidence tracking, Bates stamping software management tools, and more. � Client relationship management systems assist firms with marketing and client relationships. CRM is surfacing in the legal profession, but has quite a way to catch up to the others. THAT’S NOT ALL In addition to those management systems, most legal professionals also use some form of electronic mail (don’t forget about attachments) and, most likely, several substantive database systems or internally developed databases. All of these are “pieces” of knowledge management in the firm. Another way to look at this type of KM model is from a “Google” point of view. If you wanted to conduct a search for the term “Blue Cheese” in your firm, can you type the term in once, and have the KM system search through all the “big six” management systems, plus e-mail, plus the substantive databases? In most firms today, most likely you’d need to do searches in several different software applications in your firm or law department. One of the goals of KM is to have the capability to search through every system with one search. KM not only entails the electronic information contained in your firm’s computer systems, but it is also the collective intelligence found in the filing cabinets (not already in the computer) as well as in the minds of your lawyers. The key is to figure out what you have electronically, what you need to get into electronic form, and, to be successful, how to capture that knowledge in an easy manner. PROCESS AND PEOPLE KM is more about people and processes than it is about technology. Mind you, technology plays a significant role, but Tom Davenport, a KM pioneer, once said, “If you are spending more than 30 percent of your KM efforts (i.e., time and money) on technology, you will fail.” He’s right. I’ve worked with many law firms, and one of the key documents for capturing initial information is the “Client Intake Sheet” or “New Business Memorandum.” While the form looks good and is well laid out, if the attorney or legal assistant doesn’t “capture” the information, it won’t get into the system. If your document management system can’t find a particular document, was the document profile form completed properly? Did the firm decide on a standard of capturing the information about that document? Is everyone in the firm following a convention? CULTURAL ISSUES Many firms have trouble with standards and conventions because lawyers are independent (we want them to be) and some times have trouble adopting standards, simply because it changes the way they do things and often it causes more work without knowing the end results or the benefits of change. Change management is possibly the biggest issue in KM. Changing firm culture (“That’s the way we’ve always done it!”) can be more difficult that milking a fish. Another example: When your firm hires a new associate, he or she will most likely be assigned to a mentor. It’s a common practice. The firm already has developed many different forms, documents and checklists of what needs to be done and when it should be completed. But, when the new associate sits down with the mentor, who is providing a step-by-step instruction of what needs to be done, where is that information and how is it captured? In most cases, it is in the mind of the mentor attorney and the notepad of the associate. It doesn’t get into the system. You must know what your firm does, how it does it, and relate it to how you can use technology before implementation. HOW TO BEGIN Steven Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” provides guidelines for beginning a KM program. I borrow from his wisdom: 1. Be Proactive: “You won’t catch any fish if your hook is not in the water.” KM is not going to come to you; you need to first understand what KM is about, the various pieces of KM, the issues your firm may face with implementing KM, and determine the best direction for your firm. 2. Begin With the End in Mind: Knowing what you’ll find at the end of the tunnel helps you understand what you and your firm are up against. Case studies reveal many issues of KM, especially if the firm is similar to yours. But, don’t get caught up in the copycat mode — just because it worked for one firm doesn’t mean it will work for you. If all law firms did the same thing the same way, this would be a really boring profession. 3. Put First Things First: After you’ve done your homework, prioritize. This involves budgeting both time and money, but more importantly, looking for those small successes to prove that KM is the right way to go. You will also find out quickly that the KM strategy may take quite some time. A successful KM strategy begins with a strong KM project leader. 4. Think Win/Win: As the KM “cheerleader” in your firm or law department, you’ll need to constantly hammer on the benefits of KM. You’ll find the biggest challenge is changing the culture of the firm (or department). There are ways to do this, but it typically involves negotiation (or food and drink). 5. Seek First to Understand Then to Be Understood: It takes nine miles to stop an aircraft carrier, but an aircraft carrier can easily make slight corrections. Whenever you’re dealing with firm culture or changes in the processes, there will be many reasons why not to change. In most cases, if you first listen to what the person is saying, you’ll also hear what they are not saying. Change is difficult, especially to those who’ve been in the profession for quite some time. 6. Synergize: I love synergy, especially when it’s positive and those who usually don’t participate get drawn into the discussion. Once the boat is launched, keep it afloat with solid communication among those who are actively involved in the KM initiative. They help carry the torch. 7. Sharpen the Saw: This critical habit helps you to keep focused on the KM process. Don’t get confused by the facts. Sometimes people lose their KM focus because they get too close to the project. Periodically step back and review where you’ve been and determine if you’re still headed in the right direction. Andrew Adkins III is the director of the Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida, and is a member of the Law Technology News Editorial Advisory Board. E-mail: [email protected].

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.