I just completed a very interesting conference call with some colleagues from the International Bar Association. We will be presenting a session on knowledge management at the 7th Annual Law Firm Management Conference in Moscow on 29 November 2013.
I was very interested in the many aspects of knowledge management that my colleagues and I discussed during our call:
Each of these topics is a point that many law firms completely overlook, misunderstand, or -- worst of all -- misapply:
- the power of knowledge management in improving lawyer productivity and profitability by reducing the lawyer's time and effort (especially that of partners) to prepare and deliver a client service
- the perspective that the organization of know-how at a support staff level can free lawyer time
- the cultural issues that sometimes must be addressed to implement a knowledge management process that produces worthwhile results
- the issue of scalability: How can a small firm, with limited resources, get the best return on what necessarily must be a relatively modest investment?
The most important point of all is the knowledge management is not a piece of software, nor should it be an additional burden on the delivery of legal services. The software is merely a tool to make the process faster and more accurate. If the underlying policies and practices by which a firm manages its intellectual capital are flawed, the best that technology can do is to automate a flawed process, with a risk that it could actually make things worse in the long term. Moreover, every knowledge management procedure should be integrated smoothly into the work processes of the firm -- including the intellectual processes by which lawyers serve clients -- adding value rather than adding work to already busy lawyers.