KM Legal Magazine, 1 (4), 2007

To blog or not to blog?
The Law Society Gazette recently published a news item covering a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) adjudication, which stated writing derogatory or potentially libellous comments about law firms does not necessarily count as bringing the profession into disrepute. The article highlighted a website set up by a London-based, locum solicitor, which included significant complaints about a firm that he had worked for. The SRA ruling concluded that his comments did not amount to a breach of rules governing conduct. Although the solicitor could still be sued for libel, as the adjudication does not confirm or disprove his allegations about the firm, the SRA concluded that expressing his views was not professional misconduct. No doubt lawyers moonlighting as bloggers everywhere breathed a huge sigh of relief.


Feature: New routes to knowledge 
“The past two years has seen more change in law firm knowledge management (KM) than in the last 15,” observes David Jabbari, global head of know-how and training at Allen & Overy. He is referring to a transformation that has been accelerated by rapid developments in information technology, attitude and culture, which has led forward-thinking law firms to realise the value of adopting a strategic approach to KM.

Opinion: Lessons from Aristotle 
Aristotle and other classical Greek philosophers believed that appropriateness of any form of knowledge depends on the purpose or the telos it serves. The purpose of a theoretical discipline is the pursuit of truth through contemplation; its telos is the attainment of knowledge for its own sake.

Masterclass: Search security 
It is often assumed that users want to search for data inside their business using something like Google. Information workers with a big need for tracking down information will ask for a simple interface and the same speed as the world’s favourite page crawler. It can be frustrating when consumer search sets expectations like this, but it happens in many areas of technology and the logic doesn’t always work; take mobile phones, for example.

Case study: Setterwalls 
Establishing an effective knowledge-management (KM) culture in the law-firm environment can be a challenging, but imperative, task for even the savviest of KM professionals. In a climate where lawyers still see their knowledge as ‘power’, it isn’t always easy to encourage fee earners and partners to adapt to the more open, collaborative way of working that forms the backbone of textbook KM practice.

Opinion: At the cutting edge 
The war for talent is raging. Demographic changes combined with the increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace mean that acquiring and retaining talent is becoming a key challenge for many professional-service firms, law firms included. I am amazed at some of the perks offered to potential trainees, for example. Gone are the days when a branded pen is the most you could expect on your first day.

Masterclass: Achieving buy-in for KM 
After developing a KM strategy – defining knowledge goals to be achieved and aligning them with your overall business strategy – it remains a crucial task to achieve a long-term commitment for this strategy at all levels of the firm. Four core aspects may be identified in order to achieve a buy-in to the KM strategy. These are outlined within this masterclass.

Cover feature: Birds of a feather 
A perplexing question: Are business development and knowledge management strange bedfellows or birds of a feather?
The insightful answer: When boiled down to its base elements, all that a law firm does is leverage knowledge and leverage relationships.
What about the knowledge embedded in the relationship with the client or contact? Why isn’t this seen as being an integral part of knowledge management (KM) by many law firms?
The problem lies, as in so many other aspects of management within the legal environment, in the language that we use and how it is interpreted by those who hear it. For many lawyers, the term ‘knowledge management’ is synonymous with ‘legal technical know-how’.

Q&A: Culture shock 
Gretta Rusanow of Curve Consulting discusses the changing face of KM culture in the law firm environment.


The last word 
‘IT’S MY ball and you can’t play with it,’ is both the mantra of the incorrigible infant and the modus operandi of the petulant professional. Behind the phrase lies an implicit understanding, ‘We can play together, perhaps even playing the game that you want to play, but only if ultimately I’m in control. Take away my control and I’ll take away my ball.’

A day in the life of… 
I recently joined the knowledge management (KM) team at Bird & Bird. Lots of people have asked me why I moved into KM. Having previously worked in the library and information services team at Freshfields, I had worked closely with the firm’s KM team on various programmes, such as building a practice-group intranet and designing a discussion forum. I enjoyed the experience of working with the lawyers and seeing projects through to the finish. So when Catherine Flutsch, head of KM at Bird & Bird (and formerly at Freshfields), told me she had a job in KM, I was immediately interested.

Opinion: Anonymisation and Chinese walls 
Many firms have a policy of anonymising know-how prior to its submission to the firm’s know-how system. Anonymisation is the process of removing information that may identify the parties involved or any other commercially sensitive data. There are no hard and fast rules about how to anonymise know-how because what constitutes sensitive and/or identifying information varies depending on the parties and sectors involved and the matter type.

Thought leader 
Every organisation has a culture, whether articulated or not. It is at the heart of any business. Perhaps it can best be described as the behavioural norms that prevail in the organisation. If you are involved in knowledge management (KM) it is worth the effort of understanding the underlying culture in your firm in order to maximise the effectiveness of KM investment.

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