Masterclass: Integrating KM applications
Knowledge management (KM) in its broadest definition has long existed in law firms in the form of vertical applications. Such applications typically serve one purpose and serve it well. Take the example of a library card catalogue, which is considered to be the most basic form of KM application. A non-integrated vertical application – the library card catalogue in this case – is focused, simple, efficient and easy to use. Such an application requires minimal user input, minimal user training, does not produce any unwanted results (white noise) and gets the results that one is looking for fast.
Feature: Building a better road
“Fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn…” Client-facing know-how is growing up. Once a rather neglected, ill-maintained byway in the complex client-relationship network, it is undergoing serious development with metaphoric resurfacing, additional fast lanes and sophisticated signage. The potholed leaf-strewn country lane of old is morphing into a transcontinental autobahn. A slight exaggeration perhaps? Well, the signs are there and growing stronger.
Feature: Dare to be different
Innovation is usually defined as the creation of something new – for organisations it is usually a change in products and processes; or in law firms, a change in a service.
Law firms now deal in a more competitive marketplace not only in terms of globalisation but also with the oncoming liberalisation of the legal sector. Also, the lifecycle of services is diminishing as competitors quickly copy and reverse-engineer what was once innovative.
Case study: Addleshaw Goddard
Law firms generally have a long history of knowledge management (KM) processes for lawyers, even before it was known as such. The use of precedent documents is a good example, as is the practice of training junior lawyers by pairing them with more experienced practitioners during pupillage or the training contract – effective knowledge transfer is clearly embedded at the heart of the profession.
As law firms have grown larger and the law itself has become more complex, the need for more formal (and often impersonal) processes for KM has also increased significantly.
The last word
I spent a fascinating two days chairing this year’s Ark Group ‘Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession’ conference, which was subtitled, ‘Preparing for the next generation of KM’. There does seem to be something of a revival going on, with firms taking knowledge management (KM) increasingly seriously and knowledge managers in law firms facing growing expectations and challenges.
There are a number of drivers behind this revival. Inevitably one of the strongest is technology.
Opinion: Catherine Flutsch
I was asked by Ark Group to present my ideas about the future of KM in the final session of the ‘Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession’ conference, held at the end of April.
My thoughts immediately turned to the hot topics of the day, such as the commoditisation of legal services, the changing role of the PSL, the increasing link between KM and business development, and so on. It struck me that there are many other people who are far more qualified to talk on these topics than myself, so I decided to take a slightly different approach.
Cover feature: Bridging the gap
Law firms are focusing more sharply on embedding knowledge management (KM) into every part of the business, integrating it into their structure, strategy and culture. The KM function has long been recognised as an essential resource, supporting the work of fee earners with timely research, information, technical expertise and know-how. After all, law firms attract and retain their clients by leveraging the individual and collective knowledge, experience and expertise of their partners and associates. Nowadays, however, KM professionals work closely with other business-support functions to improve processes and efficiency and enhance the services to existing and potential clients, thereby strengthening the firm’s position in an increasingly competitive legal-services marketplace.
A day in the life…
Amost one year has passed since I joined Clifford Chance as knowledge manager in Italy. Speaking with the KM sponsoring partner for Italy in the beginning, I soon understood that although some processes were already in place there was still much to accomplish with KM in this region. However, partners were really committed to pushing things forward and showed a very collaborative attitude towards it.
The support departments in major law firms have proved as effective as their practice-group counterparts at building edifices and creating silos.
In many firms, overt yet inflexible organisational structures together with covert Machiavellian behaviour have conspired to ensure that the walls between support functions are high, with cross-communication and collaboration commensurately low.
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