Masterclass: Information retrieval
I will let you into a secret… The secret of the very best user interface for search applications, which has been around since before search engines even existed: ask somebody else to do the search for you. In particular, ask somebody you trust and who has knowledge of the subject matter you are looking for.
It is a disappointing fact that no matter how much time is spent specifying, designing and tuning a search application, there is always going to be a (significant) group of users who will not use it and choose to let someone else do the search for them, especially where a firm’s culture is one of ‘support’ rather than ‘self-service’.
Feature: Professional development
Appropriate delivery is a critical success factor for devising and implementing a professional development programme that is genuinely responsive to the needs of the business and the professionals working within it. Effective training that is delivered in an engaging way supports a culture of creating and sharing the knowledge, experience and expertise that law firms trade on.
There is general agreement among learning and development professionals that blended learning – a combination of different methodologies depending on the subject being covered, the number of participants and how personalised the learning intervention needs to be – is the most effective way of delivering a strategic training programme.
Feature: The power of personality
I came into knowledge management (KM) from fee earning, as a clinical negligence litigator. I work in a mid-sized regional firm in the Medical Law and Personal Injury Department, supporting litigators who defend clinical negligence and personal injury claims. This article is the result of my efforts to discover more about what makes fee earners tick and how I have tried to use this information to maximise knowledge sharing.
Cover feature: Finding equilibrium
Outsourcing the provision and processing of routine and standardised know-how presents clear business benefits to firms of all sizes. The dilemma is knowing where to draw the line in order to achieve the right balance of internal and external provision: one that maximises efficiency and profitability, while retaining and enhancing the specialised knowledge and expertise that helps to differentiate a firm from its competitors.
In the current swirl of buzzwords and hype around Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, and no doubt soon, Law Firm 2.0, perhaps we should reflect a little before hitching the wagons.
Many firms have been involved in structured knowledge initiatives since the mid 1980s, with the shoulders of several generations of people and technology so far being applied to the grindstone. These efforts have existed to help their firms and lawyers be more ‘knowledge able’ – to be stronger competitors in implementing their business strategies.
With just over a month to go until Ark Group’s inaugural ‘Outsourcing Know-How in Law Firms’ conference, people are beginning to get rather excited. This topic, although by no means new, has been one of the hottest on the KM circuit in recent months. Indeed, when Joanna Goodman, KM Legal’s feature writer, approached knowledge professionals in the early stages of research for this month’s cover feature, she was almost swamped with opinions and comment on how best to utilise external providers in knowledge processing and know-how management.
The last word
I have a simple and practical approach to knowledge management (KM) – it’s all about the action. By this, I mean that what really matters is helping others to work more effectively, to a higher standard and, ideally, with less anxiety. So for me, the test of effective knowledge sharing across support functions is whether the support functions work together more effectively on firm-wide projects.
Comment: Lessons learnt at the Thought Leaders’ Forum
The third annual European Knowledge Management (KM) Thought Leaders’ Forum was held over two days from 19 September.
This year, a broad range of delegates attended from all over Europe including representatives from Shell International, Ericsson, Jones Lang La Salle, Coca-Cola and Cadbury Schweppes. Three law firms sent representatives – Bird & Bird, Linklaters and CMS Cameron McKenna.
A day in the life…
There’s no such thing as a ‘typical day’ as a professional support lawyer (PSL). The only common factors tend to be that what you do on any given day bears little resemblance to what you had planned to do; and that by the end of the day – no matter how hard you try – the number of actions added to your to-do list exceeds the number of tasks completed.
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