KM Legal Magazine, 2 (4), 2008

Editor’s letter
One of the true benefits of the editorship of KM Legal is the increasingly diverse information at my finger tips, when it comes to finding content to fill these pages. Gone are the days when knowledge management (KM) was relegated to the doldrums of a dusty back office, where technology-driven information professionals filed and guarded the organisation’s knowledge and data.


Feature: Data categorisation
With billions of web pages on the ever-expanding internet, and internal business data mushrooming, the problems associated with finding and understanding the relationships between pieces of information increase on a daily basis. In recent years a new phenomenon for describing and organising content has emerged from the world of web-based social software: tagging. What is tagging, how does it work and what, if any, are the implications for law firms?

Case study: Duane Morris LLP
The concept and implementation of a best practice seminar in online research skills for fee earners, devised by the Library and Research Services team at US firm Duane Morris LLP. By Christine Scherzinger.
One of the biggest challenges facing law librarians today is how to effectively communicate information about the cost of online research to time-pressed lawyers. Large firms may have access to hundreds of electronic resources, all with different price structures. Making lawyers aware of resources and explaining the differences among free, flat-rate subscription, per-minute and transactional pay-per-use services is no easy task yet it is a core function of the modern law library. Informed lawyers are better able to choose the best resource to answer their legal issue at the least cost to the client.

Harnessing e-mail as a KM resource
We’ve all heard the mind-numbing statistics about the global explosion of e-mail. For example, in a 2006 study, the IDC predicted that during 2007 nearly 97 billion e-mails would be sent daily on a worldwide basis – and that more than 40 billion of these would be spam. Law firm IT organisations have met this challenge with technical solutions including centralised e-mail archiving, spam filters, e-mail inbox size limits, and by encouraging the use of personal e-mail archives.

Cover feature: Which route?
The document management system (DMS) has long been the factory assembly line for most big law firms. In turn, it is the largest searchable repository of knowledge within this environment. With the rise of Enterprise 2.0 technologies and their alignment with knowledge management (KM), the question arises how these new technologies might affect the use of existing technologies, such as the DMS. Currently, one of the most promising Enterprise 2.0 technologies for KM is the wiki.

Case study: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
A traditional view of library and information services is that its primary concern is with storing, organising and enabling access to commercial information sources, such as books and online research tools. Of course, that view has never been entirely accurate. The skills librarians apply to making commercial information sources available to the firm, we also apply to information generated within the firm. Efforts to collect, organise, store and enable access to information held within organisations may be less evident to clients of library services than the books on our shelves, but these efforts are a significant part of what we do. Law firms and the libraries that serve them are in the midst of a period of great change, but this change offers new opportunities for librarians to move beyond our current roles and responsibilities and into new areas. Our firm’s enterprise search project has presented our Library Services department with just such an opportunity: to step outside of our traditional spheres of work, yet contribute to something that is very much aligned with our mission.


The last word…
For many firms the term knowledge management (KM) has become synonymous with the technical know-how embedded in their core professional skill. It is owned by the professional-support and information-management communities and runs the risk of becoming yet another silo in the multi-compartmentalised structure that afflicts many organisations.
It would be far better to define KM in a more expansive way. After all, when boiled down to its essence, what does a professional-services firm do if not manage knowledge and ideas (in the broadest definition of these words) and develop relationships.

Q&A: The effect of the economic downturn on KM
The current economic slowdown has recently been on the mind of many law firms in the UK and global marketplaces. But as Lucy Dillon, director of KM at Berwin Leighton Paisner explains, while the situation is by no means ideal, it does provide a chance to do some KM housekeeping. Interview by Kate Clifton

Opinion: Catherine Flutsch
On 6 January, New York Times journalist, Alex Williams, published an article called ‘The Falling-Down Professions’.1 In the week that Hillary Clinton claimed an unexpected victory over Barack Obama at the New Hampshire primaries, Williams’ article was the second most popular on New York Times online.
Williams states that American doctors and lawyers feel that society no longer views these professions as the embodiment of success, leading to a significant drop in the morale of the practitioners of these professions.
While Williams draws together US-centric evidence to support his argument, many legal practitioners outside the States will recognise some of the trends…

Thought leader
The librarian in today’s business faces myriad challenges: the need to adapt rapidly to technology advances; the potential shortage of staff to replace an older generation of librarians; as well as budgetary cuts and a reduction in physical space afforded to library services. But if there’s one overriding challenge in all of this, it is surely the problem of perception.
Where end users are increasingly accessing information themselves, library services are in danger of being seen as outdated and unnecessary. The acquisition and dissemination of information appears to have successfully moved out of the controlling hands of the few, into the directly actionable hands of the many. Why bother with the middleman, when you can access and use the information you need at the touch of a button?

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