Times Are Changing — Are You?

For the last few Sunday nights, my family has been completely absorbed by the upstairs downstairs drama of Downton Abbey. This English import provides a glimpse of life in an aristocratic home just before the First World War. One very poignant moment occurs early in the series when a man trained to be a gentleman’s valet realizes that the skills he has spent a lifetime perfecting are no longer needed.

I found myself thinking of that valet as I read some recent posts on the shifting boundaries of law firm knowledge management. There are some who seem bewildered to find themselves in a world where the traditional things they have done don’t seem valued anymore. Meanwhile, there are others who are finding increasingly inventive ways to stretch their job descriptions.

If you think we are not in a period of flux, you would do well to read some of the posts below. Taken together, they present a picture of law firm life and the role of the knowledge manager that is rather unsettled and unsettling. In the face of these tensions several law firm knowledge managers I know are looking for ways to ensure their continuing relevance. As is so often the case, the interests and innate abilities of particular individuals lead them to explore avenues (and hidden alleys) that may not have been within the traditional territory of knowledge management. I expect this will only accelerate. No matter what our views are on these developments, it’s hard to ignore the pace of change around us. The question for each of us is how are we going to reshape our jobs before the oncoming revolution does it for us?

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3 thoughts on “Times Are Changing — Are You?

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  • January 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm
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    Compare the state of law-firm (or -department) KM to what it could truly be, and it's clear that KM today falls short.

    However, compare the state of KM today to what it was, or to what it would be without KM efforts, and a different picture emerges.

    Both yardsticks are valid. Check your mood and environs, though, when deciding which to employ at a given moment.

  • January 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm
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    Thanks, Steven. I'd go further and say that both yardsticks are necessary in order to keep your KM efforts in proper perspective. That said, I do think that law firm knowledge managers work under some tough constraints, ranging from the poor definition of their area and authority, to the challenges that lawyers present by their very nature. In some extreme cases, it's a miracle that knowledge managers have been able to do much of anything!

    – Mary

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