We’ve all heard the “what keeps you up at night” question. Nonetheless, on a day devoted to terror, it seems appropriate to ask again: “What scares you?” If you’re a law firm knowledge manager, here are some things you ought to be considering:
- Serious Security. Security is a good thing, no? Not if a concern for security significantly encroaches on the free flow of information across your firm. This is precisely the conundrum facing law firm knowledge managers who see clients driving their outside counsel to lock down information on a need-to-know basis. When these hyper-restrictive measures are in place, how do you ensure that the work of each lawyer represents the collective wisdom of the entire firm? This is the scary side of security.
- Moldering Models. You may be in a KM department that has done an outstanding job of creating the model documents that the lawyers in your firm believe they need to work efficiently. But have you been equally successful in keeping those models updated? If not, how do you keep lawyers safe from errors that can occur when they rely on an outdated model?
- Fewer Tech Toys. In the early 2000s, there were lots of technological advances to drive KM programs. Law firm KM personnel could keep themselves well-occupied by implementing client extranets, SharePoint portals and enterprise search engines. Recently, however, there have been few if any shiny new tech toys. This means that law firm knowledge managers must move beyond working for their vendors to actually considering a more strategic approach to KM. For some, this will be a daunting if not downright scary challenge.
- Stagnant Career Path. Have you assessed the professional development of your KM staff recently? How many have been expanding their skills? How many have been assuming additional responsibilities? How many are ready for a new, more senior position? Can your firm provide them with a satisfying career path? In these days of reduced budgets, few firms are creating new positions. So how will you keep your best performers engaged and growing?
- Competition from Financial Services Firms. In Snacking on Big Law’s Crumbs, I reported on how some accounting firms were doing work that looked an awful lot like legal work. In fact, they came close to competing with law firms. Competition from the financial services industry has now spilled over into law firm knowledge management. While law firm KM jobs do not come up all that often, recently a few firms have seriously considered KM personnel from the financial services industry for senior roles in law firm KM departments. If you thought you could make steady progress up through the ranks to claim your law firm CKO crown someday, think again. It may not be all that easy if there is competition from law firm personnel AND financial services personnel. Are you ready to compete?
So what scares you? And what are you going to do about it?