Making Law Firm KM Easier for Lawyers #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: Connecting and Collecting: How Law Firms of Various Shapes and Sizes Make it Easier for Attorneys to Use and Contribute Knowledge

Legal KM succeeds when attorneys use it frequently through their matters and when knowledge collection requires minimal extra work. This panel discussion will feature KM leaders from firms of various sizes discussing how their organization effectively connects their attorneys with knowledge resources — as well as how they efficiently collect knowledge resources from their attorneys. The panel will address connecting and collecting techniques at each phase of a matter; the differences in resources and cultures among firms that may result in different approaches to the connection and collection challenges; and practical ways for KM leaders in different types of organizations to get started with either more effectively connecting, more efficiently collecting, or both.


Meredith L. Williams, Chief Knowledge Management Officer, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC,
Patrick G. Dundas, Associate, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP,
Kevin Colangelo, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Bloomberg BNA

[These are my notes from the 2015 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • 5 Phases of Law Firm KM
    • Traditional content management
    • Technology and content enhancement
    • Client-facing KM products and services
    • Using technology to enhance practices and products
    • Total practice management
  • The Low-Impact KM Resource Journey.
    • Buying an off-the-shelf content product such as model documents and practice notes from The Practical Law Company.
    • Implementing better technology — but a good document management system requires human input for content and for metadata.
    • Enable search or provide concierge search services.
    • They collect all of the “pardon the interruption” or “request for information” emails that are sent to solicit experts and work product. This helps connect people to the resources they need.
    • Document assembly projects are a great way to distill the knowledge of the firm.
  • Data Classification.
    • Baker Donelson undertook a project to identify all their critical systems, all the data points in each critical system, and how the data flows between these systems. This means that they understand all the matters, phases and tasks. And they know specifically which KM resource will be helpful for each matter, phase and task. They also have information governance standards because they do a great deal of healthcare work and must comply with regulation regarding information confidentiality and preservation.
    • Instead of classifying individual documents, classify at the matter level.
  • Should we be in the business of creating and maintaining precedent databases?
    • Schulte Roth says no. It is an uphill struggle that never can be one.
    • Baker Donelson says it is only possible with the full cooperation of practicing lawyers. The firm provides billable hour credit to do this. And, when the resulting work product is sold to clients, the creators receive some of the sales price (after the firm’s venture fund is repaid).
    • How to involve attorneys when you do not have a venture fund? Dundas suggests publishing the unapproved forms with warning labels that they are beta-test ready but may not yet have the highest-level of internal approval. Then get the necessary improvements and approvals as you use them in the course of a matter.
  • Shadow the lawyers in the firm.   This is the best way to understand how the attorneys work and whether they have the right tools. Then make sure you give them the right tools.