The Case for Collaboration between Clients and Law Firm KM

In this session, clients speak to the senior law firm knowledge management professionals in the room about KM in client law departments and possible avenues for collaboration with law firms.

[This session is part of a private international gathering of senior BigLaw KM professionals. Because of the private nature of the meeting, these notes are not attributed to any particular speaker. I’m publishing these notes as quickly as possible so please excuse any typographical or other errors.]

Windows into the  Legal Ops World

  • Matter Management
    • for some in-house colleagues, matter management can involve a matter space, for others, it’s all about ebilling.
    • In-house counsel may not have a taxonomy to help organize the matter-related content. (The director of Legal Ops at your client may be glad to have a law firm help with taxonomy or metadata management.)
    • If we could standardize metadata across the entire ecosystem, and push that metadata into the ebilling systems and matter management systems, that would simplify thing enormously for in-house counsel. However, several attendees thought that a universal taxonomy to rule them all was highly unlikely (at least without significant concerted client pressure).
    • Many clients are unaware of the KM assistance that law firms are able AND willing to provide to their clients. One panelist suggested that the firms in the room create a master list of their offerings and then make that list available to the ACC and CLOC.
    • Law firms should not assume that a client’s legal ops director has complete authority to do whatever needs to be done. For some clients, their scope is restricted to ebilling and technology.
    • Law firms would be wise to get ahead of the curve. ACC and CLOC are driving change that you will see very shortly. For example, expect some significant tightening of outside counsel guidelines soon.
    • Having a shared platform between all clients and their law firms would make knowledge sharing much easier. But who would firms and clients trust sufficiently to provide the technology, with requisite security?
    • 10 years ago, the Banking Legal Technology group in London created a shared portal between law firms and clients on HighQ. There were some spikes in usage, but it never rarely gained widespread traction. There is a small handful of banks that use it, but not enough banks do use it on a sustained basis.
    • One of the problems with earlier attempts at this was that the clients wanted access to material in law firm document management systems. However, law firms were prepared to release only their typical type of “client publication” materials on this platform that was visible to other law firms.
    • One participant suggested that a “distributed ledger” approach with shared tokens of trust could be used to create a virtual shared platform.
    • From the in-house perspective, they want outside counsel to offer a service to retrieve the necessary information, not a product.
    • Panelist: The issue is not technology. The issue is that law firms do not really want to share their material PLUS there is no business model to support this sharing.
  • Forms  & Templates
    • the pace of improving/revising legal forms & templates is not fast enough to reflect the speed at which business terms and approaches change.
    • In-house counsel would welcome help from outside counsel on improving the legal terms in client forms and templates.
    • External counsel need to understand better the internal processes at the client regarding how the client updates its own forms and templates
  • Agile Project Management & Change Management
    • One panelist now approaches change in an agile rather than a waterfall way. They focus on producing a minimally viable product rather than the fully developed soup-to-nuts solution.
    • The challenge of change management in-house is that the pace is really fast. Things change radically by quarter and by month. Therefore, outside counsel who want to support their clients must first understand the methodology the client uses and the pace they experience.
    • One law firm is helping a client implement a document management system, including managing the change process.
    • While a law firm’s IT department or KM department may use an agile approach, law firm partners tend to be “anti-agile.” This is a reflection of their great risk aversion. There is a parallel in-house where the in-house lawyers are more risk averse than the business folks.

Collaboration Opportunities

  • The ACC has promoted a Legal Operations Maturity Model that includes law firm collaboration. (See www.acc.com./maturity/)
    • general counsel know ACC and trust it
    • the maturity model creates an early stage, intermediate stage, and mature stage against which legal ops can benchmark themselves.
    • in-house legal departments are using it to help with their strategic planning
    • it includes Legal Ops KM Maturity
      • they are looking for sponsors for their 14 sessions (including webinars)
      • they will launch an RFP process: they are looking for success stories of collaboration between law firms and legal ops teams
  • In the UK, individual clients have been asking their panel of law firms to help them develop in-house thinking and systems.

[Photo Credit: Geralt]

 

 

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