What Blockchain Can Teach Legal About Service Models

John Alber believes that law firms are headed to extinction. Drawing from patterns in nature, he sees similar patterns in law firms. He is concerned that there are very few inflection points at which law firms can adapt sufficiently to lead change. He suggests that knowledge management professionals can find a path to useful change by learning from the example of blockchain.

  • John Alber, Practical Futurist, Intitute for the Future of Law Practice.
  • A detailed session description is at the end of this post.

[These are my notes from the 2018 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.]

NOTES:

  • How serious is the Extinction possibility?
    • Looking at nature, we see that species die but sometimes leave behind elements that can give rise to new species. In the law, practices evolve and die. Sometimes they die but leave behind elements that can spawn a new practice. Often they die before they can be replaced by vibrant new practices. Without the option of adaptive practices, law firms will die.
    • Document review used to be the sole preserve of law firms. Now LPOs are taking over that business and there is no obvious substitute business for law firms.
    • A big clue about the potential for extinction — look for ways of doing things that have not materially changed for a long time. In Alber’s view, the legal industry’s approach to contracting is exactly this kind of extinction-ready practice.
  • Nick Szabo:
    • Nick Szabo is an earlier mover in blockchain. He is a computer scientist, legal scholar and cryptographer known for his research in digital contracts and digital currency. (ome believe that he is really Santoshi Nakamoto.)
    • He developed the concept of “smart contracts.” He has analyzed deeply what contracts are, how they work, and how they could optimally be digitized.
    • For him, building contracts on blockchain makes the most sense.
  • Benefits of Blockchain-like Tech for Contracting

    • Institutionless: it does not depend on whether we trust the institution (or law firm) involved. It exists viably separate from specific institutions.
    • Collective: moves away bespoke contracting to contracting by a collective consensus. This leads to less variability and more predictability in the contracting process.
    • Rules-based rather than words-based: this makes it easier to digitize the contracts.
    • Simple: we cannot digitize our contracts without first simplifying them.
  • Peter Drucker Wisdom:
    • “In a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm. … But unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change, that organization … will not survive.”
    • Law firms are ignoring the fact that they need to lead change in the legal industry. They are too focused on the work of today so they seem to ignore the work of tomorrow.
  • How do we get the necessary skills?
    • Think about design-thinking differently. It is a super-skill to acquire.
      • Take a course, do some reading, get smarter about design-thinking.
    • In his view, design-thinking goes beyond the user interface, it goes beyond making things “pretty”.  Its true value is that it helps us understand more deeply the nature of the problem.
    • Once you have a better understanding of the problem, then work to gain influence in your firm so that you can share your understanding and move the firm toward sensible change.
  • KM Professionals Could be Influential
    • We are interdisciplinary so we have a broader view of the problems and possible solutions.
    • However, we need to move beyond thinking of ourselves experts in library sciences. Otherwise, we will not be able to make an impact on our firms.
    • We cannot afford to be passive.
  • Others are innovating while law firms are largely stagnating
    • There are lots of new legaltech vendors and new legal providers that are innovating technology and processes.
    • They are moving at a much faster pace than law firms are.

 

Session Description:

Blockchain is all the news now in legal. It is said to be transforming trust rela onships in everything from land tles to securities transactions. And smart contracts are the talk of the town. But shouldn’t blockchain also teach us something about what we missed along the way? How we record, transact and enforce agreements has been a constant almost since the inception of the common law. Yet we let the digital age be born and grow to maturity without ever considering that perhaps our paper?bound and extraordinarily inefficient service model for managing agreements might need changing. It took computer scientists to reimagine how to make agreements concerning digital assets. With the digital age exploding around us, what else about the law needs reimagining? Everything?

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Redesigning Law Firm Knowledge Management #ArkKM

Jeffrey S. Rovner is Managing Director for Information, O’Melveny & Myers LLP. Today he is speaking about the next frontier for law firm knowledge management: truly successful adoption.

[These are my notes from the 2018 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.]

NOTES:

  • Adoption is the Problem. The elephant in the room for knowledge management is low adoption. Although we offer great tools and services, why don’t our lawyers use them? It’s as if we can’t get through the last mile between our hopes for our wonderful new tools, on the one hand, and our user base, on the other hand.

 

  • Why does this happen???  Here are some of the perennial problems:
    • The Waterfall of Tears:
      • We introduce new tools / products / services via email, which not everyone reads.
      • We invite them to a training session, which few attend.
      • Those who attend do not remember everything they are taught.
      • Those who attend do not always decide that the new tool / product / service is worth the effort to make the change.
    • The 9X Problem: Whenever you are introducing a new technology, it needs to be a least 9 times better than the current tool. The new user is looking at the delta between their current approach and the effort required to adopt the the new approach.  Most new tools fail this test and so the user falls back on the old and comfortable way of working.
  • What can we learn from Online Shopping?
    • Shopping started out as a series of separate stores and storefronts.
    • Then some retailers such as Amazon focused on aggregration: offering as many products as possible. This required a very long tail that might satisfy customers.
    • Next, online retailers adopted nudging techniques that pushed forward recommendations and even extrapolated from searches done in your browser more generally. Some think this is creepy, but it remains a profitable approach.
  • What is the experience of law firms?
    • Most firms started by creating separate storefronts (e.g., Finance, HR, documents, calendar, practice groups, etc.)
    • Then they moved to aggregation via enterprise search.
    • At O’Melveney, they created a layer above the storefronts called Ommni that lets lawyers find what they need without having to figure out where that information originates. However, this is still a “pull” approach. The lawyer must go hunting.
  • 100% Adoption Requires Nudging.
    • To increase adoption, we need to push our efficiency tools.
    • Why?
      • There will also be some compelling new tool that does not fit nicely within our tidy aggregation approach. So it needs to be pushed.
      • The push approach can help us convey information rather than software. People want the information. They would rather remain oblivious to the new software. They want the results, not the means.
      • The push approach relieves users of the need to master new technology.
  • Omniscient. O’Melveny & Myers has created a new way of delivering information rather than merely software.
    • The first step is to identify “Moments” that are significant and require specific “Information” for success.
    • Next disaggregate that Information from its software source so that it can be bundled in a variety of ways to address the needs of a variety of moments.
    • Then, when a specific moment occurs, send the key information to the people involved — before they even request it.
    • Example: when a new matter opens, Omniscient can find and aggregate useful information such as which lawyers have the best experience and availability to staff the matter. Omniscient then sends this information to the staffing administrators by email.

Session Description:

Whether they have intended to do so or not, law firms have been conducting a 20?year longitudinal study to determine whether their lawyers can share knowledge effectively through software. The results are in, and they are decidedly mixed. That is especially unfortunate because today’s law firm business model increasingly depends on delivering the right information on to the right people at the right moment. The time has come to revisit our basic assumptions and design a better approach.

For more information: see Ron Friedman’s post on this session.

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From KM Treadmills to KM Windmills and Beyond

A treadmill in a gym can do you a world of good. A KM treadmill, however, can put you in a world of hurt.

What’s a KM treadmill? That’s a question Chris Boyd (Senior Director of Professional Services at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati) and I addressed earlier this week during ILTA’s remarkable hybrid webinar session that linked simultaneous live meetings of ILTA members in eight cities: Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Toronto. In our presentation (which reprised our highly interactive session at ILTACON 2017), we identified the following characteristics of a KM treadmill:

  • it takes dedicated attention and effort to run the program
  • it stops when your attention and effort stop
  • it often involves a great deal of manual labor
  • it usually requires nagging
  • your KM team dreads it

Does this sound familiar? When researching KM treadmills in preparation for our session, we discovered that far too many “traditional” law firm KM projects were, in fact, pure treadmills. Is it any wonder many law firm KM professionals are frustrated?

So what works better? We have a few suggestions:

KM Windmills

KM Windmills are not dependent solely on the efforts of your KM team. Rather, they find and use existing “energy sources” within the firm that others create and maintain. What types of energy sources do they leverage?

  • existing processes (e.g., new business intake process, pitch preparation process, etc.)
  • existing roles (e.g., having secretaries maintain practice group content)
  • existing technology (e.g., using experience-tracking database to augment precedent and expertise location, enterprise search that leverages existing knowledge stores, etc.)

Because they rely on energy sources that are prized and supported by other parts of the business, these KM programs can share the burden of maintenance and support with those other parts of the business. Of course, the more valuable that energy source is to the business, the less likely it is that your overworked KM team will have to shoulder the laboring oar.

KM Infinite Energy Machines

Moving from a portfolio of KM projects that are primarily treadmills to one comprised mainly of windmills makes a great deal of sense. It allows your KM team to do more with less by collaborating with other successful teams and projects within the firm. If you have managed to achieve this, pat yourself on the back.

Nonetheless, I would be remiss if I didn’t hold out the possibility of something even better: the KM infinite energy generator.  Extrapolating from the Buttered Cat paradox, a KM infinite energy generator is a KM system or project that produces such useful results that its main beneficiaries (outside the KM team) feel compelled to use it more and contribute even more to its continued success. And, the bigger it grows and the more it is used, the better it gets. Twenty years ago, this would have sounded like pure science fiction. However, we are seeing with machine learning the reality of computerized systems that learn from their own processes and then improve those processes.

Sustainable KM

If you are prepared to think differently about your knowledge management efforts, consider developing a sustainable KM program. Just like we have sustainability management in other sectors to reduce damage to the environment, a KM sustainability program aims to optimize KM efforts so that they achieve the highest benefits with the lowest collateral damage possible. For those interested in learning more about this healthier approach to KM, see my earlier article, Sustainable KM (in Thomson Reuters’ Practice Innovations, July 2016).

But wait, there’s more

During both this week’s hybrid webinar and last summer’s ILTACON session, the best part was the table discussions during which attendees shared their treadmill frustrations and their remarkable windmill successes. We learned of some innovative ways law firm KM teams have found to harness the winds of their firms in order to make their KM programs more efficient. This was a reminder that the oldest and most effective way to share knowledge is through conversation. We’re delighted that these sessions provided the impetus for some really helpful knowledge exchange.

[Photo Credit: Rhododendrites]

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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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KM Tools Lawyers Love #ILTAG128 #ILTACON

Session Description:

Knowledge management (KM) professionals often design and implement tools they are certain their lawyers will love, only to have them fall flat and quickly slip into oblivion. Sometimes KM and IT launch a tool expecting lawyer pushback or disinterest and are pleasantly surprised by immediate adoption. Let’s focus on the KM tools lawyers love as we learn about some of the KM tools practicing lawyers have found most helpful and easy to incorporate into their practices. Whether you are just starting out with KM, looking to refresh a long-standing KM initiative or operating with a tight budget and limited resources, come learn which projects will be the quickest, be the easiest and win big points with your lawyers.

Takeaways:

  • Develop a better understanding of the practicing lawyer’s priorities and concerns
  • Gain insight into how lawyers think about their practice and work with their clients and each other
  • Leave with a short list of winning projects to take on when starting out with KM, refreshing KM or performing KM on a tight budget
  • Establish a check list of things to consider when deciding which KM or legal IT projects to pursue and which to postpone or even ditch

Speakers: Patrick DiDomenicoPatrick DundasSally GonzalezMeredith Green

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2017 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so 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.]

NOTES:

  • What is Knowledge Management?
    • KM 1.0 = Improving client service delivery (plus, in the UK: current awareness, professional development, sharing knowledge with clients)
    • KM 2.0 = Winning more business — experience management, knowing the client, business development activities
    • KM 3.0 = Improving processes
    • KM 4.0 = Leveraging AI
  • How do you measure success? A tool is successful if
    • it is used by the lawyers themselves — they don’t delegate its use to others
    • lawyers call you immediately when the tool is down
  • Tools that help GENERATE WORK PRODUCT.
    • Schulte’s Forms Project
      • Know-how: forms stored in iManage folders
      • WARNING: a forms project is extremely time-intensive and effort-intensive. So do not begin the project unless you know for sure that there will be sufficient use of the form. In addition, creating it is less useful if you can’t/won’t keep it up-to-date.
      • Whee there is a business need, these forms will help make the practice of law more efficient.
      • At Schulte, the put drafting instructions in footnotes. They use MS Word’s commenting function to explain the reason why certain language is being used.
    • McGuire Woods uses an external provider such as the Practical Law Company (PLC)
      • PLC provides forms and practice notes
      • For junior associates, this was a godsend — especially since the firm did not have a vast bank of current forms
    • Ogletree has model/form docs, augmented with Lexis Practice Adviser
      • they have homegrown “cream of the crop” model/form documents that their practice support lawyers maintain
      • these materials are collected and available in their Knowledge Resource Center in their intranet, in the document management system (DMS) AND via enterprise search.
      • they use Lexis Practice Adviser to fill in the gaps
  • Document Automation.
    • See the article by Patrick Dundas in the recent ILTA KM white paper
      • Documents drafted using the Schulte document assembly platform (HotDocs) results in substantial reductions in cost and effort
    • At Ogletree the have both internal-facing and client-facing document automation. They did a large-scale document automation process for a multinational client. It resulted in substantial savings of time and costs. And the work product was more consistent. The client was so delighted that they awarded a bonus for this work.
  • Finding what you need.
    • Ogletree uses Recommind. (They are transitioning to Handshake search.) Enterprise search was the most important tool they have implemented to help lawyers find what they need: content, people, matters.
    • McGuire Woods is just starting their KM program so enterprise search is a bit too ambitious for them right now. They have deployed Lexis Search Advantage (LSA) to help lawyers find content in the DMS and in the Lexis collection. They can also tag content with established tags or new tags you create yourself. In their experience, LSA is more intuitive than their DMS native search.
    • LSA does a great job of classifying content. At Ogletree, they have discovered that some of the LSA filters are better than the filters in their DMS.
  • Client/Matter Pages.
    • Lawyers love these types of pages because they give easy access to critical information.
    • These pages provide on demand, instant access to information that was previously buried in PDF reports generated by underlying systems like the time and billing system. Therefore, they do not have to step away from their work to ask someone to generate a special report for them. They can stay “in the flow” of their work.
  • Cara by Casetext. This tool is a great asset for litigators. It allows you to drag a brief into their web interface. Then the tool identifies what cases are relevant to that brief but were not cited by the brief. You can use it to check your own briefs; you can use it to identify the holes in an opponent’s brief.
  • Harvesting PTI. “Pardon the interruption” emails are commonplace in law firms. While they may surface in-the-moment assistance, the content is usually buried in private email threads.
    • In response, Schulte has set up a shared iManage folder to harvest these emails and permit later search and retrieval. As a result, it saves time and money, and causes fewer interruptions. Plus, it costs nothing to implement.
    • Ogletree also has an iManage folder. In addition, because it is stored in the DMS, it is retrievable via enterprise search. Therefore, the lawyers do not need to check the shared folder; all they have to do is run a search in the enterprise search system.
  • CRM Systems. Valuable client information is stored in the client relationship (CRM) system. However, while the Marketing Department might be able to manage the CRM interface, it may not be as easy for lawyers.
    • If you make the data stored in the CRM system accessible via the enterprise search system, then the lawyers can find it without having to tangle with the CRM interface.
  • Experience Management. There are some focused experience management tools.
    • An alternative approach is a simple grid in an MS Word document that details the breadth of legal experience/competencies across the lawyers of the firm.
    • You can also do this via a simple database. However, chances are that the lawyers won’t like the interface of that database.
    • With enterprise search, you can search time entries and matter profiles to infer experience
  • Document proofreading tools. Wordrake and EagleEye are very popular with attorneys.
  • What tools have been less successful in their experience?
    • Task Management System
      • lawyers like a resource that helps them organize themselves, but the lawyers are unwilling/unable to dedicate the time necessary to maintain the system.
      • Baker Donelson is using K2 to provide task management support
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Guiding the Goats in Your Firm

Continuing with my recent menagerie theme, today let’s think about goats. Goats? Yes, Moroccan domestic goats, to be specific. As you can see from the picture in this post, these goats are quite extraordinary; they have the ability to forage for food — in treetops. Why is this interesting? Because by nature goats know how to climb hilly terrain but they do not know how to climb trees. So what gives?

Here’s how Nicholas Bakalar, writing in the New York Times, tells their story:

These domestic goats live in southwestern Morocco, where the climate is dry and in some seasons the only available forage is in the trees. So the goats climb up to get it.

Goats are good climbers — some sure-footed species live happily on mountains, leaping from ledge to ledge. But these domestic goats are not born with an ability to climb trees. They learn the technique as kids.

Their keepers help them climb, and they trim the trees to make it easier for the kids. The goats eventually learn to do it themselves. In the autumn, when there is little food on the ground, they spend most of their time grazing the treetops.

Because the readers of this blog tend to be smarter than the average bear (sorry — I am obsessed with animals this summer!), you will probably have figured out exactly where I am headed. This story has some great lessons for knowledge management personnel:

  • The goats in your firm — and you can define who is a goat in your firm! — are not born with the natural ability to do most of the things you and your knowledge management colleagues know how to do.
  • To train goats properly, you must start by teaching them when they are kids — grab them when they are summer associates and help them learn how to work efficiently and effectively. Above all, teach them early to question “the way we’ve always done it around here.”
  • You will need to provide support for the kids until they master the necessary skills. This support is especially critical because some older billy goats will be dismissive of the value of the knowledge you have to impart. And, some of those billy goats will be worried that these new skills will reduce billable hours. So you will have to help the kids withstand the negative pressure from the goat gerontocracy.
  • You will need to trim the trees to make it easier for the goats.  This means creating sensible, frictionless systems and then removing any unforeseen roadblocks that might arise.
  • The goats must eventually learn to do things for themselves. You cannot hold their hooves forever.
  • This is a matter of survival — it will help them be productive in the lean seasons and the busy seasons.

So here are a couple of question for you: Can the goats in your firm graze in treetops yet? If not, when will you start guiding the goats in your firm so they can learn to do things they would otherwise never be able to do?

***************

For more critical knowledge on goats and goatherds, see this extract from the greatest movie ever made 😉

[Photo Credit: Arnaud 25, Wikimedia]

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Integrating KM into Practice Management #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: The Evolution of Practice Innovation:
Are We Successfully Integrating and Embedding KM within Practice Management Systems?
Law firms continue to re-examine traditional approaches to the practice of law, and along the way many have implemented a wide range of changes that enable firms to deliver client services more efficiently. These innovations touch virtually every aspect of our practice and the way our firms are run. Clearly, KM has not been left behind or subsumed into other support functions. However KM must continue to evolve in step with demands that are reshaping the business of law and redefining service delivery models. This discussion will seek to characterize the foundation of a true practice management platform, as well as the ever- changing issues and challenges that KM is trying to navigate. Is KM the cornerstone of a “post-silo” law firm strategy? Or is practice innovation squarely focused on “Business Intelligence” and financial data points, while missing the context in which KM solutions can be deployed?

Speakers:

Toby Brown, Chief Practice Officer, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Keith Lipman, President, Prosperoware

[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.]

NOTES:

  • What is practice management? Managing matters to achieve client satisfaction and firm profitability.
  • What is the goal? Revenue and Profits!!!  How do we do this? By lowering the cost of delivering services to clients. The answer is not just buying cheaper pencils. It means you need to push work down to the lowest-cost resource within the firm. You need become more efficient in the way you work.
  • What’s the strategy?
    • Few law firm partners are empowered to understand their own contribution to revenue and profits.
    • Far too many law firm partners experience “pro forma surprise.” They do not really know what their matters have generated in terms of maximum billable suntil they see the pro forma. If their team has not billed as much as expected, then their maximum billables are down.
    • You need to know your firm’s profit margin. And you need a clear methodology for achieving that profit margin. Profit measure must be clear, simple and understandably
  • State of the Legal Market: Hyper-competition and flat demand. Corporate Counsel have bigger budgets, but not spending on law firms.
    • Now outside counsel are just a vendor to be handled by the client’s procurement office. In Toby Brown’s words, we are just another toilet paper vendor. This leads to more RFP processes to try to standardize the process for purchasing legal services.
    • Corporate legal departments are growing. They are both controlling the spend and spending differently. In fact, they are moving legal work in-house.
  • How can KM Participate?
    • To quote Kingsley Martin, think about every KM project and ask how far from the bottom line.
    • Consider yourself the provider of “Knowledge Services” rather than a “knowledge manager.”
    • Help lawyers see that increasing their own mastery of KM tools will help them become more efficient.
    • An obvious place for KM concerns “the numbers.” This means providing information and context for numbers such as the cost of a matter: what goes into that cost, what are the variables, etc?
    • Toby estimates that only 10% of law firms actually measure true profitability rather than some proxy for profitability. When the audience was polled, most did not know if their own firms actually measured true profitability rather than some proxy for profitability.
    • Become the best friend of the pricing person in your firm. They will know where the pain points are and which partner is really in pain.
    • There is a great opportunity for KM to help manage outside counsel guidelines and then track performance against those guidelines. At a minimum, read these guidelines to get an early look at emerging trends (e.g., clients are less willing to pay for online legal research).
  • 2016 is going to be really hard
    • The M&A cycle is coming to an end.
    • There is no major litigation wave on the horizon
    • The prospect of significant bankruptcy work is poor.
  • KM needs to be front and center in making 2016 more tolerable (and even successful) for law firms.
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Build a “KM Rapid Response Team” #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: Firm Mergers – How to Build a “KM Rapid Response Team”

When key groups join law firms, or when firm mergers occur, KM is often left standing on the sidelines. Finance, IT, Records, (etc) all spring into action—but what about Knowledge Management? Shouldn’t KM really be the ‘keeper of the playbook’ and able to ‘prep a program’ that can be triggered on a moment’s notice (see: cross-office training and team-building, professional development, experience capture and dissemination, systems integration, exposure of laterals to firm expertise and leadership)? This discussion will explore how firms can leverage KM to support rapid change initiatives in relation to mergers and acqui- sitions. How does a firm’s value proposition change following a merger? And who’s job is it to disseminate, redefine, and characterize the breadth of expertise at the firm? What tools and methodologies can be employed to help integrate new practices and/or resources—while maintaining a common sense of identity or culture?

Speakers:

Silvia LeBlanc, Director of Knowledge Management, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Vishal Agnihotri, Chief Knowledge Officer, Akerman LLP
Ginevra Saylor, National Director, Knowledge Management, Dentons Canada LLP

[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.]

NOTES:

  • KM has the benefit of broader perspective.  KM tends to operate across silos. It works with a variety of people and functions within the firm. This gives KM professionals diverse knowledge and the ability to connect the dots. This also makes KM the perfect group to create the law firm merger playbook or new hire onboarding resources.
  • Why involve KM? When the firm is in merger mode, the firm will call in marketing, finance, etc. They don’t think to call in KM. However, the KM department is one of the support functions that thinks about business problems the same way
  • Communication. Marketing is extremely good at external communication. KM needs to be just as good at internal communications. Focus on the concerns and anxieties of the people who are on the receiving end of change. If the people in the firm are unhappy or anxious, they cannot deliver great service to clients.
  • Getting a seat at the table.  Bully your way to a seat at the table. Then justify your place at the table by solving problems and getting things done.
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KM’s Role in Leading Innovation & Managing Change in Law Firms #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: KM’s Role in Leading Innovation & Managing Change in Law Firms

Innovation and change management are processes, not projects. And in today’s law firm setting, there is demand for both but great sensitivity around how much change the organization can endure at one time. This next case study will explore the theory and process behind successful innovation as well as how to make change stick—transforming best intentions into best practices—sharing examples concerning the role of KM in innovation and change projects at White & Case.

Speakers:

Alicia Hardy, Director of Professional Support, White & Case (UK) Oz Benamram, Chief Knowledge Officer, White & Case

[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.]

NOTES:

  • How they innovate.
    • Innovation is about accelerating the cycle at which small experiments fail.
    • Turning successes into processes by normalizing them and then scaling them up for wider adoption across the firm.
  • Innovation in law firms is hard.
    • Innovation is often the result of a big crisis. However Big Law does not feel that it is in crisis. So the drive to innovate diminishes.
    • Lawyers and law firms are risk averse.
    • Lawyers and law firms are not tolerant of failure.
  • KM should become the R&D function inside law firms.
  • Managing Change.
    • Focus on the emotional and psychological reactions. A tone-deaf approach to change management will amplify natural human emotions of fear and anxiety.
    • Be aware of dangerous assumptions such as one way is better than another.
    • The stages of acceptance of change are not dissimilar to those in Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ study of the five stages of death and grieving. So be aware of this inevitable journey for every one of your internal clients when you propose a change in the way they work.
  • Kotter’s 8 steps to change
    • (See the wikipedia summary)
    • the burning platform = a sense of urgency
    • pull together the guiding team
    • develop a shared vision and strategy for the proposed change
    • plan at the very beginning for good communication to enable understanding and buy in
    • empower others to act
    • produce short-term wins
    • don’t let up — persistence pays
    • create a new culture — this is about anchoring the new way of being/behaving so people cannot backside
  • Lessons from case studies.
    • Communication is key. People will resist that which they do not understand.
    • Be flexible. Your original plan will  inevitably have to be adapted to special or local conditions. Be open to this — within reason.
    • There is no change without casualties. So be strategic when you pick your casualties (i.e., when you decide who will pay the price for change).
    • When there is real risk attached to project, create a cushion. For example, when you are making dramatic change to the work environment (e.g.,  the DMS), allow people to work in either the new version of the DMS or the old version for a transition period.
    • Because people do not read email, they tried alternative forms of communication. Their most successful method of communication turned out to be sending everyone a postcard.
  • Conclusions:
    • Understand the problem.
    • Adapt the solution to fit your firm.
    • Have a plan, but be prepared to change if..
    • Communication is key. Communicate and promote at every opportunity.
    • Prepare to play the long game. Then everything is possible!
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Matter Profiling: What’s in it for Me? #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: Matter Profiling: What’s In It For Me?
Law firms are increasingly invested in matter profiling to help support the collection of knowledge and data that can be mined for more effective search and analytics. Experience capture, financial data and other knowledge artifacts are critical to the success of any LPM, process or pricing initiatives, and can involve disparate teams throughout the matter lifecycle. This panel discussion will tap various firm functions for their unique perspectives concerning both how and why client and matter profiling is critical and how each function benefits from a “matter lifecycle” focus.

Speakers: 

Peter Kaomea, Chief Information Officer, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Vic Peterson, Chief Information Officer, Stinson Leonard Street LLP,
Brent Miller, former Global Director of Knowledge Management, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

[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.]

NOTES:

  • The data is the knowledge. Stinson has created a Unified data platform that shows the tools they own and how the data in each of those tools flows across tools/platform. They have moved beyond an old-fashioned data warehouse to database field relationships. The trigger for this effort was the move to Thomson Reuters 3E.
  • Throw away the word “profiling.”  What we are really doing is attaching useful metadata to specific records and then linking that metadata in meaningful and useful ways to enable better knowledge transparency and flow within the firm. Creating and applying the right metadata requires real expertise and skill. This is an area in which KM professionals could shine.
  • What does good metadata enable? Here are a handful of examples:
    • legal project management
    • alternative pricing arrangements
    • representative experience
    • business development
    • precedent retrieval
    • cyber security that provides security without crippling the practice of law
  • What are the big “waves” or challenges KM must confront?  You need both the content AND the metadata in order to respond effectively to:
    • Resilience: law firms downtown have learned that digitizing their records, coupled with a strong network, allows them to be up and running despite disasters and disruptions such as 9/11, the northeast power outage of 2003, the Japanese Tsunami and Superstorm Sandy.
    • Cyber Security: the challenge is to provide extreme security (e.g., completely locking down the entire DMS and email archives) while enabling massive sharing. If you do things incorrectly, people are working blind.  If you do it well, the relevance (i.e., signal) goes up and the distractions go down (i.e., noise). A lockdown of the DMS and email archives at Sullivan & Cromwell triggered renewed interest in KM. Suddenly practice groups started mining their documents and data, and then providing it to colleagues. (S&C does allow lawyers to see some metadata on locked down matters. If lawyers find a possible match in matters, they can request that KM review the matter to see if there are documents that would in fact be useful to the lawyer making the enquiry.)
    • Cognitive Computing: Cognitive computing is an example of technology enabling enormous new heights of productivity. As computer power grows, we facing an opportunity and a threat. We should plan for it.
  • Ask the right questions and then study the facts. At Stinson, they did a study of their DMS use and found that most lawyers used only 3% of the DMS, and these were largely recent documents. Therefore, they felt comfortable with their limited hybrid approach to locking down parts of the DMS.  Because they did the study, they were able to make the case for overriding a lawyer’s “hunch” that they need unrestricted access to the entire DMS at all times.
  • “A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste!”
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