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.

Speakers:

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.]

NOTES:

  • 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.
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Client and Matter Profiling through the Matter Lifecycle #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: Client/Matter Profiling Throughout the Matter Lifecycle

Imagine capturing context from the get-go and approaching matter intake as an opportunity to define the parameters of knowledge collection, and then building this into the workflow of every matter the firm takes on. When a new client or a new legal project comes to a firm, the priority is to create a new client and matter file in the firm’s accounting system as quickly as possible. However, establishing a record in the accounting system for billing purposes is just the beginning. Data at the client level (and related party level) and the matter level (legal project level) must be collected from the time of inception of the client/matter through the end of the engagement. It’s simply not enough to talk about what data should be collected, there needs to be a discussion about the limitations and difficulties. Where do you start, and what is a minimum feasible approach that can support the value of concept?

Speakers:

Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati,
Chad C. Ergun, Director, Global Practice Services & Business Intelligence, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP,
Deborah S. Panella, Director of Library & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore 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:

  • Why matter profiling is important. Matter profiling facilitates better marketing, understanding client needs, pricing, selling, RFPs/pitches, identifying expertise, delivering legal services.
  • Matter profile requirements.
    • Accurate. Ideally, matter profiles are accurate. However, too often this is not reality.
    • Comprehensive
    • Consistent — using an agreed taxonomy
    • Done within routine workflow.
    • Completed as quickly as possible.
  • Challenges to matter profiling.
    • Too many cooks — every department/constituency has different reasons for participate and different expectations for the outcome. They also choose different ways of participating. At the end of the day, all they share is the belief that cooperation with matter profiling is a good thing — at least in theory!
    • Timing — too often asking lawyers for matter profiling is a timing challenge. You ask them before they know or after they care. Both yield suboptimal results. (It is very hard to interrupt attorneys in the middle of a matter to get their insights for matter profiling. The attorneys are more focused on client deadlines than internal knowledge needs.)
    • Time & Effort — participants do not always believe that they receive results that are commensurate with the time and effort involved.
    • Quality Assurance — it can be hard to standardize approaches, because the approaches are the result of differing workflows and work beliefs. For example, it can be hard for marketing and KM to agree on industry codes. And that is only one data point.
  • Capture and Consume. As much as there are challenges to capturing the necessary information, there is an equivalent challenge in displaying it in a form that is easy to consume by lawyers and law firm support functions.
    • Automate as much as possible in terms of capture and display.
    • Skim the cream off the new business in-take process — leverage that system as much as possible.
    • Consider whether there are any bits of information you can extract from legal documents as they are being developed in the course of an engagement.
    • When you capture the data, put it at the right level: should it be associated with the client or with the matter or even a sub-matter?
    • Provide an alert system to focus KM on creating even a rudimentary matter profile at the beginning of the matter.
    • Wilson Sonsini uses a document assembly tool (contract express) to help lawyers profile the matters they are working on.
    • Wilson Sonsini “pays” lawyers with billable hour credit (up to a cap) for assisting with these profiles.
    • Wilson Sonsini also provides deal profile and fee information to lawyers, to help them provide ballpark figures to clients who are inquiring about the cost of new representation.
    • Another firm creates  a closed matter questionnaire. Before providing the questionnaire to the lead attorney on the matter, they complete as much of the questionnaire as possible from other internal and external sources. Then these completed questionnaires are indexed by Recommind to serve back to the lawyers information on precedents and expertise.
    • White & Case uses their process of creating electronic closing binders to capture additional matter profile information. This work is done in their Manila office.
  • Use external resources. Sometimes it faster to receive notification of deal closings from external resources than internal resources. (Lawyers don’t always remember to report closings.)
  • Collaborate.
    • Involve marketing, legal secretaries, practice groups, the records department, etc.
  • Show the results.
    • Find ways to surface the data back to the lawyers.
    • Use the data to identify legal expertise and then mash that up with individual lawyer skills (e.g., language skills).
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How does KM Factor into the Strategic Fabric of the Firm? #ArkKM

Session Description: 

Baker Donelson takes a holistic approach to firm strategic planning. In this keynote segment, attendees will hear from Jennifer Keller—Baker Donelson’s new President and COO. Taking the position in April, she is the first woman in this role and brings a unique perspective to the function of knowledge management in pursuit of the firm’s strategic goals.

Speaker:  Jennifer P. Keller, Firm President & Chief Operating Officer, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC

[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 Development at the Firm. Baker Donelson’s KM efforts started in 2002. In 2004, they instituted “KM Dollars” (now called the venture fund — see below) to provide incentives to lawyers to participate in KM projects. In 2005, they launched their first KM strategic plan. In 2010, they moved to their second KM strategic plan. Now they are working on strategic efforts for the 2015-2019 period: KM Consultancy work, KM Technology and Product Development, and KM Department Reengineering.
  • Holistic Approach to Strategic Planning. Baker Donelson has a strategic planning body that involves departments, practice groups, KM LPM, Marketing executive management, and the Board (i.e., management committee in strategic planning. This strategic planning body studies, plans and recommends courses of action for the firm.
  • The Venture Fund. The venture fund is the way to “pay” attorneys for working on non-billable projects, including KM and other research and development projects. This fund is a “significant amount of dollars” that are put in the budget and used to compensate attorneys with billable hour credit for strategic projects that are otherwise non-billable. They have a rigorous application review process that requires each application include an approved plan. Then, when the lawyers apply for funding, their claim must be substantiated by an audit by the KM department to ensure the work done through this fund is of strategic value to the firm.
  • 5 Keys to integrating KM into the Firm.
    • Understand the psychology of the attorney of 2015. There is pre-2008 lawyer life and post-2008 lawyer life. Now lawyers are operating under greater scrutiny with respect to efficiency and value for the client.  Now the new focus is: lower cost, more profitability, productivity.
    • Have a seat at the table.  To be effective in KM, you need to understand the firm and its people. This means being at the strategic planning table, and having a foot in administrative management and practice management. If you cannot get a seat at the table, have a relentless advocate who does have a seat at the table.
    • Focus on client value. This does not mean the same thing to everyone: lower cost? Higher predictability? Better outcomes? More transparency? The definition of client value is set solely by the client. So you need to have some core agreement with your clients as to what constitutes client value to them. If you do a client survey, make sure that the KM department sees the results to that they can tailor their work accordingly.
    • Don’t forget the importance of Support Staff and Administrative Departments. Assistants are integral to the work of attorneys and their practices. These assistants can be important allies when converting lawyers to a new workflow or behavior.
    • Identify and help remove obstacles. Look at what is working. Look at what is not being used. Then ask “Why?” When you find the answers, you will be a hero. As you do this work, remember that good communication is critical. Don’t fall back on email for everything. Baker Donelson uses a great deal of one-on-one training to help people in the firm engage with KM and its efforts.
  • Have a  great KM team.

 

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Collaboration Between KM and Marketing #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: KM & Marketing: True Partnership or Marriage of Convenience?

Law firm marketing departments regularly collaborate with lawyers to produce events, publications, pitch materials and more. The attorneys add context to the core functions of Marketing. Interestingly, that sounds a lot like KM’s goal of transforming information into knowledge by adding context. Is it possible that Marketing and KM have more in common than other administrative departments, and that intra-departmental collaboration can create an exponential value boost in a law firm? Our panel of Marketing and KM professionals will discuss collaborative successes as well as failures and the consequences of silo’d departments. How can KM and Marketing make CRM a success? How can business and client intelligence fuel both disciplines? Can KM and Marketing succeed at creating new product offerings? Is the elusive after-action review attainable through collaboration?

Speakers: 

Scott Rechtschaffen, Chief Knowledge Officer, Littler Mendelson P.C.,
Laura G. Murray, Esq., Chief Marketing Officer, Bilzin Sumberg,
Brad Newman, Practice Innovation Manager, Cooley 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:

  • Ways in which Marketing and KM Collaborate.
    • KM creates materials that marketing then distributes to clients and potential clients.
    • KM supports Marketing in conference planning and presentations.
    • KM and Marketing collaborate on deal data. Cooley provides data visualization tools to the public so that they can interpret this data.
    • Build databases that enable data analysis and collaboration. For example, allow Marketing and KM to share the experience database.
  • How to overcome barriers to this collaboration?
    • Marketing likes to control the message. Therefore, they are reluctant to allow lawyers to present directly to the public — especially via social media. Marketing does not control lawyer communications in the course of matters, when speaking to clients, when filing with governmental agencies, when appearing before the court. So why not trust lawyers on social media?
    • A key issue is awareness: each department may not be aware of what the other department is doing and what its priorities are. Along with awareness, the departments need to provide transparency into their processes.
    • Be willing to share credit (or assume the blame) for collaborative efforts.
  • CRM. Implementing a truly useful client relationship management system has been a challenge for many firms. At Cooley, the KM department has supported Marketing in finding better workflow and better ways to extract and analyze data lodged in Salesforce. While Marketing may know how to use a CRM well, Rechtschaffen believes that most lawyers don’t know how to use the tools. At Bilzin, KM owns the CRM system, not Marketing. This makes sense for Murray since KM is more focused on maintaining the integrity of the data. (She believes that Marketers are more on the “art” side, while KMers are more on the “science” side of this equation.) The key issue is to show the attorneys every day of the data that is in the CRM system. This motivates them to add their own data.
    • Alicia Hardy of White & Case commented that it can be divisive to have one department “own” a system. It is far better to have the firm itself “own” each system, but then involve all the relevant support functions in implementing it and enhancing it.
  • Keys to collaboration. Make sure that there is a constant discussion between KM and Marketing. Each KM attorney may be assigned to a practice group, but a marketing manager will be too. Make sure they are talking and finding ways to collaborating. Each should feed the other with new ideas. Each should provide implementation support to the other. Make sure that at the grassroots level they are interacting professionally and, even, socially. Have coffee. Have lunch.
  • Create infrastructure. At Littler, they assign a marketing professional to every KM initiative. This ensures that both departments create awareness and transparency. It also creates important relationships that make the work better.

 

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Advice from an Iraq Vet to KM Professionals

person-question-1158128-1280x1280Erik Booker could be a middle school student’s nightmare. In his current job, he is a seventh-grade teacher in South Carolina. Before becoming a teacher, however, he was a US Army intelligence officer in Iraq. That experience taught him to read body language and to know when someone it not being entirely truthful.

Now do you see his potential to scare a seventh-grade student?

In the course of a moving Storycorps interview conducted by his former student, Jenna Power, Booker offers the following advice to his student:

Be brave. Now let’s face it, there are some students who sit in my class and they do what I tell them to do. But you were never satisfied with that. You always said, ‘But wait…’ That was my favorite phrase from you: ‘But wait…’

I want you to ask those questions. ‘Why is it that way? Why do we do things that way?’ To me, that is what sets people apart — that desire to know more.

As I heard this interview, I mentally swapped out some of his words to fit another scenario we know too well:

Now let’s face it, there are some KM professionals who sit in a law firm and they do what the partners tell them to do. But you were never satisfied with that. You always said, ‘But wait…’ That was my favorite phrase from you: ‘But wait…’

I want you to ask those questions. ‘Why is it that way? Why do we do things that way?’ To me, that is what sets KM professionals apart — that desire to know more.

By changing just a handful of words, a seventh-grade phenomenon became a very familiar law firm KM phenomenon. While the partners of your firm may be well-intentioned, it is still your job to ask the follow-up questions. It is still your job to ensure that you have identified the root cause and are addressing it rather than the symptoms of a problem. After all, KM is your area of expertise, not theirs.

As you work this week to advance knowledge management inside a law firm, remember Erik Booker’s advice. Keep asking yourself and your colleagues: “Why is it that way? Why do we do things that way?” And don’t settle for the obvious answers.

If you are attending the Ark Conference on Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession this week, ask these questions of the presenters, vendors, and other attendees. And, once again, don’t settle for the obvious answers.

It is in asking and answering these questions that we open up a window on our hidebound practices and out-of-date thinking. It is in asking and answering these questions that we create the opportunity for insight and innovation.

So take the advice of this Iraq vet. It is how you will set yourself and your KM effort apart from the others.

[Photo Credit: Sigurd Decroos]

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Revolutionary Integrations — #ILTACON #ILTA116

ILTACON 2015 LogoSession Summary: Attorneys need information about their matters from a variety of sources, and the days of having to jump from one tool or system to the next are over! See how firms are enabling collaboration, matter management and project management by strategically fitting together technologies to create a single platform where attorneys can create, collaborate, share and retrieve knowledge. They are simplifying the way attorneys access and interact with dozens of different technologies and creating next-generation systems designed to support and streamline attorney workflows. See firsthand how they are making it happen!

Speakers:

  • Meredith Williams, Baker Donelson
  • Jeffrey Rovner, O’Melveny & Myers
  • Ginevra Saylor, Dentons (moderator)

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2015 Conference. 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:

  • Audience Overview: There were about 90 attendees. When asked by the presenters, only about 5 attendees indicated that their firms had active matter pages.
  • O’Melveny’s Matter Pages. The firm introduced the concept of matter pages five years ago. They remembered the ease of having all matter materials within a single redweld. With digitization, however, the various materials related to a matter were scattered as far as the attorney was concerned: documents were in the document management system, correspondence in email inboxes or archive folders, financial information was in the time/billing system, etc.
    • The initial concept:
      • matter updates: news posted here for the benefit of the entire team, and also emailed to members of the team
      • financial information: amounts accrued/billed/realized, leverage, etc.
      • list of timekeepers
      • links to matter documents and practice support materials
      • ethical screen information
      • real-time information
      • interactive elements
    • The current approach: In addition to the original materials they have added
      • budgeting tools, including tools for alternative fee arrangements
      • key financial indicators (KPIs)
      • modules to support legal project management
    • The matter pages are a front-end to a wide range of data sitting in the data warehouse (in SQL tables in the original systems of record). They use stored procedures to avoid doing complex things on the fly.
    • They use Recommind to retrieve content from the document management system.
    • The visibility of matter pages is controlled by ethical screens and, in the absence of a mandatory screen, access can be limited to a defined group.
      • The matter pages are composed of modules. These modules have granular security so that the firm can restrict access to specific modules or to specific content within modules.
  • Baker Donelson’s Electronic Matter File.
    • “If you force them they will come.” They achieved this by consolidating all the relevant data into a single interface
    • Client/Matter Dashboards. These dashboards are created automatically in SharePoint 2010 as soon as a new matter is opened. The dashboards are designed for information consumption rather than collaboration.
      • They have almost 4000 dashboards.
      • The dashboards include basic information on how the client wants to be contacted.
      • They use Recommind to push the information into the dashboards.
    • Client Dashboards:
      • client profile details
      • documents
      • Interaction contact & event details
    • Matter dashboards:
      • critical content: financial data on the matter
      • matter budget
      • documents
      • correspondence
    • Extranets
      • Extranets enable collaboration by providing the ability to
        • see Information about the File
        • Manage the Client or File
        • Work the File more efficiently
      • Designed with mobility in mind
      • Client-facing extranets:
        • SharePoint team calendars — organized by matter
        • case assignment information — which Baker Donelson personnel are managing specific client matters
        • quarterly reports generated by Contract Express
        • wherever possible, they generate documents for each matter via Contract Express (document assembly)
        • discovery banks of related content
    • Next phase = BAKERPRACTICE
      • the KM team observed several lawyers as they worked — this revealed all the hassles of “dancing among the systems” in order to “work the file.”
        • behind this new effort is two years of due diligence plus four years spent clarifying their universe of matter types for the firm
      • they will have to create a new interface that allows lawyers to work a matter from a single place
        • a lawyer will see a list of files
        • then the lawyer the lawyer can drill down to the task that lawyer needs to accomplish
        • when the lawyer closes a document, the system will show the lawyer how time that lawyer spent drafting, show the likely client-matter number, and then ask the lawyer if she would like to report that time now.
        • when the lawyer closes an email, they will receive a similar billing prompt
      • they have retained an external UI/UX firm to make sure they get the user-facing elements right
      • they will be choosing participating vendors shortly
      • they estimate that BAKERPRACTICE will result in significantly more accurate time reporting (and billing)
  • Start with Why
    • Bring meaning to information
    • Matter management – matter centricity alone is not enough
    • Enhance collaboration
    • Simon Sinek:  “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
  • Lessons Learned.
    • Do not take the lawyer outside their process.  Learn their process and then build to that.
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Making Better Choices

scales-36417_1280What do Leonardo da Vinci, Ludwig van Beethoven and you have in common besides talent and intellect? The 24-hour day. Each day we make choices about how we will spend our time. And those choices determine our output and impact.

Here is the underlying truth. We all operate within constraints — whether it is the 24-hour day or the limitations of a budget. So the challenge is how to make better choices that yield better results.

This issue of making better choices is critical in law firm knowledge management (“KM”). I have yet to meet a KM professional in any industry who says that they have all the resources necessary to cope with the demand for their work and attention. So if we all are struggling with demand that outstrips resources, what is the sanest way of responding? Make sure you are allocating your time and resources to the projects that deliver the greatest good for the firm.

To be clear, this is not merely philosophical advice. It highly pragmatic and admittedly tough. We don’t always understand what will yield the greatest good for the firm. Because of this, we sometimes let our work priorities get skewed by the person who is most senior, most influential or, sometimes, most annoyingly persistent.

It was to address this challenge that I earlier asked law firm KM professionals whether they themselves were force multipliers and whether the work of their teams had a force multiplier effect on their firms. In the same vein, I am now asking law firm KM professionals if they are allocating their resources to the most impactful projects. The definition of what constitutes an impactful project varies with each firm and its strategy. Nonetheless, regardless of the strategy, each KM department must align its resource allocation and effort to that strategy.

You have to tackle the task of prioritizing and then re-prioritizing regularly. Situations change, expectations change, and then suddenly you have new pressing priorities. It is for this reason that I use the concept of a portfolio of KM projects that, like an investment portfolio, should be rebalanced from time to time to reflect changes in priorities and circumstances.

The key to any successful portfolio is to make sure that you have the right mix of investments and that you are not over-invested in a category that does not yield the desired results. To achieve this, you must understand your strategic goals, the range of available investments, and how particular investments serve those strategic goals. You also need to be disciplined to cut back on investments that demand too much of your resources or do not deliver as planned. This is how we rebalance our personal investment portfolios and it is the same principle that applies to your KM investment portfolio.

The white paper, Rebalancing your knowledge management portfolio,  takes a closer look at what a properly balanced KM portfolio might look like. It also discusses the real challenge of managing a big project, like an intranet project, which can demand a disproportionate amount of your resources if you lose sight of your strategic goals and fail to put the project in its proper place. No matter what your intranet choices are, the key is to make sure that those choices support your efforts to reach your strategic goals with the resources at hand.

Whether you are working within the constraints of a 24-hour day or over-stretched resources, the key is to keep making better choices.

[Photo Credit: Nemo]

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Why Your Firm Does Not Innovate

barrier roadsign-30907_640What is holding your law firm back?

You hear about exciting things happening in other industries. You hear about exciting things happening in other law firms. Meanwhile you and your colleagues are told to keep your heads down and just work harder. Do what is expected. Don’t rock the boat.

Innovation is not on the menu.

What is keeping innovation off your firm’s menu? In 2008 I wrote about Claudia Kotchka, an extraordinary business executive who helped lead the revitalization of Procter & Gamble. She did it by using design principles to understand better how P&G’s customers lived their lives and how P&G’s products could make those lives better. In my earlier post, Why KM Needs Good Design, I borrowed from Kotchka’s work to suggest ways in which law firm knowledge management professionals could use design thinking to improve their products and services.

Clearly my focus was too circumscribed. In fact, not just KM departments, but also the businesses that house them can benefit from this approach to innovation. None of this is news. So why don’t more firms try it?

In Kotchka’s view, there are three major barriers to innovation:

  • Complacency. Success makes a company very resistant to trying new things;

  • Risk-aversion. Many big companies have what Roger Martin calls a tension between validity and reliability. The punch line is that companies are very reluctant to take any risks that would upset the profit that flows from reliably making a high quality product that lots of people want to buy; and

  • Functional silos. Kotchka observes that when required to work in cross-functional teams, different functions — such as marketing, finance, and manufacturing — look at problems only from their functional perspectives. However, she noticed that when those team members take off their functional hats and take responsibility for solving the business problem — as start-up teams do – the results are much better.

Chances are you will find at least one of these (or, more likely, all three of them) in your law firm. That is why your firm does not innovate.

Which leaves me with one question: what will you do about this?

[Photo Credit: Nemo]

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Back to School

harvard law school logoTuition at Harvard Law School is not a trifling matter. At a price tag of $57,200 for the 2015-2016 academic year, it is worth asking from time to time if students are getting good value for their money.

In this spirit, three members of the HLS faculty recently surveyed 124 practicing lawyers at the law firms that hire the most HLS students*:

The survey had two main objectives: (1) to assist students in selecting courses by providing them with data about the relative importance of courses; and (2) to provide faculty with information about how to improve the curriculum and best advise students.

The first question they asked had to do with which law school “business-methods” courses would be most beneficial for current law students. The responses were quite consistent across transactional lawyers and litigators:

  • Accounting and Financial Reporting
  • Corporate Finance
  • Negotiation Workshop
  • Business Strategy for Lawyers
  • Analytical Methods for Lawyers
  • Leadership in Law Firms
  • Statistical Analysis/Quantitative Analysis

When asked which of the courses in the area of Business Organization, Commercial Law, and Finance were most useful, transactional lawyers and litigators all agreed that Corporations and Securities Regulation were key. In addition, the transactional lawyers recommended Mergers & Acquisitions, while the litigators recommended Securities Litigation.

With respect to courses outside the area of Business Organization, Commercial Law, and Finance, the courses judged most useful fell along practice lines:

  • Litigation: Evidence, Federal Courts, Administrative Law
  • Transactions: Intellectual Property Law, Patent Law, Copyright Law

The next area surveyed was the skills and knowledge bases that law firms considered to be most important for students to acquire:

  • Accounting/Financial Statement Analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Financial Markets/Products Negotiations
  • Business Strategy/Industry Analysis
  • Statistical/Quantitative Analysis
  • Legal Services Industry

It is interesting to note that the lawyers surveyed viewed Teamwork to be almost exactly as important as Accounting/Financial Statement Analysis. In the words of the authors of the study: “Taken together, these results suggest that law firms value softer skills and institutional knowledge as well as rigorous analytical skills.”

So why does any of this matter to your law firm knowledge management department? The respondents to the survey are your current colleagues. The student beneficiaries of the survey will be your colleagues shortly. This survey identifies the subjects they find most useful. This leads to some important questions for you:

  • Are these subjects and skills well-supported by your KM program and resources?
  • Are your KM personnel trained and able to assist practitioners in these areas?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, isn’t it time you took a leaf out of the HLS playbook and started to realign your program, resources and personnel?

* The law firms surveyed were “the 11 largest employers of HLS students over the last several years: Ropes and Gray, Davis Polk, Skadden Arps, Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis, Cravath, Cleary Gottlieb, WilmerHale, Covington Burling, Gibson Dunn, and Sidley Austin.”

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When Dinosaurs Roamed the Web

800px-Triceratops-vs-T-Rex001From our grandparents’ time back to the dawn of oral history, we used the phrase “once upon a time” to indicate a long time ago. Then we started to use some variant of the phrase “back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.” Again, this is not a literal indication of time, but rather a figurative one. (If you want to be literal, they walked the earth between 230 million years ago and 65 million years ago. In other words, a long, long, LONG time ago.)

When dinosaurs roamed the web

When you are considering such long spans of time, you naturally expect massive changes. Now that life is speeding up, however, we are experiencing massive changes over a much shorter period of time. Take, for example, the changes that have occurred since “dinosaurs roamed the web.” A recent article by Jamie Carter, The internet is everywhere – but where has the web gone‘ summarizes the sweep of these changes nicely:

“The web started out as a content repository where search was the key enabler,” says Richard Moulds, VP Strategy, Thales e-Security. “Web 2.0 was about user-driven content and social media was the big enabler, and Web 3.0 is all about personalisation where different users experience different things based on their history and preference. For this transition, big data is the key enabler – without massive data analytics, personalisation on a grand scale is not possible.”

Three Eras of Knowledge Management

This quote brings to mind the seminal work by Nancy Dixon in which she discusses the Three Eras of Knowledge Management:

  1. Leveraging explicit knowledge: capturing (i.e., documenting) knowledge, organizing it into databases, providing easy access to the knowledge.
  2. Leveraging experiential knowledge: enabling teams, groups and communities to share tacit knowledge rather than merely explicit knowledge. Focusing on tactical, frontline  knowledge rather than strategic or managerial knowledge.
  3. Leveraging collective knowledge: conversation-based knowledge sharing, in which the role of leaders is to convene strategic conversations.

These two views do not map exactly. For example, Nancy Dixon suggests that social media tools (i.e., Web 2.0) would be useful in leveraging collective knowledge across physical or geographical boundaries. In her view, social networking technologies provide “greater organizational transparency and give rise to more diverse perspectives in the organizational conversation. The use of crowd sourcing, cognitive diversity, and predictive markets draw on a wider base of thinking, both internally and externally, that increases organizational innovation.” It would be interesting to see how she might think about the personalization capabilities of Web 3.0 and its place in knowledge management.

Escaping the dinosaur age

Even in the absence of a neat one-to-one comparison, it is still useful to take a moment to consider where your organization’s knowledge management efforts are focused today. Starting with Nancy Dixon, where is your organization’s KM program with respect to the Three Eras of Knowledge Management? Are you still in the first era, trying to build a foundation of good content management? Or have you moved to more conversation-based knowledge sharing?

Now, take a look at your intranet. Where is it in terms of Richard Moulds’ breakdown of Web 1.0, Web 2.0 or Web 3.0. Are you still focused on simply providing as much centrally vetted content as possible? Or have you moved beyond that to include a wide-range of user-generated content. Better still, do the users of your intranet or knowledge management program have the benefit of thoughtfully personalized resources that allow them to focus on the things that matter most to them at any given time?

In law firms, for example, some rudimentary personalization occurs based on role (e.g., partner, associate, staff), client, practice group and location. Do you go beyond these basics to provide personalization based on search terms, user behavior, talent management (e.g., providing content that supports a user’s development goals) and time management (e.g., providing content that fits with a user’s current time management challenges or opportunities)?

If you are stuck in the stage of basic content wrangling and presentation, you are living when dinosaurs roamed the web. Isn’t it time for you to move into the 21st century?

[Photo Credit: Marcin Chady]

 

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