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?
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.]
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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).