KM in Support of Firm Operations #ILTA13

ILTA13The speakers in this session are Felicity Badcock (Head of Knowledge Management, King & Wood Mallesons); Ginevra Saylor (National Director of Knowledge Management, Dentons Canada LLP), and Shy Alter (ii3). The moderator is David Hobbie  (Litigation Knowledge Manager, Goodwin Procter).

The Conference website describes this session as follows:

Legal knowledge management lies at the intersection of substantive legal work, information management, technology and the business of law. As such, its practitioners have the ability to identify and provide business process and technology solutions that can improve the bottom line and make life better for today’s lean administrative staffs. Come explore the expanding role of KM groups in firm operations.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 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:

  • Why Now? Why Think About Using KM in Support of Firm Operations?  Shy Alter reminded the audience that knowledge management is for everyone — not just for the lawyers. KM can help improve efficiencies across all parts of the business.
  • How can KM Help?  The KM team has a bigger skillset that simply research and information management. Felicity Badcock referred the audience to the previous presentation on KM and Storytelling, in which the presenters provided a list of the key archetypes or skillsets embodied by KM professionals.
  • King & Wood Mallesons Translation Services.  After the merger between King & Wood and Mallesons, there was a critical need for translation services between English and Mandarin. KM was able to bring its procurement skills and evaluation skills to the effort to create the appropriate translation services, as well as project management skills. (This project involved every aspect of the firm’s operations.)
  • Dentons Process Improvement Project. At Dentons they realized that they needed to standardize their onboarding process across the national firm. It was an issue that affected every part of the firm. Knowledge Management took the problem and turned it into a project. This effort involved HR, IT, Marketing, Library, Risk, Financial Operations, etc. In fact, the group that had the least substantive connection to the issue was the KM group. Yet, it was KM that was able to gather the groups, get them talking to each other and then solve the problem. The key KM skills were looking at the “as is” situation, identifying the critical touch points, mapping the business process, automating the business process, communicating the benefits to the firm, handling the change management effort, and securing buy-in.
  • King & Wood Mallesons Blogging Project. Before blogs were commonplace in law firms, a partner in the IP group wanted to ramp up their blogging efforts directed at clients. This project involved marketing and technology. It also took advantage of people with superb research skills in the KM group. In addition, there were two people in the KM team who had a real affinity and appetite for social media. They jumped on this project and drove it to completion. The work involved project management, technology platform choices, designing workflow that ensured that the blogging effort was shared by lawyers of all ranks, creating a style guide that differentiated these blogs from traditional client newsletters (it was a much more playful, lighter tone than old-fashioned newsletters). They piloted the blog internally for six months to ensure they could generate sufficient content that met the project’s goals. This project laid the foundation for other social media projects and gave the KM team a terrific opportunity to work closely with the firm’s business development team.
  • Dentons Document Assembly Project. All the operations-type projects tend to raise the profile of the KM group within the firm because you work with a greater variety of people. Further, you get the reputation for being great at solving problems. In the case of the document assembly project, the lawyers were not yet ready to adopt it but the marketing group definitely was. This project gave the KM group an opportunity to test the value of document assembly within their law firm.
  • KWM HR Project. The KM group worked with the HR department to standardize and automize their collection of HR documents, applying “house style” to these letters. This was an extension of a project undertaken earlier to standardize documents intended for external distribution.
  • KWM Process Improvement Evaluation Matrix. Since there are always more process improvement projects to do than can be handled by the KM group at a particular time, KWM has created an evaluation matrix to help them identify what projects are worth pursuing. They chart the potential for quality improvments on one axis and the potential for improvements in efficiency on the other axis. Then they focus on projects that represent innovation for the firm.
  • KWM Social Intranet. KM owned this new platform and looked for ways to use it in creative ways. They used it for their summer law student program (the Summer Clerks program). In order to increase summer student engagement, they involved HR, BD and KM to run a competition for the summer students on the social intranet. The point of the competition was to let the students communicate what they had learned while at KWM. They used hashtags to identify and aggregate this contents. Then other lawyers in the firm could respond by “liking” the entries. This project raised the profile of the platform internally, really engaged the summer students, and gave the firm valuable information regarding what the students found so useful from their time with the firm.
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Why IT Doesn’t Matter and KM Matters Even Less to Clients #ILTA12

Why IT doesn’t matter and KM matters even less to clients: how to align services with expectations. This title is what John Alber calls “”a sharp stick in the eye, which is the shortest path to the brain.” The speakers are Sally Gonzalez, Risa Schwartz and Felicity Badcock. They will focus on what clients want and then look at some case studies that delivered to clients.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2012 Conference 2012. 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 Pre-2000. The original focus for KM was collecting intellectual capital and professional training. The main benefits were risk management and efficiency. From 2000-2007, law firm knowledge management shifted to knowledge about people and clients. The benefits were to enhance marketing and business development. (CRM systems were knowledge management systems, although not every law firm marketing department understood this.) After 2008, it shifted from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market for legal services. This has resulted in client demands for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Clients are now demanding alternative fee arrangements, which shift the risk from the clients to their law firms. So now, while risk is still a driver for KM, it’s business risk (cost) rather than legal risk. In the current phase, knowledge managers are focused on legal project management and legal process improvement. The benefits of KM are now reduced costs, improved margins and increased profits.
  • KM:Commerciality and Organizational Structure. The threshold question is “what do clients want?” They want you to KNOW THEIR BUSINESS. Felicity Badcock showed the results of an Australian survey of buying patterns in the Australian legal market. In 2005, the biggest drivers were reliability and leading expertise. Since 2009, the top client concern is the business relevance of the legal advice outside counsel is offering.
  • Sector Teams. How do you address this driver of client buying? How does this get reflected within a firm? By restructuring operations to put the client at the center. At King & Wood Mallesons, KM now reports to the managing partner in charge of clients and markets. They have also tried to put the client at the center by organizing around industry sectors and also by legal practices. All clients are associated with sectors, as are KM efforts, professional development efforts, KPIs and business development. Since these sector teams were new creatures, not all the lawyers within the teams knew each other well. To facilitate communications and build relationships withint these new teams, the firm provided a social network to allow communication via status updates.
  • After Action Reviews. King & Wood Mallesons already has in place the practice of soliciting client feedback at the conclusion of a matter. They are now piloting a facilitated internal after action review. They are implementing a systematic method of interviewing members of the team to capture insights, report those insights and share them as knowledge assets fo the firm.
  • How to start the conversation with clients?. Risa Schwartz suggested that the law firm knowledge management personnel contact KM personnel at clients to jointly carry out a needs assessment. Risa says that once you ask the question you’ll find that the client is more than willing to share.
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