Some folks aspire to be as beautiful as a model, while other folks aspire to have a model on their arm. Lawyers, by contrast, aspire to have a collection of models. Model DOCUMENTS, that is. And, as long as lawyers want model documents, law firm knowledge management personnel are going to try to find ways to provide them. But, should they?
As mentioned in my earlier post, KM’s Worst Enemy, model documents represent a massive investment for a firm because it is very hard to throw a model document together overnight. If you’re going to do it correctly, you’ll have to spend time and effort to create a model that meets both your practice quality and risk management needs. Ideally, model document drafting will incorporate the experience of several lawyers in the relevant practice. This means that law firm KM personnel must recruit and retain lawyers to help with the drafting.
At a recent meeting of law firm knowledge managers, I asked how many of them had successfully recruited under-utilized lawyers in their firm to update their collection of models. The responses were consistent and discouraging. Even when lawyers have a lighter billable workload, they tend to be disinclined to assist with drafting or updating model documents. The solution for some firms has been to recruit practice support lawyers who work on a nonbillable basis to generate these materials. However, this approach has its own challenges and, to do it correctly, you may well need a team of support lawyers who have expertise in a wide range of practice areas. The solution for other firms has been to obtain model documents from traditional legal publishers or subscribe to the resources offered by practice support companies such as the Practical Law Company.** PLC takes care of the drafting and updating, which is a huge improvement over what many firms can do for themselves. Each subscribing firm then trains its lawyers to use these materials in a manner that is appropriate for that firm’s practice and clients. And, of course, that firm has to pay a subscription fee for the service.
Before thinking about generating models internally or obtaining them externally, it would be worth examining further how many models you really need. Many firms assume that a model constitutes a statement of best practices and, therefore, the more models you have the better. A recent interchange on best practices with Tom Young of Knoco sharpened my understanding of best practices. For the purposes of this discussion, I’d draw your attention to his concepts of standardization and innovation. In applying this to the law firm context I wonder whether we would be wiser to concentrate on creating (or obtaining) model documents only for those instances where it is imperative that we ensure standardization. In all other cases, would it be a better use of firm resources to produce a practice guide, checklist or issues list rather than a full-blown model document? Until you consider these questions in the context of your firm’s practice, you may find yourself frustrated or disappointed as you try to find new and creative ways to coax your colleagues into creating models.
Dating a beautiful model may be your dream, but in a law firm it comes at a price.
Further Reading on Best Practices:
- Resting on Your Laurels Ruins Best Practices
- Just Tell Me What Works!
- Best Practices vs Next Practices
**Disclosure: I’m a member of the Practical Law Company’s Advisory Board.