KM as an Intelligence Tool

Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession is the subject of the Ark Group’s conference I’m attending in New York City. Here are my notes.

Tom Baldwin (CKO, Reed Smith), Ali Shahidi (Director of KM, Bingham McCutchen), Meredith Williams (Director of KM, Baker Donelson) spoke about where business intelligence, competitive intelligence and knowledge management intersect in their firms.

The speakers believe that providing business intelligence and competitive intelligence can be a very effective way to leverage traditional KM approaches and competencies.

Ali Shahidi showed us screenshots of the various dashboards they have created at Bingham McCutchen to provide actionable information to partners. They have combined pull systems and push systems to collect and distribute critical business information. Importantly, they clearly spent a great deal of effort on created a graphical user interface that makes browsing easy and inviting. Bingham McCutchen has combined Autonomy search and auto-categorization from LexisNexis to find and deliver key business information.

Meredith Williams is describing how Baker Donelson gathers key intelligence (business and competitive intelligence) and makes some of it available to firm management. They also gather intelligence that they provide to clients. For firm management purposes, they report on the types of activities they are carrying out for clients, the related budgets and bills, what competitive firms are doing, practice area trends as they relate to their clients’ businesses. For each client service team they have created client and matter sites that are generated automatically when a matter is opened. Clients can log into Baker Donelson’s website and see current billed and accrued amounts, as well as information on services currently provided by the firm to the client. In addition, at the request of the client, they have provided specific information and services that “help the client run its business.” For example, for one client they have created a platform that houses the client’s data and then provide a sophisticated search tool. As a result, the client comes to Baker Donelson’s platform to find the client’s own information. For another client, Baker Donelson has created an online product that helps the client’s board of directors understand and manage liability. Baker Donelson intends to make a product of this offering and sell it to other clients.

At Reed Smith they have created extranet driven project management. The foundation of this system is a collection of checklists created for specific matters. Each checklist steps a lawyer through the tasks that must be completed. This is in contrast to traditional legal checklists that often focus on the documents that need to be delivered. Each checklist connects to relevant knowledge resources, including practice guides and model documents. These task lists are also broken down by phases (using the ABA’s phase codes). Within these phases, they show what’s billed against budget and the percentage of work completed to date.

The speakers reiterated that creating these checklists can be critical work for knowledge managers who are or were practicing lawyers. This is a special niche that non-lawyers will have trouble filling.

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