What’s the future of the legal profession? And what role do technology and knowledge management play in the development of that future? These are the questions I’ve been pondering since I heard that Stephen P. Younger (President of the New York State Bar Association) had formed a Task Force to seize “an historic opportunity to shape the landscape of the legal profession.” The announcement of the Task Force describes an ambitious goal:
A panel of top legal minds comprising a diverse range of legal practitioners, including managing partners, law school deans and general counsel, will study and recommend ways to create a roadmap for the future use of technology in the profession, to improve legal education and training, to establish proper work/life balance for attorneys, and to reform the billing structure in law firms.
If there remains even one Rip Van Winkle lawyer who believes that it is safe to ignore technology, I’d rush them to the nearest litigator for a crash course on eDiscovery. Litigation has been changed in a fundamental way because of technology. What about non-litigation areas of practices? Have they undergone a similar change or are they due for a change? And what do these changes indicate about the future role of technology in the practice of law?
Knowledge management’s role is a little less clear cut. While law firm knowledge management personnel are fond of saying that lawyers have been “doing KM” since the beginning of the profession, I suspect there are many lawyers who haven’t spent enough time thinking about how to embed good knowledge management practices in their legal practice. Further, I suspect that there are some lawyers who feel that KM is a luxury that only large firms can afford. Against this backdrop, what role can or should KM play?
I’m writing this post in the hope that it will elicit your ideas and thereby enrich the public conversation about this important issues. What should the technology and KM roadmap look like? What recommendations would you make to the legal profession with respect to its future use of technology and knowledge management?
Mary,Harriet Creamer wrote an article on this very topic a year ago (http://www.thelawyer.com/opini…). Harriet was one of the first PSLs, and her article compares the law firm KM landscape as it was when she started in the 1980s with the current position:
Thanks for pointing me to this article. It's a shame that 20 years on we're
still having to apologize for things that knowledge management has not been
able to accomplish. The reality is that the knowledge management function
within a firm is so dependent on the culture of the firm, the resources made
available and the individuals hired to carry out the function, that
sometimes it's astonishing to discover that the stars have actually aligned
sufficiently to enable significant progress towards KM goals.
The notion that KM should focus on client-facing, revenue-generating
activities is not a new one. However, practice support lawyers used to
laboring in the back rooms may find it difficult to push themselves forward
into client meetings. Yet, this is the next frontier for KM.
I arrived here from a link off the ABA techsite and could not believe that we now have a state bar task force on knowledge management.What sensible rational lawyer would ever share his or her knowledge with a firm? The only skill or value a lawyer has is his or her knowledge. A world of near perfect knowledge management presently exists in the legal world. It is called the Federal Sentencing guidelines. The result is that the run of the mill federal criminal case can be handled by a paralegal. Talk to the lawyers on the various CJA panels around the country. No one complains more about proper work/life balance for attorneys.