Knowledge Management Supporting Innovative Service Delivery #ILTA11

The speakers in this session: (i) Howard Nicols, Global Managing Partner, Squire Sanders & Dempsey; (ii) Brynn Wiswell, KM Associate, Baker Donelson; (iii) Scott Rechtschaffen, Chief Knowledge Officer, Littler Mendelson.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference 2011.  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.]


  • Impediments to Knowledge Management. Nicols believes that KM Collection, Currency and Delivery efforts have never achieved success within law firms. Most firms fail with their brief banks and precedent collections. Often the collections are incomplete. Once established, many collections fail to remain current. Finally, KM has failed in delivering this valuable content to the lawyers in the place they work at their moment of need. “If a lawyer won’t go to the filing cabinet, it doesn’t matter how full that file cabinet is.” Their firm was the first firm to pilot Lexis Total Search / Lexis Search Advantage. They do this to automate collection and ensure currency since the tool sits on top of their document management service. If a document is not current, they signal this in the system. Finally, they put the search window in the place where lawyers draft so they can easily search the collection.
  • Lawyers are Precedent Bound and Have Poor Vision. Blind adherence to the past makes is difficult to adapt to changes in the environment. To overcome these tendencies, Squire Sanders has reformed its structure to move from repeated action to innovation, they have established a project management steering committee, a process improvement steering committee and a knowledge management steering committee.
  • Nicols thinks the Cleveland Clinic has some important things to teach lawyers and Knowledge Management.The clinic has reformed every step of its patient handling process by engineering from the perspective of what makes sense for the patient — not the clinic. Systems are electronic and linked by a logical process. At each step of the process, he was assisted by a staff member with excellent people skills. They provided wireless network throughout so that he could stay in touch with his office and use his marginal time efficiently.
  • How has Squire Sanders Adopted the Cleveland Clinic Example?They have created matter sites that are shared by clients and their legal time. These sites show key contact, documents, financials (showing progress against budget), etc. In addition, they trained everyone from the secretaries, paralegals and lawyers to work entirely in this space. Sanders refers to this as the shared “play pen.”
  • Baker Donelson’s Service to Health Care Client. This case study shows how the firm developed from scratch tools to provide the client with transparency (client files, team calendar, team blog, team forms listing). The blog is completely open to the client — it’s the only blog the legal team uses. To improve Efficiency, they provide organized access to experts, deposition transcripts, access to law and administrative regulations (this is kept current by the team), resources (sample discovery, precedents, just verdicts, useful links), online processes to improve day-to-day business (organization cchart, administrative policies, physician insurance tracking, litigation hold systems, data mapping (of the client’s data storage). This case was the first step in moving into consulting for clients. The service is called BakerConnect (includes BakerCorp, BakerLit, document assembly, vendor information, a patent pending legal project management system).
  • Historical Objectives for KM.Littler is a large employment and labor law boutique. They have historically published a great deal of information. Originally, they focused on giving their 800 attorneys in 50+ offices instant access to the insights and experience of their peers, enhance access to a vast library of work product, give clients access to their experience and expertise. They have 10 knowledge management attorneys who act as professional support lawyers and provide a KM concierge service. In addition, they have another 10 staff members focused on technology, content, research and library.
  • KM Makes Money. About one-third of the firm’s KM expenses is covered through its subscription service called Littler GPS that provides clients with premium content relating to employment and labor law across the country, as well as the firm’s publishing activities..
  • KM’s New Objective:“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” (quote from Rahm Emanuel)
  • Littler’s Custom Built System for a National Client.In an attempt to bid for an entire class of the client’s work, they created the Littler CaseSmart Approach. In effect, the client outsourced this whole class of work to Littler. Components: assemble a multi-disciplinary team (including several consultants/vendors); conduct a legal process analysis to understand every step in the process and identify possible efficiencies; creating an advanced technology platform; provide transparent client access on a 24/7 basis (includes key stats on each matter showing major decisions made and how many matters are being settled or prosecuted); an alternative staffing model (program director, responsible supervising attorneys (partners), a group of dedicated flextime attorneys who work from home and have a career path), dedicated administrative staff; KM resources (KM attorneys, document automation, SharePoint team site with legal resources, team social networking, client-specific document templates).
  • What’s Littler’s Value Proposition for this Innovative Project?This project provides enhanced efficiency and cost savings (30%), coupled with enhanced transparency to manage risk. For the attorneys, efficiency need not result reduced revenue or reduced profitability. In fact, Littler’s margins on this work are “sensational.” Further they have learned that legal process re-engineering actually results in high quality work product. Finally, they proved that the “New Normal” need not mean the end of life as we know it.
  • Is SharePoint the key?Both Baker Donelson and Littler Mendelson use SharePoint. However, Littler will move away from SharePoint for their next version.

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