Large Law Firm KM: Using KM to Improve Processes and Gain Efficiencies

gavel [Today I’m attending a private gathering of large law firm knowledge management leaders. Since the conversations are by agreement off the record, the comments I note below are without attribution. Since I’m live-blogging, there will undoubtedly be some typographical errors in my notes. Please excuse those.]

Practice Management: KM to Improve Processes and Gain Efficiencies

  • One of the speakers said that “traditional” law firm knowledge management is really “KM 1.0”: gathering documents, creating document collections and then expecting users to come to those collections and dig through them to find what they need. This speaker said that modern knowledge management needs to be able to deliver relevant content at the moment of need.
  • What has driven some law firms to move beyond traditional knowledge management?
    • “Law firms don’t change when they see the light, they change when they feel the heat.”
    • The key source of heat is the client.
    • Client RFPs telegraph pretty clearly what the client concerns are.
  • The only way of motivating firms seems to be fear. “Without an overriding sense of fear at the partner level, it is hard to get the support necessary to move beyond KM 1.0.”
    • The partners do not seem to be moved strictly by logic. The logic supporting KM and other efficiency practices has been around for a long time, but not all firms have adopted them with enthusiasm.
    • The key fear is the fear of personal liability for partners — much of that fear is driven by new regulation and client concerns about information security.
  • 70% of the attendees have moved beyond traditional KM in their firms. What are they doing:
    • Focusing on process mapping and process improvement using LEAN methodology.
    • Digging into data analysis to support better alternative fee management.
    • Analyzing write-offs to understand where there are process inefficiencies, poor communication between the partner and the client (or the partner and the associate), where there is a lack of training, etc. These are opportunities for KM.
    • Creating budgets for individual matters.
    • Using KM principles to create and manage the firm’s risk and compliance management processes.
    • Personal productivity training to ensure lawyers are able to use current tools efficiently.
  • Updating traditional methods:
    • analyzing standard form agreements to determine if there is a way to restructure the documents and the drafting process to optimize the efficiency of the drafting process.
  • Process Improvement and KM
    • As you map the process, identify the places in the process where good documentation would be helpful. Then insert relevant content. However, this may mean creating that content or, if it exists, reviewing and updating it.
  • Strategic approaches to law firm KM
    • Outsource what you can
    • Focus on the processes and documents  that differentiate your firm from its competitors

[Photo Credit: Sal Falko]

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