Legal information in a recession

There has been a lot of talk on LIS-LAW and other email lists about this report full title Legal information in a recession: A restructuring opportunity which has been produced by Managing Partner Magazine in association with LexisNexis.

The first thing I would say is read the report before you do anything else - perhaps even before reading this blog post! Still here...well don't say I didn't warn you.

The report is divided into four sections, the first Brave in the new world (written by Andrew Hedley) looks at how Managing partners have an opportunity to "overhaul" their information and knowledge-management functions for long-term growth.

Some highlights from this section include the following:

"Being effective means delivering added value and creating distinct and difficult-to-imitate sources of competitive advantage. Efficience is expected, effectiveness is what is now required"

The section then looks at the assesments Knowledge Management teams will have to make, this makes interesting reading as a lot of the suggestions seem to relate to outsourcing, at least that is the assumption I'm making, for example;

"What elements of the firm's knowledge management and service provision can be done by the in-house professional?"

"What elements of the knowledge mix can be delivered by external knowledge providers more efficiently than by deploying internal resources"

"Does the skill mix and profile of the current knowledge management team map onto that which is required for the future of will some re-shaping be needed" Re-shaping is that a new way to describe redundancies?

The next section looks in detail at how "restructuring their approach to information management" note how the white paper uses the term approach rather then department "presents firms with a key opportunity...for significant costs savings and efficiencies" This section starts by looking at the Osborne Clarke outsourcing deal which took place earlier this year. Then cheeringly the section notes how "98% of senior lawyers think that support staff should be targeted for job cuts, alongside associates" The section then looks in more detail at some of the challenges that Knowledge Management teams face in terms of managing information, in some situations without the information staff they formerly relied upon.

The section includes some quite interesting input from Knowledge & Information Professionals at leading law firms, these include Osborne Clarke, Burges Salmon, Bevan Brittan, FFW, Lewis Silkin, Mills & Reeve and Dyson Bell LLP.

LexisNexis also uses this section as an opportunity to promote some of the tools they currently offer law firms, presumably as a replacement to some of the tasks undertaken by information professionals, these products include LexisPSL and LexisCheck. The final two sections of the report look at the products and services LexisNexis can provide law firms to help them with their approaches to information management and knowledge management.

So is the report just a way for LexisNexis to promote their tools and is there anything legal information professionals need to be worried about. Well yes and no, certainly the report cites a lot of examples where LexisNexis tools are being used effectively by law firms and the fact that a legal publisher is suggesting that information professionals and PSL's can be replaced by applications is certainly worrying. However for some law firms outsourcing simply isn't practical, especially in relation to the value added work information teams now do for example working with clients on pitches, providing legal research services to clients, knowledge audits etc. I would recommend that everyone who has an interest in the provision of legal information reads this report.