The know-way

If you haven't seen it already the Lawyer has published a lengthy article on how Law Firms are providing Knowledge Management to internal and external clients. Someone pointed the article out to me via Facebook and I felt compelled to write a blog post, highlighting the article and commenting on some of the points made in it.

The first thing to say about the article, is that it's a panel discussion looking at how law firm Knowledge Management functions are developing in respect of making the most of knowledge held by lawyers and clients. The panel included Janis Law from Clarke Willmott, Jessica Magnusson from Osborne Clarke and Lorna Ferguson from Bird & Bird.

The next is that the article only actually includes four questions, which are:

  1. Is your knowledge management function supported by senior partners and management?
  2. How can law firms leverage clients know how to improve their KM?
  3. What developments have you made to your KM function in the last year?
  4. How can you capture the knowledge held in lawyers heads?

So what conclusions can we draw from the panels' answers. Well it looks like KM has never been more important in law firms, with all panelists agreeing that support by senior partners and management was stronger then ever. That's not to say the panelists wouldn't like more support, but what was available was appropriate. It was good to see that one of the firms had recognised the importance of collaborative technologies and how they can help achieve superior client service.

The next question around leveraging client knowledge garnered some interesting responses. Notably around giving clients advice on how to manage KM systems and the best ways to deliver knowledge to them. The next question was really a look into the future and what plans the KM team had in terms of improving their services. PSL's are mentioned more then once in this section, with one firm using Consultant PSL's rather then PSL's who are directly employed by the firm. These consultants PSL's work on projects and according to the article "deliver consistently what they have been asked to" whilst "providing flexibility"

The last question is the one that I'm sure everyone is hoping for a detailed answer to. Unfortunately capturing knowledge that is in someones head is probably the most difficult task in the world. The panelists do offer some suggestions though, which include the following:

  • Knowledge sharing through training sessions
  • Using expertise databases to identify who has the appropriate knowledge
  • Recording fee-earners and publishing these videos to the intranet
  • Using social media and online collaborative tools

There are some good suggestions here, but I think this question will continue to trouble Knowledge Managers and law firms for a very long time! Overall a really interesting article, with some perspectives from Knowledge Managers working in three very different law firms.