KM Legal Conference, London

by Paul Maharg on 24/04/2008

I’m at a Knowledge Management Conference, in London, and speaking on the second day (more of that anon…).  Arrived via Terminal 5, Heathrow — was this a lesson in KM and project management to keep in mind for the session…? 

Wendy Small (Eversheds) chaired the conference, and we started with a session by Lucy Dillon and Charlotte Balfry of Berwin Leighton Paisner on the effect of the credit crunch and economic downturn on KM. Housekeeping and client focus, to put it simply, was what they recommended, together with more innovation. 

The first break out session was run by Juliet Humphries on PSLs & remuneration / structure.  Interesting discussions of what people do, how they are matchifng their salary structures to PQ senior assistants, etc.  Two thoughts from this.   First, there was no mention of what other professions are doing, eg architecture.  Second, I think quite a few law firms could consider what Google do to create and capture innovation.  PSLs are actually in a position to be remarkably creative units within a firm; but there probably needs to be a more transparent project structure alignment between them and the core fee-earning work of the firm.

Next session was an account by Ann Halpern of Norton Rose of design and implementation of their search engine, Navigator, which appeared to be a textbook casestudy in specification & implementation, though quite reliant on PLC content, as far as I could see (but that may have had to do with issues of privacy in showing datasets in a live demo…).

Very interesting session by Julia Randell-Khan of Freshfields Bruckhous Deringer on Post Transaction Reviews.  We looked at why we do reviews, how to do them, and suggestions for improvement. Victor Chew, who was the progenitor of the system at FBD, used an online system, edited pages by himself and others.  His experience in this was fascinating, for he clearly put together something akin to an early wiki.   Fee-earners would use the system at the end of the transaction. Lucy Dillon (Berwin, Leighton, Paisner) observed that pricing was a focus of such sessions at her firm, as well as other points.  Some firms used the concept during a transaction, or even as a pre-transaction preview of a transaction.  I pointed out that we used a similar system in Practice Management on the Diploma in Legal Practice, based on our virtual transactions.  It was heartening to hear this, and I came away thinking furiously about how we could improve our system.

After the break, Craig Carpenter (VP, Legal Solutions & General Counsel), spoke on ‘From Information Access & Expertise Location to Regulatory Compliance’. And Everything in Between’.  Intriguing title.  He’s also with recommind…  He used the CapGemini Survey (March 2008) data on information search to show just how huges the costs are.  In addition the costs of eDiscovery, HIPPA, etc, Sarbanes-Oxley are gigantic.  The growth in expenses for this can add up to 35% pa in compound.  The average eDiscovery event rolls out at $1.5M per litigation.  Huge sums  The answer of Novartis was to develop, in phase 1, a KM system, called RADAR.  Phase 2, dealt with eDiscovery and compliance issues, so that probative information was preserved: the development of taxonomies, early case assessment, document clustering and auto-coding, email organization, tagging and filing — in other words KM as the lynchpin for all projects.  Very interesting and ambitious approach that’s clearly worked well for Carpenter & Novartis. 

Carpenter then asked, is KM the same for clients and outside counsel?  There was a contrast, he argued: greater complexity and size makes even simple benefits far more significant. 

Next up was the panel on ‘Managing increasing demands from clients for KM services’ — Carol Aldridge, Head of KM/IS, Burges Salmon, Juliet Humphries (Pierian Spring Consulting), Lucy Dillon, and Sarah Fahy Head of Global Library Services, Allen & Overy.  Key question from Wendy Small — are firms experiencing demand from clients for KM services? — elicited no response, which Wendy (and I, to be frank) found hard to believe; but apparently Eversheds do.  Carol pointed out that demand is led by CRM and BD pitches.  This work, she finds, is actually welcomed by clients.  Clients also want tailored information, rather than just the info bulletin on the website.  She thought it was a question of adding value to the client relationship.  Julient made a similar point about the value of client relationships being enhanced — key was context.  Should a firm charge for this?  The point was debated, with some agreeing, but Juliet arguing that other professions do this better,and manage the client relationship better, and that this is part of the CRM.  I was reminded of Susskind’s fence at the top of the cliff, rather than the ambulance at the bottom.  Sarah Fahy would necessarily charge for such consultancy, but an hourly rate would be attached to the file.  In other cases, the research services was decided in advance on demand — sort of a separate service.  Her firm worked with partners on costings for this.  So different models and approaches. The fee-earners would have a problem with outsourcing client advice at this level.  Clients still wanted the prestige of Allen & Overy.  Lucy Dillon thought that clients did understand value, and therefore if a client asked a partner to check over documentation for compliance, then this shouldn’t be added value, but a necessary part of the core business.  For Juliet, it was a judgement call…

Interesting first day.  Clearly there’s quite a thriving KM community of practice being built around this conference. 

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