KM Legal Conference, Day 2

by Paul Maharg on 25/04/2008

We kicked off with Rachel O’Connor of
the Australian firm Allen Arthur Robinson taking us through various
innovations and techniques operating in her firm’s offices.  Eg 50
hour policy – all fee-earners to devote 50 hours to KM pa;
amalgamation of documentation across offices, advanced search, etc.
Challenges included development of client-facing role, PSL role.
Priorities included PSL role review, liaising with IT department on
projects, matter debrief between PSLs and PSLs and partners.  She
brought in partners to this process.  Web 2.0 technologies were on the agenda, and in
particular current awareness.

The
following panel discussion considered the ‘Future of Legal Know-how
Provision’ with Chris Bull, COO,
Osborne Clarke, Carol Aldridge, Head of KM/IS, Burges Salmon, Simon
Drane, LexisNexis, and Judith Pain (Head, PLC Property), and Wendy in
the chair.  Chris observed that how we use legal information will
change: outsourcing of legal advice will become more prevalent; and
the double digit increase pa in information providers’ costs eg
LexisNexis, has got to change.  Simon Drane responded.  Carol agreed with Chris, citing the shift her
firm has made from LN Current Awareness to PLC’s offering, and noting
the problem with buying in knowledge and the overlap between that and
internally produced knowledge.  Judith acknowledged this, and pointed
out that law firms need to consider their know-how strategy,
including risk, BD, HR depts, IT provision (eg where do they want IT
risk to lie? an external provider can help with this).  Comms were
important, within the firm and between external provider and firm. 

Questions
from the floor indicated serious concern, in particular over clients
being given LN or PLC content, and being aware that this was what was
happening.  Carol agreed, and advised a cautious approach to the problem generally,
particularly because law firm departments are becoming more savvy
about breaking down IS costs within transactions.  One respondent
said that in her firm the use of RSS with advanced search within the
firms was in demand, and would mean less reliance on external
providers.  Simon Drane responded by asking the audience what did
lawyers actually want.  The respondent argued in return that the
generation of good quality content was critical – that was the real
market – not yet more expensive access to information that everyone
already had. 

Chris’s
question clearly set the agenda for PLC and LN, and the whole
discussion.  I have rarely heard such overt criticism of providers voiced in sessions.  The economic downturn is of course
prompting re-appraisal of budgets, but there is more to it than that.
Such re-appraisal often brings with it content audit, along with a greater awareness of  redundancy of content, or use-metrics by
fee-earners; and this is prompting reflection on how external content fits with internal know-how.  There is of course the wider public interest point in
having good access to basic law and more advanced finding tools than
we have at present – a point that wasn’t raised in this session,
which concerned itself more with the operation of market forces
between providers & law firms. 

In
the first breakout I attended, ‘Strengthening your firm’s knowledge
sharing and capture culture’, a number of practical tactics were
discussed by Claire Andrews, Director KM (Europe & Asia) Cleary
Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.  What knowledge do you collect?  Among
the items were business activities, tacit knowledge, practice notes,
training/library/KM.  She presented a table where the KM type was
matched against an ‘Existing’ and a ‘Required Improvements’ column,
and a ‘Required New’ column.   Getting close to lawyers’ work really
helped in making the PSLs’ work more relevant to fee-earners.  She
gave the example of tacit knowledge and know-how on due diligence
among specific groups of lawyers (can’t remember which), which was
unearthed almost casually in the firm – important, and it had
by-passed all prior knowledge collection processes.  Tagging matters
was essential, to know which matters were active, and the relevant
staffing reports, billing reports, too.  When a matter is closed, the
KM team moves in to ‘deal-track’, tag the documents, etc.  KM people
asked for these documents, but didn’t always get them, so at relevant
meetings, KM staff would chase up.  Expert interviews involved the
use of knowledge maps, ie practice notes/guidance, particularly of
use to junior lawyers.  Using a semantic web approach, it involves
interviews with specific question types (Tacit Connexions were the
consultants).  There are costs to this, but she thought that the KM
payback was worth it.  The firm ensured usage by having the right
projects, with good content, and encouraging use from that baseline.
In addition the firm used it in training.    Good session.

Next
session was led by David Halliwell, Chief Knowledge Officer, DLA
Piper UK. on ‘Managing  knowledge share and transfer internationally,
and he led on discussions of the structural issues underlying
transactions.  These included the analysis of cross-border (eg due
diligence on transactions), international and local issues.  Other
firms deal with this in different ways.  One dealt with it by
focusing on transactional support, cross-jurisdiction (albeit with
local support from PSLs or junior lawyers).  Champions were key to
DLA’s strategy.  Eg recruits from other firms, esp Magic Circle firm,
liaising with IT, etc., senior management champions of KM.  One
respondent pointed out that in different jurisdictions there were
different concepts of what constituted KM, linked to what lawyers
actually did in terms of fee-earning.  Hooks, he said, were important
– eg training.  So was technology.  Standardised platforms, for
cross-border and international work, were essential, and made life a
lot easier.  One respondent pointed out that use of IT was most
successful when lawyers used it for themselves – eg using a wiki as
a knowledge marketing tool. 

Attended
Neil Richards session on Sharepoint (already blogged here).   He
summarised it well, looking at the good, (eg IT like it, its simple
and integrated), the bad (it’s complex, immature, square peg round
hole), the ugly (tends to silos & chaos) – pretty balanced
appraisal.  Responses from the floor echoed my experience in our use
of Sharepoint in our law school intranet.  Also attended Dave
Snowden’s session..  Such a good set of compelling and provocative
statements about KM (particularly on the value of narrative) that I simply wanted to listen & think, not take notes. His webpage & blog sounds like
a place I’ll be spending some time on; and listening to him on
tagging I felt guilty about not doing that on this blog.  Will get
down to it – some time or other…

Final
session of the day – Derek Sturdy of Tikit talked about the journey
to Web 2.0, while Richard King of Herbert Smith and myself presented
a view of the future – ‘Rip mix & (l)earn: the futures of KM’.
I’ll let the conference feedback speak for it – slides up on
Slideshare, as usual.

Very
good conference.  I learned a lot about current concerns of lawyers
re KM, and came back to GGSL with many ideas to improve knowledge
interfaces in our virtual firms. A couple of lawyers I talked to
expressed surprise that an academic was at the conference at all, let
alone presenting at it.  I don’t agree.  As I say in my book,
collaboration is essential if we are to improve legal education.
It’s vital for me to understand how lawyers organise their working
lives – how can educators design professional legal education if they don’t
know about this? The general lack of interest in KM in the
professional schools may simply reflect a curriculum that’s outdated;
but it’s up to educational designers to help change that.
Collaboration would also help lawyers.  There was some theory at the conference; not much
interdisciplinary collaboration, and there could perhaps have been more collaborative questions asked about work done across
professions (Dave Snowden obvious exception; and Claire Andrews’ session was, too – her firm drew
on cognitive work carried out at Southampton U. by psychologists on
interviewing). 

A
final point about technology.  I’m posting this to the web from an
Asus Eee PC, my chunky Tosh emitting strange noises, having fainting
fits etc.  I’ll be talking about this little machine later, but I
have to say I’m really impressed with the interface.  LInux, flash
memory, portability & price are the commonly-cited pluses; small
screen, a keyboard that requires a zen approach to keystroking, the downsides; but I’m already finding it addictive.

And a
final thanks to BA whose flight up to Glasgow was delayed 2.5 hours
thus helping me draft up this posting.  Ah, T5, how do I love thee,
let me count the ways…

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Neil Richards April 25, 2008 at 22:46

Hi Paul,
thanks for the link. Not sure if you’ve been over knowledgethoughts, but I’ve shared many thoughts as to how web2.0 and other tools might be useful for lawyers.
I couldn’t help notice your reference to taggging, of which I’m a big fan. I’d like to share some thoughts and experiences.
http://del.icio.us, an online bookmark manager.
Sounds rather mundane, having one’s bookmarks stored on the web (can be either private or public). However, delicious shines for several reasons.
First, it’s a great way to manage bookmarks (there’s no way a menu structure could handle the 300+ links I have stored at http://del.icio.us/knowledgethoughts).
Second, a great way to share links with others. My father sends me links that he’s taggged (http://del.icio.us/for/knowledgethoughts) and I can recommend links back to him.
Third, I can subscribe to the “linkfeeds” of others. Oliver Young, a Forrester Researcher I met last year, spends a lot of time reading about web2.0. Mi casa, su casa. If he’s deep into some research about something I pay attention and have a look.
Fourth, deligoo, a firefox plugin. A mashup between delicious and the Google Custom Search Engine. Deligoo creates a “search scope” which only searches those websites you’ve tagged in delicious. Tremendously valuable when looking for quotes or articles you’ve seen in the past but can’t recall the name.
Fifth (and last point), delicious is most effective when researching a new topic. Take Sharepoint as a simple example. Reviewing the most “delicious” links tagged with “Sharepoint” by others may well give you a better result than Google, because you have tacit knowledge built in (i.e. the tagger values the link enough to tag it with the keyword).
I believe the delicious functionality can be found on stumbleupon as well.
Many many different thoughts on tagging. A cluster of different tagging approaches is almost certainly unhelpful (i.e. one for web pages, one for documents, one for matters). An organisation’s tagging approach (or folksonomy) needs to be ubiquitous, and provide an interface which brings them together.

Reply

2 Paul Maharg April 26, 2008 at 18:10

Completely agree with all of this Neil. I wasn’t aware of deligoo, so I’ll take a look at that. I think it’s just the mental discipline that I need to work on. I actually have a delicious site, but in a sad state at the moment. I think you hit the nail exactly when you said
> A cluster of different tagging approaches is almost certainly unhelpful (i.e. one for web pages, one for documents, one for matters). An organisation’s tagging approach (or folksonomy) needs to be ubiquitous, and provide an interface which brings them together.
Which for me means my colleagues and I getting together and deciding on this tag structure in the areas where we collaborate. Your delicious site is an excellent example. Thanks for that!
paul

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