Monday, April 14, 2008

One for the Lawyers: Adam Smith, Esq. on Knowledge Management

One of my infrequent posts on knowledge management (KM) and it comes originally from the Adam Smith, Esq. Blog. The following points are from An inquiry into the economics of law firms....

"But despite the (I believe) inarguable centrality of KM to what we do, there are three enormous problems with it:"
  • Too many lawyers don't understand why it's of value to them, or, more precisely, why the return they could get out of it would exceed the investment they'd have to put into it. (Never mind the threat of "giving away" your core professional asset—what you know.)
  • Too many technologists and IT types don't understand how lawyers work, and end up creating shockingly powerful but essentially useless applications.
  • And even the most powerful and user-friendly system requires constant care and feeding because legal learning is in a state of constant flux: In a sense, pure white ignorance beats obsolete and mistaken knowledge.
(By the way, the link to videos in the original post did not work for me. You can reach the videos here.)

Even those of us with an interest in knowledge management face competition for our time from the present work paying the fees that keep our offices open and all the multitude distractions of life. I put off on a wiki project on Indiana mortuary law so that I can keep up with other matters.

Which brings me to the point I think inheres in the quote above and my own situation, knowledge management requires a merging of the qualities of a technologist with a lawyer. Lawyers having no experience with technology have no means of understanding how to save and recycle work product. The quote above describes the technologist side of the problem all too well but I would add the technologists see a technology solution for everything.

The British have a better idea. They have professional support lawyers:

The PSL role may also include new firm-wide role elements such as:

  • Know-how, precedents and standard forms: drafting, updating, managing and disseminating documents, setting up or dealing with online document systems.
  • Research: analysing new law and practice, researching points of law or directing fee earners to appropriate sources.
  • Training: organising internal lectures or seminars for trainees, solicitors groups or firm-wide. Dealing with external training, building up relationships with speakers and event-support.
  • Marketing and business development: producing newsletters for clients, arranging or assisting in marketing events, arranging client seminars.
  • Information technology: working on IT-specific projects such as setting up internet dealrooms, creating and updating websites, developing a firm's information/knowledge base and/or Intranet.
  • Dealing with fee earner enquiries: answering queries relating to maintained information, new areas of law, and complex areas of law / specialisms.
We have nothing like this over here.