Please enjoy this blog co-authored by Holly Hanna, KM Firm Solutions Manager, Perkins Coie and Adam Dedynski, KM - Project Manager, Reed Smith LLP.
In recent years, legal knowledge management has evolved and matured, with an increased focus on how to leverage advanced technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and bots. However, the basic pillars of KM remain relevant, as has become increasingly apparent during the current coronavirus pandemic. Some key takeaways from this experience include:
Document Sets Still Matter
A foundation of legal KM is the gathering of forms, precedents, and other useful documents into a single location (for example, a dedicated space in your document management system), which KM teams often govern and support. These resources need to be curated by subject matter experts, managed to ensure currency and relevance, and reviewed to ensure that all client confidential data is removed - core KM best practices. Your firm’s internally generated content will generally be more relevant than third party content, especially if the third party content isn’t materially different from what your lawyers are generating in-house.
Following these best practices makes it easy for lawyers to find relevant information to incorporate in their work and provide the best advice efficiently. The coronavirus pandemic has legal implications across and within practices, which may also be of a global nature. Whether your firm is primarily focused on transactions, litigation, or both, the current crisis requires quick access to a large corpus of high-value content. It is now more important than ever to have a robust, clear, and secure mechanism in place to capture, curate, and manage materials to help prevent ‘reinventing the wheel’.
Finding Good Sources (and Making Them Available)
In addition to locating good documentation, in a fast-moving, rapidly unfolding crisis like the current pandemic, it’s important to have a way for everyone to track breaking news. Whether it’s lockdown orders at the municipal, state, or federal level, court status, or legislative updates, having a single location where lawyers can find links to authoritative resources is key. This location can be set up in a variety of ways; you can create a toolkit on an intranet page, set up a distribution list, or create a centralized and easily accessible document setting out key information. Your library and research services team can provide links to third party subscriptions that are tracking breaking developments so that firm resources can be more effectively leveraged in responding to the current situation.
Collaboration is Key
Quickly responding to the information needs of lawyers requires a high degree of collaboration among multiple groups, including legal subject matter experts, library and research services, marketing, IT, and knowledge management. In addition, lawyers, many of whom might have been accustomed to going next door to ask a colleague a question, are now working remotely. Secure online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Skype chats, or email tools like distribution lists allow lawyers to ask questions, share guidance, and link to resources. These collaboration experiences are vital in a fully virtual work environment. KM can play a key role in proactively advertising, guiding, or helping set up these tools up so they meet the needs of different groups, and also be pivotal in coordinating collaboration.
Relationships, and Experience, Make a Difference
Finding out who knows who, who’s done what, and other questions related to individual lawyers’ backgrounds becomes a much more urgent requirement when people are scrambling to understand how an event like the coronavirus pandemic impacts their customers; this is especially true when people aren’t having the ‘drive by’ conversations that previously happened. In addition, the ability of the KM group to work effectively with multiple stakeholders is dependent on the level of trust that’s been built to date. If your attorneys trust you to steer them towards the best resources, they’re more likely to direct others towards managed repositories. Now is a great time to reinforce those relationship or forge new ones in this remote environment using the tools and technology available. Taking part in conference calls, responding quickly to email requests (even if it’s just a quick note to let people know you’re working on their request), proactively reaching out to key practice groups to offer existing KM solutions, and supporting lawyer interest in developing additional KM resources for their area of law all help build key relationships.
Highlight Your Work
Tools and repositories are only valuable if lawyers know that they exist and can easily find them. Publicize your efforts, make sure that key practices know where to find information and how to submit additional resources or links, and make it easy for those lawyers who haven’t been paying attention to quickly get up to speed. Announcements in firm publications, emails from leadership, and prominent access from your intranet’s home page can all be used to ensure your lawyers are finding and using high value content.
When it comes to quick-response, boots on the ground KM work, the fundamentals matter. While advanced KM tools are valuable, and integrating them into a legal KM program is important, the bread and butter of KM revolves around curation, validation, and quick and easy access to high value content. During times of crisis, when the legal situation is evolving rapidly, KM needs to get back to its roots in order to provide effective service.