The traditional view defines enterprise as a tool that allows attorneys to
research and leverage work product in ways that generally are not possible with
standard document management system (DMS) search. Documents are returned with
contextual information, including matter and people-specific information, and
results come back based on relevancy, a key advance over native DMS search.
Matter profile pages are generated automatically, as are lawyer profiles based
on specific expertise search criteria.
This is how enterprise search has been sold and implemented across the legal
industry. The model allows firms to leverage documents, matter information and
attorney expertise without the need for large non-billable time allocations and
attorney content contributions, while making a firm’s entire corpus of work
product available at their fingertips in a way that manual KM contribution
models simply cannot scale to. Firms that have adopted enterprise search tools
have, indeed, experienced measurable efficiency gains, reduced write-downs,
improved internal cross-selling opportunities and produced higher-quality work
Counterintuitively, the success of the “documents, matters and expertise”
model has led to a general innovation stasis in law firms that own search tools
(with a handful of exceptions). The simple and depressing explanation is that it
has been relatively easy to benefit from enterprise search – which led, also
depressingly, to a lack of market desire to leverage the extraordinary brains
(the search engines and indexes) behind these tools. It is similar to buying a
sports car and using it for suburban grocery trips.
I see enterprise search as a powerful integration layer that can provide
access to integrated and contextualized information within both standalone
applications and integrated Intranets. Viewed this way, search provides much
more business value than just delivering“Google-like” search results. Rather, it
can be used to:
- Push information to users, using pre-determined search criteria (“canned”
searches), where users see content views, rather than search results and can
subscribe to topics and request notifications.
- Target users based on who they are (personas), what they are working on (via
phase and task codes) and where they are working (by application or via
contextual location in SharePoint).
- Power search applications responding to a variety of use cases from
administrative departments (business development, conflicts and others) and
An enterprise search selection must account for strategic considerations that
go well beyond the legal industry’s widely accepted definition of enterprise
Users expect elegant, simple design in their Intranets, to drive and optimize
adoption. This extends to searching multiple systems & repositories; these
types of search must be transparent and intuitive to the user. Award winning law
firm intranets now feature an integrated user-facing search box that combines
search options from multiple systems into a single, guided user experience (see
the illustration below):
Unified search, however, is just the beginning of the
value that search can deliver via an Intranet because search can be used as a
content management tool within an Intranet. Any content indexed by the search
tool can be published in an Intranet by combining pre-populated search criteria
with web parts that display result content in an easily consumable form. In
other words, the search tool should be capable of displaying search results in
multiple display formats (like, for instance, grids and tiles) as a component of
an Intranet page.
This opens up the possibility of using search in place of
application-specific web parts. Simple examples include displaying recent
matters and documents via search. A moderately more complex example would be the
display of user-generated DMS content in ways that surpass the capabilities of
native DMS functionality (for example, by displaying a working file view). Even
more interesting possibilities emerge when search is paired with user targeting
(as we discuss below).
Innovative search uses emerge when we take advantage of “audiencing” where
content is tailored based on Intranet user persona and page context. For
example, an associate working on a matter can have relevant KM material
suggested on the basis of matter profiling and time entry information.
Similarly, experience location can be targeted to suggest peers (such as lawyers
within two years of the user’s bar call) with experience on similar, relevant
The combination of search and audiencing presents an opportunity to
facilitate user movement through the Intranet by programmatically anticipating
knowledge management and other needs. From the perspective of the attorney, the
Intranet becomes a highly personalized work environment enhanced by the
serendipitous discovery of relevant knowledge.
One of the most high-value uses of user targeting is the application of
audiencing on matter pages to generate electronic matter files. An electronic
matter file can meet several objectives, including:
providing users with a more relevant view of DMS (and
other source) content via filters and content views than is possible with a
traditional DMS, and
leveraging time entry (particularly where phase and
task codes are used) to “push” information based on matter type, role and matter
phase (checklists, similar relevant matters, peer experience, etc.)
From a strategic IT perspective, the development of an electronic matter file
provides an opportunity to plan its long-term document management application
strategy. As the legal industry considers the evolution of DM into back-end
infrastructure, a web-based electronic matter file provides the opportunity to
transition to a new DM model without substantial “big bang” change management
concerns – the back-end can change without materially affecting the web-based
front-end seen by the firm’s users.
An enterprise search tool can also be the engine behind targeted applications
for different audiences within a firm. The following are examples of search
- Matter Auto-Prediction/Classification & Budgeting:
Predictive coding has been in place for almost a decade in the
litigation document review space; some search tools could be used to
predictively code matter types, and obviate the need for lawyers to code them
when opening a matter. With better and more comprehensive matter types
associated with more of your matters, you could locate matters of the same type
to help create budgets from the data.
- Matter Location: Locate relevant matters to leverage past
experience for RFP responses and AFAs; support LPM.
- Conflict Checking: Leverage dynamically joined data across
repositories; reduce risk with concept searching (e.g. Pepsi = Frito Lay); issue
alerts when conflicts arise mid-matter.
- Staffing: Make more effective use of legal resources and
matching the right people; leverage dynamically joined data across matter
intake, HR, Time and Billing, finance repositories; locate people based on
multiple factors (experience, billing rate, geography, realization).
The development of search applications is dependent on (1) access to the
search index’s data layer, (2) the ability to present content in multiple view
types (grids, multi-select tables, tiles, etc.) and (3) a categorization engine
able to scale sufficiently to crawl all relevant repositories and be trained on
your content. The right tool, integrated with the firm’s existing data and
workflow infrastructure can lead to the development of extremely valuable,
The enterprise search market is about to leap forward, as search vendors work
with clients to realize the true potential of their tools. For years, clients
asked for “Google for the law firm”. Today, we realize that this was the wrong
question. Instead of trying to mimic other products, we needed to look at our
interactions and relationships with information in the context of the practice
of law. Building those use cases takes time, but the payoff is worth it.#KnowledgeManagementandSearch #EnterpriseContentManagement