Changing Knowledge Management (KM) Priorities

By Ron Friedmann posted 07-21-2017 10:04


How and why are KM priorities changing? This was the topic of an ILTA virtual roundtable I moderated on July 6, 2017. I report here on the survey administered in advance and the flavor of the discussion (as moderator, I was not able to take good notes). An appendix contains survey results we did not have time to discuss.  The panelists were:

KM Priority Survey

We opened with poll results on KM priorities. The poll was completed by 39 of 115 registrants; no demographic breakdown is available. The KM priority question offered eight options and required force ranking. Here are the average scores:

Figure 1

The results surprised me. The average priorities, except for PSLs, seemed close together. So I charted just the top three priorities:

Figure 2

While this view provides more detail, the highest priorities are split pretty evenly (except PSLs ).

What Drives KM Priorities in Firms?

In the Roundtable, rather than try teasing out the data, we focused on how firms decide on KM priorities. While some look at metrics such as usage, the general sense was that proving ROI or finding a dispositive metric remains challenging. Some focus on what clients are asking for, others on what specific practice groups want.

From my consulting, rather than the poll or discussion, I know that some firms set priorities based on formal or informal benchmarks. For example, “Our Intranet is ten years old and everyone complains about it. Maybe it’s time to fix it.” Or “Most firms have enterprise search;, maybe we need to get it too.”

A discussion about KM drivers aligns well with a recent industry development, the rise of corporate law department legal operations professionals.

Align with CLOC?

The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) had its annual conference in May and I knew that panelist Camille Reynolds of Fenwick & West attended. She reported on her impressions, which include that CLOC members are very interested in KM, improving practice efficiency, and establishing better workflows with outside counsel.

Jason Barnwell of Microsoft represents the legal operations view of a very large and forward thinking client. He reports that his law department’s challenge is managing all incoming work product from multiple outside counsel. Microsoft would love a single platform to consolidate work product.

I agree that a single platform would be helpful, but aligning multiple clients and law firms faces challenges. I commented that I had blogged in 2003 about the rise of extranets and, even then, noted that multiple law firms would not want to use multiple extranets. Instead, I suggested in that post that the market needs a data exchange standard. I am not sure that would be any easier though.

We then discussed the potential alignment of law firm KM professionals with in-house legal operations professionals. At least among this group, there was consensus that it would make a natural alliance: both want to improve efficiency and are open to new workflows and tools that would help do so.

 Artificial Intelligence (AI): The Holy Grail?

You cannot discuss KM priorities today without including AI. We started this portion of the roundtable by sharing the survey results:

Figure 3

These results mirror some other AI surveys I have seen and group AI discussions I have participated in: more talk and consideration than deployment. (I note, not from this discussion, that a recent Altman Weil survey suggests more activity than this, at least in the largest firms.)

The panelists agreed that the clearest use case for legal AI today is machine learning to accelerate due diligence review. Eagerness to investigate AI remains high, but no one has yet found the killer app.

We discussed that “big data” in legal is not nearly as big as in other markets, but pointed out there is nonetheless enough for interesting applications of AI.


Anyone who expected a clear roadmap to emerge from the discussion left disappointed. But for those who wanted to understand where the action is and how to think about setting priorities left with some good information and tips.

Appendix – Poll Results We Did Not Discuss

I hate wasting interesting poll results so I include here, without discussion, two additional poll question results that did not have time to cover .

The poll asked respondents about three 2017 or 2018 major projects many firms are undertaking. Only one choice was allowed:

Figure 4

Another common KM discussion topic is client-facing KM. We asked about where firms are on that :

Figure 5





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