Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review of Eric Hunter's "The Sherlock Syndrome: Strategic Success through Big Data and the Darwinian Disruption"

bookEric Hunter is a legal knowledge management colleague and recipient of ILTA’s 2010 Knowledge Management Champion Distinguished Peer and Innovative Member awards. He is Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Technology Strategies at Bradford & Barthel, LLP (a California law firm focused on worker’s compensation) and also Executive Director of the Spherical Models consultancy.

His wide-ranging report puts business analytics and the insights it offers at the core of wide-ranging potential changes in legal and other industries. Though future-oriented, it spends most of its time on developments whose beginnings are firmly entrenched, such as video search, wearable tech, big data, and data visualization.

Through my own work I have come to believe that legal organizations – and perhaps organizations in general – can obtain significant competitive advantage by leveraging analytics and technologies and taking better advantage of our increasing connectivity and ability to share inside and outside the organization. Hunter’s report provides more substantiation for those beliefs, and also projects ahead to suggest how to prepare for the increasingly rapid changes that are coming. I appreciate that Hunter is “walking the walk,” talking about increased sharing while doing so himself through this book and his many presentations at Ark and ILTA conferences (referenced throughout the report).

Sherlock Syndrome

The title’s “Sherlock Syndrome” concerns our increasing ability to observe, sense, cross-reference, and analyze information and trends much more comprehensively than before through data analytics and Big Data. The trend is one of massive increases in the ability to recall, analyze, and leverage information. Hunter posits that, at least with respect to personal preferences and search patterns, “everything is becoming predictable (and therefore marketable) through analytics.” Particularly striking to me is the thought that not only are the abundance of data and power of our computers increasing rapidly, but also the sophistication and availability of easy to use analytics tools are making this information actionable in ways that were never before possible.

I have seen this myself in my firm’s exploration of the Tableau data visualization tool. Business use-cases for Sherlockian advanced perceptions include forensic (criminal) investigations, insurance claim investigations, and, of course, targeted consumer advertising.

Darwinian Disruption

Hunter also believes that “Darwinian data disruption” is affecting the entire business world. It is not simply data—though the scope of data is increasing dramatically every year—but also computational and analytical capacity that is growing so dramatically. Hunter’s disruption is Darwinian because leveraging these changes provides a clear competitive advantage and those organizations and business leaders able to adapt to the new environment will survive. Businesses that cannot adapt to and take advantage of these technologies and changes may not survive. It may have been said many times before, but it is true: as Hunter observes with many examples, we are seeing accelerating levels of market disruptions as companies learn to innovate faster.

The (Edward) Snowden Effect

Hunter spends a good deal of time digging into the “Snowden” effect (not David Snowden the KM guru, but Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor). In Hunter’s view, Snowden’s revelations of widespread government capture of vast amounts of personal information in pursuit of national security encapsulate the inevitable tension among privacy, the right to share, and the (security and other) benefits of access to others’ information. Snowden demonstrated that cross-border information sharing is happening and will happen more and more. The NSA, US government agencies, and other governments that capture and share personal information are in his view just taking to an extreme and for different ends what corporations like Facebook and Google already do to target advertising to consumers.

The Predictive Orchestra

A skilled jazz and classical bass player, Hunter hits my sweet spot with an extended metaphor of a “predictive organization” as symphony orchestra, all playing from the same music and not simply following a leader, but also anticipating the melodies and entrances of other sections. (I would promote leaderless orchestras like New York’s Orpheus chamber ensemble as a better fit for his progressive view than the hidebound, intensely hierarchical traditional symphony orchestra. For instance, in a traditional orchestra, the musicians within a section are positioned on the stage by rank according to purported ability!)

Legal Industry Impacts

Hunter does not neglect the implications of these much broader developments for the legal industry. Within law firms, Sherlockian advanced perceptions aid pricing, methods for doing legal work, internal communications, and understanding and addressing client needs. The new technology, analytics, and cross-border flow of information have the potential to greatly enhance law firms’ understanding of their clients and clients’ understanding of legal issues. The technologies increase the capacity for clients and firms to build “targeted relationships” and provide a continually expanding set of opportunities. And, the same data collection and predictive analytics that Facebook and Bing use to identify our consumer interests also identify our business needs. Analytics technologies can be applied directly to some types of legal issues, such as the likely extent of exposure from a given worker’s compensation claim.

Another example is law firms’ new ability to bring transparency to matter work, including data analytics around pricing and profitability, staffing models, and project models. Hunter spells out how the concept of “velocity billing” combines client-specific account managers, predictive analytics driving client- and firm-appropriate fee arrangements, and social collaboration around matter and client work has affected his firm. In combination, these processes and technologies lead to very efficient and client-targeted legal work.

Another instance of these technologies manifesting in law firms is his own firm’s adoption of Google Plus (“G+”). While much-maligned as the place where only Google employees “hang out,” Hunter sees G+ as a great example of a system that is both inward- and outward-facing and combines search with a designed social platform. Creating a G+ circle is the kind of fluid, effective, searcheable content and process management Hunter sees in the future of legal work. For Hunter’s firm, G+ is both an internal- and partially external-facing social network and platform. He notes that social network implementation and internal change management, like the pricing and client management projects he has had so much success with, involve different change management dynamics needing different approaches.

For law firms and the general corporate world, the technologies, techniques, analyses, and insights gained and shared so rapidly can be applied to not just readily quantifiable attributes of work such as hours, effort, and outcomes, but also leadership and change management at the levels of self, team, and organization as a whole. Hunter’s exhortations on leadership are very similar to what you might hear from many an Eastern-philosophy or martial arts- influenced business leadership book; what differs is the tie-in to his Sherlock/Darwin analysis.

Hunter suggests that people, teams, and organizations should be reinventing themselves through these enhanced perceptions and abilities every 18 months.

Complaints, Conclusions, and Inspirations

One concept that could have been more clearly elucidated is Hunter’s “spherical analysis/spherical modeling.” Google search suggests that these terms are not widely used in the business intelligence or data analytics communities—references to spherical analysis or models typically relate to variogram models that address how distance effects correlation between variables or a method of modeling magnetic forces (see the spherical models Wikipedia article.)

Much of the report is fairly abstract; I would not go to this book for an introduction to business analytics or Big Data. Nor was it entirely easy to read, with a fair amount of repetition and some extraneous quotes from Ghandi, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Hunter’s martial arts instructor. Finally, the size of the book’s print is too small (at no more than 10-point font) and somewhat faint. Perhaps the book is easier to read on-line (admittedly an appropriate production strategy given the book’s topic).

Overall, I found Hunter’s report an intriguing and inspiring application of broad industry, technology, analytics, and behavior trends to the ground level of the key interactions between law firms, legal work, and clients. His predictions about predictive analytics and more are in some cases not predictions at all; he shows how these can play out and have an impact on a legal practice area. They should not be ignored. I would not be at all surprised if many of his other predictions are soon borne out more broadly in our industry.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blogging at ILTA?

Normally the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) annual conference is where I blog the most each year.  Excellent, timely, substantive discussions or presentations, that I can report on without having to create--what's not to like?

This year is a little different.  I am on the "Conference Committee," the group of ILTA peers that organizes the educational sessions, as the representative from the ILTA KM Peer Group. We have responsibility for the "KM track," six of the sessions here that relate to knowledge management. Late in July I authored a post on the ILTA KM Blog that offers a preview of the excellent sessions that we'll be presenting. I encourage readers to attend or follow remotely (hashtages start with #kmpg1 and go to #kmpg6); but, needless to say, I'm going to be a little too busy to blog, at least for those six sessions.

If you read this blog, and you attend one of those sessions, or otherwise see me at conference, please come say hi--I'll be there!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Law Department Knowledge Management News, Webinar, and Development

As suggested by reports from a recent roundtable moderated by Joshua Fireman and Ron Friedmann, law firm knowledge management, while not booming, is certainly increasing in its penetration among large firms, and continues to succeed in a variety of ways.

A few recent developments have led me to believe that a similar rise in legal knowledge management activity and interest is occurring in law departments (general counsel’s offices).
First, my firm’s knowledge management group was recently asked to (and did) present on our KM journey, and our thoughts on how to get started, to a few Massachusetts law departments.

Second, Linklaters released their nicely-packaged “Knowledge to Action” report, focusing on the value of knowledge management to general counsel (though it disparages the term “knowledge management” and the term “general counsel,” preferring “legal knowledge” and “legal risk officer.”).
Third, along with Robert Bell, Assistant General Counsel & Legal Knowledge Officer at RBC Law Group (Royal Bank of Canada), I have been asked to speak on Legal Department Knowledge Management by C4CM, also known as the “Center for Competitive Management.” (This webinar has been cancelled, however, but may run in the fall).

I have already been thinking some about the differences between legal knowledge management as practiced in law firms and in law departments (within corporations), and the conditions for the same.  Law departments have typically not invested significantly in knowledge management, compared to law firms, and have less advanced legal-related information access and delivery.  In part, this may be due to the traditionally smaller numbers of lawyers found in large corporations, compared to their outside counsel.

Law departments may also be different from law firms in the following ways, which impact the ability to initiate and sustain legal knowledge management efforts:

  • General counsel have limited or no billable hour pressure; rather, they need to be responsive to the direct demands from the corporation and its employees, ideally as efficiently and broadly as possible.
  • General counsel work for a single company, usually in one industry; they are often located in offices associated with different lines of business within a company, and as a result may be far more geographically separated from other attorneys than a law firm of comparable size.  They likely have fewer information needs around getting to know their industry—they deal with their company all day, every day—and more around connecting with and learning from other attorneys.
  • General counsel’s office are only one (non-revenue-generating) part of a corporation; the general perception is that general counsel find it more difficult to obtain IT resources and attention than is the case in law firms, since the organization as a whole is not focused on legal work.
  • While legal-specific technology investment may be limited, law departments may have access to corporate technology—particularly sophisticated enterprise social network and financial analytics software—not broadly available in law firms.  There may also be line-of-business knowledge management staff and processes that can be readily leveraged for the law department. 
It is perhaps unfair to compare so broadly, but I think this is a worthwhile discussion to have, and the rise of law department knowledge management is a very interesting development.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Iron Tech Lawyer Spring 2014--Legal Technology That Works


I viewed most of the live streaming Georgetown Iron Tech Lawyer competition Wednesday afternoon (April 23rd). 

Previous related coverage of Iron Tech Lawyer includes Scott Rechschaffen's thorough post on the ILTA KM blog about his experience as an Iron Tech Lawyer judge last spring and my December 2013 post about Michael Mills' visit to speak at the Boston Innovation meetup (for background on the underlying legal technology, Neota Logic, which graciously provided free software and support).

I really liked how the law students worked.  Each team tried hard to identify the specific client needs that could best be met by a specific application of Neota Logic's technology, recognized challenges that clients, and the clients' clients, faced, and proposed solutions that kept the apps simple and usable.

Answers Or Coaching?

Normally I think of expert system applications as resulting in partial or complete legal answers.  As with Littler's HCR Advisor, a company or individual answers a series of questions, the system (very quickly) carries out an analysis, and, Hey Presto, you or your client is advised to [pay a $10 million  Obamacare penalty] [pay no taxes for the next three years] [report the water quality violation to the EPA]. 

One of the applications, the Unemployment Benefits Hearing Coach, did not directly attempt to provide an answer, but rather, sought to in effect train individuals and companies about the unemployment benefits process and educate them about what may be the most important aspect of the hearing process, their respective burdens of proof, so they could be more knowledgeable about what they needed to do at the hearing.

In a former life (or so it seems now) at another firm I actually spent a frustrating few weeks representing an employer in exactly those types of hearings. It turns out to be suprisingly challenging to prevail as an employer--typically employers have the burden of proof to establish that you fired the employee for cause, with a valid rule that is consistently applied. For what it's worth, I checked out the wizard in the factual situations I was familiar with, and it matched my recollection of the appropriate standards.

What struck me is that these types of "training" apps could well be leveraged in a range of other situations.  Even sophisticated firms could use an app like this one to provide basic information to a witness for deposition or trial testimony, in advance of meeting with the person, for instance. Or if a firm does a significant amount of a certain type of work, it could develop training apps for its associates or other junior lawyers, say around inter-state federal subpoenas or preparing deposition notices and logistics.

Apps As Workflow

Some of the apps were anonymous; others resulted in a report being sent on to the non-profit that sponsored the app, in effect operating as a partial onboarding tool.  In fact, one of the apps, the Triage and Intake Assessment System, functioned in part as an onboarding tool, for the Virginia Legal Aid Society,  It asked a simple series of questions that established the key facts (such as residence, income, and disability/age) that the VLAS needs to determine whether the user falls into the unfortunately comparatively limited pool of people who are its potential clients (compared to the demand for legal aid services). I think apps like these could serve as the start of an onboarding process for a law firm's pro bono or regular clients (as could traditional document assembly packages). 

I do not envy the judges.  One of the entries that had the lowest vote in the straw poll was the New York Sick Time Advisor , where the team was dealing with as complex and challenging set of rules faced by any of the teams, but with what at least appears on first glance to be quite dry and limited.  How would you rate a team that tackled a challenging issue, and handled it well, but simply didn't have a subject that compelled interest or had widespread impact? 


As I tweeted during the session, I found the whole set of presentations quite inspiring.  These students students were using sophisticated technology to solve real-world legal service problems, using web-based, mobile-enabled applications that appeared simple to the user but can handle a high degree of sophisticated legal logic under the hood.  They were able to pull these apps together quickly, without a rich understanding of the legal landscape, but with the ingenue's lack of apprehension and what is likely now a higher order of appreciation for the possibilities of legal technology than is the case with the broad run of lawyers. 

For more on the competition, you can view the #irontechlawyer twitter stream, follow Georgetown Iron Tech on Twitter, and visit the formal site for the Spring 2014 competition.

Update May 1, 2014--As recently announced on the official Awards page, the winners were:
Congratulations to the winners and all the participants.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Neota Logic Founder Michael Mills To Meet With Boston Legal Innovators

I'll be introducing Neota Logic founder Michael Mills at the upcoming Boston Legal Innovation meetup, next Monday night December 16th at 6 PM at the District Hall, 75 North Street (in Boston's Seaport District, near the Institute for Contempary Art and the Federal Court House). 

Here's the formal session description:

"Neota Logic is one of most interesting and important companies working in legal technology today. In recent months, it has powered the Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, partnered with Seyfarth Shaw and Littler Mendelson, and helped a NY non-profit streamline its small business assistance program.
But what exactly does Neota Logic do, how does its technology work, and what does it all mean for the future of lawyers, law firms and legal departments?  Find out on Dec. 16th by joining us at Boston's new innovation center District Hall for a fascinating conversation with Michael Mills, Neota Logic's CEO."

I've known Michael for a number of years from a knowledge management peer group we both participate in, and also from various ILTA events.  Most recently in August he was part of an outstanding panel at the ILTA conference on online legal services; in 2012 he spoke on "The Lawyer's Role is Changing"; and back in 2010 we were on a panel together addressing knowledge management and alternative fee arrangements.

I've always found him one of the most clear-headed, thoughtful, and witty members of the legal knowledge management community. I especially admire what he's done in identifying and then developing not simply a system to answer or provide greater insight into a particular set of complex legal questions, but a platform for developing such systems. 

These systems work in similar fashion to document assembly or other "wizards" that walk the user through a series of factual questions, and then apply predetermined legal logic to produce a document draft.  I've seen similar systems that could operate to generate a budget for a legal matter.

Expert systems such as Neota Logic have a similar front end; the end result varies but could be as simple as an answer like "No, you don't have to worry about X regulation" or as complex as "here's a map showing you the states where you have to worry about that wage law issue."  They require a whole new model of development and of legal work, asking lawyers to think not just about a particular factual situation, but all the possible factual situations relating to a particular legal question, and then requiring them to identify what chain of factual questions are required for the system to be able to provide a useful answer.  I've previously called this "dendritic logic," meaning that user's earlier answers influence which branch of additional questions they may have to answer.

As with most cutting-edge technology, scalability is a key advantage ; once the heavy investment of thought and research has been distilled into a Neota Logic solution, it can be leveraged by thousands or even millions of users, for very little if any additional cost for each additional user.

Probably the quickest way to gain an understanding of his company's work is to review the last two Iron Tech Lawyer competitions, for which Neota Logic has donated the software and services.  On the ILTA KM blog, Scott Rechstchaffen describes the spring 2013 competition and results, which focused on legal services challenges (also covered by the ABA), and Neota's own blog described the fall 2013 competition, which focused on administrative law.  See also's Michael Mills interview.

I hope you can join us next Monday.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Two Partner's Perspectives On Legal KM--Speeding and Improving Client Service

I recently attended a meeting of knowledge management practitioners from law firms.  We had two law firm partner guests, who effectively spoke as the voice of the internal "KM client," albeit from a firm with a sophisticated and established KM program. I especially valued their thoughts because there was one transactional attorney and one trial lawyer.  In accordance with the expectations under which they spoke frankly to us, I do not identify them or their firm.  Any comments of mine are in brackets.

KM's Impact On Attorney Work

The transactional partner said that KM drives efficiency in his group.  It helps to mitigate demand and improve client service in his matters. Generating work product quickly is of prime importance in his group's practice. People will always use a personal connection and network to learn how to do things and to get answers.  KM can underpin that.  When people contribute consistently to KM it can really take off.

The litigation partner said that being able to leverage prior work product is a prerequisite to being able to do his work. He can tell an associate is leveraging KM when they are able find things more quickly and better. He can also infer that an associate is probably not leveraging KM when an assignment comes back incomplete and not on time.

Speed of turnaround of answers is much faster between people who use KM systems and those who don't.  It's about speed and delivery of service.

The US experience with a "heavy IT footprint" is not as advanced as that of Magic Circle firms.

Partners involved in KM need to continually remind senior leadership of the benefits of KM.

KM Advances Client Service For Transactional And Litigation Practices

Clients expect that you have good systems for leveraging previous firm work. If you are continually inventing the wheel you will appear more expensive and less effective than your peers.

Big financial services institutions expect law firms to be on top of their own business.  The speed and depth and ubiquity with which you can marshal your firm's knowledge for your clients can be a competitive advantage.

In litigation, how to keep clients informed about the progress or status on a matter without distracting the matter team may be a key area for KM.  The litigation partner has had great success with a client extranet, in particular with very large complex cases where the client needs to be aware of the case status on a daily or weekly basis. More effective information sharing with clients on litigation matters is a real opportunity, especially in firms that have invested in effective internal information management.

On the litigation side, some work product junior attorneys produce looks menial or routine.  But there are usually case-specific nuances that require an attorney's eye, so document automation may be less useful. [I believe that document automation in more sophisticated practices is not necessarily designed to produce a final draft, however, so perhaps there is a role for document automation where there is a lot of consistency between work product types, for instance, in discovery "boilerplate."]

KM Improves Marketing and Recruiting

Reliance on previous experience in a pitch (appropriately) leads to client expectation that that experience can be leveraged quickly. Experience and leveraging that experience pertains to substantive legal knowledge as well the business and industry context of the client and its problems.

Sharing relevant precedent documents can also be part of a marketing strategy. [I saw this at the International Bar Association as well--internationally, law firms are sharing "scrubbed" precedents with clients as a way to add value and attract the clients to their expertise].

KM can attract talent by creating a good environment to work and not waste time. Recruits take technology into consideration, and ask about it in interviews.

Fixed Fees and KM

The nature of how you value legal services has changed.  Alternative Fee Arrangements are highly relevant to KM. Fixed fees can be put into place for a whole year or for a particular piece of work around a particular motion. That kind of arrangement puts a huge importance in investing up front in what could make you more efficient.

Fixed fee work will continue increasing. The fee pressure is unparalleled.

KM Staff Expansion?

The Practice Support Lawyer ("PSL") role in the US is new but is gaining momentum.  PSL and client development will merge as methods of developing business.  PSLs can greatly assist a partner's focus on business development and billable work, because almost everything a PSL does in the way of client alerts, precedent development, and training, a partner would have done before.

Video training has helped people manage their time without losing content.  But there is a certain human element that we can't replace yet.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Knowledge Management Panel at the International Bar Association

I just spoke on a knowledge management panel at the International Bar Association today titled "Knowledge Management:  A Law Firm's Secret Weapon."  The IBA is a huge organization; there are over three thousand lawyers here in Boston today, discussing topics such as "legal issues related to photography as an art form" and "strategic positioning in the global investment market" and, of course, networking up a storm.  There aren't really many people tweeting here; as a side benefit to this not being a tech conference, however, the wi-fi is working very well.

I spoke about knowledge management technology, specifically, what makes a piece of technology effective for KM purposes.

I concluded that effective KM technology:
  • Connects people, content, and firm processes; 
  • Is easy to use for attorneys; 
  • Signals or provides access to information about content's trustworthiness; 
  • Does not normally require massive investments of attorney time outside their normal work; and 
  • Is consistently leveraged at the right time during the course of work.

Since the session is broken up into two separate panels, and I am speaking on the second panel, I am taking notes on the first session. I found it to be a strong session providing an excellent overview of justifications for knowledge management in legal and other professional organizations.

  • Aku Sorrainen, the organizer and chair of the session, is the founder of an Estonian law firm, a lawyer advising corporations in the areas of mergers & acquisitions and real estate.
  • Shelley Dunstone is a consultant from Australia, moderating the first panel.
  • Gerard Tanja is from Venturis Consulting, which advices governments, law firms, and corporations on HR and organizational matters.  He founded the Clifford Chance educational academy.
  • Michael Peer is from KPMG (forensics).
  • Silke Gottschalk is Director of Compliance with the Luther law firm from Germany
  • Charles Coward is an attorney with Uria Menendez in Barcelona

We start from the premise that law firms have done a lot to reduce their costs.  Law firms need to get creative about increasing their productivity since their continues to be pressure to reduce rates.

Gerard Tanja--What is the Knowledge We Want to Manage and Why?
He was at McKinsey, an organization that so effectively manages its know-how that it is considered a "learning organization."  Know-how is systematically available there.  He is seeing convergence between how other professional organizations like consultancies and accountant firms, and law firms are managing their knowledge.

The global legal market is a "Red Ocean" environment (think sharks and blood in the water). New entrants, fragmentation, and consolidation all roil the market.  The market as a whole is not expanding. In a Red Ocean you compete in existing market, as compared to in a Blue Ocean "open water" environment, competition is much less.  

This environment means you need to make systematic assessment of how to manage know-how.

Going forward, from the client's perspective, law firms will make available for free a lot of the templates that they have, via secure client portals.  Doing this does not lead to fewer requests for assistance. 

Operational efficiency is key.  Much of that will be outsourced eventually.  That's necessary if you want to compete in your existing markets.

Firms need to make clear trade offs and choices vis-a-vis your competitors.  How you deal with know-how in relation to your clients becomes a major differentiator. 

Firms should drive their knowledge management efforts in two areas; is the partner's knowledge only tacit, inside their heads, or has it been made explicit?  And, is the organization's know-how unstructured, or structured?  Firms need to encourage knowledge to be structured and explicit.  [I believe that you can't really make a partner's knowledge explicit--but you do need some way of connecting the partner with the person who needs the tacet knowledge at a given point in time.]

How did McKinsey do it?

Know-how criteria is included in the compensation, evaluation, and "brainwashing"; at every level it is made clear that sharing knowledge is an essential part of the culture of the firm.  When a colleague asks for help, you give it, even if it is not immediately rewarded.

Learning and professional development needs to be integrated with know-how.  People need to get rewarded for contributing to know-how. Law firms should invest much more in technology and know-how systems. 

McKinsey generally left their post-engagement review and client reports open, unless the client specifically requested (which happened less than 10% of the time).

The biggest return on investment is in ensuring that reinventing the wheel no longer takes place, and that the precedent quality is high.  This will increase margins without requiring more people.

Michael Peer

He is from KPMG (an IBA sponsor), responsible for dispute advisory services across Eastern Europe.  He runs a team that covers 45 jurisdictions. 

You have to embed knowledge-sharing into what you do every day or it gets lost.

KPMG is a series of individual entities with fairly small global integration.  Most sharing used to happen within each country's entity.  They hired 50 people at a global level to support each practice and service line and developed a knowledge management strategy for each (cross-geographical) practice.  They worked with designated "knowledge champions" who were there to collect and share information for each practice.

It was a major challenge to motivate these individuals.  They built the level of effort into the evaluation process.

The global team had to do some "anonymizing" of the content to avoid sharing client-specific details.  They also realized that they had to evaluate and periodically remove outdated content.

They wanted to create a credentials /  experience database.  Requests for experience can come in at the last minute.  

They also established a Facebook-style portal whereby you could have discussion threads; it was used to replace private "have-you-done-anything-like X" requests, but in a searcheable and retrievable form [I would call this an enterprise social network-- I believe theirs is based on Tibbr].

How at a global firm do you quickly find the right individual?  How do you leverage the best practices others have developed?  

They have a set turn-around time for conflict resolution (24 hours to ID conflicts, 24 hours to resolve / address). 

They handle client confidentiality concerns by having the knowledge champions encourage their teams to share information in anonymized form and by putting up credentials. 

KPMG will keep files limited to a particular group such as the "Czech practice" group, unless the clients impose specific restrictions.

They spent a lot of time developing methodologies, such as how to approach a disputed advisory project, or how to collect information from a client.  The documents were made available in conjunction with online videos.

Silke Gottschalk--KM Do's and Don'ts


Most of the knowledge in a firm lies in the heads of the practitioners.  You need to establish a formal process to build up a KM system.

Clients expect a mature KM system where clients can access your firm's knowledge.  Clients also need to provide their know-how and information to firms.

You need to develop forms and precedents to get the most.

You need to set up KM goals and standards that comport with what clients expect from you.  

Create a culture of knowledge sharing by showing the benefits of KM systems and incentives for contribution, keeping in mind that voluntary contributions will usually not work.  You should set up formal criteria and systems for contributions. Incentives at her firm include reputational and financial rewards.

The partner on the "service line" needs to monitor the quality of the KM inputs, to avoid "gaming" the system.  They track the level of effort in terms of numbers of hours.  You have to set up a culture where it is "normal" to contribute to the KM system.


Look out for the "lone ranger."  The only way to overcome him is to have top management support.  If you don't have it then it can be very difficult to implement.

Your firm's KM and technology systems have to be up to date.

Her firm is sharing precedents, forms, business development information, and market information (deal terms?) with clients in a secure portal.
Charles Coward

Benefits of KM

Knowledge management systems avoid the risks of losing important information.

You lose a lot of partner knowledge if it hasn't been recorded.

KM contributes to integration of a firm and its profitability.

It saves time in the preparation of documents, standardizes formats as well as quality and response time for services.

It provides much more precise information about who knows what, the firm's expertise.

Barriers to KM

Strict time and billing can be an obstacle to an effective knowledge-sharing strategy.  Partner compensation needs to include KM, but KM is hard to measure (you need quality more than quantity).  Public recognition can go a long way.  Get away from a culture where hoarding precedents is acceptable.  Speciality groups may take special negotiation and treatment, for instance requiring notice to the specialty group of a precedent download. 

Another obstacle is the belief that everything is artisanal and unique.  

His firm has 19 KM staff, half of whom are lawyers, with 600 lawyers.

Technology is essential, but is merely the conduit and distribution network that allows the interaction.  

It's easier to have KM in a "lock-step" firm than in an "eat-what-you-kill" law firm.  

How much is knowledge being accessed by lawyers? By clients? Who is monitoring this?

KM is essential.  It gives many things that are intangible and hard to measure. If you spend money well, there will be an enormous return; if you don' t do it, you may not survive in today's world.