Thursday, October 30, 2008

First Day of Ark Conference—Knowledge Management and the Modern Law Firm

This was the 9th Legal KM Forum put on by the ARK conference group. I hope it is not the last as I found it a good experience in three ways. For people fairly new to KM, it was a good place to get up to speed, to some degree, on techniques used by other firms to enhance collaboration, efficiency, and knowledge-sharing within the organization. For more experienced folk, it was a chance to discuss where KM might be going. It was also an opportunity to obtain an overview (albeit at warp speed*) of traditional knowledge management principles and practices as they continue to be implemented in the corporate world.

On Monday, Ron Staudt, Professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, led off with an interesting overview of his work history. Ron has been a leader in the “KM for Legal Aid” arena, coordinating legal aid internet portals for attorneys, volunteers in every state in the U.S. Following some work at Lexis-Nexis on the HotDocs document generation application, Ron has also helped develop a user-friendly document generation platform, “A2J Author,” that walks members of the public through an internet interview leading ultimately to the generation of a set of papers that can be filed in court. The basic principle of the legal aid work is to treat the 5,000-8,000 lawyers in the main legal service organizations as one firm, the idea being that they are inundated with prospective clients rather than competing for them, and to provide them with the level of IT support one might expect for a firm of that size.

I have a small amount of experience as a temporary legal aid lawyer at Greater Boston Legal Services, and am too familiar with the unmet needs addressed by legal aid organizations. I wish Ron’s continued work on these projects all the best. I also hope that these portals take advantage of social collaborative software to enable even better knowledge and experience sharing, especially between the legal aid lawyers, as they go about their work. I can readily imagine a social network site for legal aid lawyers that could leverage the tremendous intellectual and people power of these attorneys through forums, wikis, blogs, alerts, and document sharing.

Two conference themes Ron proposed were, one, in this time of economic turmoil, KM must be more strategic than ever, and two, KM is evolving to support more aspects of the firm than before, including client service, risk management, and practice support.

* Star Trek reference entirely intentional Josh.

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