Monday, February 2, 2009

LegalTech report--KM from a Practicing Attorney Perspective

  • High value KM approaches
  • KM tool evolution
  • How KM helps attorneys practice more effectively

Scott Rechtschaffen, Managing Shareholder, Littler Mendelson

Rachelle Rennagel, Chief Knowledge Officer, Sheppard Mullin

This session conflicted with most of the "What is Twitter and How Can I Use It" session. LawyerKM and Mary Abraham deserted me for there, so I'm staying on the bridge.

Rachelle Rennagel

Rachelle wanted to present some thoughts and techniques that she's used to further KM at Sheppard Mullin. She provided some excellent strategy and tactics but did not go into much detail about the pieces of her particular projects.

What can we do given the reality of the economy?

Rachelle also provides litigation support and supervises e-discovery.

As CKO she does not "know everything" but she supports lawyers and other operational gruops. She "helps speak the geek" for the lawyers and "speak the lawyer" for the geek.

She has four mantras:

  • Make firm-wide knowledge more accessible
  • Train, train, train
  • Cultural sensitivity and generational leverage
  • Serve the law firm client by increasing efficiency and profitability

Work within existing firm processes. Gradually erode less efficient processes.

Two primary KM opportunities are supporting alternative billing arrangements, and attorney prospecting/opportunity management. "This is the year of client development."

KM can supply the answer to the question, "How do we make sure that we are making money under alternative arrangements?"

In this economy it is getting easier to find people to contribute to formal knowledge-sharing programs.

Sheppard Mullin is using client dashboards to push data to lawyers about clients and prospective clients.

There remain aspects of their current software (e.g., Sharepoint) that they haven't fully leveraged.

She gets on partner meeting schedules and presents on a topic they care about; she meets with the executive committee. She also does one-on-one meetings with lawyers to get them to understand email risks.

Rachelle thinks this is also a good time to be addressing risk management technology like records management, email management, and litigation holds. Attorneys use email to store advice to clients and more.

She is working with their electronic librarian to create an internal RSS feed for their lawyers.

They are working on "ShMutter" (Shepard Mullin internal Twitter).

Workflow is an amazing effective process. How do we automate new hire or matter intake processes? Spending time keying in the same information multiple times in the HR process is not efficient. She also works on contract management.

Rachelle appears to be taking the approach, be useful and helpful where she can, regardless of how close or far that activity is to traditional knowledge management activities. More power to her for that.

Scott Rechtschaffen

From my perspective, for a U.S. firm of its size, Littler has an unusually large and succesful knowledge management team. This may be due in part to their focus on labor & employment work, in which "traditional" KM organization and knowledge-gathering efforts may be more succesful. Their team's success is also no doubt due to the energy and acuity of the team leader.

Scott said that Littler attorneys are "scattered" throughout many offices in many states. They have 9 dedicated KM attorneys, including an attorney elevated to the partnership through the KM track. He does not expect hires to be tech-savvy.

He works most closely on IT/Web Development, client relations/marketing, and professional development. Clients are increasingly wanting to see depth of content as a way of establishing expertise.

Their KM attorneys are:

  • Trainers
  • KM concierge
  • KM evangalists

In the concierge role, if an attorney is too busy to find something, or don't know how, the KM group does. One attorney is assigned as gatekeeper. They tracks number of attorney inquiries (3,000 last year).

Small low-hanging fruit can advance the case that KM should be a part of the operations (management?) of a law firm.

One example is an arbitrator database and an international lawyer database. Who knows X arbitrator in St. Louis?

They are using customized software to manage class action discovery (interviews) and generate interview templates. DealBuilder is being used to generate case-specific information off of a standardized form.

Littler Mendelson has a large subscription-based client-facing KM project on a number of employment law toics; it includes action items. It works because clients know it's reliable, they aren't paying by the hour, and clients can brand it themselves. The KM group also publishes hard-copy and CD on international employment and labor law (and also guides to particular states). They put out about 15,000 pages of content all told. Their class action practice just published a book. It's a great tool for the practice. He would like to eventually move some of these to a wiki. They also do "ASAP" client alerts. There are four firm-sponsored blogs.

Littler Mendelson was an early contributor to Legal On-Ramp. KM attorneys act as mediators and engagers, alerting attorneys to particular on-line conversations relevant to their practice.

LM has an alumni site. It is interactive--they run MCLE programs for alumni through this site.

KM can help enable quick and accurate responses to client inquiries.

Attorneys want to find people with particular expertise. As firm grows it's harder to know who is the resident firm expert on particular topics.

Their matter page / team site (built on Sharepoint 2007) integrates RSS feeds. Partners wanted a box to identify the objective / strategy of the matter in a few sentences. It also shows the (sharepoint) task lists, a piece of functionality I've been investigating.

Their document management search integrates Recommind and West KM. The people / expertise search integrates DMS documents, bios, narrative time entries, and industry information from Elite.

They will be requiring that any event with 20+ attorneys to be listed on a firm-wide calendar.

Scott's grasp of metrics and results show that he has no difficulty in proving value to his partners and his firm.

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