Friday, August 17, 2007

ILTA Conference Report, Session KM 2; Stories from Client-Facing KM Implementers

Clint Moore has been with Littler Mendelson for 5 years as "Manager of KM Technologies." 8 KM attorneys in his firm, he is a technologist, looking for 1 more; 7 web developers. KM is not part of IT, they work closely with the library. The KM attorneys have a revenue goal, which they meet through selling subscription tools to "Littler Monitor" and Littler GPS.

The "Littler Monitor" service provides a method to monitor wage legislation and regulation in 50 states; provides action items and an indication of whether legislation is pending.

Littler recently launched Littler GPS, 50-state surveys on discrimination, employment benefits, unemployment, and so forth. Littler also has a collective bargain agreement service. Two models of subscriptions--17 of most popular surveys, or they can pick some they care. It takes 40-100 hours.

Chard Ergun is Manager of Practice Management Systems at White & Case, a firm with 2,135 attorneys world-wide and 38 office in 23 countries. White & Case has PSLs in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, "Knowledge Resource Attorneys" in Americas. White & Case has a system that tracks model documents called "Knowledge Bank; the KRAs are part of practice groups and are responsible for "sanitizing" or cleaning up monitors. The external resource is called "White & Case Universe," an application that "assists clients in implementing and coordinating their compensation and benefits, global employment, and labor strategies around the world." Access is subscription-based; there is a free public section including a demo. A built-in workflow process ensures that only partner-approved content gets posted. Firm attorneys can subscribe to particulary types of content or regional activity. The application was developed in coordination with clients. There is some "push": clients get notice of new content directly from the site. Site also leads to client-specific extranets.

Menus of resources are country-specific and are managed by the attorneys. Attorneys were nervous about sharing everything because they feared clients weren't going to call them. It didn't work out that way and in fact led the clients to the right attorney more quickly.

Fiona Gifford is International Development Manager at Freshfields. She worked at White & Case as an arbitration lawyer, and is now on Freshfields' central KM team. Europe has a large number of knowledge lawyers. Freshfields has an integrated KM and business development function. 80 knowledge management lawyers, with 5-10 years client experience, as well as 70 knowledge management assistants, organized by practice groups and sector groups. Total related staff is over 400, including library and information services. Most KM teams are based in practice groups, but there are also central KM staff who help spread knowledge across and between offices. Freshfields reorganized recently due to extensive overlap with business developments in areas such as Client Alerts and Pitches. They combined the two into a "KBD" (knowledge and business development) department. What we see as adding value is what clients expect "at 600 pounds an hour."

The KBD department is treated as a business service---they have KM business plans that are supposed to align with the overall business goals of the different practice areas. Training department is folded into KM at Freshfields.

I appreciated the opportunity to meet Fiona after the formal session. The London firms have so much more advanced KM groups in terms of numbers of personnel and resources that it is always interesting to hear what is happening with them. Fiona opined (based on her own experience as a PSL lawyer) that part of why KM has become KBD may be that the PSL lawyers, unlike the centralized business development staff, were very close to the practice areas and in some cases the clients, and so were in a position to intimately know exactly what the practice areas in particular offices needed.

Client facing KM is in three strains, current awareness, client training & seminars, and KM consulting,

Freshfields produced about 150 Client bulletins. They also put out newsletters, extranets, and online services. Clients really care about format, and try to tailor information to show how it affects a client's particular needs. Some sites like "FSnet" provide financial services information. Some clients have encouraged Freshfields to work collaboratively with other firms (example: banks) in a "BLT."

Freshfields will do tailored training for business and legal teams. First, the relationship partner needs to ask the client what they want.

Clients with large KM teams or legal departments are also looking for help with their own KM.
  • Secondments,
  • Strategic consultancy,
  • Tools & processes (as by having a KM attorney audit), and
  • Technology and systems.
To measure value, they record the time spent on KM activities (without billing). They openly discuss client feedback.

Freshfields has tried to bring in KMLs into U.S. offices but client expectations have dampened that effort.

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