Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Williams and May on Thomson West KM tools

The first KM session I attended at LegalTech 2008 featured Meredith Williams of Baker Donelson and George May of Thomson West. Some of the time they addressed the West KM work product retrieval system, and some of the time they recapitulated this same team’s presentation at ILTA 2007 about the West 360 business information (see my post on the subject). The primary difference I noticed in the West 360 part was more of an emphasis on client-facing information systems. Oh, and George threw in this stress toy abuse video.

In his discussion of integrating new tools with existing functions, George also had a couple of good points about another type of “red flag” that may arise in dealing with vendors. Given the variety and importance of legacy systems, vendors should not be saying to us “you’ve taken that standard application and warped it too much, we can’t integrate with it.” Most firms are “tweaking” and customizing their apps these days, so vendors should consider some integration part of the deal.

West KM is a work product retrieval tool, well known in the legal industry, that applies West search technology to a firm’s own product. It provides a key aspect of legal context by importing live KeyCite “flags” that indicate whether a particular case or statute is still good law. It was selected and implemented at my firm before I arrived, but training and evangelizing our attorneys on it has been a significant aspect of my work. I am a big West KM fan because of the value and context it adds to our litigation work product.

George also noted, as has been previously disclosed, that West KM has taken the wise approach of letting other search engines (Recommind and Sharepoint to date) take advantage of the “value added” by the flagging and HTML features of West KM and incorporate West KM functionality within their own user interfaces.

Meredith Williams’ firm goes beyond normal, out-of-the-box implementation of the West KM application. In her talk this was framed as bringing the search into the attorney’s workflow, by breaking out parts of the application. One example is putting a direct link to a particular KeySearch topic* on a practice area page (what a good idea!). As is more “normal” for the West KM application, the case flagging aspect of West KM at Baker Donelson can be accessed through an “Insert Flags” button in Word. A click pulls in a KeyCite “flag” indicating the validity of the case or statute at issue and also provides hyperlinks to the original authority and the firm’s other work product that cites to that authority.

*KeySearch is a West KM feature that in effect is a canned search for internal firm work product related to a particular legal topic. The legal topics are those of the famous West Digest system, and the Westlaw attorneys have developed roughly 10,000 of these KeySearch topics, which are arranged in a browseable, drillable hierarchical structure.

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