Friday, October 15, 2010

KM and Legal Project Management

These are my notes from a presentation on knowledge management and legal project management (LPM). The first half contrasted the purposes, tools, challenges of LPM and KM. The second half of the presentation covered an impressive, albeit soon-to-be released, legal service platform for delivery of commoditized administrative complaint legal services. It combines an effective workflow with KM and information-sharing of a very high order.

(As with the previous post, the specific presenters and firms are not identified under the rules of this meeting.)

KM Contrasted with LPM

While KM seeks to provide actionable information, LPM tries to provide more structure to what lawyers already do. Both seek to deliver more efficiency, and use software or business process changes. KM seeks to develop content (I note that some content is a by-product of LPM). It is not clear who can or should do legal project management at law firms. The PM role should be embedded within practice areas. Where LPM requires lawyers to create a plan and follow that plan, KM offerings are typically more voluntary. LPM requires a change in organizational methods, it is not simply "more structure."

A commentator noted that some KM practitioners are concerned with quality and consistency as well as efficiency. A project manager will typically balance quality as one component against time and cost.

Some KM practitioners are already concerned with process improvement. It may be time to "grasp the nettle" and get involved with these efforts. LPM is an opportunity

Clients will pay for planning if it is positioned properly.

Process Improvement

The CFO at one firm has been asking the KM department to identify or provide tools and mechanisms for process improvement and LPM. KM feeds into LPM very well. LPM helps you map the process. KM's job is to build the tools that support the processes.

This firm has set up a workflow for firm administrators to track intake on a certain type of administrative complaints that are filed against some clients across the U.S. KM provides forms, wikis, and information specific to the matter at the time that the attorney is drafting the response to the complaint or interviewing witnesses.

The firm has "flex-time" attorneys that can handle these matters. Other attorneys are supervising the matters and conduct or review risk assessments. (It strikes me that this model is flexibly expandable).

The recommendations of both as to how to proceed need to match (or, I assume, the file is escalated to the supervisor's supervisor). They are tracking metrics for frequency and cost of settlement that can be assessed at the flex-time attorney or supervisor level. All the status and monitoring information is available to the client. The client can also track metrics such as claims by location or by client's manager.

This approach is very effective for commodity-level work. You can control for the variables. It combines case management and document assembly. Multiple levels of supervision are critical for the quality control. The tool is not in active use yet but was started in January 2010. It took them two months to conceptualize the project and present to the client. They used an interim database to capture information before the full tool is rolled out.

Essentially the client is outsourcing much of the internal work that used to be associated with these matters to the law firm. The tool and processes (and the staffing model) enable mass-scale commodity work to be done by a large firm, with quality control.

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