Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ark Conference: The Role of Technology in KM

These are my notes on an interesting presentation about an intensive investment in technology (specifically, SharePoint) and its impact on a firm. 

Leona Blanco

Leona Blanco lays out a picture of what her firm Colin Biggers & Paisley was like in 2004. 

They had 21 partners, 150 people, and 11 different numbering systems. They had no intranet or extranet, and no document management system.

Now in 2013 there are 2 numbering system, one style guide, and a standard cost agreement.  They adopted SharePoint 2007 for intranet, extranet, and document management system.  Their extranet "My CBP" was rolled out in early 2010.  (Clifford Chance has since adopted SharePoint 2010 and has thousands of employees and documents).

In Australia, the Legal Profession Act requires alerting a client when a budget is threatening to be exceeded.  CPB provides "Mercury Alerts," email notices of issues like these, internal information reports.  Mercury Alerts have evolved to be the source of choice for administrative information, with many many customized reports.

Omni is the CPB data warehouse that feeds data to SharePoint, Mercury Alerts, and the like.  No one knows about Omni. 

They've rolled out SharePoint collaboration sites for specific practices that combine documents, discussion boards, articles, feeds, and the like. Client sites (actually a SharePoint site collection) also have matter-specific SharePoint sites. An "About the Client" section allows for client team members (usually the lead partner) to contribute information about key client contacts, billing information, staffing considerations, and industry background. 

Each matter has a SharePoint site. There are now over 100,000 matter sites and 2 terabytes of data in CPB intranet.

SharePoint allows for alerts from any document or site. 

They do a lot of litigation and are importing an historic litigation sample database.  They are developing litigation forms that will auto-populate documents from matter-level information in the database (under development). 

The system allows for customized matter metadata.

Implementing Technology

It has to work right. You have to have a trial run, focus groups and pilot groups.  Make it cool to be a volunteer. Include a troublemaker, because if you win them over,

Some partners may not use the tools, which may be OK if it only impacts them.

Blathering at people in technical-speak is the quickest way to alienate them.  Translate into plain English. IT is no longer optional.

Chris Latta

A law firm's greatest asset is its knowledge.  It is subject to leakage through attrition and through people losing track of it.

The rate of production of knowledge is increasing. 

If you're supporting a lot of people with a lot of data, you have to leverage technology.  Increased capacity of technological production.

We're never going back to a point where efficiency is not important.  Law firms have to actively plan to make their current work practices obsolete.

Commoditized work has different economies of scale. 

Disruptive systems don't support the current ways of doing business and may not be deployed within the walls of ones law firm. 

Access to justice is a significant problems.  In England a million civil cases go unheard.  In Australia legal service funds are being cut.  We can automate dispute resolution. 

If we don't disrupt our own markets, someone else will.

The KM system must have more knowledge than the firm.  Contact Relationship Management is much more important in bigger firms. 

CBP has a dedicated software development team.

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