The Zero-Percent Rule | Knowledge Management

I mentioned my Zero-Percent Rule* in a previous post, Knowledge Harvest. There I stated the rule as: you should try to make any KM initiative require zero percent of an attorney’s time. This is not a rule because it is desirable to have zero input from attorneys on KM initiatives. To the contrary, I think that most legal knowledge management folks would love to have more attorney input. This is a rule because it is uncommon to get more than zero percent of an attorney’s time on KM initiatives. As I’ve said, for most attorneys, when one case or deal is done, it’s usually on to the next.

Therefore, I am revising the ZPR to state: legal KM folks should not expect more than zero percent of an attorney’s time on KM initiatives.** If we live by this rule we will not be disappointed.  And if we get some input from the lawyers, then it’s like icing on the KM cake. 

Now that we have that squared away, the Zero-Percent Rule should not be seen as an insurmountable problem. Technology is here to help. No, I am not trying to incite the age-old dispute about whether knowledge management is about technology or people or culture or whatever. Let’s agree that all of them are important. But, technology is important when you can’t get the “knowledge seekers” to participate. 

One example of how technology helps overcome the problems of the ZPR is MoFo’s AnswerBase, which is powered by Recommind.  Part of that tool enables lawyers to identify experts within the firm.  The great thing is that it is a passive system that requires no active participation by attorneys.  The idea is that expertise is determined by data from various systems.  For example, the fact that attorney Jones billed 1,500 hours last year on area of law Y (data from time and billing system) and was the author of 14 briefs on that same area of law (data from the DMS) and is the responsible attorney for several other similar matters (data from the accounting system) helps make the determination that attorney Jones probably is an expert in that area of law.  

Another example is a system like Contact Networks, which I wrote about in the Who Do We Know? post.  Such applications passively determine relationships among your lawyers, clients, potential clients, and others by mining e-mail traffic and other contact information.  Again, zero-percent attorney input.  I really like this because it helps eliminate internal spam e-mail, otherwise known as “PTI” e-mail.  You know about PTI e-mail: “Pardon the interruption, but does anyone know Mike Smith or any other senior executive at Big Corp?”  With a system like Contact Networks, or the like, those questions can be answered without spamming every single lawyer in the firm. 

How are you working to overcome the problems of the Zero-Percent Rule? 

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

* I have a feeling that this “rule” may have been met with some objection, but since LawyerKM has been–and still is–on vacation, I have no idea.  (Thanks to the magic of WordPress technology, this post, and all posts since, and including, Knowledge Harvest, were pre-written and published on a schedule.)

** I reserve the right to further revise this rule at any time.

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One thought on “The Zero-Percent Rule | Knowledge Management

  • May 13, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I 100% agree with the Zero Percent Rule (it should be taught in KM 101). I worked at a big consulting firm for six years, and consultants (like attorneys) just can not be counted upon to do consistent input for KM. They will do a little, sometimes, if pushed. But who wants to push a rope? That isn’t a job any KM leader signed up for.

    Thanks for mentioning Contact Networks. When our customers request new features, one of our criteria before adding it is that the feature does not rely on attorney input.

    I will be talking about the Zero Percent Rule (with proper attribution).

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