Starting a Knowledge Management Program

Starting a KM Program

ILTA August 25, 2008 10:30 am

These are my notes from the program.  [Since I am taking paper-free notes and because there is free Wi-Fi here, I thought that I’d add the notes to the blog.  Disclaimer: my notes are rough, so forgive the typos.]

See the ILTA site for the speaker line up

Mara Nickerson, Nola Vanhoy, Cherylyn Briggs, Elizabeth Ellis.


  • Who should lead the KM effort?
  • There is great diversity in the structure and placement of KM within law firms.
  • Where does KM fit within the organization?
  • Who owns the the projects and applications?
  • If KM is new and not a part of some of other group, beware of stepping on others toes because just about every initiative can be considered a KM initiative.
  • Common is a battle between KM and IT because many KM projects are technology based.
  • At Osler KM is a team approach
  • At Dickstein – KM is under the CIO umbrella, their research attorneys and librarians are close with the practicing attorneys.
  • Service -orientented attitude is important.
  • Get perspective from other departments.
  • Stealth approach – don’t call it “KM” start small, show the value of the projects and initiatives, and then roll it out.

Identifying and Prioritizing the need for Knowledge Management

  • Gather Information.
  • Use knowledge audit template.
  • Start with firm’s business plan – be a direct contriutor to the buisness plan.
  • What are the firms practice groups?  Do they have silos – files, precedents, etc. that can be organized and shared throughout the firm?
  • Start with small steps, incremental.
  • Communication is critical: especially with the IT group.
  • Tip: (one of my favorite that I always share with people): show lawyers how to find the things that you found for them.  I call it “give them a fish AND teach them to fish.”
  • Key: find out how information flows in your firm.
  • Don’t just jump on the band wagon – don’t do something just because another firm is doing it.  And, you may have to adjust within your firm, e.g., you may need to provide different options to different practice groups.


  • Most of the crowd are not lawyers.
  • KM is all about context!
  • Comfort zone: KM lawyers may have an easier time getting buy-in from the practicing attorneys at the firm.
  • Two levels of buy-in: senior executive (lawyers) & senior management (admin groups)
  • [I agree – don’t assume that lawyers – or anyone else at the firm knows or understands what KM is about or what KM at your firm is all about].
  • One speaker encouraged firm to have a KM partner in each department.
  • [let’s face it, if you’re not a partner, lawyers are rarely going to read your emails]
  • KM is a cost to the firm [so you have to justify it].
  • Try to show (rather than just describe) things because so many things are hard to describe (e.g., a portal, RSS)
  • try to have a lawyer sponsor of a project – but make sure they are aware of the responsibilities of being a sponsor.
  • be pragmatic and patient.
  • low hanging fruit: start with the projects that you can deliver easily and show the results.
  • there is no silver bullet: no one system will do everything your firm needs.

Where to Start

  • Project management is essential
  • use external resources like the ILTA listserve to help you plan your approach.
  • don’t forget about client-facing projects – can be a lot of bang for the buck: e.g., 50 state surveys.
  • bring in the power users for the focus group.
  • establish the focus group right from the outset.
  • have a facilitator there (not you) if you expect any political issues.  [this would be a true PM approach]
  • mock ups are critical for such groups – helps people visualize what the project is all about.
  • Requirements Document – definitely need this for the sign-off process.  Helps make sure you are doing what you say you’re doing.  This is a living document – don’t be afraid to change it if needed.
  • Pilot the project – allow time and gather the feedback for it.  Make adjustments based on feedback.
  • Develop [and refine] the elevator speech about the project – relate it to your audience.  Know it back and forth so that you can communicate it.

Measuring Success – Communicating Value

  • demonstrate and articulate value even if you are not asked to.
  • Agree at the start how success will be measured [this is so important! how do you know if you are successful if you don’t know what success means?  this also helps prevent the problem of the moving-target.]
  • use metrics, if possible: hits, views, etc. on intranet / portal / other applications.
  • user satisfaction / use anecdotes [but metrics are much more tangible]
  • consider balanced score card approach.
  • client satisfaction: many clients in their RFPs, want to know what the firm is doing from a KM perspective.
  • can KM make the work of an attorney more efficient [key question]
  • focus on measuring the success of initiatives, rather than the whole KM program.
  • when should you measure?  probably several points along the way.
  • record the time committed to building the project.
  • follow up with users: why did they use it, or why not?
  • get user feed back regularly.
  • track success stories.
  • build an end-of-year report based on all of the data information you’ve collected.
  • reporting is essential.

Nice presentation.  LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

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