Data, Information, and Knowledge

As you may know, I’m a fan of (and perhaps a bit obsessed with) simplicity and concision.  So, I’m always looking for good, high-quality ways of making a point without wasting time.  When I came across a nice video by Nick Milton of Knoco about the distiction among data, information, and knowledge, I felt compelled to share it.  This video (along with other good KM info) is also embedded in Knoco’s FAQ page.

Microsoft Windows and Office Tips and Tricks

There is a nice article in Law Practice Today by Dan Pinnington called The Greatest Hidden Windows and Office Tricks for Lawyers.  I am always trying to find new ways to be more productive, so I like these tips from the article.  Many of the tips are pretty well known, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Keyboard Shortcuts – “To help you remember to use new shortcuts, try putting a Post-it on the edge of your monitor as a reminder.”
  • Alt+Tab for switching between programs
  • Cascading and tiling windows – If you right-click an empty area on the taskbar, you will be given three choices: Cascade Windows, Tile Windows Horizontally, or Tile Windows Vertically.
  • Paste Special – allows copy and paste without pasting the formatting from the source.  After you copy the desired text, “place the cursor at the point you want to add it to your document.  But instead of clicking the ‘Paste’ icon, click on ‘Edit’, then ‘Paste Special’, and then select the ‘Unformatted’ option. The text will adopt the format of the receiving document and any formatting from the source document will be lost.”

Check out the whole article here.

Knowledge Management, Technology & Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firms

KM101 Webinar: Intranets, Portals, Web 2.0 & Enterprise 2.0

On Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada), I’ll be conducting the fourth of four webinars in the KM 101 series.  Register here – free.  Here’s a description:

This session is called: Intranets, Portals, Web 2.0 & Enterprise 2.0

Knowledge Management is not all about technology, but it certainly helps. Today, we’ll discuss how intranets/portals can play a central role in your firm’s KM strategy, and can provide a single place to access much of the information that lawyers and staff need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. We’ll also look at Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, etc.) and see how they can be used both inside (referred to as Enterprise 2.0) and outside the law firm.

If you missed one of the first three webinars, you can replay them here.

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

KM 101 Webinar: What Do We Know? Document Management and Retrieval Systems

On Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada), I’ll be conducting the second of four webinars in the KM 101 series. Register here – freeIf you missed session one, you can watch it here.

Picking up where session one left off, this session, What Do We Know? Document Management and Retrieval Systems, will focus on the “What we know” of knowledge management. Most firms have been around for many years. They have amassed collections of documents that contain the firm’s “institutional knowledge” or “collective work product.” The ability to quickly and easily access and reuse the models, samples, forms, and precedent documents allows lawyers to leverage the work of their colleagues to ensure high quality work product in a efficient, cost-effective manner.

Like last time, we’ll use Twitter as an additional platform for questions and answers. During the sessions, you can send a “tweet” to me at @LawyerKM and include the hash tag “#KM101.”  I’ll be monitoring Twitter and I’ll try to answer any questions that you may have.  You’ll also be able to ask questions or make comments via telephone or through the WebEx Q&A system.

I’ve already reached out to the “Twitterverse” to ask people their thoughts about this topic and to see what they would like me to cover in session two.  Here are some of the responses (Search LawyerKM on Twitter to see the conversations there):

twitter-responses-re-dms

My thanks to the Twitters above — and all the others — who have chimed in.  You can too… or leave a comment below.

Hope to see you Wednesday.

Knowledge Management 101 for Legal – Webinar Series

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I’ll be conducting a series of four short (20-30 minute) webinars in association with LexisNexis.  The series will be tied to my Knowledge Management 101 blog posts.  Those posts, and the webinars, are intended to give people a basic introduction to KM in the legal industry (hence the “101” designation).  If you’re a KM whiz, like many of my readers, you may not get much out of the series, but if you know someone in the legal industry who wants to begin to understand what KM is all about, please let them know.

And just for kicks, I thought we might try to use Twitter as the platform for questions and answers. During the sessions, you can send a “tweet” to me at @LawyerKM and include the hash tag “#KM101“.  I’ll be monitoring Twitter and I’ll try to answer any questions you may have.

Here is the schedule and description for each webinar (or visit the LexisNexis sign-up page for all four):

1. Introduction to Legal Knowledge Management – Wed, April 8 – 3:00 PM

Knowledge management is nothing new, but there is still no agreed-upon definition. The way organizations implement KM efforts and initiatives varies widely; and law firms are no exception. This session will be a general introduction to knowledge management, focusing on the basics. It aims to help you decide whether to introduce KM at your firm, and how it can help — not only in the practice of law, but also in the business of law. A question & answer session will follow the presentation.

2. What Do We Know? Document Management and Retrieval Systems – Wed, April 22 – 3:00 PM

Picking up where session one left off, this session will focus on the “What we know” of knowledge management. Most firms have been around for many years. They have amassed collections of documents that contain the firm’s “institutional knowledge” or “collective work product.” The ability to quickly and easily access and reuse the models, samples, forms, and precedent documents allows lawyers to leverage the work of their colleagues to ensure high quality work product in a efficient, cost effective manner. A question & answer session will follow the presentation.

3. Who Do We Know? Contacts, Connections, and Social Networking for Lawyers and the Legal Profession – Wed, May 6 – 3:00 PM

Knowledge management is not just about documents. It’s also about finding the people (both inside and outside of the firm) who can help you get the job done or help with business development. This session will focus on the importance of the “who we know” aspects of knowledge management. Many firms have seen significant growth in the past decade. At some smaller firms, everyone knows everyone, and their areas of expertise. However, as firms grow and add lateral attorneys, it becomes more difficult to really know your colleagues and the their specialties. Cross-selling legal services to existing clients becomes difficult because attorneys may not know who at their firms can assist. This session will also look at connections outside of the law firm, and discuss how social networking can help solve the “who do we know” problem.  A question & answer session will follow the presentation.

4. Intranets, Portals, Web 2.0 & Enterprise 2.0 – Wed, May 20 – 3:00 PM

Knowledge Management is not all about technology, but it certainly helps. Today, we’ll discuss how intranets/portals can play a central role in your firm’s KM strategy, and can provide a single place to access much of the information that lawyers and staff need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. We’ll also look at Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, etc.) and see how they can be used both inside (referred to as Enterprise 2.0) and outside the law firm.  A question & answer session will follow the presentation.

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

KM 101: Tacit and Explicit Knowledge

This is the second post in a new series about legal knowledge management, called KM 101.  If you haven’t already, you can read the first entry, called KM 101: Introduction to Legal Knowledge Management.

Today, the conversation is about tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge.

At a very high level, it is generally agreed that tacit knowledge is that which has not been recorded, written, printed, or otherwise captured in some medium.  Explicit knowledge, on the other hand, is that which has been codified or captured in some medium.  Simply put, explicit knowledge has be written down or recorded.

Thus, tacit knowledge comprises personal experiences known only to an individual.  Unless converted into explicit knowledge, it cannot be shared because it is “trapped” in one’s mind.  For example, a trial lawyer may know how a particular judge tends to react to certain trial tactics because he has tried cases before that judge.  That knowledge is certainly useful to that trial lawyer, but is of no use to the other lawyers at his firm, unless the knowledge is shared among them.  From an organization’s (as opposed to a personal) KM perspective, tacit knowledge is useless because multiple members of the organization cannot benefit from it.

Conversely, some explicit knowledge can be useful to an organization because others can find it.  For example, the trial lawyer, mentioned above, could prepare notes and make a presentation to the other litigators in his firm about tips and tricks when trying cases.  The notes (e.g., a PowerPoint presentation) could be saved on a networked hard drive, document management system, or intranet page, so that others can find and use them.  Just as important, those notes, because they are accessible by others, can help fellow lawyers determine that the lawyer may be an expert in trial practice.

The tacit-explicit distinction may be interesting, but it is academic and does little for those who are trying to implement KM at a law firm.  For practical purposes, knowledge is either accessible or inaccessible.  Note that explicit knowledge, by definition, is not necessarily accessible.  That PowerPoint presentation, when saved on the author’s  local hard drive, is technically “explicit knowledge,” but is accessible only by the author.  It is not until the knowledge is made available to others that it becomes useful.

Doug Cornelius, of KM Space, has written about tacit and explicit knowledge, and he shares some of these views.  He says that the tacit-explicit distinction is abstract and, in reality, knowledge is “either findable by your computer or it is not findable by your computer.”  There are also some interesting comments on his blog post that are worth a look.

The take-away about tacit and explicit knowledge is to get people to understand that unless knowledge is shared and made accessible to others, it is useless from a KM perspective.  Converting tacit knowledge (or explicit knowledge) into accessible knowledge is truly one of the challenges of knowledge management.

Please join in the discussion. Leave a comment.

  • How do you define tacit and explicit knowledge?
  • Is the tacit-explicit distinction merely academic or is there a practical application?

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

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kmlp

KM 101: Introduction to Legal Knowledge Management

Welcome to a new series of posts about legal knowledge management, called KM 101.  My goal is to provide a concise guide to KM topics — both in general and legal specific.  Just as important, I hope that this will be a conversation.  I welcome comments and encourage you to agree, disagree, and enhance the topics.  All comments (other than spam) will be allowed.

What is Knowledge Management?

Let’s get right to it.  KM is vast and far-reaching.  There is no agreed-upon definition of KM, but there are some good ones out there.  I prefer the plain-language definitions.  Jargon is the enemy.

Legal KM: In Knowledge Management and the Smarter Lawyer, Gretta Rusanow writes, “knowledge management is the leveraging of your firm’s collective wisdom by creating systems and processes to support and facilitate the identification, capture, dissemination and use of your firm’s knowledge to meet your business objectives.”  It’s a little jargony, but I still like it.

KM in general: A pretty straight-forward definition of KM comes from Melissie Clemmons Rumizen in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management.  Rumizen writes that KM “is the systematic process by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is created, captured, shared, and leveraged.” Good, too.

Leverage: The word “leverage” is commonly used when describing KM (see above).  I don’t like that word, but I guess it works.  So, allow me to “leverage” the work of someone who has put some effort into identifying definitions of  KM.  Ray Sims of Sims Learning Connections wrote a piece called “43 knowledge management definitions – and counting…“.  Here is a graphical representation, or word cloud, of the words used in Ray’s blog post.   And Ray has completed an analysis of the compiled knowledge management definitions.  It’s an interesting read.

It’s also interesting that people don’t even agree on the nature (i.e. “the what’) of KM.  They initially describe it as:

  • a process
  • an activity
  • an effort
  • a method
  • a system
  • a tool
  • a technology
  • a strategy
  • a framework
  • a system
  • a concept
  • a philosophy
  • an art
  • a discipline
  • a practice
  • a set of principles

Some people avoid the “what” question all together by saying what KM is “about.”  A common refrain is “KM is about getting the right information to the right people at the right time.”  Also, “KM is about not reinventing the wheel.”  KM is “about” many other things.  We could go on and on, but we won’t.

One of my favorite summaries is that KM addresses: who we know, what we know, and how we do what we do.  The “we,” of course, refers to the members of a law firm.  I like this approach because it is (a) results-oriented, and (b) open-ended.  It is not restricted to traditional KM ideas, like precedent repositories and contact lists.  Rather, it opens up the aim of KM to all sorts of ways to solve the problems and challenges that a law firm experiences.  Instead of asking “how do we re-use our work-product?”  we may ask, “how can we practice more efficiently and effectively?” or “how can we provide better service to our clients?” or “how can we reduce costs and make more money?”

The bottom line is that KM is all these things, and more.  The way KM is structured at different law firms varies greatly.  For some, KM is hierarchically within the information technology department, or combined with the library, or loosely scattered around the firm, with KM attorneys in each practice group.  For others, KM is an umbrella that covers areas like library services, professional development, practice support, etc.  Almost always, KM works closely with law firm leaders — both lawyers and non-lawyer administrators.

Please join in the discussion. Leave a comment.

  • How do you define knowledge management?
  • How is knowledge management structured at your law firm or organization?
  • What issues or ideas would you like to see addressed in future posts on KM 101?

Coming Soon in the KM 101 series:

KM 101: Tacit and Explicit Knowledge

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