How to Increase the Use of Knowledge Management Tools at Your Law Firm

On Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 2:00 p.m., I’ll be moderating a panel called “How to Increase the Use of Knowledge Management Tools” at the 2010 International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Aria Hotel & Casino.

The panel is made up of three fantastic speakers:

Attend this informative and practical presentation and you’ll learn how some of the top legal KM professionals ensure the successful use of KM tools at their firms.  Tips include: effective communication, training, branding & marketing, and measuring & feedback.

Here is the description of the program from the ILTA web site:

What does your firm do to ensure that KM tools are fully adopted and used properly? A firm-wide e-mail announcing your new “KM solution” is not enough. This session is targeted to firms with established KM programs, but where there is an ongoing struggle to ensure the KM department is visible and understood. You’ll learn to market, sell and make the business case for your KM tools.

You can download the presentation materials and get more information about the session on the ILTA website.

If you have questions for the panel prior to the session, you can contact them via the links above, or via Twitter.  Please use the hashtags #ILTA10 and #KMtools in your tweets.

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

Do Things Once – The Wiki Way

I’m a “social media evangelist.”  I encourage responsible use of social media.  I think that having a good LinkedIn profile, for example,  is important.  Since I often spread the good word, I often get questions about how to use various social media sites.

One question I get a lot is: “How do I get my picture from one website (e.g., my firm’s web page) to appear on my LinkedIn profile?”   Not rocket science.  I can practically do it in my sleep.

The first time someone asked me, I called them and walked them through the steps involved.  It took a few minutes.  No big deal.  I didn’t mind doing it once.

But when someone else asked me the same question, I kicked myself for not taking a few extra minutes to write it down and send it to them in an email.  So, I did.  Now, if a third person asked, I’d be ready and forward that email – so as to not reinvent the wheel.

The third time was déjà vu all over again.  I knew I had answered the question before.  I knew I was ready to answer it again.  But now I just had to find it.  It was somewhere in my rat’s nest of Outlook folders.  It took several minutes, but I found it and forwarded the answer along. Not horrible, but there had to be a better way.

That better way was a wiki.  I had learned my lesson.  The next time I would be ready.  I saved the instructions into a wiki page.  No more email folder hunting.   I knew it was in the wiki.  A quick search for “LinkedIn” would bring it up.

That next time was today.  The whole transaction took me about 20 seconds.

The goal is to do things once, then re-use what you’ve done.  It saves time and frustration, and allows you to provide faster and more consistent customer service.

How do you use wikis to make your life — and the lives of others — easier?

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

Knowledge Management Survey

The Knowledge Management Peer Group of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) is conducting its biennial knowledge management survey to probe the trends, hot topics and development of KM in the legal industry. Results of the survey will be published in the KM White Paper scheduled for publication in June of 2010.

Please take five to ten minutes to complete the survey or forward it to the appropriate KM person in your organization (we only want one response per organization). The person responsible for KM at your law firm or law department should respond.

As an incentive to participate, ILTA will draw three names from the pool of respondents –– two winners will receive $500, and a third will receive his/her choice of $500 or a waived registration fee for ILTA 2010, the annual conference (a $1,025 value).

Take the Survey Now

It will remain open through March 26, 2010.

And don’t forget the the annual ILTA Conference, which will be held August 22-26, 2010 in Nashville, TN.

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

Location, Location, Location Based Social Networking

The take away: Location-based social networking is about “assisted serendipity” – using technology to turn an otherwise chance encounter into a real business opportunity.

Location-based social networking (LBSN) applications are becoming quite popular.  They are not entirely new, however.  Here’s a nice list of LBSN sites – some of which have been discontinued, including the Google-owned Dodgeball (replaced by Google Latitude).  The most hyped LBSN app is Foursquare.  If you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend, then you know that I’ve been experimenting with Foursquare for several weeks now.

location-locationWhat is a LBSN?

We’ve barely wrapped our heads around Twitter, and now we’re expected to adopt yet another new-fangled social media phenomenon.  To help explain why you might want to do this, I’ll use Foursquare as an example. Here’s how it works:

Much like any social network, Foursquare members start by creating profiles and adding friends or contacts.  But unlike most SN sites, Foursquare is meant to be used on the go – from a mobile device (I use Foursquare’s iPhone App, but there are apps for BlackBerry and Android too).  Using a mobile device’s GPS or cell tower triangulation technology, Foursquare suggests nearby locations — perhaps a bar or museum or sporting event venue — where a user can “check-in.”

Users can view details about nearby places, including tips left by previous Foursquare users (e.g., “Try the bacon cheeseburger…”).  Users can also see who else has checked-in recently.  Local businesses take advantage of location-based data to help lure customers with special offers.

tasti-dFor example, on a recent trip to The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York, the nearby Tasti D-Lite shop “noticed” I was there and offered a discount on an ice cream cone if I stopped by.

There is also a “game” aspect to Foursquare.  Users collect “badges” and points for various activities like checking in to ten or more locations in a week, or for checking in to different types on places.  My favorite is the “Jobs” badge (awarded for checking in to three or more Apple Stores), which entitles you to a free “iHoverboard” if you show the badge to an Apple Genius at the store.

Foursquare also lists the times and locations where your friends check in.  If you’re really in to it, you can get an alert every time someone checks in to any location (I don’t recommend this because it will drive you crazy – especially if your Foursquare friends are active users).

Finally, you can opt link your Foursquare account with your other social networks so that your Foursquare updates appear on your Facebook wall or in your Twitter stream.  Fair warning: this might irritate your Twitter followers and Facebook friends – especially if you’re an active user – because they will be inundated with messages like “Patrick just checked in at the Apple Store…” all day long.  Rather than setting Foursquare to automatically update your other networks, set it to prompt you to choose whether to do so on a case-by-case basis.

OK….so why would I want do that?

This is the same question that we asked about LinkedIn, then Facebook, then Twitter before millions of people signed up.  There are lots of theories about why we do this social networking stuff.  But do we need yet another social network; one that lets everyone know where we are – all the time?  Well, this may fall under the Steve Jobs category of “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Do you want to let everyone know where you are all the time?  Probably not.  But that’s not the question.  The question is: Would you like a unique opportunity to connect with your contacts — in real life?

Location-based social networking is not about restaurant recommendations, or discounted ice cream, or badges.  It’s about “assisted serendipity.”  Never before have we been able to help along a chance encounter, or to take advantage of an opportunity that we didn’t even know existed.

For example, let’s say you’re traveling and have some time to kill while you wait for your flight at the airport.  Little did you know, one of your contacts–a business prospect–is there too.  You might happen to run into your contact, but given the conditions (the size of the airport, the number of people, etc.) the chances are slim.  More than a mere catalyst that simply hastens an inevitable chemical reaction, a LBSN, like Foursquare can create an opportunity — turning a potential chance meeting into a sure thing.

So, will you use a LBSN application, or is it just too much too soon?

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

“Location” Photo Credit:

Jukebox Hero: Why We Love Twitter

There are many reasons to love Twitter.  One reason is that we love to share, and we love to help others.  And we love to get credit for sharing and helping. After all, there are no “anonymous donors” on Twitter.


Finding that great article, YouTube video, or funny picture is exciting enough, but when you get credit for sharing it and starting the viral spread of such amazing stuff in the Twitterverse, well it just feels good.

It’s the Jukebox Hero Theory of Social Media: I didn’t write the song that I just selected on the jukebox, but I’m damn proud when it comes on and people are singing along and thinking “Oh! I love that song!”

Well Twitter People, that song was my selection.  Of all the other songs I could have played, I chose that one. It’s awesome. I found it.  And I shared it with you.  You’re welcome.

By the way, there is no such thing as the Jukebox Hero Theory of Social Media – I just made it up.  But as it turns out, there is some research behind the concept of how helping people makes you feel good.  According to Allan Luks and Peggy Payne it’s called the Helper’s High, “a feeling of exhilaration and a burst of energy similar to that experienced after intense exercise, followed by a period of calmness and serenity.”  They discuss it in their book, The Healing Power of Doing Good.

So, why else do you Tweet?

You can buy that really cool t-shirt on Zazzle.  It’s not mine and I have no financial interest in it.  I just think it’s cool.  Plus I wanted to get credit for letting you all know about it.  Because it makes me feel good.

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

Keep Tabs Without RSS Using Google Reader

Since I’ll be discussing External Knowledge Management: Using Internet Resources to Your Advantage at LegalTech next week (see my post about it), I thought I’d share a new Google tool that can help.

Google Reader is not new, but Google just announced a new feature that allows you to follow changes to any website — even those that do not offer RSS feeds.

It’s simple: find the website you’d like to track, copy the URL into the “Add a subscription” field in Google Reader, then click “create a feed.”  I did it for my firm’s website’s articles page:


According to Google: “Reader will periodically visit the page and publish any significant changes it finds as items in a custom feed created just for that page.”

Obviously, this is a great tool for keeping up with clients’ websites that don’t offer RSS feeds.  But even if a website has RSS feeds, you may want to set up the Google Reader tracker for parts of websites that the RSS feeds do not cover.  For example, if a company has a web page listing employees, it might not publish changes to that page with an RSS feed.  You can keep tabs on who joins or leaves the company by using this new Google Reader feature.

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

Upcoming KM Presentations at LegalTech (and Beyond)

LegalTech New York and The Sixth Annual Law Firm Chief Information & Technology Officers Forum are right around the corner – coming up February 1 -3, 2010.  I’m looking forward to participating on a couple of panels:

First: External Knowledge Management: Using Internet Resources to Your Advantage, at LegalTech on Monday, February 1 at 4:15 p.m.   I am joining David Hobbie, Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney at Goodwin Procter LLP (and author of the Caselines blog), and Tom Baldwin, Chief Knowledge Officer at Reed Smith, LLP.   Rob Saccone, Vice President, General Manager, XMLAW at Thomson Reuters is moderating.

Here’s the outline:

  • Explore free and paid-for services and content sources becoming available for firms to support their knowledge management, marketing and practice needs
  • Using search sites and social networks for legal research, competitive intelligence and current awareness about clients and partners
  • Find information that is out there about your firm
  • Going beyond Google
  • Best practices for understanding the messages the marketplace is sharing about you and your firm and how to manage the data

Next: Enterprise Search: How to Mitigate Risk and Drive Productivity, at the CIO – CTO Forum on Wednesday, February 3, at 11:00 a.m.  I am joining Ali Shahidi, Director of Knowledge Management at Bingham McCutchen LLP and Bill Puncer, Search Advantage Evangelist at LexisNexis.

Description from the program: Law firms are increasingly inundated with information.  Join us for a lively presentation on managing that information—making it searchable; actionable and enhancing its value within the enterprise, thus managing your risk exposure and driving productivity.  Discover how an enterprise search platform can power a range of flexible tools your firm can use to integrate, enrich and manage both internal and external information, reducing the risk of making costly mistakes and increasing productivity within the enterprise.

Also of interest is The Business of Law Symposium, Charting a Successful Course in Today’s Brave New World, sponsored by LexisNexis at LegalTech on Monday, February 1, from 1:00 p.m. to  5:00 p.m.  This promises to be very interesting, starting with a Keynote by Bruce MacEwen of Adam Smith, Esq. There are three other sessions: Knowledge Management; New Structures for the New World; and Future Strategies.  Other notable speakers include: Ali Shahidi (see above) and Oz Benamram, Chief Knowledge Officer at White & Case, and too many others to list.  The program is eligible for up to 4 CLE credits.

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

The New Communication – 11 tips to help

The New Communication is better communication.  Why address communication in a KM blog?  Because communication is part of the “how we do things” component of knowledge management.  Here are 11 tips on how to better communicate:

1. Be Concise. Nobody wants to read though paragraphs of blather to reach your point.  Enough said.

2. Choose the right tool for the job. Don’t send an email if you need (1) immediate confirmation of receipt of your message or (2) an immediate response.  While some people have the ability (or luxury?) to respond to emails immediately, others are not always in front of a PC or able to check their BlackBerrys.  The only way to ensure that your message got through is by way of a synchronous communication (like a telephone call or face-to-face meeting).  As fast as some people seem to respond to email, remember that it (like snail mail) is an asynchronous communication tool.  Don’t assume that everyone reads all of your email as soon as you click “send.”  For more ideas about using the right communication tool for the job, see my previous post on the topic.

3. Indicate the need for action up front. If you’re in the unfortunate group of people at your firm or company whose emails are routinely ignored after the first sentence, then make that sentence (or even the subject line) count.  If I need someone’s attention or action in response to my email, I start it with “Your action is needed” (yes, in bold, red letters).  If it’s an important update, use a headline (e.g., “Note: meeting time has changed — info below“).

4. Make your point up front. Your email should not be a suspense thriller like The Sixth Sense, where only at the end do you realize that Bruce Willis’ character… I won’t spoil it for you.  Sometimes an email will be longer and more complex than you would like.  If that’s the case, consider an executive summary or a short statement that will make the recipient want to read the whole thing.  Instead of starting off with “I met with opposing counsel today regarding settlement.  At first, the plaintiff would not consider our proposal…” try “I have negotiated a settlement in the Martin case; here are the details.”

4. Don’t change the subject without changing the subject. Sometimes email strings get pretty long.  And sometimes, the topic of the email “conversation” changes midstream.  If that happens, then change the subject line of the email (or simply start a new email).  Your email recipient will appreciate it.  And you will too when you try to find the email weeks or moths later.

5. Name your shared appointments properly and respectfully. I keep my Outlook calendar up to date.  If someone wants to meet with me, they can simply schedule an appointment and pick any free time (while people can’t see the contents of my calendar, they can see whether I am available).  It’s handy and it obviates back-and-forth emails suggesting meeting times.  When inviting someone to meet with an appointment invitation, remember that it’s not all about you.  If you send me an appointment invitation called “Meeting with Patrick,” it may help you, but it is meaningless to me (all of my meetings include me).  Instead, name the appointment by its topic (e.g., “Monthly Performance Review” or “Smith v. Jones Deposition Prep”).  Be concise, but not vague.   “Monthly Meeting” is confusing to someone who has multiple monthly meetings with various people.  “Monthly IT Budget Meeting” is better.

6. Stop using “ASAP” as soon as possible. ASAP is meaningless.  What you mean by “as soon as possible” may be very different than what I mean by it.  Don’t leave things up to chance.  If you’re asking someone to do something, you probably need (or want) it done by a deadline (real or contrived).  Say so.  While you’re at it, eliminate all temporal vagueness from your communication.  Rather than “send me a draft ASAP” or “send me a draft next week” (both vague), try “send me a draft by noon on Wednesday” (certain).  Be clear and leave no room for interpretation.  It saves time for everyone and eliminates misunderstanding.

7. Don’t leave them hanging. If part of your job is to respond to requests for assistance (e.g., a Help Desk or Reference Librarian), then let your customers know that you’re taking care of them.  Promptly acknowledge receipt of your customers’ requests and let them know when they can expect results (or ask when they need an answer).  If things change and you can’t meet the agreed-upon deadline, then let your customer know as soon as you learn things have changed.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Nobody likes to be surprised by delays.

8. Avoid jargon. Do not use KM jargon or “geek speak.”  As a former practicing lawyer who now tries to bridge the communication gap between other lawyers and techies, I can attest that this is very important.  Speak in the language of your audience–not your language.  There’s no better way to lose the attention–or the confidence–of your audience than to make their eyes glaze over in confusion.  If you want to communicate your point, speak in terms your audience can understand.

9. Avoid the details, if they’re not important. This concerns the previous point about concision.  Sometimes people just need to know when something will be done so that they can act on it.  They don’t necessarily need the details.  Perspective is important.  If a lawyer asks a litigation support analyst when he’ll be done with a project, she probably doesn’t need to know when each step of the process (initial culling, de-duplication, data processing, database creation, etc.) will be completed.  She really wants to know when she can begin doing her job: reviewing the electronically stored information (ESI).  Don’t waste someone’s time with minutiae.

10. Include details, if they are important. On the other hand, it’s important not to withhold information if it’s important to a decision.  Using the litigation support scenario again, a lawyer may ask if all of the electronic documents in a matter can be “TIFFed” or turned into images for attorney review.  The answer is generally yes.  But other factors, such as cost, ability to keyword search the documents (by applying optical character recognition (OCR) processes), the processing time, and better alternatives (in this case, perhaps initial native file review) should be discussed.

11. Measure twice, cut once. Today’s forms of communication are fast.  That’s great, but they can lead to hasty mistakes.   Take a moment to check some things before sending that email: (1) double check the recipient list [we’ve all heard of “reply all” horror stories]; (2) spell check; (3) proof read; (4) did you forget an attachment referenced in your email?  (thanks to Jennifer Perez for this list).  Slow down, and get it right.  It can avoid embarrassment and wasted time.

How do you ensure better communication?  Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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

Selling Enterprise Search in Your Law Firm

The first sessions at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference have begun.  I’m at the Information Management track listening to Tom Baldwin, Joshua Fireman, and Peter Krakaur talk about Selling Enterprise Search in Your Organization.

Here are some key points (please fogive any typos – I’m doing this on the fly to get it out there quickly):

  • Don’t let the vendor define the scope.  Figure out what your firm needs and acquire the technology that works for you – not necessarily the tech the vendor is trying to sell.
  • Don’t rely on the users (especially lawyers) to tell you what they need  or how you should deliver it.  They are experts in the law – not in tech.
  • Think big about all the stuff that you want to include in your finished product.  What are the buckets that you want to include?
  • Manage the “Google expectation” – these systems will not be as simple as Google.  You’ll need some training.
  • Don’t under estimate the manpower that you’ll need to maintain these systems.  Expect that you’ll need at least a part time (probably a full time) person to keep the systems running.
  • Think about strategies beyond KM and IT – what about records management?  Think about the full life cycle of the information your firm needs to manage.
  • Figure out what’s important to your firm.  Is it work product retrieval?  CRM? ERM? a basic intranet?
  • Think of search as an enterprise integration layer that is very good at finding things.
  • You should have a good business case to present the strategy to the firm.
  • Security by obscurity – be careful of documents that will come to the surface when you start an enterprise search project.  These same documents were there before but were “hidden” just because they were hard to find.  Make sure those documents (reviews, employee compensation memos, etc.) are secure before going live with the project because people will find them.
  • Don’t get lost in over design and over “tweaking” the system at the outset.
  • Google Paradox – manage the expectations of your users.  They can find anything on Google – why can’t they find something on a server three floors away within the firm?  Manage their expectations early.
  • “Selling” after the roll out: beware of “If you build it, they will come” approach.
  • Don’t leave to chance the perception of the system to the users.  Don’t forget to follow up after the roll out.  See how people are using it.   Make sure they are using it properly.  Drive adoption and utilization.
  • Pre-launch communications are only the start…
  • How to sell the goods.  Analyze the usage and compare it by practice group, office, and role.  You need firm-wide messages, but also target certain groups.  Let your users do the selling: have the power users evangelize for you: a partner endorsing the system means more than you doing it.  Use “other” ways to reach people – not just email; use webinars, live presentations, etc.  Tom at Reed Smith uses videos of lawyers talking about the system – very effective.
  • Maintaining the system.  You’ll need people to do this (at least a pert time position).  Find out who is not using the system and focus on them.   Reporting is key for maintenance.  Check out the firm-wide emails – see what people are asking, then do the search for them and send them a “friendly reminder” email (give them a fish, and teach them to fish).
  • Marketing is really important.  ATV campaign Awareness, Training, and Visibility.

Great presentation.

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

Web 2.0: Driving Innovation in the Law Firm Library

dc_speaking Steven Lastres, Don MacLeod, and I will be speaking at 9 a.m. on Tuesaday, July 28, 2009 at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

Here is some information on the program from AALL:

Target Audience: Law firm librarians who need to understand how new web technologies can foster collaboration and deliver library services.

Learning Outcomes:

1) Participants will be able to assess the benefits and pitfalls of emerging Web 2.0 technologies from three perspectives: library management, knowledge management and lawyer training.

2) Participants will be able to build a convincing business case for Web 2.0 technologies to firm management and other decision-makers.

The presentation begins with an overview of the benefits of Web 2.0 as part of an overall Knowledge Management strategy. The program will explain what the benefits are to lawyers and clients, how to calculate ROI and demonstrate why law librarians should lead the process.

After a discussion of the underlying theory driving the adoption of Web 2.0 technology, the nuts and bolts of building and deploying Web 2.0 technologies will be reviewed, including showing which technologies pay off the best (comparison of tools) and how to get buy-in from management and adoption by end users. Part of this program will look at how to integrate new technologies with existing infrastructure.

The third perspective of Web 2.0 concerns teaching lawyers how to work in a knowledge-sharing environment. This part of the program will provide guidance on how to set up a training program in the law library to help lawyers master the tools they need for sharing information in their daily practice. The program addresses how librarians can encourage lawyers to rely on them for expertise in identifying and using the right resources.

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