ILTA’s SharePoint Symposium 2014, set for June 10th- 11th near Chicago, is designed to bring together professionals working with SharePoint in their firms or law departments.  The format of the two-day event includes a SharePoint evangelist keynote, two tracks with expert speakers and ILTA case studies as well as opportunities to network with ILTA members and key SharePoint vendors.

I’ve been involved with helping produce the event for a couple of years now, and I can tell you that it is an excellent place to hear about fresh, innovative ideas about all things SharePoint in the legal industry.

Visit the event website at sharepoint.iltanet.org for all the details, and let me know if you have any questions or comments.  I hope to see you at the event!

Readers of the blog know that for the past few weeks, I have been crowd sourcing comments for my KM book that will be published by the ABA in early 2014.  Thanks to all who have commented here and sent me emails with other comments.   Today, I’d like to ask about questions you are seeing in Requests for Proposals (RFPs).  More below image…

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As any rainmaking lawyer or law firm business development professional knows, in recent years, RFP questions about law firm KM capabilities have changed.  While RFPs used to contain softball questions like, “What are your knowledge management resources?”, today the questions are much more specific and harder to fake your way through (“Describe in detail your knowledge management department, including number of members, roles, staff descriptions, and functions.”)

What challenging RFP questions have you seen recently?  Don’t disclose any client names, of course, but I would love to hear some of the questions that you have encountered.

Please either leave a comment to this post, or email me directly (patrickdidomenico at gmail dot com) with your thoughts.  My intention is to include your comments in my book (although I cannot guarantee inclusion, as I do have an editor). You can submit your comments anonymously, if you like.  But I would like to give credit where credit is due.  If you submit a comment and I use it in the book, I will cite you appropriately (unless you don’t want me to).

Readers of the blog know that for the past few weeks, I have been crowd sourcing comments for my KM book that will be published by the ABA in early 2014.  Thanks to all who have commented here and sent me emails with other comments.

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Last week we talked about disappointment and failure.  This week, a more rosy topic: the future of KM. I think that the future of KM is bright for at least two reasons (several more, really).  First, KM is necessary because the “new normal” is here to stay.  The global economic crisis has changed our industry and law firms are not likely going back to the good old days of “getting away with” inefficiency.  One of the main goals of KM is to help lawyers be more efficient.  Second, KM professionals are innovative and they are constantly looking for new ways to deliver that efficiency. Unlike the apocryphal story about the head of the Patent Office advising President McKinley in 1899 to close the Patent Office because “everything that could be invented has been invented,” I believe that there is plenty of innovation to come in the field of knowledge management.

However, let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment – just to get your commenting juices flowing. One could argue that most firms have mastered the fundamentals of KM and have done well enough with KM activities that they can check KM off their lists (“We have an intranet, we can find stuff. We’re good, thanks.”). Furthermore, advances in technology can handle the incremental benefits that could be gained beyond what has already been accomplished by “basic KM stuff.”  There’s really no need to invest in KM anymore.  And for those firms that have not gone down the KM path, don’t bother.  Spend a few bucks on “knowledge management software” or a “KM system” and be done with it.  You don’t need to over-think it, and you certainly don’t need to hire anyone to do KM.

So, what do you think?  What is the future of KM?  I would love to hear what you have to say.

Please either leave a comment to this post, or email me directly (patrickdidomenico at gmail dot com) with your thoughts.  My intention is to include your comments in my book (although I cannot guarantee inclusion, as I do have an editor).  You can submit your comments anonymously, if you like.  But I would like to give credit where credit is due.  If you submit a comment and I use it in the book, I will cite you appropriately (unless you don’t want me to).

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been crowd-sourcing comments for my KM book that will be published by the ABA in early 2014.  Last week, I crowd-sourced comments about who leads KM in law firms.  Thank you to those who commented (both on the blog and in emails directly to me).  This week, it’s all about disappointment and failure.

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I’m not talking about the various failures that we all have experienced in KM (or other) efforts in our careers.  I’m talking about the failure of KM itself.  As I noted last week, some may take the data I highlighted from the ILTA KM Surveys to mean that “KM is dead.”  For those of us who believe that KM is alive and kicking, we know that some believe that KM has failed – or maybe just hasn’t lived up to its initial hype.  Yet it persists.

One quite well-know commenter on the legal profession, Richard Susskind, points out in Chapter 2 of  The End of Lawyers?  that KM is an “apparent failure.”  In addition to on-line deal rooms and “the use of auctions for the selection of legal advisers,”  Susskind notes that “[a]nother disappointment in law firms, and indeed in most commercial organizations, has been in the field of knowledge management.  It has promised much and delivered a good deal less.”

My initial reaction is that while his point is well taken, it is not knowledge management that has made any promises, but rather, it is the people who held out KM as one thing or another, promised results, and failed to deliver.  Promising results from a discipline, like knowledge management, is like promising results from an idea.  It is not the idea, but the execution of the idea, that generates results.  Similarly, it is not KM, but how we implement the concepts and principles of KM that can greatly benefit law firms.

I have some other thoughts  on the topic, as you might guess, but I would love to hear from you.  Is knowledge management disappointing?  Has it failed?

Please either leave a comment to this post, or email me directly (patrickdidomenico at gmail dot com) with your thoughts.  My intention is to include your comments in my book (although I cannot guarantee inclusion, as I do have an editor).  You can submit your comments anonymously, if you like.  But I would like to give credit where credit is due.  If you submit a comment and I use it in the book, I will cite you appropriately (unless you don’t want me to).

I’m excited to report that I am writing a book about KM in the legal profession and it is scheduled for publication by the ABA in 2014.  If you know me, then you know that I am a big fan of collaboration.  I’m also always trying to think of ways to do things differently, better, and more effectively.  I think I have come up with a way to make this a better book — one that will really resonate with KM professionals, law firm leaders, and those who want to learn about KM, and/or who are thinking of getting involved in KM in their law firm or legal department.  That approach is to crowd source parts of the book from the KM community.  See more below the chart…

Who leads KM in law firms

I’m starting this experiment by seeking comments on the question,”Who leads KM in law firms and legal departments?”  Thanks to ILTA and the KM Surveys that the ILTA KM Peer Group has published over the years, we have a good idea who leads KM.  For the three years (2008, 2010, and 2012) during which the ILTA KM PG has done the surveys, they asked “What is the background of the primary person managing KM efforts/projects on a day-to-day basis?”  I have looked at the results over the three surveys, plotted them on the above chart, and noticed some key data points and trends.

First, the vast majority of people leading KM efforts in law firms and legal departments are: lawyers (both practicing and non-practicing), librarians, and IT specialists.  Over the years, these have made up between 81% – 93% of the KM leaders.

Second, there seems to be some trends surfacing.

  • Lawyers (practicing and non-practicing) have always been the largest group of KM leaders – from 40% – 51% of the time.
  • Recently there seems to be a trend toward non-practicing lawyers leading the way and practicing lawyers stepping out of the KM picture.  Notice the decrease for practicing lawyers from 14% to 12% to 8%, while there is an increase in non-practicing lawyers (from 26% to 31% to 43%).
  • IT specialists leading KM seems to be slowly decreasing.
  • Librarians leading the way saw a lull in from 2008 to 2010, but ticked up in 2012.

So, my first questions to the crowd are (please address any or all of them, as you wish):

  • What do you make of this data? 
  • Why is there a change in who is leading KM at law firms?
  • What is your experience at your firm or legal department?
  • Does this data support the claim that some have been making that “KM is dead” or does it indicate a revitalization of KM, or something else?
  • What else does this data say about the state of KM leadership or KM (in general) at law firms and in legal departments?
  • Do you have any other thoughts about this?

Please either leave a comment to this post, or email me directly (patrickdidomenico at gmail dot com) with your thoughts.  My intention is to include your comments in my book (although I cannot guarantee inclusion, as I do have an editor).  You can submit your comments anonymously, if you like.  But I would like to give credit where credit is due.  If you submit a comment and I use it in the book, I will cite you appropriately (unless you don’t want me to).

I’m really excited about this, and I hope it works.  I know many of the people who read this blog have a lot of good ideas about KM.  I would love to share these ideas with others.  Thanks in advance for taking part in my little experiment.  And be on the lookout for other crowd sourcing posts that will give you opportunities to contribute to the book!

box_logoBox, formerly known as Box.net, is a cloud-based file sharing and content management platform.  While some people think of Box as similar to Dropbox, Box is better suited to enterprises, like law firms, mainly due to its superior security and management features.

Dropbox and others have made attempts to match Box’s enterprise prowess, but Box repeatedly scores higher in head-to-head comparisons, like this one from InfoWorld.  Box has, for a long time, had a great presence outside of large law firms, capturing the business of more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies.

Full disclaimer: I’m familiar with Box because earlier this year, I joined a group of other law firm KM and technology folks on Box’s legal advisory board.  This is an uncompensated role, so don’t think there is an ulterior motive here.

I am happy to learn that Box was, in fact, listening because today, Box is announcing even greater strides toward becoming the go-to cloud-based file sharing and content management platform for law firms.  There are a ton of new features and integrations listed in the official announcement and  I encourage you to read it.  I also encourage you to read the very thoughtful piece by Ron Friedmann over at Prism Legal about the future of such cloud services and where and how they fit in with legacy systems at law firms.  Ron is also on the Box legal advisory board, and I can tell you that we’ve all had some very interesting discussions about this future.  I personally think that the cloud is the future.  Among the many advantages are the anytime-anywhere-any device access to your content.  But getting there will not be easy due to the deep hooks of various legacy systems, like DMS and other essential systems that have been around law firms for many years.

To that point, I think one of the more interesting aspects of what Box is doing, as announced today, is the integration (via Intapp) with some legacy systems, like iManage’s DMS.  This part of the official announcement says it all: “With the Box iManage integration via Intapp’s Integration Builder, law firms can extend their on-premise document management system to the cloud, access content through mobile devices and collaborate externally.”

Another great part about these recent efforts is that Box has joined the the ABA Advantage program, which provides members with 50GB of of cloud file sharing for free.  Check out the offer in the official announcement.

km card copyright patrick didomenicoI am constantly reminded of the importance of communicating effectively.  And I am repeatedly convinced that a simple message delivered in a simple way is most effective.

Last Thursday, I participated on a speaking panel with Lisa Gianakos, Director of Knowledge Management at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLC.  The topic was “Leveraging KM Technologies and Methods to Grow Legal Project Management.”  Since we weren’t sure about the audience’s familiarity with knowledge management or legal project management, we started with an overview of both.  I handled KM, Lisa handled LPM.

This was only the introductory part of the presentation, sort of let’s-make-sure-we’re-all-on-the-same-page stuff, so that we could move on and address the main part of the topic, KM technologies and methods.

The presentation went well and the audience seemed interested and attentive (at least nobody fell asleep).  I was shocked, however, by what people wanted to ask me about after the session.  The questions and comments were not about enterprise search, SharePoint document repositories, document automation applications, or other KM technologies.

Everyone said, “Can I see one of those cards?

They were referring to a simple business-sized card that I held up when during the presentation.  I created the card (depicted above) to help communicate knowledge management to lawyers.  During the presentation, as I do in my daily practice, I flatly rejected the complex and often jargon-filled definitions that some try to articulate.  I even add some KM-deprecating humor by sharing one of my favorite Dilbert comic strips about KM (an oldie but a goodie).

The Right Stuff…

When talking with lawyers, I describe KM in simple, meaningful terms that they immediately understand and remember.  Depending on the context of the conversation, I typically use one of three approaches.  I often use the tried and true “right information” line.  That is, KM is about getting the right information to the right people at the right time.  This is not a definition of KM, it is (one of the things) that KM is about.  The “right information” line communicates that we aim not to inundate our lawyers with stuff they don’t need when they don’t need it.  Instead, we want to help them get — either in a push or pull manner — what they need when they need it.  This could be by organizing information on an intranet, pushing information to attorneys at the appropriate times, or any number of other methods that KM uses.

Who We Know…

A second way I communicate simply is to say that that KM is about is “who we know, what we know, and how we do things.”  This is another common mantra among KM professionals.  Again, notice the word “about.”  I don’t claim that this is a definition of KM.  It is one of the many things that KM is about.  I’m not sure that defining KM to busy lawyers is all that important, really.  After all, do we ever “define” HR or IT or any other function of our law firms?  We usually just describe what people with those functions do or can offer.  The “who-what-how” approach helps us communicate that KMers are focusing on how to leverage relationships, knowledge and experience to benefit our lawyers and the firm.

Connections  Are the Key…

My favorite (and primary) way to communicate KM to lawyers — and the representation in the KM card, above — is to speak in terms of connections.  It’s about “connecting people with people, connecting people with knowledge and information, and the processes, procedures, and technologies required to make those connections.”  I like this approach because it is broad, yet meaningful.  It allows me to talk about various aspects of KM from culture to technology, without eyes glazing over.

I carry the KM cards with me at work (and elsewhere).  When I need to explain KM to someone, I talk about connections.  After my elevator speech, I hand them a card as a take-away mnemonic.   “Here’s an easy way to remember what we do,” I say,  “the KM department’s email address is on the back.”

The more “complex” definitions of KM are fine when talking to people in KM circles and getting into the depths of knowledge management, but when talking to busy lawyers, spouting some convoluted, jargon-bloated, “nonsense” is the surest way to lose their attention.  Lawyers are no strangers to jargon.  They know it — and will reject it (and you) — the second they hear it.

This card has been highly effective in helping communicate what KM is all about.  It has also become a part of our KM brand and the “KM experience.”  I include it in presentations, and I ask my KM department members to have the cards handy when they promote the department and our mission.

I would love to hear from you about how you communicate KM to your lawyers.

By the way, several people also asked me where I had the cards made.  They are from an online printer called Moo.  The cards are really high quality and look great.  I use the rounded corner cards.  The graphic quality is great.  Here’s a link for 10% your first order.

I am looking forward to speaking on a panel at the 11th Annual Law Firm Information and Technology Forum, on April 25, 2013,  sponsored by Thomson Reuters.

The topic is Leveraging KM Technologies and Methods to Grow Legal Project Management.

Here is the description from the conference:

Knowledge Management (KM) has proven to be an effective means to improve the practice of law. Through KM, many firms now have mature technologies  and methods for effectively gathering, searching, and sharing knowledge across their enterprise. Legal Project Management (LPM) is an emerging adaptation of formal project management methodologies applied to client matter management. Although LPM is not directly tied to KM, the unique and developed technologies and practices used in knowledge management can help law firms effectively leverage and grow their LPM acumen into a unique competitive advantage. This discussion will focus on how KM technologies and initiatives can bolster LPM.

Moderator: Martin Tuip, Product Marketing Manager, Recommind
Panelists:

  • Patrick DiDomenico, Director of Knowledge Management, Ogletree Deakins
  • Lisa Gianakos, Director of Knowledge Management, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

220px-Seneca-berlinantikensammlung-1These days, I’ve been reverting a bit to my college life when I studied philosophy, and revisiting some old texts.  Not surprisingly, I’m coming across pearls of wisdom in the writings of the ancient thinkers.  This, from Seneca‘s Letters From a Stoic (Letter VI – On Sharing Knowledge), caught my eye and reminded me that there’s nothing new under the sun:

“Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself.  And if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it.  No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.”

Although he studied law, I am doubtful that Seneca suspected, almost 2000 years later, that lawyers and law firms would be challenged by what came to be known as knowledge management.  I further doubt that he could imagine that some would question the value of sharing knowledge.

200170689-004Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Chinese proverb.

As knowledge management professionals, we want to encourage sharing and the dissemination of knowledge throughout our organizations.  We know how hard it can be to do that and to encourage people to do the same.  You may have set up wonderful systems and resources to help promote this, but sometimes it may seem that you just can’t reach everyone with the “good word” of KM.

Don’t be frustrated.  Be creative.

As a KM professional, you are a “go to” person in your firm.  People come to you for answers.  This is a great opportunity for you to not only respond to their needs, but to promote the KM way of doing things.  In other words, don’t just give someone a fish, also teach them to fish.

Take this opportunity; do it regularly.  Integrate it into everything you do – make it a part of your standard operating procedure, a part of who you are as a KM professional and person.  Always be ready to teach someone to fish.  Here are a few examples:

  1. If you’re in a role that requires you to respond to requests for research assistance (e.g., professional support lawyer, paralegal, reference librarian, etc.), in addition to giving them the fish (“here is the list of cases that you asked for”), also include a link to resource.  This may help the requesting attorney find something on their own the next time.  Of course, I am not suggesting that you adopt a “go-find-it-yourself” attitude.  But giving people self-service tools is always a nice option.
  2. If there is no “lesson” related to the request, as in the above example, then offer a different species of lesson fish.  Perhaps you know that the requesting attorney is typically interested in certain areas of the law.  Regardless of what they ask of you, use the opportunity to add a post script to the response (“I thought you might be interested in this new resource we just added to the Firm Intranet…”)
  3. My favorite is the “email signature” approach.  You can add a “Did you know”-type footer to your emails.  So, regardless of the communication, you are always promoting some KM tool or concept.  For example, “Did you know you can find model documents using the firm’s enterprise search engine [link]?” or “Find contacts and connections for business development with [insert name, and link to, CRM system].” or “Have you checked out the firm’s electronic library [insert link]?”  or “Check out our Knowledge Management resource page [link] on the firm Intranet.”

And don’t just stop there.  Encourage others to teach people to fish.  Even though they are not “KM professionals,” others in your firm may be your biggest KM proponents – especially lawyers.   The next time a lawyer thanks you for introducing them to that great new KM resource or tool, ask them to spread the word to their peers (“Thanks for the note, please tell your fellow attorneys about it.”).  It is often more compelling when customers (the lawyers in your firm) sing the praises of your KM efforts to other potential customers (the lawyers in your firm who are not yet KM converts).  That’s why you see customer testimonials on infomercials.  The Shamwow Guy is pretty convincing, but it’s those actual customers who “can’t live without it” who really sell the product.

I hope you find these ideas helpful.  I’d love to know how you teach people to fish.  Please share your story or thoughts in the comments.

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