Law Firms & Enterprise Search | Knowledge Management

An interesting article at ComputerWeekly.com called Legal Firms Wake Up To the Benefits of Enterprise Search notes that law firms, like Linklaters, are turning to enterprise search systems because “finding information from many different collections and sources … has become … one of the biggest challenges facing lawyers in the information age.”  It also reports, not surprisingly, that law firms are the biggest customers of enterprise search vendors due to the “extremely document oriented” nature of firms’ work. 

And while not all large law firms have enterprise search systems, most seem to understand the value of being able to quickly find their intellectual capital with tools more sophisticated than a document management system.  More than half of the Am Law 100 firms have a work-product retrieval system from one of the four more popular vendors: West km, Lexis Total Search, Practice Technologies RealPractice, or Recommind.  And some lucky firms have more than one. 

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

"Innovation" is not a four-letter word | Knowledge Management

Legal KM folks are innovators. They’re always looking for new ways to get the right information to the right people at the right time.  Always trying to make the practice of law more efficient. 

Innovation, by definition, is about newness. “The introduction of something new” or “a new idea, method, or device,” according to dictionary.com. New can be good or it can be bad.  Either way, it will meet resistance. Most people tend to dislike change – the more drastic, the more resistance. Lawyers, and those others who work in the legal field, are not shy about expressing their aversion to change. 

Remember when your firm announced that it was switching from DOS-based WordPerfect 5.1 to the new-fangled Windows-based WYSIWYG Microsoft Word?  Remember “reveal codes?” Some legal secretaries still want to go back to those good old days, but most are now pretty happy with the change.

My mother didn’t need a microwave oven in the late 1970s, — or more accurately, she didn’t know she needed one. Today, estimates claim that 95% of households have one. There’s a reason for it. It’s not the only way to cook food and boil water and pop popcorn, but it’s pretty efficient.

The same goes for my iPod. Aside from being super cool, it is a great device that makes it easy to listen to music.  I could carry around my old Sony Walkman and a bunch of cassette tapes, but, well you get the picture. 

So, why do lawyers, in particular, hate change? I’ve experienced this, but I’m not alone. There are several reasons, and this article mentions some.  A lot has to do with focus and familiarity.

Lawyers work long, hard hours. They write briefs, try cases, do deals, etc. Few, however, focus on the business of law or ways to make the practice of law better.  If they work at firms, then they assume that there are others that deal with that. 

Lawyers, like most people, also tend to do what’s familiar.  We like what we like.  We fear things that are different.  Even if something is better and more efficient, we find ways to avoid it. 

That’s where the KM folks come in.  We don’t focus on what lawyers focus on.  We focus on making it easier for them to focus on what they need to focus on.  We are also more comfortable with change, so we need to make it as painless as possible for them.  Say what you will about lawyers, but they tend to be a reasonable bunch.  Once you get them past the focus and familiarity challenges, they are usually receptive (and sometimes even appreciative).  In the end, most of the time they’ll ask you, “Why haven’t we been doing it this way all along?”  And that’s just what you want. 

So, why innovate? 

Or should I avoid the “i word” and say, “Why introduce some new method or idea?”?  Well, it’s not for innovation’s sake.  It’s not for the sake of being cutting (or bleeding) edge.  It’s to help make things better, easier, and more efficient. 

My mom never asked for a microwave oven, but she did plead for more time to do things other than slave over a hot stove.  Your lawyers may never ask you for a work product retrieval system, an enterprise search engine, blogs, or wikis.  But they will ask you for a better and faster way to find the firm’s documents and other information.  They will ask for a better way to communicate with members of their practice groups and clients.  In short, they’ll ask you to innovate — just not in so many words.   

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

This is ALSO Social Search | Knowledge Management

Doug Cornelius over at KM Space is a prolific blogger.  More importantly, he writes about some really good stuff.  He commented on Now THIS is Social Search about how Vivisimo is doing the Aftervote thing with enterprise search.  Check out Doug’s excellent post on Using Social Search to Drive Innovation through Collaboration for a great explanation.  Here is an excerpt: 

First thing [about Vivisimo’s Velocity 6.0 tool] is the ability to vote on whether the item in the search result is useful. It displays the percentage of people that voted up and down. This in turn is fed back into the relevancy algorithm of the search engine. The next step is adding a rating. You can give up to five stars. It also displays the average rating and the number of votes. Administrators can get reports on the rating and use this highlight useful items and bury bad ones. 

Thanks Doug! 

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms
 

Now THIS is Social Search | Knowledge Management

Google announced Google Co-Op back in May of 2006, but there hasn’t been much buzz about it. There is another Search tool — an aggregator — called Aftervote.com, that really is a social search site. And this sort of technology may have a place in law firms.

Here’s the deal: You search for something and you get results. Then you can sort the results by rank according to the Aftervote ranking system (more on that below), or the ranking systems behind Google, Yahoo, MSN, Digg, Alexa, or Google Page Rank. (See the red arrow in the picture below). The results display those relative rankings (see the green arrow on the right) and any comments by users.

But best of all is that you can “vote up” results with the Aftervote ranking tool that appears to the left of the result (see the pinkish arrow). In a way, this is sort of like Digg for search results (See Can you Digg it…?) So, the Aftervote community can influence the ranking of results.

But wait, there’s more (see below the picture) …

Aftervote Screenshot

Because it’s a search aggregator, you can customize the weights of each search engines’ results. Go to the My Settings page and you’ll see sliders for each of the search engines. Increase Google’s weight if you like it more than, say Yahoo. And you can adjust the number of results returned by Yahoo and MSN (but not Google for some reason) by adjusting a different set of sliders from 10 – 100.

There is also a URL blacklist and whitelist feature to remove from (blacklist) or promote (whitelist) certain URLs from your searches.

Pretty cool stuff. But don’t take our word for it, apparently PC Magazine declared Aftervote to be among the “Top 100 Undiscovered Web Sites of 2007.”

Now, for all you lawyers out there, this has potential. What if your document management system or KM system search results had a little “vote up” [or down] button next to them. What about that nifty little comment option. You could start socializing the search results of your firm documents. Take it a step further and the “vote up” [or down] button could count toward “on-the-fly” relevancy ranking for your precedent documents.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms