"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

Too Much E-Mail Leaves Workers Disoriented, Inefficient | Knowledge Management

Great article on Wired.  Best take-away: “Resist the urge to immediately follow up an e-mail with an instant message or phone call. Make sure the subject line clearly reflects the topic and urgency of an e-mail. And use ‘reply all’ sparingly.”

We in KM have a special hatred of email.  Let’s hope that 2008 brings RSS, internal blogs, and wikis to reduce the amount of unnecessary email we have to battle.  We’ll deal with RSS overload at another time. 

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms

Interesting New Legal KM Site | Knowledge Management

Neil Richards and Matthew Parsons launched a new KM site that is pretty interesting. Part wiki, part blog, and part something else, perhaps to be determined. It’s called Knowledge Thoughts and is billed as a “KM and Law Firm KM encyclopedia.” This definitely has potential. Tom Baldwin has a good write up about it here – he calls Knowledge Thoughts a bliki.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms

A Certain Wiki in Plain English (Video) | Knowledge Management

The good people over at Common Craft have published another great video about wikis.  This one is about a particular free wiki from Wetpaint and it is called Wetpaint Wikis in Plain English.  See the other Plain English wiki video by Common Craft here.

LawyerKM likes Wetpaint wikis – they are pretty easy to use and have a nice interface.  Very web 2.0-ish.   IOHO Wetpaint is a better alternative than, for example, pbwiki – which is just confusing. 

We know that there are many, many other free wikis.  Which wiki do you use? 

Let’s be honest… aren’t we all waiting for Google to make JotSpot public and itegrate it with the rest of their online suite? 

LawyerKM:: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms 

Social Networking in Plain English (video)

Common Craft, who brought us those great videos RSS in Plain English and Wikis in Plain English, have published another nice one about Social Networking. It’s called Social Networking in Plain English (surprise, surprise).

As always, it is straight forward, very easy to understand (even for a lawyer), and quite entertaining. The video doesn’t really endorse any social networking site, but does suggest a few at the end:

MySpace (probably the most popular among the children of readers of this blog), Facebook (which is apparently very popular at Allen & Overy), and the big one for the professionals among us, LinkedIn.

It should be noted that MySpace has been known to help some lawyers find clients.

As the battle grows among these three social networking leaders, the only important question is: Which will be acquired by Google? Orkut, Google’s networking site, is not all that popular here in the States, but is big in Brazil.

With Google’s acquisition of Postini, they have their foot in the doors of some law firms already, as it is a popular spam fighter in firms (apparently 48% of firms use them). Only time will tell. On a related note, Wikipedia has this interesting list of Google acquisitions.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers

Survey on Information Professionals Use of Web 2.0 and Knowledge Management

dBusinessNews, of Denver, reportedthat LexisNexis released a report on “how Information Professionals (IPs) are adding value to their organizations through technology and knowledge management.” 

Interesting highlights:

  • 93% of librarians saying they currently use intranets for managing and distributing information
  • 39% of information professionals access Weblogs at least weekly
  • 34% of information professionals access wikis

However, “less than two in ten access video podcasts (16%), or audio podcasts (15%).”  This is surprising.   Podcasts are a great way to learn on the go and make commuting time to learn. 

Among the most successful new initiative/service that information professionals have launched in the past year: document search, retrieval, delivery, and access enhancements.  This comes as no surprise, as many law firms are still struggling with how to quickly and efficiently find internal work product.  Document management search engines, though better than they have been, are still horribly ineffective.  Solutions from providers like Recommind and Practice Technologies are gaining traction in firms, but like the wheels of justice, the wheels of change at some firms sometimes move slowly. 

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers

Wikis in Plain English

From the people who brought you RSS in Plain English (see here for our post on it), Common Craft, brings you Wikis in Plain English. So, if you need to explain wikis to a bunch of lawyers, you might want to start here.

And don’t dismiss wikis in law firms. They are gaining press and acceptance (see here and here). The innovators — those cutting-edge firms out there — will experiment and come up with ways to exploit this technology.

If your firm is like many large firms, the Information Technology (or Information Services) department has you locked down. They might claim that such technologies are “against firm policy.” Time for some good old fashioned circumvention. Wikis are web-based (most of them, anyway), so there is no local installation and no server.

LawyerKM – Knowledge Management for Lawyers.