I am an Irish-based legal knowledge and information professional. I work with solicitors (and other professional service organizations) to improve the ways they manage their organization’s knowledge and information, so that they can maximize efficiency, reduce wasted costs and so provide the highest quality service to their clients.
Yes, it all sounds a touch vague and waffly! But, the reality is that the greatest asset that a law firm has is the knowledge and expertise of their staff - this valuable resource needs to be managed like any other. Think of the volume of research and documents generated by a professional throughout the course of their working lives - research and documents which could prove valuable to colleagues when advising clients with similar legal problems. And if you have procedures in place which enable your staff to quickly access those valuable research memos or letters of advice you will wind up reducing your costs, working smarter and hopefully have happier staff and satisfied clients.
Of course, this a somewhat simplistic view of knowledge management but when you strip the discipline down to bare bones, it is essentially about putting frameworks and procedures in place which makes it easier to share, access, search and publish and re-use information (documents and data) and knowledge (grey matter/ brain-power/expertise). IT plays a role in knowledge management but not exclusively. Anyone who tells you that knowledge management is only about IT is myopic! Some of the most valuable KM programmes involve a shift in the culture of an organization such as mentoring, reviews of client work or transactions and cross-department information sharing meetings, to name but a few. Of course, many of these initiatives can be supported by the use of technology and the Web but, it’s not all about IT.
I have been working in this area for over 20 years, the last 15 of which in my own capacity as a consultant under my company name, Infoconsult. I have developed an in depth knowledge of the inner workings of law firms and the value of leveraging knowledge as a means to improving efficiency, profitability, brand differentiation and as a key ingredient in attracting and retaining legal talent.