Law firms have been knowledge management organizations ever since handfuls of lawyers started practicing together under the auspices of a "firm." They just didn't know it.
Steve Denning is the author of numerous top-selling business books about leadership, and his client list reads like the Fortune 500 issue of Fortune magazine. He happens to be a former practicing lawyer and was the Program Director for Knowledge Management for the World Bank.
Here is a link to an extraordinary blog post called "The economic imperative of knowledge management" - and here is an excerpt that almost gave me goose-bumps:
Many factors have transformed the way in which organizations now view knowledge, but perhaps the pivotal development has been the dramatically extended reach of know-how through new information technology. Rapidly falling costs of communications and computing and the extraordinary growth and accessibility of the World Wide Web present new opportunities for knowledge-based organizations, to share knowledge more widely and cheaply than ever before. Thus organizations with operations and employees around the world are now able to mobilize their expertise from whatever origin to apply rapidly to new situations. As a result, clients are coming to expect from global organizations, not merely the know-how of the particular team that has been assigned to the task, but the very best that the organization as a whole has to offer. Knowledge sharing is thus enabling - and forcing - institutions that are international in the scope of their operations, to become truly global in character by enabling knowledge transfer to occur across large distances within a very short time. Once clients realize that global sharing of knowledge is possible, they want nothing less than this. If one organization will not provide it, then they may turn to another that will. As a result, sharing knowledge ceases to become an option, but rather a necessity of business survival. In a real sesne (sic), the strategic choice facing an organization is knowledge sharing or death.
IT departments in law firms, and certain conscientious practice groups do their best to gather and maintain practice area intelligence so that it can be broadly shared, used and reused - by lawyers and their clients. I published a chapter in a White Paper in late February this year (I'll post it here, too) for Leigh Dance, ELD International, called "Improve Client Service and Satisfaction Through Global Project and Knowledge Management."
In this chapter, I ask and answer the question: Despite 25 years of KM progress, why haven't law firms embraced it even more closely? A reason that we hear from firms of all sizes is that "lawyers don't like to share." I think this is too easy an excuse (although I admit there are some who don't). I think the reason is that KM is too far removed from what lawyers actually do - from the delivery of legal services. Other than knowing where documents are in the document management system, KM is fully off the day-to-day radar screen of many lawyers in even the largest law firms.
To combat the obstacles, my company, Content Pilot, has designed a robust, but highly natural KM system/experience database that easily integrates with other databases, called CP Deals & Cases Tool. It is designed to facilitate trust among lawyers and marketers, and promote data gathering because it's so intuitive and easy to use. It is designed to sift through the enormous proliferation of data to isolate the salient and most relevant pieces of information that tell the complete and right story about a particular piece of experience.
But this post isn't about selling our products and services. It's urging law firms to absorb what Steve Denning preaches - that clients expect global knowledge sharing, and if your organization doesn't embrace and provide it, clients will seek firms that do.
Read more at the Law Firm 4.0 Blog.