Cultivating a Knowledge Sharing Culture

Discussion highlights – Ark conference on KM, Toronto June 14, 2006

Peter Nagy, Director of KM, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
Eugene Cipparone, Director, KM, Goodmans LLP
Kelly Alayne Johnson, Legal Assistant, McCarthy Tetrault LLP

Peter Nagy:

Organizational structures (from Max Boisot):
– Market
– Clan
– Fief
– Bureaucracy

Where do law firms fit into this paradigm?

Simon Chester disagrees with this categorization. He prefers types of organizations with an element of disorganization e.g. String orchestra, children’s summer camp.

Eugene Cipparone: it may actually vary by practice group.

Joshua Fireman: where do hermits fit in?

Peter Nagy: hermits fit well into the clan model

Joshua Fireman: it is a strange notion, the idea some lawyers hold that sharing information may lead to its use for evil.

John Gillies: KM holds a magnifying glass to existing [negative] issues.

Karen Bell: there was a fear of “dabblers” but now all documents can be tracked as to who have opened them.

Marcia Cooper: concerns about dabbling – said it was about quality control, but the underlying issue was really about having control. Practitioners would prefer to send someone the precedent rather than have them pull it up on their own, even if they don’t have time to give explanation.

Eugene Cipparone: better to have system point to the expert rather than having an associate pull up the wrong precedent and running with it.

Joshua Fireman: can we apply digital rights management (DRM) to these documents so that for certain documents people can look at them but not save or copy–whatever is appropriate.

Joshua Fireman: lawyer work flow is really a lawyer working with an assistant.

Kelly Johnson: it is difficult to find the time, as an assistant, to even set up a system.

Karen Bell: there are always one or two groups who get a buzz out of what we are doing. We need to approach every group differently.

Eugene Cipparone: you have to work with the organization you are given. He celebrates small victories as he makes progress.

Eugene Cipparone: all the students and associates are talking to their friends at other firms, finding out who has what.

Peter Nagy: used an information audit to map initiates in the firm, some of which were overlapping.

Peter Nagy:

clannish qualities of the law firm
– practice groups are natural communities
– recognition can be easily won among peers – word of successes travels even faster than email
– sense of specialized role one plays within a firm is generally strong

Kelly Johnson: keys are time and training. Have a KM person working with a practice group is essential for getting contributions.

Connie Crosby: are assistant share groups helping or hurting a culture of sharing. Does it support the KM initiative?

Kelly Johnson: if assistants are contributing documents to the KM system, if you have 5 assistants working together, who takes responsibility for KM contributions?

Eugene Cipparone: the most difficult people to convince to contribute to KM are those who have been in the firm forever. They don’t know there is a different way to do law.

(Liveblogged on my blackberry-any errors or inaccuracies are mine)


  1. Lots of great points in there Connie! Well done, and thanks for passing along to the rest of us at home. :-)

  2. Thanks! Simon Chester was blogging from the back of the room the whole conference, so I really couldn’t let him have all the web space. 8-)

    I didn’t have my laptop there so only took handwritten notes for the rest. It may take me a while to distill what I learned–still haven’t even finished posting everything from CALL and Mesh conferences yet!

  3. Actually, what I was blogging on for the last couple of days was a lot more interesting than some of the presentations – though I of course exempt all Slawers, and a stunningly interesting presentation by Mara Nickerson of Osler –

    Graeme Coffin of MT was also interesting –

  4. Well, I found the networking at least as interesting as the presentations. I could quizz the speakers and find out what I really wanted to know about their perspectives. I noticed others doing the same with me, which was gratifying. I knew at least half the people there (there were about 40 people participating) so it was good to meet most of the rest.

    Mara Nickerson’s presentation on the nexus between KM and professional development was particularly interesting because she described a fantastic vision of the future.