Effective Litigation Knowledge Management

Yesterday I attended and spoke at Day 2 of the Canadian Law & Technology Forum in Toronto. There were several new products I learned about in addition to taking away a few new ideas, and I will try to post to SLAW some of my thoughts on the conference over the next few days on topics discussed (including outsourcing of legal services, both domestically and abroad; e-discovery; litigation case management software, really cool stuff from Adobe 9.0, and records management).

My paper and presentation was entitled “Effective Litigation Knowledge Management” in which I first discussed the explicit knowledge that litigators need and use (such as pleadings, facta, research memos, and checklists) and the tacit knowledge they need and use (such as trial preparation and strategy, how to cross-examine witnesesses, “know-who” and so on). Technology of course is usually better-suited to manage explicit litigation knowledge, with in-person training and mentoring being more effective to transfer tacit litigation knowledge (although technology can play important roles in how we train litigators – video-taping of seminars, advice from senior litigators on selected topics, and, for example, mock cross-examinations).

Given my background as a former litigator and current lawyer/law librarian, I also explained my approach to litigation knowledge management in combining a “library” approach and a “knowledge management” approach on how to best support litigators in practice (for example, where internal precedents for pleadings or facta on a particular issue cannot be found, look to the library to obtain external commercially-published litigation precedents through online resources such as Williston and Rolls Court Forms on LexisNexis Quicklaw (for Ontario), O’Briens Internet or Litigator on WestlaweCARSWELL (in addition to using print sources of litigation precedents, such as Bullen & Leake and Jacob’s Precedents of Pleadings, 16th ed.).

Likewise, where internal research memos and other work product cannot answer a particular issue, the “library” can supplement internal work product through research and access to external sources of law (online database, print resources and so on).

I pointed out the challenges facing litigators: increased volume of documents, an increase in the amount of digitally-born documents, and pressures to keep costs reasonable at the same time as providing top quality advice and services.

Technology can help with some of these challenges: matter-centric document management systems are a key starting point to keep documents organized. A well-designed intranet can be the portal through which litigators browse and search for internal and external resources. Secure extranets can allow clients or experts to access documents remotely. And litigation case management software (such as Summation or Concordance) can help process and organize large volumes of documents (I discussed a number of other technologies as well).

Increasingly, the trend is towards smarter enterprise search (Recommind, Autonomy, and Interwoven Universal Search, and SharePoint 2007 search, to name a few of the smarter search engines some law firms are using).

Likewise, given the number of internal documents in any large law firm, expect to see an increase in the use of technology, such as auto-profilers or taggers, to do the indexing and tagging that has, for most firms, been done by human beings (there are just too many documents for human processing).

I made other points, including a rant about how unfortunate it is our Canadian court registries are not “online” as they are in the US where you can have remote online access to many American court registry dockets (which can be a good source of precedents for pleadings and facta).

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