Longing for a New Age in KM

I missed the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference, which wraps up today in Washington D.C. So my thoughts are turning not only to envy, but also to some of my own KM thoughts mixed with those emanating from conference tweets.

Too often Canadian law firms see KM as nothing more than a repository of documents and clauses: Matthew Parson’s so-called “information landfill.” And because KM is seen as nothing more than a landfill site, firms see KM as nothing more than a software solution to assist lawyers sift through the debris.

What a terrible waste!

But, what if firms took a different approach to KM?

What if they viewed KM as a tool not only to attract clients and lawyers, but they also viewed it as a profit centre?

What if firms felt that investment in KM was just as important as paying the so-called “rainmakers” of the firm fat paycheques?

Let me suggest that it is time to give KM professionals much greater latitude (and funding) which will allow them to bring greater benefit to the firm. I suggest that it is also time for KM professionals to become business leaders within the firm.

KM professionals should be interacting directly with clients to develop new projects/products because KM is so much more than just information. What you do with that information, how it is packaged, sold, functions, is delivered and re-packaged, makes all the difference. KM can be a way to integrate more fully with clients thereby solidifying the relationship far better than drinks and a round of golf every now and again by a rainmaker. Creating an organizational connection makes for far stronger glue, and a client less likely to move to another firm; it also places a control on the type of short-term decision-making that destroyed Dewey Leboeuf.

A more wholistic approach to KM results in a greater focus on the functionality of your technology and information. The greatest value of KM is not necessarily the technology itself. Cuz if it ain’t functional, it doesn’t matter how cool someone thinks it is, no one will use it.

Whether it is online Q & A forums, avatar compliance training or matter dashboards, KM professionals are uniquely placed to spend time with clients and find out what they want from KM, then align those wants and needs with the appropriate product. No lawyer with billable targets can ever structure and implement any of these innovations or product offerings.

Critical to this of course, is for senior law firm management to change its mindset of KM professionals as “fee-burners” and to fully support a new approach to KM. The greatest challenge for KM professionals therefore is to sell their own firms on these new ideas.


  1. I was at a joint meeting last night between Knowledge Workers Toronto and the Toronto SharePoint Business Users Group where Seth Earley of Earley and Associates spoke about embedding search in SharePoint.

    One of the main points he made was that: “Any work like this on infrastructure will improve revenue even though people don’t realize it.”

    In other words, Information Management and Knowledge Management done well will help to generate revenue, it’s just that it is not a straight line between expenditure and ROI. But you can never go wrong putting money back into an organization to support its infrastructure.

  2. Connecting KM professionals directly with the clients is a very interesting idea that seems to present more options for selling your service internally.

  3. Susan Anderson Behn

    Seems to be an important link here between the IT professionals who work for clients, and issues related to technology use both in the profession, and clients planning to manage any e-disclosure requirements that could occur if adequate linkages around planning and resourcing for all these functions is not in place.