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.