The lead article in the February Canadian Lawyer Magazine is a piece by Phillip Slayton
At one point, Slayton has this to say:
The LLP structure, obliterating the traditional relationship between client and law firm, is also fundamentally changing the relationships between lawyers within a firm. The general partnership structure was based on trust. Only someone who was trusted was admitted to the partnership and kept there. Trust in your fellow partners, and in the quality of their work, was signalled to the world by agreeing to joint and several liability. Trust fostered a congenial work environment, and enhanced the quality of a legal practice. But the partners are no longer “all in it together.” Trust is no longer required: indeed, it is ill-advised. The savvy partner will be very careful what work he takes on, avoiding large, high-risk transactions that could destroy him financially if they go wrong (his “partners” will look on with sympathy while he is destroyed, but need not and will not put their hands in their own pockets).
Giving advice to colleagues on difficult problems arising in large transactions is something to avoid: a ten-minute chat in your office about the issues in an important legal opinion could wipe you out financially. One of the best features of traditional law firm life — the give and take on legal problems, the exchange of wisdom and experience — is severely discouraged by the LLP structure. And only someone very comfortable with personal risk would occupy a management position in an LLP — head of a practice group, for example, or member of an opinion committee — because such a position carries with it possible liability for everybody and everything.
I should imagine — but would be happy to have fellow Slawyers correct me — that this would also inhibit the institution of knowledge management schemes within a firm. As we learned from the article “Knowledge Uprising” in the February National [pdf] (featuring Slaw contributor Steven Matthews), there’s a reluctance among lawyers to become involved with the business of sharing, partly because it is, or can be, time consuming, and partly because what I know and have may benefit me more if I keep it close. To this, then, we might add the fear that sharing a work product could entail sharing any liability that was seen to be caused by that work product — where I would otherwise be immune from liability because of the limited liability nature of the partnership. As Slayton puts it above: “One of the best features of traditional law firm life — the give and take on legal problems, the exchange of wisdom and experience — is severely discouraged by the LLP structure.”
Moreover, might not the person in the firm heading up the KM aspect be especially and uniquely vulnerable?
Although technology is not the essence of knowledge management, it is an important component, one that has the promise of great benefit to lawyers and clients alike for a host of reasons, prime among which, perhaps, is its ability to enhance communication among people. How sad, then, if the fear of liability worked to isolate lawyers and made them shun this great opportunity.
Of course, as a non-practitioner I may have read this thing wrong. Have I? Slawyers let me know.