Taxonomy 201

In my last post, I briefly described my pragmatic approach to taxonomy creation at our law firm. Of course, the comments were more interesting than the initial post – the key issue being whether someone like me should “share” my taxonomy with fellow SLAW participants.

There is precedent, at least in Toronto, for the collaborative development of legal material. For example, the “Toronto Opinion Group” meets monthly to share ideas (and even drafting) on common issues in third party legal opinion transactions.

It strikes me that Simon F identified the two key issues – does a firm perceive some competitive advantage to being a “silo” and does the material disclose something about the firm’s practice that is not otherwise evident.

My initial reaction, at least in the case of “firm taxonomies” is that I don’t personally see major issues on either of these fronts. But that having been said, I do feel some “reluctance” to a complete and open sharing of the information. This seems to be at odds with the concept of blogging generally, where people are prepared to post away without any thought of receiving something of value in return. Michael Lines’ suggestion of a “private” collaboration has more appeal – knowing that “everyone around the table” is making a contribution somehow seems fairer. In my defence, I suppose, I would draw the distinction between posts that require minimal(?) effort and taxonomies or other work product that require many, many hours of effort.


  1. There is an interesting chapter in the BIALL Handbook of Legal Information Management (just released): The Role of Taxonomies in Legal Knowledge Management Systems, by Christine Miskin (213-228).

    The chapter is focused on taxonomies for law firms, points out some of the standard (UK) sources of legal classification vocab., as well as some of the commercial sources of taxonomies, and provides examples and advice.

    The author points out that it is not only legal terminology, but business process terms that need to be included, and in this broader context Records Management concepts as well as the recent discussion on SLAW of business priorities and risk management are relevant.

    My own interest in taxonomies is from the non-profit side, but I think some of the principles at play would be the same as with LLPs.