Lesson Learned in Knowledge Management

The annual combined meeting of the Toronto and New York Knowledge Management Lawyers group met this past Friday in New York (the group also included others, including some from Boston and one colleague from the United Kingdom). I learned a lot. In no particular order:

1) Never, ever fly into LaGuardia Airport again. A group of us from Toronto suffered a 12-hour trip to New York due to cancelled flights (apparently due to weather conditions at LaGuardia). On arrival, there was the longest lineup for taxis I have ever seen (likely 300 people or so in line).

2) I intentionally did not bring my laptop this time so I could instead concentrate better on the lectures. The disadvantage of doing this is that I was not able to blog live from the conference as did Douglas Cornelius of KM Space (others may have as well; apologies if I have missed crediting any other colleagues). Doug has provided useful comments on the session on Personal Knowledge Management and on Making Knowledge Management Relevant in Client Development.

3) Facebook: despite most of us in the room being quite tech-savvy, it seemed as though the majority of us have not yet made the Facebook plunge, including myself. Reasons for not doing so were either: (i) having children who would be mortified by the thought of a parent being on Facebook, or (ii) not seeing it as a “serious” technology tool. To the horror of my daughter, I will likely spend Sunday creating my Facebook account. Aside from the more obvious “networking” potential, a few colleagues raised the possibilities of using Facebook to screen potential job applicants (and I assume it is legal and ethical to do so), to monitor mention of your firm’s name, to consider Facebook technology as a means of creating internal expertise databases, to create a network among law firm or law school alumni, and so on. It seemed as though many thought LinkedIn was much less useful.

4) Social tagging and adding commentary on internal firm documents: We spoke of the advantages of our internal lawyers being able to rate, tag or comment on internal precedents and other documents. This would add value to documents and improve search results if “popular” documents were weighted more strongly in search results. However, the consensus seemed to be that our current document management products did not provide adequate ways of doing this. SharePoint 2007 may offer more functionality in this regard.

5) Personal knowledge management: I think there is a lot of merit in approaching firm-wide knowledge management by starting with the individual to promote individual information literacy including basic ideas such as: having the individual understand the advantages of sharing information, teaching basic search strategies and techniques, and showing users how to evaluate information. Incoming students and associates are obviously one important target audience for this. One useful tip in this regard from one colleague was to delay their training until they have been at the firm for one or two months so that they have struggled at little bit in their information and knowledge-seeking and will therefore have more appreciation and context for the training. However, more senior lawyers and partners should not be overlooked. One national Canadian law firm described their program aimed at educating partners on knowledge initiatives and the use of technology.

During this session, the job title of “Knowledge Coach” sprang to my mind. I like that term.

There was some debate over the advantages and disadvantages of having individual lawyers build their own “page” of favourites links that they could then tag as being public or private. The advantage of course is if the firm’s expert on say “intercreditor agreements” has his or her public page containing links to the recommended precedents and other commentary, the junior lawyer assigned to draft such an agreement will be extremely grateful to have this available. Clearly, such content could be made available in the traditional KM ways but lawyers may be more motivated to create their own spaces since it may give them a sense of control.

6) KM Staffing: There was good discussion on staffing models. For the larger firms that have one or more KM lawyers per practice group, staffing is not really a major concern. The issue arises for those firms with only a few KM staff but many practice groups and other job duties. I liked the notion of embedding KM-like staff within in practice group, depending on the type of practice and “personality” of the group. The session on KM and marketing prompted for me the notion that if it is too hard to make the claim for a KM lawyer per practice group, the idea be sold on the basis of having a person within each practice group who is not “just” a KM lawyer but someone who could also be the liaison between the practice group and other departments (e.g., the person could also help with RFPs and marketing for that group, could also assist in professional development, and so on, in addition to assisting the group with their models and precedents and research). I realize this is already being done in many firms so I think it may come down to how the position is sold within the firm (i.e., “just” a KM lawyer who drafts precedents versus someone who plays a role in other KM-related activities including marketing, professional development and research).

7) SharePoint 2007: It seems as though most firms have gone or will go with using SharePoint 2007 as some part of their KM solution, many using the XMLaw value-added software. Many of the larger firms are also using Recommind for enterprise search.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing with those who weren’t there, Ted. The discussion about Facebook is interesting. Those who are not using it discount it as trivial or a time-waster, and yet it is becoming a vastly popular way for people to connect and communicate. Most of my connections on Facebook are professional ones. I have to admit I am not enamored with the interface–it’s not my favourite. But the power of connecting with the community is very strong. One we can hardly ignore.

  2. of course, there would be an article posted on law.com today using facebook as a headline draw:


    while the article mostly refers to the use of myspace examples in court, i don’t have any doubts that facebook will gain the same applicability.

    i just started dabbling in facebook last month as well, so i don’t think you’re too far behind the curve on this one ted. my interest was to see what would allow microsoft to potentially value the company at $10 billion, but so far i’m not too impressed. most of the value seems to be in applications developed by external developers (similar to linux ??) and while online advertising is definitely hot (see google’s latest record price), i’m not sure that facebook has quite demonstrated how it might take advantage of that opportunity.

    for the record, my fave facebook apps so far are: scrabulous (online scrabble), friendwheel, circle of friends, calvin & hobbes quotes, friendblock, and texas hold’em ;)