Two Events – Two Views of Innovation

17 Dec

Picture1By Scott Rechtschaffen, Chief Knowledge Officer, Littler Mendelson PC

 Lately, I have been thinking a lot about innovation – I suspect most readers of this blog have too. But what is “innovation” in the legal industry?

I think of innovation as being dramatic and disruptive – processes that significantly change the way we deliver legal services. I then think in terms of technology: increased efficiency through legal process improvement, automation and online services. Perhaps my perspective is formed from being in San Francisco, surrounded by start-ups looking for the next industry to disrupt. If Uber can destabilize the public transportation industry (apparently, the market for taxi medallions is at historic lows across the country) and AirBnB can threaten to upend the hospitality industry (the CEO of AirBnB has boasted his company will add more rooms in two weeks than Marriott will add in an entire year), then surely the emerging legal technology start-ups will have the same impact on the legal industry. As Basha Rubin, CEO of Priori Legal, wrote recently in a post on TechCrunch:

Legal technology is booming, with companies attempting to disrupt the legal space at every level and from every angle. And with good reason. Some estimates value the market size at as much as $400 billion. While legal still hasn’t caught up with other industries — either in terms of funding or widespread adoption, the future is bright and coming at us fast.

Naturally, many legal industry knowledge management professionals, me included, see these developments, believe in the inevitability of disruption in the industry, and conclude that law firms must respond by increasing efficiency, implementing process improvement, and becoming more innovative through the use of technology.

But maybe there is more to being “innovative” than enterprise search, document automation, process maps, and client dashboards. Perhaps the real future stars of our profession, those that will boldly lead us into the future, have already been innovating in the trenches for years. Maybe there is more than one definition of innovation.

I thought about this question when I recently attended two events. Both events were dedicated to innovation in the legal industry. But the approaches to innovation they highlighted could not have been more different.

The first event was the semiannual Iron Tech Lawyer competition at Georgetown Law School.

I have previously posted about this remarkable event, the culmination of Professor Tanina Rostain’s Technology, Innovation and Law Practice Practicum. During this course, teams of students are paired with outside organizations and, using Neota Logic’s expert system software, spend the semester developing online legal applications. This semester’s course, billed as the Administrative Agency Edition, featured student teams paired with diverse agencies such as the New York Department of Consumer Affairs, the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education, and South Brooklyn Legal Services.

As I previously reported, hearing law students talk about user experience, design elements, and graphic interfaces was remarkable in itself. But, hearing law students discuss using technology to make legal solutions more accessible to middle and lower class clients desperately needing quality legal advice was truly – if I may use the word – innovative. Given the enormous need to provide access to justice, here in Professor Rostain’s class was a veritable Y Combinator of law students/budding legal entrepreneurs looking to develop online solutions for targeted users needing help. One student-developed app was designed to help users determine the availability of anti-SLAPP protections; another was designed to help parents navigate the complexities of determining whether their children qualify under educational programs for children with disabilities; yet another helped small businesses navigate the byzantine licensing requirements for operating under New York City law.

What is so remarkable about Professor Rostain’s class is seeing law students apply software solutions to routine legal issues, in effect enabling access to the law for those otherwise unable to afford legal assistance. This is the future of law: technology enabling access to the legal system for those previously unable to afford lawyers.

The second event was a dinner in New York hosted by the Financial Times recognizing the most innovative law firms and lawyers in North America in 2014. Our firm was one of dozens honored by the Financial Times for being innovative. But, something about the event made me wonder again about the meaning of the word “innovative.”

Most of the firms and lawyers recognized by the Financial Times as being the most innovative were not being recognized for adopting cutting-edge technology or implementing dramatic changes in their service delivery processes. Instead, they were being recognized for innovating how they litigated cases, managed matters, and served their clients. There was no triumphant technology or dramatic legal process improvement; these were just examples of really terrific and, yes, innovative lawyering. Take Roberta Kaplan of Paul Weiss who was recognized for her pro bono representation of Edith Windsor in the Supreme Court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. She did not disrupt the delivery of legal services or deploy cutting edge technology. Instead, she deployed clever legal strategies to achieve success that will affect the lives of millions of Americans. (Ms. Kaplan has successfully represented Airbnb so she is no stranger to disruptive technology.) Consider Tara Lee, global chair of DLA Piper’s cross border litigation practice, who has traveled through war zones to defend African countries struggling against global vulture funds.

So, what is the difference between these two views of innovation? We in knowledge management too often reach for the shiny toy on the shelf and, just as often, try to grab as many toys as we can. In our zeal and passion for technology and our belief that change must be significant, we fail to realize that many of the attorneys we work with are innovative in their own way. They have been trained to look at litigation and transactions in innovative ways to get the best results for their clients. By looking at new ways to apply the law or defend their clients, lawyers are innovators at their core.

Too often we define “innovation” as applying cutting-edge technology to the delivery of legal services. But, we fail to recognize that the attorneys with whom we work – the stalwarts of our profession – have been innovating for years. They have been developing creative and unique approaches to win cases and advance their clients’ interests. Just the other day, I learned about one of my colleagues who tried a case before a jury. The other side thought its case was a slam dunk and made significant settlement demands. My colleague developed a unique approach to the case, tried it, and the jury came back with a complete defense verdict after only three hours of deliberation. My colleague’s approach to litigating this case was nothing less than innovative.

What is the take-away? I believe that legal industry knowledge management professionals must stop insisting that attorneys make the leap to online services and technology solutions or face obsolescence (although we should certainly continue to advocate the advantages of these). Instead, we should recognize the innovative solutions to legal issues that they are developing as part of their regular practice. Recently, one of our attorneys identified a significant change in federal regulation that would dramatically affect a particular industry. He put together a comprehensive package of materials to help companies in this industry comply with these new regulations. We quickly helped him create an online portal to distribute these materials and generate some revenue from the online “product.” In this example, where exactly was the innovation? Was it in the comprehensive package of legal materials the attorney put together or the online portal we developed? The real innovation was in the work the attorney developed – identifying both a new challenge and a novel solution for his clients; the portal was mere technology. Without the attorney’s creative approach to this legal quandary, the portal would have been a hollow piece of technology.

As knowledge management professionals, we must always remember the source of true innovation: the creative endeavors of our attorney colleagues. The technology solutions we advocate and implement are mere conduits to bring their creative legal genius to market. While they benefit from our work, we would be nowhere without their expertise and knowledge.

Get Your Message Out: Promoting KM in Your Organization

3 Dec

PromoBy Jennifer P. Mendez, KM Firm Solutions Manager, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

As knowledge management (KM) professionals, our oft-stated goal is to identify, create, and share salient information and experience across our organizations. We want to get the “right information to the right people at the right time.” But in a setting where individuals can be protective and skeptical, we need to do more than just demonstrate KM’s value; we must actively promote it. While promoting KM can be a formidable undertaking, it is certainly worth the effort. Below are a few ways I have found especially helpful in effectively promoting KM within a legal organization.

Get Buy-in from the Top

Establishing a KM department is only half the battle; it is nearly impossible to make progress in KM without top-down support. KM often requires a change in firm culture and work practices. Therefore, firm leaders that value knowledge sharing and a culture of collaboration are essential to the promotion and adoption of KM. Firm leaders, senior managers, and key influencers must be encouraged to act as KM champions within firms. These influential groups of people should set examples for the rest of the organization by participating in knowledge sharing, collaboration, and incorporating KM tools into everyday work. Once you have buy-in from the top, let them communicate the importance of KM to the rest of the organization. Identify the individuals that embrace and see the value in KM and let them to evangelize. Having firm leaders that are willing to promote KM leads to greater adoption of KM technologies, processes, and initiatives.

Highlight and Train on Resources

While KM is more than just technology, technology remains a catalyst to KM’s practice and adoption. Unfortunately, some attorneys undoubtedly resist KM efforts simply because they are technology-based. This is a tough nut to crack, but it can be done.

First, members of your organization should know not only the technology-based resources available to them, but why they should want to use them. The best way I have found is to promote examples of “use of tool = more business,” which tend to resonate with all attorneys. This kind of promotion is especially effective when that message comes from the attorney who is the subject of the success story.

Second, technology comes easy to some but not to others, making an effective training program critical. While in-person training sessions are always the best, periodic live WebEx sessions are also effective, provided the courses are interactive and punchy. We have also found that our KM Counsel (a/k/a Practice Support Lawyers) are best suited to training other lawyers on KM tools since they can talk the talk. Of course, training sessions should present information about KM tools in ways that are clear, succinct, accurate, and foster comprehension. Any more than 15 to 20 minutes and your remote audience will be lost to multi-tasking.


With so much technology at our fingertips, we often forget one of the most powerful ways to internally promote our services is not through advertisements, firm-wide emails, or announcements on the firm intranet, but through good ol’ reliable word-of-mouth from fans. The best way to get people to sing KM’s praises is to do great work and help someone at every given opportunity and whenever possible.

When you have saved the day helping attorneys locate model documents, experts, or pre-existing work product, they are often happy to promote you to others who are having difficulty locating the information they need. When you have helped secretaries locate the New Business Intake or direct deposit forms, they will share your greatness with their colleagues. If you are doing your job correctly and giving folks access to the knowledge and information they need, they will happily spread the word. A referral from the right person can go a long way in promoting KM within your organization, especially when it comes as a “Reply All” to an “All Attorney” email asking for help.

Measure Value and Share Results

Metrics in KM has been discussed and brooded over for quite some time. Metrics are important and informative; they help prove that KM has an impact on the bottom-line, provides a value-added service to firm clients, and helps people work more efficiently. However, it is often difficult to measure the value KM provides in real dollars and cents. The key is to find something to measure. I am not suggesting that you make up numbers or measure insignificant statistics, but if you look close enough, you will find something meaningful.

Think about usage and adoption rates for a firm intranet to demonstrate the value of that resource. To promote enterprise search, you can look at the number of searches conducted or the decrease in firm-wide “PTI” emails. By measuring the amount of time each attorney saves for every firm-wide email eliminated by your enterprise search tool, you should be able to make a case for time-savings, efficiency, and – potentially – revenue generation.

Having KM Counsel record their time is another way to demonstrate the value provided by KM efforts. A valuable metric is to compare the time KM Counsel spent creating exemplar documents and templates (much of which would be non-billable or written off under flat-fee agreements) to the number of times the final template is actually used by an attorney. Doing so will allow you to estimate the amount of actual time KM Counsel save your firm’s attorneys – allowing them to focus on actual billable work.

When all else fails, conduct surveys and generate metrics based on the responses. The goal is to measure something – anything – to demonstrate KM’s value. If you look hard enough, you will find great numbers to support your department’s efforts.

KM as Agents of Adoption

31 Oct

agentBy Gwyneth McAlpine, Director of Knowledge Management Services, Perkins Coie

Like many of you, I often start my day scanning the Pinhawk Law Technology Daily Digest while waiting for the coffee to kick in. The three-part series called “Why Do Law Firms Struggle With Strategic IT” (see part I, part II and part III), by David Houlihan, Esq. of BlueHill Research, caught my eye. It dissects why law firms are not doing more in response to calls for innovation and disruption, possible obstacles preventing the shift to more strategic IT, and thoughts on how to overcome those obstacles. Blame it on a lack of caffeine, but I immediately interpreted the series through the lens of my current problem: adoption of Knowledge Management resources and productivity tools. Like the IT departments discussed in the series, KM programs often roll out new tools and resources with hopes for high adoption only to have those hopes fall short in reality. Low adoption makes it difficult to show return on investment and get budget for the next projects, even those that promise innovation and disruption. If adoption is essential to continuing investment, how can we improve it?

The Adoption Challenge

Because attorneys are timekeepers, the time they spend on nonbillable activities – such as sharing feedback, participating in pilots, reading rollout communications, training, and changing their behavior – roughly equates to time spent on the couch. This causes resistance to change, lack of engagement with technology, and no time for learning about possible solutions to their business problems. So our efforts to teach attorneys how new innovations can help their practice often fall on deaf ears. With the pressure they are under, who could blame them? Can a robust adoption program conquer such obstacles?

Objectives of an Adoption Program

Strategies that tie our solutions more closely to attorneys’ problems could be the answer. The goal is to insinuate solutions into workflows to shift the burden from the attorneys back to ourselves. Ask yourself whether you are addressing the following objectives across the board and building on what works in your firm.

  • Focus on Ongoing Education, Not Rollout. The rollout fanfare is somewhat self-serving on our part. We want our project to be over and so we inundate users with rollout communications and training when it is most convenient for us – the end of our project. What happens next tends to be fairly ad hoc. Since no one remembers anything during a rollout, reduce the commitment to rollout and redirect that time and effort to ongoing adoption activities.
  • Go to the Attorneys. Stop assuming that attorneys read and digest our emails. We need to visit the attorneys where they are, in real-time. That means walking the halls and popping into offices, making time to attend and participate in regularly scheduled practice group and office meetings, and coordinating with Attorney Development to be part of their CLE-accredited programming. Though a huge time commitment, this direct touch can pay off. Live conversation often brings unexpected issues to light and you can shift your focus accordingly to make the time invested even more valuable and relevant.
  • Target the Audience. Preparing one set of materials for training and ongoing communications about our resources and tools is easy. But, different practice areas really are…well, different. Examples relevant to one group may not resonate with another. Our communications (whether written, live, or recorded) must be tailored with examples and situations for each practice group so that, for instance, litigators can see how your great new solution will help them litigate without the noise of the solution’s transactional application.
  • Marketing and Promotion. Take a marketing approach to adoption. While trying to convince someone to use your widget, you are actually educating them about it.  Maybe some enticing brochures that quickly and effectively convey the what, why and how of your resources or a trade-show booth at attorney retreats to show off the latest and greatest would serve your cause. We do a booth at our Partner Planning Conference to showcase a variety of services (with giveaways for visitors, of course!) and, after some growing pains, we are seeing some success in getting the word out about new resources.
  • Tie to the Larger Business Environment. We are often more current on changes in the legal industry that affect the business of law than our attorneys are. Think of how, for example, AFAs, the legal tech audit, and legal project management (LPM) have changed the conversation in recent years. When promoting our resources and tools, we need to include the context of the larger business environment so our attorneys understand the importance of evolving their practice. When working with practice groups on developing their forms and precedents libraries, consider conveying the strong client demand for LPM and the vital contribution KM resources paly in LPM’s success. It is not just about individual legal skills anymore, my friend!
  • Be the Concierge. Our attorneys do not care which department sponsors which resources. We should ensure KM knows about the full panoply of offerings across the firm and acts as a concierge. When attorneys have problems, do not make them forum shop; rather, help them with the solution. In this way, KM acts as an advisor and problem-solver.  When we match solutions to problems, adoption follows.   And, this leads to my final point…

Be an Agent of Adoption

I have been a little vague in talking about “resources and tools” to allow you to assume I have been talking only about what is in your world. Actually, I think KM professionals are ideally suited to take on broader adoption activities. While we need to learn about and tackle adoption challenges for our own KM resources and tools, are we not equally well-positioned to bring value to attorneys by matching their business needs with other technology tools and firm resources that enhance their productivity? Assuming many KM programs have an ultimate goal of increasing attorney productivity, does it matter whether what makes an attorney more productive comes from KM, IT, or Finance? To become an agent of adoption, consider developing a program that targets not just your own department’s efforts, but also anything that enhances attorney productivity. Being an attorney-adoption clearinghouse puts us right in the middle of bringing meaningful solutions to attorneys.

What adoption challenges do you face? How have you successfully overcome these challenges? Are you an agent of adoption in your firm? Please contribute your experience and ideas in the comments below!

Directing Traffic: Delivering Content through Roadblocks and Highways

1 Oct

Picture1By Jessica M. Hackett, Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C.

The project started simply enough. I got a call from the Advocacy Department Chair inquiring whether we could create an intranet site to combine the resources of the department’s more-than-ten practice groups and subgroups. We needed an area to house the department’s meeting minutes and a list of helpful links to commonly used resources, among them library, marketing, client relationship policies, and, of course, KM. Out of habit, I asked, “Is there anything else KM can do to help?” He responded, “Well, I know you all do these great forms and practice guides, but I can never find them.” Ouch.

These legal-knowledge resources, known as precedent in some circles, are housed on the various practice groups’ intranet sites. Our firm is not alone in housing precedent on practice group sites. Indeed, I conducted an unscientific poll of legal KMers and found that this is the norm; precedent is kept by the group who creates it.

But, Can They Find It?

This begs the question: how hard could it be to find an automated form? Just go to the practice group site, look under forms, and there, you will find it! Surely you will find it there. Right? For our firm, the answer is yes – so long as someone has placed the content on the correct page of the correct site and your practice group actively participates in posting content. Also, I am sure you can even find some, if not most, of these items by using our not-so-brand-new enterprise search.

During my meeting with the Advocacy Department Chair, we devised a plan. We would put links to all of the practice groups’ precedent (for instance, forms, practice guides, and exemplar documents) in one location. We would let the groups that own the content keep their materials; we would simply have a global links list of every resource for every group and subgroup. Each link would have metadata regarding the source practice group, jurisdiction, legal topic, and format – indicating form, practice guide, or other resource. The goal was to direct all groups to one source that allows them to see everything that is available. We would remove the barrier of not knowing whether you are searching for a form, an exemplar document, or practice guide. One group would no longer hoard its stellar brief on recent developments in personal jurisdiction for federal courts. Knowledge would be exposed. It would be shared by all.

Which Came First?

Tackling one practice group site at a time, a large endeavor for a firm that has been open for more than 125 years and has had a formal KM department for more than a decade, one thing became clear: some groups have been more active than others in using their practice group sites. Then I made another discovery: the more active the group, the more content on the site. This makes sense, but I wondered whether the lack of content caused the lack of traffic or the lack of traffic caused the lack of content. It became an exercise in the classic question of “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”

I set out in search of answers. In her article “Another Look at Precedent Management” published in the July 2013 Digital White Paper “Knowledge Management: Intelligent Business at Its Best,” Marybeth Corbett observed that “[t]he demand on billable attorney time is the biggest barrier to robust precedent collections.” Baker Donelson attorneys do get billable and hourly credit for contributing to the production of precedent. This program is available to each practice group without preference. With this consideration off the table, I could not help but wonder what other barriers cause a lack of participation and content. How can I encourage more participation causing or caused by (the jury is still out) more content?

We will soon debut the global list on the brand new Advocacy Department site. I suspect that seeing side-by-side where each practice group stacks up against the others will drive participation and content. This will also give KM the opportunity to formally reeducate every attorney in the department on the topics of practice group sites and precedent management.

To disrupt the status quo, our KM department will purchase gift cards to be used as raffle-type prizes for some of our less active practice groups. The cost of entry will be one item of content. An attorney increases the chances of winning for each item submitted. Of course, in true KM fashion, content will be vetted before the attorney gets credit.

What Do You Think?

ILTA KMers would love to hear from you. Can you solve the riddle of which came first: content or traffic? What is your firm doing to encourage the creation of content? How is your firm directing traffic to content? Do you have any innovative ideas for encouraging traffic and content?

ILTA KM Peer Group Steering Committee Opportunity

5 Aug

Guest Post by Chris Boyd, Peer Group Vice President

ILTA’s Knowledge Management Peer Group Steering Committee has an opening and we’re looking for an interested volunteer to fill it. The KM peer group works with ILTA, fellow peer groups, and regional leadership to deliver programs and publications on how law firms and law departments can use KM to help their attorneys and other professionals be more effective and efficient and ultimately deliver more value to their clients. We enjoy working together to develop conference sessions, put on webinars and local meetings, encourage the use of the e-group, publish an annual white paper, post on this blog, collaborate with vendors on peer-focused programming, and otherwise capitalize on ILTA’s excellent resources to facilitate peer knowledge sharing and champion KM.

Our steering committee has eight people, and one of our long-serving members has decided to step down, so we are looking to fill that slot. Our departing member is from Washington D.C., and because we collaborate with local KM groups and each have an assigned regional ILTA group to work with, we are especially interested in applicants from ILTA’s Middle Atlantic region (Delaware, D.C., Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia), but that is a preference rather than a firm requirement.

Click here to learn more about Steering Committee member qualifications and responsibilities, as well as to submit your application. Please also feel free to contact me at or 650-354-4195 if you have any questions.

ILTA Conference KM Track Preview

25 Jul

Imagine Guest post by David Hobbie, KM PG Steering Committee, Conference Committee Liaison

The amazing annual conference put on by ILTA in Nashville, Tennessee is less than a month away!  This post lays out the speakers and substance for the six sessions on the “formal” km track, that organized by the KM Peer Group itself–although, as in other years, numerous other sessions are being organized by knowledge management professionals, address knowledge management concerns, or are otherwise of interest to the knowledge management community.  I’ve already located a few time slots when I would like to clone or perhaps “bi-clone” myself, so I could be in two or three places at once.

This year the KM track is grouped early in the week, with four sessions Monday August 18 and one each on Tuesday August 19 and Wednesday August 20.

The KM Peer Group is also hosting a reception on Tuesday evening at 4:30 PM in the Governor’s A Foyer, in the time between the last session of the day and the annual Distinguished Peer Award ceremony (the reception is generously sponsored by HighQ.)

Tweeting during the sessions can leverage the #ilta14 hashtag (already seeing significant amounts of vendor traffic) and the session hashtags, which are #kmpg1 through #kmpg6 and will be announced at the beginning of every session.  Please note that twitter searches on the session-specific may reflect previous years’ information, for a while at least.

1. Expert Systems, #kmpg1

Title:  The Rise of Expert Systems: Threat or Opportunity to Traditional Legal Services?  


It is no longer necessary to build technology that “bakes in” legal wisdom to deliver fact-based advice. Instead, expert systems for delivering legal advice are coming more into play, led by providers, client-facing document assembly products and budget wizards. What types of legal market needs do these kinds of products meet, what opportunities are ahead for law firms and legal departments, and how can law departments best harness the collective wisdom of their and their law firms’ lawyers?

The first session after the keynote, Monday at 11 AM in “Governor’s B,” features an innovative technology, “expert systems,” which has only recently made the transition from laboriously developed custom one-off creations to mobile or intranet applications, developed on an expert system platform (read more about expert systems on my Caselines posts here and here.)

Speaking at the session are Neota Logic President & Chief Strategy Officer* Michael Mills, whose company Neota Logic created the platform for creating expert system apps, Scott Rechtschaffen, CKO at Littler Mendelson, who has already publicly leveraged expert systems with the Health Care Reform Advisor, and Professor Tanina Rostain, who runs the Georgetown Law’s Iron Tech Lawyer competition that also leverages expert systems technology for the benefit of legal services. The panel will be moderated by Ginevra Saylor.

2. Security, #kmpg2

Title: KM, Security and Compliance: Fist Fight or Compromise?  


Clients demand compliance with strict information security guidelines vis-à-vis protection of legal work product. But the “need to know” security model could hinder information access and collaborative KM processes, including, but not limited to, accessibility of enterprise search. Clients are under regulatory pressures and are cracking down on what they consider lackadaisical law firm security. Is there a right balance or compromise that can address the concerns of all involved — clients, KM and security officers? Come watch the fight unfold!

The next KM session, after lunch on Monday at 1 PM, in the same room, “Govenor’s B.” Security is an increasing concern for law firms and legal organizations. Pressure to enhance security has flowed from federal and state regulators to corporations and to corporate legal service providers such as large law firms.  Many approaches to security directly or potentially conflict with knowledge management practices and goals, such as the ability to search across client matter files. We’ll hear about this issue from the perspective of key stakeholders on all sides.

Speakers include moderator Tim Golden of McGuireWoods, James Tuvell of Fox Rothschild, Dawn Radcliffe of TransCanada Pipelines, and Jim Higdon of Vendor Direct Solutions.

3. Experience, #kmpg3

Title: Leveraging Experience To Enhance the Bottom Line: New Information and New Tools


Firms are under pressure to collect more information about firm experiences and new kinds of information that relate to estimating the expected costs of new matters. New processes, information systems and staff are needed to meet this challenge, which will ultimately result in accurate pricing, effective business development and the efficient provision of legal services. Come hear more about how experience management can enhance your firm’s pricing, budgeting and KM efforts.

Next up, in the same room at 2:30 PM, is a session highlighting new uses for what is in some firms old technology and business process.  Come hear how some firms may have found a way to uncover the “gold” hidden in the firm’s experience and financial information.

Speakers will address key requirements for effective experience databases, when used primarily for pricing purposes rather than marketing purposes; discuss new technology that is being leveraged for experience management; and have a robust discussion about different approaches that different organizations have taken to this old area of inquiry and work that has new meaning in today’s legal industry.

Speakers include Toby Brown of Akin Gump, Andrew Pauluhn of Bryan Cave, and Matt Laws of Crowell & Moring.  I will be moderating.

4. Failure #kmpg4

TitleIt’s a Failure Party! How To Celebrate These Learning Opportunities


Embrace productive failure! We’re not celebrating failure itself, but rather the ability to learn from it. While some tend to be reluctant to acknowledge or follow up on their mistakes, we know this is not an ideal strategy. Come listen to several successful legal information management professionals tell stories about their least successful projects, what they’ve learned and how to turn your last failure into an opportunity for future success.

Same room, 4 PM.  Learning from past experiences, good and bad, is an essential component of knowledge management and project  management.  Experienced panelists will offer perspectives on learning from failure from the military (Col. Scott Reid (retired), formerly leader of the Army JAG Corps KM, now of Littler Mendelson), and KM (John Gillies of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and recent conference co-chair Rachelle Renegal of  Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler), moderated by Scott Rechtschaffen.  Do not fail to attend or you might regret it!

5. Gamification #kmpg5

Title: Gaming the Lawyers: Driving Adoption, Contribution and Change 


Motivating people to change their behavior often comes with KM territory. Can gamification help change behavior by making the change competitive and fun? With gamification moving beyond a fad in the corporate world, this session will explore a few examples of successful gamification in aid of KM programs inside legal organizations. Join us to see if we can motivate you to brainstorm and share ideas on how to apply gamification in the context of legal KM. Competitive ILTAns may race to chime in!

The next KM track session is an extended Tuesday morning session at 11 AM in Governor’s C/D.  Rather than offer my own gloss, I link to moderator Milena Higgens’ recent ILTA KM blog post on the session.

Speakers are Raul Taveras of Fish & Richardson,  Pamela Woldow of Edge International, Scott Reid of Littler Mendelson, and Rubsun Ho of Cognition LLP.

The KM Peer Group reception is Tuesday evening, 4:30 PM, in the Governor’s Foyer.

6. KM and Advertising #jnog6

 Title:  Upselling KM:  What Would Don Draper Do? 


What would Don Draper do if he were put in charge of a legal knowledge management program? In other words, what points must be made to firm leadership to start or reinvest in KM initiatives? How can you “sell” the value of KM in the current market? We’ll present insights from knowledge management professionals who have successfully “sold” KM in their organizations. 

This charismatic panel of experienced and successful knowledge management practitioners has repeatedly made the pitch for knowledge management within their legal organizations.  Come hear some of their secrets in what is sure to be an entertaining and educational session.

Speakers include the handsome Tom Baldwin of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, the beautiful Meredith L. Williams-Range of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, and the dapper Joshua Fireman of Fireman & Company, moderated by talented KM Distinguished Peer Patrick DiDominico. Cigars and Scotch optional.
*Earlier version of this post had an incorrect title.



Are You Game?

23 Jul

gameBy Milena Higgins, Director, Litigation Knowledge Management, Fish & Richardson P.C.

Warning: This is a pitch.

This post is designed to intrigue you into considering a novel learning experience. Be warned: you have entered the cone of persuasion.

When I first began hearing about gamification, frankly, I thought translating the features that motivate players in video games into non-game settings (e.g., the practice of law) was a bit silly. Images of Candy Crush, Farmville, and my teenagers’ Portal and Assassin’s Creed games flashed through my mind. Then I remembered Tetris and got nostalgic; but, I digress. Naively I thought gamification was all about playing games.

Like law, gamification appeared to be based on competitive principles, but seemed to be all about awarding points and badges. My reaction was dismissive: surely no lawyer is going to be seriously motivated by earning points and badges, right?

Familiarity Breeds Respect

That’s what I thought until I actually decided to experience gamification in action. In the process of implementing gamification for one of our Knowledge Management (KM) applications at my firm, Fish & Richardson, and later through working with gamification experts while planning the upcoming ILTA Imagine Gaming the Lawyers session (This is a non-subliminal prompt: KM track, Tuesday 8/19/2014 at 11:00, #ILTA14, #KMPG5), I learned that gamification not only is a lot more nuanced and complex, but also can be a powerful tool for motivating change.

Let’s Just Go with the Status Quo

Most people are at best uncomfortable with any kind of change – personal, social, operational, or vocational. Many deeply fear or actively hate it. As creatures of habit, we value stability and security more than novelty and innovation. We prefer the devil we know to the one we don’t. Accordingly, the changes sweeping through the legal profession have left many lawyers ashen-faced, defensive, and very resistant to novel approaches and technologies, let alone major paradigm shifts. Is there a way to loosen this rigidity?

Fun? Seriously?

Imagine if, instead of dreading and resisting any new approach, people could be motivated to try it. What if they could be the leader in their community, the first to change, the one who contributes most, the one recognized for their knowledge that others look up to and admire?

This is what gamification can bring to the table, even a table surrounded by lawyers. By learning about and implementing game mechanics concepts, you really can motivate people to try that new application you just spent months building or installing. As a bonus, they might even become more engaged in their work and actually have fun while trying the new application.

Gamification 101

To gamify any activity, you first need to decide on the object of the “game.” Is your goal to get people to switch from using system A to system B? Is it to get users to contribute content? Or, is it to get people to consistently enter their time daily?

Whatever your goal, once you know the desired outcome you can start thinking about the behaviors you want to reward. Yes, you can reward the desired behaviors with points. And, yes, maybe a certain number of points earns a badge. But, the key is in the social component – others seeing the badge just earned.

If you think these competitive incentives sound trivial, just watch them in action. Maybe the person sitting next door to you noticed that you just earned the “Awesome” badge, and is now trying to do whatever you did because they want to prove that they are more awesome than you. Before you know it, you might have a whole group of people competing to be the most awesome. Imagine the change you could generate – the resistance you could beat — if you could make this happen. You might just end up the most awesome person in your organization.

Advanced Gamification

Let’s be clear: gamification is much more than points and badges. It focuses on engaging people on an emotional level to motivate them. This is quite different from merely playing games, which is primarily for entertainment. It also goes beyond rewards programs (all those points and badges) that engage people on a transactional level primarily to compensate them (remember the old coffee shop punch cards?). For more on this, see Why Gamification’s Not a Game.

Gamification is already used in education to engage and motivate students to learn (see Fantasy Geopolitics) and by corporations to engage their employees or customers. For example, after building a gamified experience for their customers, New Belgium Brews saw an 8x increase in new user registrations in just one day and a 5x growth in daily logins. Imagine if KM could show these types of metrics.

The bottom line: If our job as Knowledge Managers is to engage people to participate in our programs and help them to adjust to change, gamification can be a powerful tool indeed.

Here’s the Pitch, Folks

Want to learn some practical techniques for becoming awesome? Want to get a handle on the ABCs of Gamification? Come to our ILTA Imagine Conference session on Tuesday after the keynote, Gaming the Lawyers: Driving Adoption, Contribution, and Change. You will learn a lot more about gamification from our panel of experts:

Scott Reid, Director of KM Innovation at Littler Mendelson and former CKO at the US Army JAG Corps. Scott will share his experience motivating JAG lawyers to participate in their enterprise social network through gamification.

Pam Woldow, Partner and General Counsel of global legal consulting firm Edge International. Pam has worked with law firm and law department clients who use gamification in their business and has written compelling posts on the benefits of gamification in the legal industry.

Raul Taveras, Manager of IT Application Projects at Fish & Richardson. Raul is an avid Foursquare gamer and self-professed hashtag king. He will share his experience in gamifying KM and training efforts at Fish.

Rubsun Ho, partner and co-founder of Cognition LLP. Rubsun will explain how Cognition motivates lawyers to provide outstanding client value and service with a gamification process that earns them redeemable points.


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