A Mutual Benefit Society: Knowledge Management and Professional Development

7 May

Mara Nickerson, Chief Knowledge Officer, Osler, Member of ILTA KM PG Steering Committee

At a recent Toronto legal knowledge management meeting, a panel of professional development professionals attended and discussed a number of ways PD and KM can and should work together. Since I have responsibility for both at my firm, I participated on the panel wearing both hats.

KM Resources and Approaches Can Enhance PD Programs

First, the firm’s KM resources (such as precedents or checklists) must be integrated with the related PD programs. A PD program is often a good impetus for updating these resources. One of the learning objectives of the PD program should be to raise awareness of the KM resources and how to find them.

KM  Can Help Identify Training Needs

In Canada, KM lawyers are proportionally more numerous than in the US, and are embedded in each of our practice groups. Our KM lawyers are very helpful in identifying training needs, and in smaller practice groups are responsible for organizing training sessions for their associates.  PD works with the KM lawyers to determine whether a topic should be addressed through a formal PD session or at a less formal practice group meeting.

KM Can Enhance Subject Matter Expertise Sharing

Live PD programs are an excellent way for subject matter experts to share tacit knowledge, information such as practice pointers and lessons learned that are not written down.  The firm’s expertise identification systems developed by KM might help the PD group identify possible speakers on specific topics.  Of course most PD professionals have learned that not all subject matter experts are good teachers but a PD program can also be used to highlight the expertise system.  [Ed.— Participation in request for information exchanges on email or internal social platforms that KM professionals should know about may indicate that the subject matter expert is willing to educate others about the subject.]

PD Content Can Enhance KM Resources

Most PD programs create new topical resources and such resources should be integrated with related KM resources. This could happen automatically through enterprise search.  But it is even better if the resources are more holistically tied together or integrated at the time they are developed rather than coming up as standalone artifacts.  KM topic guides, that aggregate key resources, legislation and other content on a particular topic, should include PD content.

PD Can Help KM Develop “Just-In-Time” Training Competencies and Topics

Many PD groups have gone beyond live programs and are focused on “just-in-time” training. This can be done through a variety of on-line tools – podcasts, interactive on-line presentations that can also be incorporated with KM resources.  KM and PD could work together to define the content the lawyers require and the best media in which to present it.  For instance, KM often develops substantive or procedural checklists, which are a great way to train junior lawyers on the steps necessary to execute transactions or specific court filings.  A 5 minute podcast from a subject matter expert is a better way to engage more senior lawyers in thinking about more complex issues.

PD and KM Can Both Leverage New Collaborative Technologies

And PD is also starting to leverage web 2.0 tools for learning purposes.  Any intranet-based online discussion forum has a learning component.  Wikis and discussion forums, and other social networking tools such as enterprise social networks, can be great approaches that empower practice groups to better learn about and share information on new legal and industry developments.

Please share in the comments any other ideas you might have on how PD and KM can leverage each other.


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