Knowledge management and professional development (PD) serve closely aligned objectives at law firms – while knowledge management tends to focus more on legal substance and legal technology, and professional development more on skills and capacity development, certainly both help lawyers gain the information and knowledge needed to practice efficiently and effectively. In most law firms these two departments are not connected and often operate in silos. However, as professional development departments start developing on-line, just-in-time, training, there are more opportunities for them to work together and ensure lawyers have access to integrated topical resources.
Videos & Podcasts
What are these on-line trainings? At their most simple form, PD provides videos of live programs, usually synchronized with the PowerPoint. But many PD groups are also now creating short podcasts, video or audio that can be downloaded to a mobile device. These podcasts might be a short lecture or set of practice tips focused on a specific topic and ideally aimed at a particular role. Working together KM and PD can package these videos and podcasts with links to the relevant model precedents and other related resources in the KM system, including matter pages, legislation, research, firm commentaries or blogs. Depending on the topic, PD may also have pulled together other resources such as background articles that should be included.
Even if the firm has enterprise search that would enable a user to find all of the KM and PD resources, it can still be more efficient for users if KM and PD have packaged the most useful resources together, filtering out some of the “other stuff” that comes up in search. And at the very least KM should work with PD on taxonomy to ensure PD is applying the same metadata to its PD content to ensure that when a user does use enterprise search, the best content is delivered.
PD is also starting to leverage Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and discussion forums, for learning purposes. Consider the implementation of a major new piece of legislation. A live program, or even a podcast, will be a static tool, reflecting the presenters’ knowledge at the time the program was held or created. But with a new piece of legislation much of the learning will come over time as lawyers start to interpret it in the context of real client issues, and as they see the courts and regulators apply it.
Working together, PD and KM can integrate PD’s program resources, KM resources and a discussion forum in which the lawyers can discuss the issues they come across. Perhaps include a wiki page to create an on-going live, flexible summary of what has been learned, linking to articles and commentaries as they come out. The page becomes a live learning environment.
Some PD teams are also starting to create more interactive on-line programs in which users are required to answer questions and interact with the program, either throughout or as a quiz at the end. This format could be a useful tool for training juniors and perhaps legal assistants on using the KM systems.
Better Together Than Apart
Some KM teams are doing these things without the involvement of PD as they switch their focus from pulling information together, to enabling the creation of knowledge. However, I still encourage KM to reach out to PD see what they have and are doing and ensure, as an organization, that the two groups are efficiently working together in support of the lawyers, and not duplicating efforts.