What’s on Your KM Wish List?

7 Jan

wish1By Debbie A. Ting, Knowledge Management Resource Attorney, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

As I wrote this blog post during the holiday season, I wondered what I would include on my KM wish list. Thinking along the lines of a “Santa” wish list, I imagined having no technology, time, money, resource, attorney-bias or other constraints that might otherwise limit me. Ignoring these constraints can help generate creative and innovative KM ideas that might then be implemented to support your law firm’s or in-house legal department’s KM initiatives.

A long-standing item on many KM practitioners’ wish lists – including my own – is attorneys who embrace enterprise social networking and collaboration tools as their primary means of communication and working together instead of email. Oz Benamram’s article, “Why most law firms’ internal collaboration systems are doomed to fail,” provides a good analysis of potential barriers preventing attorneys from adopting these tools. However, I believe many law firms and legal departments will succeed in moving attorneys to adopt enterprise social networking and collaboration systems (“ESNC”) for the following reasons.

  1. Attorneys know the importance of mastering email overload. Every email represents a request for an attorney’s time, attention and response. The sheer volume of email can be overwhelming and takes valuable attorney time away from responding to client-related emails. Shifting internal communications to an ESNC would enable attorneys to better focus on client-related email and result in greater customer service to their clients. Information previously captured in email could be accessible on an ESNC as part of the relevant matter, practice, or other administrative site. Pop-up notifications could be sent instead of email, and a mobile app should be offered for easy access from smart phones and tablets.
  2.  Attorneys are already in the habit of asking for information at work. While an attorney may be reluctant to post a model form on an ESNC, firm culture supports sending out “Pardon the Intrusion” emails asking for information about precedents, expertise and other information needed to do their work. These emails are often sent firm-wide further cluttering inboxes for those not the object of the email. Also, the responses are forever lost in the requestor’s mailbox. Using an ESNC allows attorneys to more appropriately target their requests by expertise and opt-into communications they want to receive, while allowing others to see the thread of all responses organized in one place.
  3.  Attorneys are already in the habit of using social networks at home. Attorneys are comfortable crowd-sourcing information from their social networks (g. Facebook, Google+) for advice on things like, for instance, restaurants and doctors. Having early ESNC adopters who are partners and associates will encourage others that ESNC is accepted at work. Creating communities of interest (like pro bono practice) that encourage collaboration can also foster use.
  4.  Legal Technology has matured. Legal technology has developed robust collaboration platforms to mirror social media platforms like LinkedIn to replace email and discussion forums using older technologies. These new platforms include detailed profiles that allow attorneys to connect with each other by providing key biographical, practice, location, and other information. The technology also better supports checking access rights to information stored on ESNC based on criteria, such as user, role, group, or ethical and confidential screens.
  5.  KM Practitioners can act as champions for successful adoption. At this year’s ARK KM conference in New York City, Amy Fox shared her insight on how she successfully secured adoption of ESNC by Intel’s in-house legal department. The key takeaway from her presentation is that a KM practitioner who acts as an ESNC champion can successfully lead adoption by personally talking to attorneys about the benefits and encouraging use.

The KM wish of ESNC adoption can create a powerful KM tool by leveraging the collective legal wisdom to deliver superior legal services.

In an interview with Henry Blodget at Business Insider’s Ignition 2014, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains that continuously generating and implementing new ideas, like those on a KM wish list, can ignite “bold bets” that encourage experimentation that is vital to a company’s longevity:

 “What really matters is, companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence. Whereas companies that are making bets all along, even big bets, but not bet-the-company bets, prevail.”

Law firms and legal departments should consider adopting the same approach and add to their KM wish list. By continuing to experiment and innovate with new KM ideas, they will guarantee their competitive edge and longevity.

I found this process quite liberating and encourage you to do this exercise as a way to jump start your KM ideas in this new year. Once you have your KM wish list, brainstorm how to make these KM wishes become reality.  What is on your KM wish list and how would you implement it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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