Casey Flaherty and the ACC recently published Unless You Ask: A guide for Law Departments to Get More from External Relationships. The basic premise of the Guide is that if clients want their external lawyers to change the way they work and ensure they focus on delivering efficient client service, they need to ask. And, the Guide is full of all of the questions in-house lawyers can ask on a broad range of topics, including knowledge management, process and project management and expert systems – all topics near and dear to my heart (and job). The Guide specifically warns clients not to accept puffery from their law firms, but instead ask for concrete and measurable evidence.
Casey sent me a copy of the Guide just as it was released because my firm has been rolling out the Legal Technology Assessment. Needless to say, one of the topics covered in the Guide is lawyers’ technical competencies. I was able to use the Guide as one of the tools to encourage lawyers to complete the assessment. Beyond that, I have also been using it do a bit of KM soul searching.
My firm has a very old and well-established KM program, dating back to former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Bertha Wilson, who started our centralized research collection in the early 1960s. We now have a solid KM team and many of the standard KM systems and databases. We are also quite focused on process improvement and efficiency and implemented a number of new technologies to enhance practice efficiency. But, all that might sound like puffery!
While I could debate with Casey the extent to which law firms should be required to disclose how we make our “secret sauce,” I have found the Guide a valuable tool to work through with my team and consider where we are doing well and where we still have gaps. And, of course, we do have gaps. Even Casey counsels law departments not to expect perfection from law firms – expect only a willingness to engage and evolve.
Sometimes we can get stuck in what we are doing: it started out as the right thing to do, so we just keep doing it. The Guide reminds us to take a step back and review the ROI. Are we having the impact we think we are? Are our tools being used the way we expect them to be? Yes, it is time for some soul searching and I plan to use the Guide as the starting point for discussing 2017 KM goals and projects with my team.
I have forwarded the Guide to the other Chiefs at my firm and asked them to review and summarize how we are doing in the areas they manage. I want us to be fully prepared when clients ask.
And, one client has asked; the client has instructed us to use the Guide as the focus of conversation at our next quarterly relationship meeting. This client has not yet asked for a detailed response to the specific questions in the Guide. But we are ready. And I am well on the way to setting our KM goals for 2017. Thanks Casey.