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ILTA Podcast: Emerging Roles in Legal Series – Episode No. 2

18 Sep

By Amy Monaghan, Senior Practice Innovations Manager of Perkins Coie

In our second installment of Emerging Roles in Legal, I speak with members of Orrick’s innovation team. In this “fanel,” we discuss an array of topics, including: what it means to drive change within an organization, how they are working to empower attorneys to practice at the top of their licenses, and the importance of mentorship. You will hear from each Orrick team member about their roles and contributions to Orrick’s innovation initiatives.

Fostering Innovation the Right Way ILTA – International Legal Technology Association

We cover a lot in this episode and if you are interested in reading further here are a few applicable resources that might be of interest:

  • Business of Law Podcast: Orrick and Microsoft Legal Productivity Hackers Discuss Innovation and Microsoft Teams here
  • Investing in the future: Harvard grad students discover West Virginia here
  • Extreme Makeover: The Digital Transformation Edition here
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper: Planning Today to Succeed Tomorrow here
  • Legal Innovation: It’s the New Roles that Make the New Tools here
  • For further reading on T-Shaped Lawyers and here
  • Manyee’s ILTAON session on design thinking
  • Kendall’s ILTAON session Virtual Training 1 – Being Prepared to Reach a Remote Audience

ILTA Podcast: Emerging Roles in Legal Series – Episode No. 1

4 Sep

By Amy Monaghan, Senior Practice Innovations Manager of Perkins Coie

I had the great honor of speaking with Jason Barnwell, Assistant General Counsel—Modern Legal at Microsoft for the inaugural episode of the Emerging Roles in Legal podcast series. Jason never fails to provide thought-provoking insights and my personal favorite quote from this episode is that “business presents a candy store of broken things!” Of course, we see the broken things as opportunities for innovation, which is where these new skillsets and emerging roles in legal are needed.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Jason, check out the Business of Law Podcast and also his posts on Legal Evolution. (I recommend this post on designing knowledge work).

I hope you enjoy this episode!  Be on the lookout for the next episode soon.

Change Management Tools for Success – Webinar Recap

11 Aug

time for change sign with led light

By Rachel Shields Williams, Senior Manager, Experience Management of Sidley Austin LLP

ILTA recently hosted a session on “Change Management Tools for Success” with Brianna Leung, Director of Strategy and Marketing of Much Law, and Katie Davis, Senior Staff Training and Development Specialist of Perkins Coie, LLP, and moderated by Rachel Shields Williams, Senior Manager, Experience Management of Sidley Austin LLP. Although the program was not recorded, summarized below are some of the key tools for success that the speakers shared.

Hardest part(s) about influencing change?

Influencing change is hard because it boils down to knowing that people are messy and complicated. That shows up in a couple of ways:

  • Power dynamics and office politics seriously hinder the kinds of real conversations we need when supporting change. If people either don’t feel comfortable with or aren’t given the opportunity to speak up, we’re never going to surface the information we need to successfully move change forward.
  • Our egos get in the way. As leaders of change we forget that we hired really smart people and we think we know better than anyone. When we don’t seek the input from our subject matter experts or don’t trust the guidance and recommendations we receive, the damage is exponential. The “I told you so” costs are not only the damage to the relationship, but they can have a real, multi-million dollar tangible expense.
  • The silos of knowledge. We get so focused on our project, our objectives, our line of sight, and our timelines that we forget to factor in what’s going on around us.

So what tools do we use to combat the messiness and complicated nature of people?

  • Being patient, deliberate, and recognizing that people embrace change on their own timeline – not yours.
  • Recognizing that change requires people to change their mindsets, change their habits and processes, take personal and professional risks, and give up some sense of control and independence while they learn a new way. We have to allow people to adjust, to process, to learn, to fail, to learn some more, and to finally succeed.

What skills do you leverage to create change?

  • Make sure the change you’re striving to manage is actually the right change. The right solution to the problem. Because no matter how well you follow the plan, if it’s the wrong thing to be doing, you’re bound to fail.
  • Who’s not in the conversation or room and should be? Are people engaged and engaged at the right level?
  • People first, process second. Be empathic, listen, communicate, and think about how you would want to be treated if you were on the other side.
  • Actively communicate the vision. Help people understand the big picture and “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) – showing the personal benefits or consequences so that they buy in to what will be required of them to make this change.
  • Reinforcement and continued support. Behaviors change and then week two hits and suddenly people get busy and they can’t remember how to do something and it’s easier to just revert to the old way this one time. And then that one time becomes every time, and before you know it, the initiative fails.

What piece of advice would you tell your past self at the beginning of your career regarding change management?

  • Change fatigue is a real thing. Don’t be tone-deaf to what people are going through.
  • Talk to more people about their approaches to leading change, and less about the specific tactics of change.
  • Learning change is great. But you can follow all of the steps, and if you don’t pay attention to both hearts and minds, you’re likely going to miss the mark.
  • People resist change. Don’t take it personally. But to help them embrace the change, do make it personal for them.
  • When change projects fail, it usually comes from poor communication, generally either omission or inaccuracy of information.
    • Omission – Leadership decided it would be best to not tell some or all people what’s going on, focusing instead on a “need to know” basis. Erring on the side of omission will often backfire because in the absence of information, people create their own narrative. Remember that people need to hear things multiple times and in multiple ways for it to click – one email or one mention in a meeting isn’t enough. Leaders need to be on the same page and communicating throughout.
    • Leadership didn’t tell the truth. The truth will get out, and when it does you will have lost trust and credibility, hurting your current initiative as well as future ones. It’s okay to not have all the answers, just don’t lie. Keep people informed with what you know and commit to updating them when you know more.

Resources

Leading Through Change by Brianna Leung

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Any books by John Kotter

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, 12 Powerful Tools For Leadership, Coaching, and Life by Marilee Adams PH.D.

Certification program and methodology from Prosci

Change Models

McKinsey’s Influence Model

ADKAR by ProSci

Kubler-Ross Change Curve

The Rise of Enterprise Social: Talking With Your Colleagues When They’re Across Town, Not Across the Hall

19 Jun

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By Holly Hanna, KM Firm Solutions Manager at Perkins Coie

The lack of ability to engage socially with coworkers that you might not interact with face-to-face has not traditionally been seen as a problem to be solved for many law firms and law departments. While firms may have deployed applications like Yammer or Jabber, the purpose behind such tools isn’t primarily seen as facilitating social interaction between employees; rather, social interaction happens as a byproduct of using the tool for work. Think of distribution lists created for employees to share pictures of their cats, or Slack channels devoted to Crossfit. Such employee-created groups happen organically, with little or no organizational support. Such use cases have been viewed by management as, at best, an ‘extra’ and at worst, as a waste of time.

This type of organic usage, when permitted, works well when most employees are coming into the office and interacting with their close colleagues on a daily basis. People talk about their weekend plans, swap recipes, and get restaurant recommendations from their coworkers while grabbing a cup of coffee from the break room or passing one another in the hallway. But when everyone is 100% remote, those social networks begin to fray and employees become disengaged from their colleagues and from the organization as a whole.

Enterprise social tools, when appropriately and thoughtfully deployed, help to fill this gap. Effective social networking applications allow users to search for other users or for content, allow the creation of groups related to common interests, and provide tagging and subscription services.  Successful deployment of an enterprise social application requires engagement from firm management, human resources, knowledge management, information governance, and marketing so that employees understand the ‘rules of the road’, have a clear path of escalation in the instance a coworker posts something insensitive or offensive, and are able to access training materials as needed.

Full-time remote work is a challenge for both employees and firms, but providing tools and resources to facilitate social interaction helps strengthen individual employee bonds and the firm as a whole. Having easy access to like-minded communities of peers and the ability to ask and receive advice and recommendations increases engagement and lessens feelings of isolation brought on by lack of outside interactions. While many social networking tools are cloud-based, and may not be appropriate in a legal setting, on premise solutions such as Ikaun’s Pulse are targeted to law firms and address many of the unique requirements of the legal industry.

We are in a unique moment in our industry. People are social creatures, and need to engage with others to feel satisfied with their work. If law firms and law departments are able to successfully deploy and support enterprise social applications, the result will be an engaged workforce and a stronger firm culture.

Work From Home Policies & Considerations After COVID-19

19 Jun

silver macbook on white table

By Deborah S. Panella, Director of Research & Knowledge Services at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

Until COVID-19, U.S. law firms and corporate legal departments rarely permitted associates and employees to work from home, even on an occasional basis.  Almost overnight, many people found that they could communicate, collaborate and work productively and effectively from their homes.  Some like it, some do not, but most manage to put in a solid day’s work, even if they have had to acquire new technology skills, juggle family obligations, and put up with makeshift workstations.

As the nation starts to reopen, organizations and individuals are examining when people will return to offices, what that experience will look like, and indeed whether they should consider permanent remote work options.  According to a May 2020 Loeb Leadership study, “67% of respondents report they would like their job to stay remote once it’s safe to return to the office, even if it’s only a few days a week.”  Christine Lamb, a partner at Fortis Law Partners in Denver, advises that HR should start planning now, and “an effective remote work policy should address issues including eligibility, equipment, expenses, safety, security, work hours and communication.”  In addition, maintaining a strong organizational culture may present new challenges, especially if some people are in an office and others are not.

Below is a small selection of free resources centered on working from home that address key questions and concerns. Except for references to national and state-specific laws and regulations, guidance may also be of interest to our colleagues around the globe.

“Do I Have to Return to the Office?”

Can Employees Refuse to Return to Work Because of COVID-19? Ogletree Deakins, May 26, 2020.

The Next Normal: A Littler Insight on Returning to Work – Handling Concerns About Hesitant or “High-Risk” EmployeesLittler Mendelson PC, April 30, 2020.

Consider the Circumstances: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Employees to Return to Work and They Refuse: Blog Labor & Employment InsightsBradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, May 29, 2020.

Don’t Get Cocky: Firms May Not Be Prepared for Long-Term Remote Work. Law.com, May 7, 2020.

Drafting or Revising a Formal Policy

Work From Home Policy: A Definitive Guide For ManagersVantage Circle, May 19, 2020.

Implementing and Updating Employee Policies for Remote WorkHopkins & Carley, April 20, 2020.

Drafting a Remote Work Policy: 5 Legal Pitfalls to Watch ForHR Morning, March 18, 2020.

5 Steps to Setting Up an Effective Work From Home PolicyThe Timesheets Journal, October 2017.

Employer Risk & Responsibility Checklists

Work-From-Home Legal Issues Checklist: Labor and Employment AlertAkin Gump, March 12, 2020.

COVID-19 – Understanding The Business Risks Associated With Remote Work ArrangementsWindels Marx Lane & Mittendorf LLP, May 1, 2020.

U.S. Legal Considerations for Remote Work Arrangements in the Wake of COVID-19Debevoise Plimpton, March 17, 2020.

Work-From-Home Checklist During the Coronavirus PandemicNational Law Review, March 16, 2020.

Balancing Supervision & Monitoring With An Employee’s Right to Privacy

Out of Sight is Not Out of Mind – Monitoring Workers Working From Home: Workplace Privacy, Data Management & Security ReportJackson Lewis PC, April 27, 2020.

Work-From-Home Checklist During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Workplace Privacy, Data Management & Security ReportJackson Lewis PC, March 16, 2020.

Employee Monitoring During the COVID 19 Lockdown GDPR Considerations RevisitedRopes & Gray, May 4, 2020.

Across the Digital Divide: Managing Remote WorkersAkerman LLP, June 1 2020.

Tax Obligations

Multi-State Payroll Withholding Issues and Potential Relief for Telecommuting Employees.  Ogletree Deakins, May 7, 2020.

Timekeeping, Wage & Hour Laws

WFH is the New Black: Avoiding Wage and Hour Pitfalls as Work From Home Hits the COVID-19 Mainstream. Seyfarth Shaw LLP, March 25, 2020.

Expense Reimbursements

Navigating Expense Reimbursement for “Work From Home” EmployeesMcGuireWoods LLP, March 30, 2020.

Employee Safety, Liability & Insurance

Coronavirus Watch: What Are Employers’ Legal Responsibilities for the Safety of an Employee’s Home Workplace? Ogletree Deakins, March 14, 2020.

Liabilities of Letting Employees Work From Home. The Hartford, [Undated].

 Information Governance, Data Security & Cybersecurity

Working From Home: Information Governance Tips and ConsiderationsBurns & Levinson LLP, April 7, 2020.

Protecting Business Information Assets in the “Work From Home” Environment. Proskauer Rose, May 12, 2020.

Protecting against Cybersecurity Threats when Working from Home. Proskauer Rose, March 11, 2020.

6 Data Security Tips for Working from Home. Thomson Coburn LLP, 2020.

Working From Home Data Security Tips, Part 2Dykema Gossett PLLC, April 17, 2020.

 Attorney-Client Privilege

Practical Tips for Protecting Corporate Attorney-Client Privileges in a Work-From-Home EnvironmentAdams and Reese LLP, March 23 2020.

Restatement to the Rescue: 20-Year-Old Treatise May Help Ease Work-at-Home Privilege Problems.  Holland & Knight, April 3, 2020.

Trade Secrets

Trade Secret Protection and Remote Work: Considerations for EmployersGreenberg Traurig LLP, March 30, 2020.

Keeping Your Trade Secrets “Secret” During a Time of Increased Remote Work Due to COVID-19. Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, March 24, 2020.

Protecting Trade Secrets in the New Normal: 10 Questions Companies Need to Address in a Work-From-Home EnvironmentWinston & Strawn LLP, May 20, 2020.

Fostering an Organizational Culture

Remote Teams Can Have Great Culture. Inc.com, [Undated].

How to Grow a Positive Company Culture with a Remote Team6Q, [Undated].

Why Culture is Everything with a Remote Team: What Does Team Culture Mean? Toggl.  [Undated].

Legal KM in a Time of Coronavirus: Back to Basics

2 Apr

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By Holly Hanna, KM Firm Solutions Manager at Perkins Coie, and Adam Dedynski, KM Project Manager at Reed Smith

In recent years, legal knowledge management has evolved and matured, with an increased focus on how to leverage advanced technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and bots. However, the basic pillars of KM remain relevant, as has become increasingly apparent during the current coronavirus pandemic. Some key takeaways from this experience include:

Document Sets Still Matter

A foundation of legal KM is the gathering of forms, precedents, and other useful documents into a single location (for example, a dedicated space in your document management system), which KM teams often govern and support. These resources need to be curated by subject matter experts, managed to ensure currency and relevance, and reviewed to ensure that all client confidential data is removed – core KM best practices. Your firm’s internally generated content will generally be more relevant than third party content, especially if the third party content isn’t materially different from what your lawyers are generating in-house.

Following these best practices makes it easy for lawyers to find relevant information to incorporate in their work and provide the best advice efficiently. The coronavirus pandemic has legal implications across and within practices, which may also be of a global nature. Whether your firm is primarily focused on transactions, litigation, or both, the current crisis requires quick access to a large corpus of high-value content. It is now more important than ever to have a robust, clear, and secure mechanism in place to capture, curate, and manage materials to help prevent ‘reinventing the wheel’.

Finding Good Sources (and Making Them Available)

In addition to locating good documentation, in a fast-moving, rapidly unfolding crisis like the current pandemic, it’s important to have a way for everyone to track breaking news. Whether it’s lockdown orders at the municipal, state, or federal level, court status, or legislative updates, having a single location where lawyers can find links to authoritative resources is key. This location can be set up in a variety of ways; you can create a toolkit on an intranet page, set up a distribution list, or create a centralized and easily accessible document setting out key information. Your library and research services team can provide links to third party subscriptions that are tracking breaking developments so that firm resources can be more effectively leveraged in responding to the current situation.

Collaboration is Key

Quickly responding to the information needs of lawyers requires a high degree of collaboration among multiple groups, including legal subject matter experts, library and research services, marketing, IT, and knowledge management. In addition, lawyers, many of whom might have been accustomed to going next door to ask a colleague a question, are now working remotely. Secure online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Skype chats, or email tools like distribution lists allow lawyers to ask questions, share guidance, and link to resources. These collaboration experiences are vital in a fully virtual work environment. KM can play a key role in proactively advertising, guiding, or helping set up these tools up so they meet the needs of different groups, and also be pivotal in coordinating collaboration.

Relationships, and Experience, Make a Difference

Finding out who knows who, who’s done what, and other questions related to individual lawyers’ backgrounds becomes a much more urgent requirement when people are scrambling to understand how an event like the coronavirus pandemic impacts their customers; this is especially true when people aren’t having the ‘drive by’ conversations that previously happened. In addition, the ability of the KM group to work effectively with multiple stakeholders is dependent on the level of trust that’s been built to date. If your attorneys trust you to steer them towards the best resources, they’re more likely to direct others towards managed repositories. Now is a great time to reinforce those relationship or forge new ones in this remote environment using the tools and technology available. Taking part in conference calls, responding quickly to email requests (even if it’s just a quick note to let people know you’re working on their request), proactively reaching out to key practice groups to offer existing KM solutions, and supporting lawyer interest in developing additional KM resources for their area of law all help build key relationships.

Highlight Your Work

Tools and repositories are only valuable if lawyers know that they exist and can easily find them. Publicize your efforts, make sure that key practices know where to find information and how to submit additional resources or links, and make it easy for those lawyers who haven’t been paying attention to quickly get up to speed. Announcements in firm publications, emails from leadership, and prominent access from your intranet’s home page can all be used to ensure your lawyers are finding and using high value content.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to quick-response, boots on the ground KM work, the fundamentals matter. While advanced KM tools are valuable, and integrating them into a legal KM program is important, the bread and butter of KM revolves around curation, validation, and quick and easy access to high value content. During times of crisis, when the legal situation is evolving rapidly, KM needs to get back to its roots in order to provide effective service.

 

How to Turn Your KM Function Client-Facing

6 Mar

analysis blackboard board bubbleBy Nicola Shaver, Managing Director of Innovation and Knowledge, Paul Hastings LLP

I had the pleasure of moderating an ILTA webinar titled, How Do You Turn KM Into a Client Service Offering, with a group of stellar panelists who shone some light on what firms across the world are doing to turn their KM functions client-facing.

As clients increasingly understand the value that is to be had from leveraging their law firms’ professional staff, they are asking for increased collaboration as well as services and products that go beyond traditional legal offerings. For firms that have yet to make this leap into “beyond-legal” client work, it can be difficult to know where to start. This conundrum is further complicated by the fact that KM functions look different from firm to firm, and especially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Our discussion with panelists Heather Colman (Senior Manager of KM and Innovation at Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt in Toronto), April Brousseau (Head of Innovation and New Business at Simmons & Simmons in London), and Vedika Mehera (Innovation Advisor at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in San Francisco) kicked off with a comparison of what KM looks like in their various environments. For both Vedika and Heather, KM is focused on efficiency and client value, introducing technology and methods to streamline and enhance legal practice at their firms. April, on the other hand, commented that when she was first invited to participate in the webinar, she politely declined because her firm doesn’t have a KM function as such. I can attest to this fact, and to our follow-up discussion during which April and I talked about the way that KM was variously regarded in North America versus the UK. In the latter, the words KM will still apply more traditionally to content-specific work, and separate functions often exist that deal with legal innovation. This is certainly the case at Simmons & Simmons, where April sits within a pure innovation team that focuses largely on product development.

In spite of international differences, all panelists agreed that the key to turning KM (or legal innovation) client-facing lies in leveraging insights and expertise to the benefit of clients. Vedika considers the key value here to be around collaboration. She highlighted the value to be had in taking platforms that have already proved their value internally and turning them into client-facing tools. Heather spoke of taking a KM department’s expertise, however that is focused within a firm, and engaging the client in such a way that they benefit directly from that expertise. An example here might be providing clients with consulting advice around innovative technology tools, or methods for innovation. April’s client-facing proposition borrows from other industries, using service design methodologies to truly understand the jobs to be done in respect of a particular client problem, and then designing products for clients that meet those requirements. There was general agreement that the key to turning any portion of a KM function client- facing was to really listen to the client, and to ensure that what is being provided responds to client needs.

Each of our panelists provided a success story from their own environments, showcasing the benefits their respective firms had provided to clients by leveraging KM to meet external needs. I highly recommend that any readers who were unable to join the webinar tune in to watch the recording of it, because the excellent summary slides add color and insight to these case studies. However, I will do my best in writing below to give a snapshot of each.

Orrick’s “Observatory”

At Orrick, Vedika and her team responded to a client need that was expressed through repeated requests for information about legaltech tools, by developing a platform that provided this information in a digestible fashion. The “Observatory” database captures information about over 600 legal technology tools across almost 20 data points, and allows users to see whether a tool has been used at Orrick, and if so, in what capacity. The tool is both internal and external-facing, and empowers both attorneys and clients to inform themselves. For attorneys, it also allows them to service clients more readily using technology, and for clients, it provides an easy way to request use of a particular tool in relation to their matter work with the firm. This solution neatly addresses the RFP request that is now regularly posed by clients about how a firm will leverage technology to facilitate the efficiency of their work, and serves the purpose of a kind of menu of services the client can request.

Simmons & Simmons SMCR Solution

An example of the responsiveness by the Simmons & Simmons innovation team to client needs and market changes is showcased in a successful subscription product. The Senior Management Certification Regime (SMCR) is a UK-specific regulation that was recently introduced and affects corporate clients. April’s team recognized it would be useful to clients to provide in-depth information about the regime and how it would affect them. What they hadn’t anticipated until they went to speak with clients to test their theory, is that organizations also wanted training around the new regime so that they could implement the changes themselves. Armed with this knowledge, April’s team pivoted, and partnered with another platform provider with expertise in e-learning. This joint effort across platforms allowed for the development of a product that provides legal insight and expertise on the regulatory changes, combined with practical e-learning modules including quizzes. The platform is fully available to clients on-line, in the cloud, for a subscription fee, and it is the only platform in the UK that provides the training component around this new regulatory regime. April credits the significant uptake and success of the platform to her team’s deep understanding of client needs, which allowed them to deliver something truly useful.

Osler’s Design Spring Workshop

At Osler, Heather and her team were approached by a client who had a number of different needs. The client was itself beginning to develop an internal innovation function, and wanted help from the Osler team in understanding how to build a culture of innovation and what methodologies they could use to get started. They also wanted to learn new methods of problem-solving, and to foster team spirit across their own function. They were keen to get off-site to facilitate this. In order to meet the client’s needs, Heather’s team devised a design thinking workshop for the client that would get them into the Osler offices for an entire morning, learning about how to engage their organization more broadly in their innovation initiative through actively undertaking a design session that had the secondary effect of teaching them how to use the methodology for their own purposes. Heather and her team partnered with Hersh Perlis from the Toronto Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) in order to ensure that the client workshop went smoothly and was run professionally. The client was thrilled with the result, and future client-facing work is now likely.

How to Get Your Initiative Started

The panel finished off with a few practical tips on how to get started with a client-facing initiative. Putting the client first and responding to their needs is at the core of all of the suggestions. It is also vital to consider when to develop a product or an expertise, and when it is more effective to partner with another expert to facilitate a solution. Additional tips include:

  • Identify areas of current expertise, and areas where the firm has sufficient existing data to develop a meaningful solution
  • Identify work that is standard and repeatable, or expertise that might be effectively delivered in nontraditional ways (for example, rules-based areas of law, compliance, regulatory)
  • Actively engage with clients to understand their “Jobs to be Done,” which means understanding the ultimate outcome the client is trying to achieve
  • Collaborate with other departments and other entities

Many thanks again to the engaging panelists for sharing their useful insights.

You Haven’t Heard? Knowledge Among Multi-Offices

12 Feb

black and white blackboard business chalkboardBy Lisa Gianakos, Director of Practice Technology Solutions, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

It is an age-old problem, getting practices to share across offices. The reasons are many but commonly the result of a merger, where there is suddenly more than one group of attorneys specializing in the same area, but in different physical locations.  But when I was asked if I could write a short entry on ways to tackle this problem, I decided to focus on whether there really is a problem to be solved!

Ultimately if there IS, it is due to either people, process or technology.  And while it’s possible a firm does have some technology issues making sharing across regions difficult (slow network speeds across the WAN, outdated technology, technologies not yet integrated in a merged firm scenario, etc.), what I have observed is the problem is most often People and/or Process; in essence, the culture of the practice, and the firm more generally.  I recently spoke with KM leaders at 5 other large firms, and they agreed with this summary.

But let’s start with what I consider the easy-stuff – technology. (OK – not simple at all but perhaps easier than herding cats).  If you need technology upgrades, consolidation or similar issues resolved in order to enable better knowledge-sharing, there’s not much I can offer here that you don’t already know.  People are not going to share, collaborate, whatever you want to call it, if the technology impedes the steady flow of work or is too disruptive to handle. Attorneys will find a workaround even if it’s no more efficient. In some cases that feels easier if it avoids dealing with change.

Assuming the technology issues are not the network infrastructure itself, but your firm simply doesn’t have tools that enable or improve the flow and sharing of knowledge, consider research and investing in platforms such as Microsoft Teams or SharePoint TeamSpace, or even Yammer! I list these because most firms are Microsoft-based and likely to have licensing for these examples.  There are tons of non-MS options out there. Slack or DMS add-ins seem to be among popular options.  Note that I’m assuming your firm HAS a DMS and that it is relatively up-to-date. This tends to be the starting place for building out KM, since attorney work product is most often in written form (documents) and already needs to be managed for the client’s sake, and the firm’s risk protection.  If you are a smaller firm without a DMS, many KM or Collaboration solutions include the ability to store documents too, though bells and whistles (or gavels?) may be limited.

If you are a KM-minded person like me, or have a PM or library science background, you can’t imagine why people would simply NOT want to be organized and use consistent methods.  At Pillsbury, we created a separate library/cabinet in our DMS (NetDocs) for knowledge collections.  This separation was made during our migration from a prior platform, to NetDocs, many years ago, to intentionally raise the visibility of Know-How and providing a central location for it.  We also hoped to entice usage by making our Know-How cabinet searchable in our enterprise search, which goes beyond what is natively possible in NetDocs.  Further, because we license Lexis Search Advantage (LSA) and layer it atop our enterprise search (OpenText’s Decisiv), attorneys receive the added benefit of having additional metadata (meaning more filters) automatically extracted from these documents.  So in my mind, why wouldn’t you want to benefit from following a standard practice?

I believe I was relatively successful in identifying and migrating all of the one-off collections from our old DMS, to the new DMS’ Know-How cabinet.  Many of these were previously in a location designated by both practice and office.  Essentially, it was an office-centric culture that I was trying to lead to a practice-centric approach, at least as far as KM is concerned. There were a handful of practices that already had a single multi-office location for Know-How.  In other cases, I was able to identify “niche” collections and have those moved as well. (By niche, I mean one attorney’s person/private collection).  I did my best to provide taxonomy advice but mostly focused on those that were interested in KM (the enlightened few).

All of that said, there isn’t necessarily much advantage to attorneys practicing in different locations. For example, having Know-How stored in the same location, for real estate attorneys in California and Virginia may not add much, if the forms, precedents, and other stored knowledge is unique to or only specific to that region. Also, when two groups of attorneys in the same practice area, came from different merged firms, it may be difficult to get them to agree on how/what a consolidated library (and/or workflows) should be.  That’s a much harder cultural problem and not one that I try to tackle.  At the end of the day, I have expertise and experience in legal KM, tons of it actually. I love talking about, helping, giving advice and suggestions; I will do just about anything for a practice that is bought in.  But for those not interested in having a single sandbox of friends, I can only offer my advice, and not worry about whether or not they take it, agree with it, or are even interested in what this non-attorney “expert” has to say.  In the end, the idea of sharing across offices as being necessary, or the lack of it a problem, is not necessarily true.  As always, it DEPENDS!

 

Collaborating With Clients: Why is it Increasingly Important and What are the Benefits

10 Feb

people near tableBy Melanie Segraves, Knowledge Management Solutions Analyst, Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP

Chances are, this won’t be the first blog about collaborating with clients that you’ve read. The legal industry is known for its buzzwords (ahem, innovation) and right now collaboration is having a moment.

How important is collaboration in a legal setting? When Law360 interviewed the leadership of several global law firms last year, leaders said that a “collaborative spirit” was one of the four most important traits they look for in a partner.

You may agree that collaboration is important and still find it a challenge to pinpoint your role in encouraging attorneys and clients to collaborate. Writing this blog allowed me to think through some of the things our KM department is already doing and how we might use our team’s strengths to move the needle on collaborative client projects.

Here are some of the concepts that came to mind:

Ask Questions

One common trait of most successful collaborators is that they’re also good listeners. Active listening takes practice and it’s most effective when you learn what the right questions to ask are. For example, one question I might ask a client at the beginning of a project is, “What processes or technology have you used for “X” type of matter in the past? Was there anything you liked or disliked?”

It’s a simple question, but the answer will hopefully provide insight into a client’s workstyle, their aptitude for technology, and if they’re having any hesitations about the collaboration. For example, if a client is accustomed to managing certain processes via a master spreadsheet that’s never left their internal DMS before, they’ll want reassurance that collaborating with your firm will elevate their capabilities without straying too far from what they are accustomed to and comfortable with.

Don’t Oversell the Tech

Many attorneys want to show clients that their firm is on the cutting edge, but beware of the oversell when it comes to technology. If you spend a lot of time talking to a client about the most advanced features of a product because you think they’re exciting, it may send the message that you don’t really understand their needs. Worse, it could seem like you don’t really understand the technology either.

Something else to consider – other firms your clients work with likely have the same or comparable technology available to them. Instead of positioning your firm as cutting edge, try showing the client how little training they’ll need to get started or how easily your technology can be integrated into their current processes.

Clients want to know that you’re making technology choices with them specifically in mind. No matter how great a system is, if you can’t explain how it’ll ultimately make the client’s life easier, you won’t get buy-in from the group. Or as an attorney at our firm once explained it, “That dog won’t hunt.”

There’s No Replacement for Human Connection

Human connection is important to the practice of law and even more crucial to sustaining collaboration with clients. Whether you think that sounds mushy or not, it’s true – most of us would prefer to work with people we like and in order for collaboration to take place, there has to be mutual trust.

Certain technology can help attorneys form closer client relationships, which may lead to natural collaborations occurring more often. The most obvious example of this is probably video conference technology with the benefits of a video call mimicking those of an in-person meeting.

But some ways that we’re able to connect with clients are less evident. Consider doing a quick, informal “audit” of your existing legal tech. Which products have collaborative elements? If collaboration isn’t the main purpose of that software or platform, are attorneys actually using the collaborative features?  Are there ways you can build awareness of collaboration tools within the firm? One idea that we’ve discussed is hosting a CLE workshop where we invite clients to learn about technology in a face-to-face setting alongside our attorneys.

The main takeaway from all of this is that collaborating with clients is a win-win for everyone involved. But to make it happen, we may need to develop new strategies that are more intentional in encouraging collaboration between attorneys and clients.

Knowledge Management for Newbies

31 Jan

young game match kidsBy Nikki Shaver, Global Director of Knowledge Management, Paul Hastings, LLP and Adam Dedynski, KM Project Manager, Reed Smith, LLP

This post is the first in a series ILTA will run over the course of the year, entitled “Foundations of Knowledge Management.” Upcoming posts will discuss the pillars of KM, evolving roles in KM, and how to measure the value of KM. First, though, we start at the beginning, for those new to the field.

What is Knowledge Management (“KM”)?

Defining KM has always been challenging, and it’s only become more so as the legal industry has evolved. [1] Generally, however, most traditional definitions of KM revolve around knowledge as content – collecting and creating useful content, curating it, organizing it, and surfacing it in a way that makes it accessible to lawyers as and when they need it. Knowledge managers have always been stewards of critical content.

Over the past years, the KM department in many law firms has expanded to include functions that no longer sit quite so neatly within conventional definitions of KM. The development of precedent forms and collection of good sample documents was once core to KM, and though it still is, this activity may now sit with just one of the many functions that fall under the KM umbrella. While knowledge managers generally deal with the internal knowledge and content of a firm or organization, it is now common for library or research functions dealing with third party content to similarly report in to KM. Although the capturing of key information about a firm’s matters can rightfully sit within a business development function, the organization skills of knowledge managers and their familiarity with taxonomies and metadata means that such a project is often ideally administered by the KM department. Over time, it has also become increasingly common for KM departments to include functions responsible for: the selection and administration of legal technology that is directly related to legal practice; process optimization; legal project management; alternative timekeepers; litigation support; practice management; and even pricing. In some firms, KM has become a client-facing function, carrying out AI projects and generating secondary revenue streams around subscription products and the commoditization of legal knowledge.

It is now perhaps less accurate to define KM purely in terms of knowledge or content, and more accurate to talk of it as a field dedicated to streamlining legal practice, enhancing firm-wide efficiencies, improving realization and increasing client value. In addition, because knowledge managers are often more directly related to practicing lawyers than other business professionals at a law firm (either because they were once lawyers themselves, or because they have to deeply understand practice in order to work with the content and associated processes), they are ideally situated to gather user-requirements from lawyers for major technology projects, and are often tasked with staying abreast of developments in the legal technology world so that they can match the right solution to a particular use case or practice pain-point. In short, firms and organizations that have a strong KM function are more likely to operate effectively, with greater productivity and better profit margins that those without one.

KM in Context

The core work of a KM department will differ depending on what jurisdiction you’re in, and what kind of firm or organization you work for.

In the United Kingdom and Australia, the traditional definitions of KM set out above might still accurately reflect much of what that department does within a firm. The new functions that often sit within a KM department in the United States might be gathered together in a new area that is called “legal innovation,” or they may be dispersed across the firm’s business units. A PSL or KML (practice support lawyer, knowledge management lawyer) in the United Kingdom is generally more content focused and more likely to be embedded in a practice group than the equivalent KMA (knowledge management attorney) in the United States. KMA roles are less likely to be assigned to a single practice group, and instead one KMA might support multiple practices. A PSL/KML is often tasked with drafting precedent documents, delivering legal training, or answering queries on specific areas of law and must, therefore, retain significant subject matter expertise in their practice area. In contrast, a KMA might coordinate the drafting of precedents by associates, and will spend as much time promoting new tools and processes as they will on content-related tasks.

Context also comes into play in relation to the size of the firm or organization in which a knowledge manager works. For example, the tools that are useful to practicing lawyers in a large firm are quite different to those that are useful in a small firm. In a large firm that is well resourced, knowledge managers are more likely to be tasked with finding discrete tools that improve efficiency for particular practice areas – for example, AI-enabled contract review tools that allow for faster and more precise due diligence review in the context of a large-scale corporate transaction. In a small firm, practice management tools that can perform multiple functions and are applicable across all of the practice areas of the firm will be more useful.

How to Get Started

If you are new to KM and you are hired by a firm or an organization that has an existing knowledge function, it won’t take long before you get a sense of what your department’s priorities are. Indeed, during the interview process it should already have been clear whether the function is one that is more clearly aligned with conventional definitions of KM or a modern, expanded one.

If you are new to KM and seeking a role, it would behoove you to sit down ahead of time and map out the kind of function you would prefer to join. This will likely depend on your desired career trajectory. Spending some time before applying for jobs to determine what you want your KM career to look like will help you decide which roles to apply for, and which firms or organizations to target.

If, however, you are new to the field and you have been tasked with establishing a KM function, that is a different situation entirely. Whether you moved into KM from another position at the same firm, or have been hired new to the firm for the purpose, you will want to spend some initial time understanding the way the organization works at a broader level. For a KM initiative to be effective, it must be supported by senior leaders and partners at the firm. Further, it is essential that the KM function be genuinely collaborative, not just across the firm’s practices but also across its business departments. Many KM projects rely on close working relationships with IT, Business Development, Learning and Development, and so on. KM will succeed best when it is in the process of breaking down silos; it will fail when it becomes territorial. Spending time understanding the way the business departments interact with one another, and building key relationships, will prove invaluable. Once you understand the network of power and influence across your firm or organization, and after receiving guidance from senior management and heads of practice groups about what kind of KM function they want to establish, it’s time to perform a KM audit. The notion of an audit and the priority building blocks that go into setting up a KM function will be explored in more detail in the next post in this series.

The organic evolution and diversity of the KM field makes it a highly rewarding and intellectual endeavor. Whether you are considering a career in KM, have taken the first steps in that career, or are an established KM practitioner looking for a refresher and renewed inspiration, we hope you will stay tuned for the rest of our series on the foundations of knowledge management.

[1] Ten years ago, Richard Susskind described it as a system of “organizing and exploiting the collective knowledge of a business.” Patrick DiDomenico, in his seminal text Knowledge Management for Lawyers (recommended reading for anyone starting out), lists many definitions of KM from different sources, each one valid and no two the same. The ISO Knowledge Management Standard (ISO30401) also set out definitions (and provides guidelines for establishing, implementing, maintaining, reviewing and improving a knowledge management system in organizations).