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Enterprise Search – a 2018 Round-Up

25 Jun

close up of text on wood

By Amy Halverson, Director of Knowledge Management, Research & Information Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

More than ten years have passed since enterprise search hit large law firm KM radars in a big way.   Much has changed since then – the technology, the providers, and perhaps most critically, law firm content repositories.  These changes appear to be pushing enterprise search back onto law firms’ to-do lists.  The topic is appearing more frequently in ILTA programming, as illustrated by the recent, and highly recommended, ILTA webinar entitled Enterprise Search Tool Stories, in which three law firms walk through the processes and choices that went into enterprise search upgrades.  The 2018 KM Priorities survey issued annually by Ron Friedmann also shows enterprise search/information governance to be a higher priority for firms than in recent years, with over 45% of large law firm respondents identifying it as a top priority for the year.

Given the above, we thought this would be a good time to look at where things stand now with law firm enterprise search, and to spotlight some of the considerations that arise when upgrading or changing out an enterprise search platform, as opposed to installing one for the first time.  This overview provides a high-level view of the enterprise search landscape, and is not intended to provide an exhaustive list of enterprise search products, providers, or feature sets.  We welcome input in the comment section from readers who have additional information and perspectives to share on the topic.

Types of Search Products and Their Functions

By way of background, the term “enterprise search” in large law firms has broadly been used to describe an internal search application that delivers relevant information to end users from more than one enterprise information repository (such as a document management system, an HR database, and a client-matter system), via a keyword query in a single search box, and that offers users the ability to target specific content within an initial search result using categorical filters, similar to the experience of consumer online shopping platforms.

In talking to peers about their recent experiences with enterprise search projects, Lisa Gianakos of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman aptly observed that today there are at least three flavors of search technology products:

  • Search Engines with UIs
  • Search Engines
  • Search UIs

Search engine with UI is your all-in-one tool that provides the technology and the user interface packaged together.  OpenText Decisiv is an example of such a tool that can work out of the box with little customization, although many firms do elect to modify the end-user experience and extend the native search features.  iManage Insight also fits into this category, as it can be used for different DMS’s and has an out-of-the-box UI.

Search engines are the tools that actually power the search, but which have no standard UI or a limited UI and few means to customize.  SharePoint Search (formerly FAST) is one example.

Search UIs are the services that can be used in tandem with the search engine and act as facilitative connectors that deliver the results of the search engine to the user.  SharePoint Search + Handshake is an example of such a combination.  SharePoint powers the search index, while Handshake gives the firm the ability to customize what and how results are delivered and displayed.

Finally, there is the native DMS search.  iManage offers an IDOL-powered search, though with its next release (10.2) it will offer its customers the option of having either IDOL or RAVN-powered search.  NetDocuments relies on Solr, and SharePoint on, well, SharePoint.

Examples of search technology types by product name.

A. Halverson_ table_blog


In speaking to KMers who are, or have recently undertaken an overhaul of their firm’s enterprise search systems, I asked what new features their users have really liked or found to be valuable.  Here are a few that you might consider including in a requirements document:

  • Integrated search box that allows users to search intranet content alongside documents and other content repositories
  • Natural language search queries
  • Guided, predictive search that produces easy-to-read top results and pre-programmed best bets
  • Preview view for individual search results
  • Export search results for matters and people to Excel
  • Ability to contextualize intranet content pages by inserting pre-formed search queries that “publish” to the page

If your firm is considering a change or upgrade in its enterprise search system, the first requirement should be that the replacement do at least as much as the current one.  Either track down the requirements that were drawn up for the existing system, or start from scratch.  Does your search allow users to multi-select categories?   Make it a requirement.  Do your users have the ability to preview the source document?  Share or save searches?  Toggle from one data source to another?  Be painstaking; don’t assume anything.   Once you have those requirements listed, build on them to add the new capabilities you want.

Other Considerations

Requirements should extend beyond just the search tool features to include functional needs and dependencies as well.  For instance, if you intend to index intranet html and/or SharePoint pages that include stub pages and non-substantive content, make sure the index can filter out the non-substantive content, because otherwise they will appear in search results and overwhelm legitimate, useful search results.

Other considerations relate to the services provided by the vendor(s) you engage.  When selecting a provider, remember to:

  • Confirm the provider’s level of technical support, and the terms/cost of engaging professional services for improvements
  • For Search UI providers, confirm that the provider offers out-of-the-box templates that are based on experience and feedback received from prior customers. Also confirm that the provider regularly iterates its product based on experience gained from prior installations.
  • Ask about their work process, how do they plan for and implement feature enhancements; what is its typical release cycle. Ask to see the product roadmap and hear how upgrades are deployed.

Should you not have the resources or inclination to undertake the project on your own, your firm can consider engaging a consultant to help you, whether for specific aspects of the project, such as doing user interviews and drafting a resulting requirements definition, to aspects such as technology assessment, solution design and implementation, end-user training, and internal marketing and adoption.

Pre- and Post-Project Tips

Before embarking on a search upgrade, examine the state of your firm’s DMS metadata.  You may want to clean it up before using in a search index (garbage in = garbage out), or may elect to extract metadata  (entity extraction).

After launching your new search, use analytics to assist with adoption and track problems.  Monitor user activity, flag abandoned searches, and follow up with the users to find out what they were trying to find.  This will allow you both to spot functional problems and to do targeted training for users who struggle to use search effectively.  Use reports are also a rich source of clues for what to program as “best bet” search results to particular query strings.

New Flavors

Despite the advances of the past ten years, enterprise search has not changed fundamentally in how it is used – an attorney types in a description of the thing she wants to find.  But in coming years it seems likely that chatbots and voice-activated tools like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant will be adapted for the enterprise and used to deliver results of certain types of searches.  In fact, one firm I spoke to, Foley & Lardner LLP, is already developing a chatbot search that is enabled for Alexa voice commands (Charlotte Logullo describes this briefly in the ILTA webinar noted above, Enterprise Search Tool Stories).   So if your firm is not ready to take on an enterprise search overhaul, but does want to improve the efficiency of retrieving certain types of information, a chatbot may be worth consideration.


Thank you to Charlotte Logullo of Foley & Lardner LLP, Rick Krzyminski of Baker Donelson, and Lisa Gianakos of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman for sharing their valuable insights and experiences with me for this posting, and to Joshua Fireman of Fireman & Co. for contributing to the list of search providers.


What Are You Ingesting and Will You Digest It For Me?

22 May

blur-books-close-up-159866By Deborah S. Panella, Director of Research & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

I recently stumbled upon a web post, 50 Popular Business Books Summarized in One Sentence Each, and appreciated authors Drake Baer and Mike Nudelman’s ability to synthesize entire books so succinctly.  For example, about Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: “[t]here are six universal principals that determine if people will change behavior – reciprocity, commitment, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.”  Okay, so one sentence is sometimes more like a teaser, but the list helped me decide which books to explore in greater depth.  It also made me realize how much I value recommendations from – and summaries by – peers.   Several selections are shared below.

Stephanie Abbott, Director, Janders Dean (Australia):

“I’m currently (re) reading an oldie but a goodie – Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. A title with “checklist” in it might not normally scream “page-turner,” but the first time I read it back in 2011, this one was so compelling I actually stayed up until it was finished. I find this book even more relevant now amidst the hype and ever-escalating promise of legal technology. It’s handy to remember that, sometimes, all you need to make major improvements is to think about what you’re doing.

This book traces the origins of the process checklist through real (and at times, hair-raising) stories: starting with the evolution of the aviation industry then branching out into operating theatres, disaster recovery, investment banking and construction, to name a few. It’s a great reminder that processes too fiendishly complex for one human or a team of humans stay on top of can still be managed and improved without resorting to magic bullets or billion dollar investments. All it requires is some intelligence, diligence and empowering the right people with a simple, no-tech solution. Sound attractive? You betcha.”

Marlene Gebauer, Director of Knowledge Solutions, Greenberg Traurig (US):

“I read a blog post on Knoco Stories on knowledge documents versus project documents, and I thought Nick Milton laid out the differences very nicely.  There is a difference between the knowledge workstream and the project workstream and both serve different purposes.  Documents in the project workstream serve the purpose of completing the project and their lifecycle revolves around the project.  Knowledge documents are not tied to a project, but are applied across an organization and have an extended lifespan.  The two types of documents can be linked; there may be best practices or examples that come out of a project and that can be absorbed into the knowledge base.  I found the distinction interesting because there is sometimes a misconception that these documents and workstreams overlap or are the same when they are not.”

Mara Nickerson, Chief Knowledge Officer, Osler (Canada):

“I recommend the podcast, Here is Why All Your Projects are Late and What To Do About It. If you have been in KM for more than … hmmm … 6 months, then you have had a project take longer than you thought, and I am guessing all of you have had projects go over budget (if you haven’t then please give me a call as I would like to hire you). Assuming you are not some kind of project management savant, then you should listen to this Freakonomics podcast.

The central theme of the podcast is the planning fallacy – a tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a project, despite knowing that similar projects have typically taken longer in the past. The speakers on this podcast posit that planning fallacy stems from a combination of the optimism bias and coordination neglect. The first being our tendency to idealize and over simplify when we are planning.  The latter, being our tendency to underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to coordinate activities and communication across a team. (Reinforcing my belief that if I could just do the work all on my own I would get it done on time!).

So what can you do to overcome the planning fallacy? The primary answer seems to be – look at the data!  (I suspect most of you are not surprised.)  When we are doing a budget for project X, ignore the specifics of project X and instead use reference class forecasting. Look back at similar projects and see how much they cost and how long they took.

The planning fallacy isn’t a new concept and many of you may have read the Harvard Business Review article on the Planning Fallacy and the Innovators Dilemma. But I found this a really interesting podcast to consider not just with respect to my KM projects but to reinforce for our lawyers the importance of data on past matters to support budgeting and pricing efforts for legal matters.

Check it out on Freakonomics Radio, available through iTunes.”

Deborah Panella, Director of Research & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP (US):

“I was recently drawn to a book’s title: Best Practices are Stupid, by Stephen M. Shapiro.  The author, an ‘innovation advisor,’ offers 40 short chapters, each covering a tip to avoid innovation failures.  Some chapters, like ‘Simplification is the Best Innovation,’ need no explanation, while others are more substantive.  Each chapter ends with a quote, including this one which will surely resonate with KM professionals: “We often hear the expression ‘Build it and they will come,’ but with innovation, a more accurate statement is ‘Eliminate a pain and they will come.’”  Shapiro advises readers to manage their innovation portfolios much like your investment portfolios – with a balance of Incremental Innovation (safe bets that are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, and sure to yield positive results), Adaptive Innovation (relatively easy changes from a technical perspective, but possibly difficult to drive adoption), Technical Innovation (where the need is clear but the solution is technically complex and challenging), and Radical Innovation (both technically complex and with a high level of adoption uncertainty).

Given most law firms’ and law departments’ budget and staffing challenges, few KM and Innovation professionals have an active project portfolio with such a mix.  Instead, we must prioritize the winning projects – by identifying the difference between ideas that are duds and those that are worthy of time and investment.  This is surely one reason that ILTA’s recent workshops and 2017 program on Sustainable KM: Turning Treadmills into Windmills (featuring Mary Abraham and Chris Boyd) were so popular.”

 As for reading foundations and keeping up with hot topics and identifying what to read, several peers provided useful recommendations.

Mary Abraham, Instructor, Master of Science Program in Information and Knowledge Strategy, Columbia University (US):

“I have two recommendations: Working Knowledge by Davenport & Prusak is a classic that everyone in KM should read — several times. I’d also be happy to pass on a recommendation for my blog: I’ve been writing about KM and the legal industry for 10 years so there’s a terrific archive of useful information for my readers.”

Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (US):

Some of my favorite blogs are: 3 Geeks and a Law, Above and Beyond KM, Above the Law, Adam Smith, Esq. and Strategic Legal Technology.

Patrick DiDomenico, Chief Knowledge Officer, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. (US):

The book Knowledge Management for Lawyers.   I would also recommend the Knowledge Management for Legal Professionals LinkedIn Group. It has over 9,000 members.

Ron Friedmann, Partner, Fireman & Company (US):

Here is my list of blogs and one book I found relevant.

KM Book: For an excellent deep dive, I highly recommend the 2015 book, Knowledge Management for Lawyers by Patrick DiDomenico, published by the ABA.

For all the sources below, I read via my feed (RSS) reader. I use Feedly. If you want to follow more than a couple of regularly published sources, a feed reader is a must.

Legal AI + InnovationArtificial Lawyer Blog by Richard Tromans. Daily coverage of legal AI, both news and commentary. This is more about AI and innovation than KM – but can we even draw the line anymore?

Legal Tech: KM is not just about technology of course. But KM professionals should stay current on legal tech, especially since so much is happening now. I find three sources useful for regular updates: LegalTech News (ALM), Legal IT Insider (aka The Orange Rag), and Legal IT Professionals. KM professionals might also consider Above the Law: it has noticeably increased its tech and start-up coverage, and also covers the business of law, but if you subscribe to the feed, you’ll get a lot of other content too.

Legal Research and Legal Start-Ups: KM also often touches on legal research. I read Lawsites (Bob Ambrogi) and Dewey B Strategic (Jean O’Grady). Bob also provides excellent coverage of legal tech start-ups and other topics.

Legal Business: KM professionals should stay current on developments in law practice management, legal operations, and firm management. For the big picture and strategy, I read Adam Smith, Esq. (Bruce McEwen), Law21 (Jordan Furlong), Legal Mosaic (Mark Cohen), and Legal Evolution (Prof. Bill Henderson).

In addition, members of the Knowledge Management Content Coordinating Team recommended the KnowItAALL Newsletter, Wired Magazine, and PinHawk Daily newsletters for Legal Tech and Library.

If you have recently read or listened to or seen something you found valuable, please share your thoughts.  And if anyone recommends one of the many subscription services (e.g., GetAbstract,, or Business Book Summaries), please let us know.

How Firms are Redefining DMS Ownership to Drive Adoption

20 Apr

pexels-photo-886465.jpegBy Tom Baldwin and Ron Friedmann, Partners at Fireman & Company


Many firms are planning major upgrades to their document management system (DMS) over the next 12-18 months. This move to a modern DMS experience offers firms the opportunity to address one of the previously intractable problems of document management: lawyer adoption. Firms now realize that driving adoption is the key to enhancing security, embracing governance policies, leveraging know-how, informing pricing, driving knowledge management, maximizing the potential of artificial intelligence, and achieving other goals that cut across the practice and business of law.

The criticality of user adoption is leading forward-thinking firms to take the approach of sharing DMS ownership between a technology and a business lead. This move recognizes that a DMS is more than another piece of software – it sits at the core of how lawyers practice. At both Faegre Baker Daniels and Perkins Coie, IT owns the DMS back-end and infrastructure, while practice-facing departments are responsible for adoption, design, and configuration. We interviewed both firms to learn more – but first a bit of background on the changing role of document management.

The New, Central Role of DMS

Firms now recognize the need to achieve high DMS adoption. Wide adoption is required to achieve three key practice and business benefits:

  1. Security. Realistic cybersecurity recognizes that intruders will breach firewalls (often by phishing) and systems must limit the access of whomever penetrates the perimeter. Perimeter defense remains essential but inside, systems must limit each user’s access to information. That means making sure all documents are stored in the DMS and properly secured, typically to just the team working on the matter. For more on this topic, see Your New Biggest Security Threat – DMS Adoption, ILTA KM blog, Dec. 12, 2017).
  2. Collaboration. The ability to share documents and find them is the foundation of collaboration in law firms – and with clients. When some lawyers use the DMS and others do not, sharing work in progress becomes a big challenge, especially for lawyers who regularly work on different teams. When all documents are in the DMS and properly secured, then every lawyer knows where to look. And sharing with clients is more systematic and secure.
  3. Mining Know-How and Leveraging AI. Artificial intelligence (AI) in large firms is on the cusp of making a big difference in how lawyers practice. Starting in 2018, AI integration into the DMS will open new ways to serve clients and understand the firm’s business. Smart search and other built-in intelligence will alert lawyers to relevant documents, clauses, matters, and people. This will make a real difference in daily practice. Pricing teams will be better able to estimate costs. And marketing will be able to find relevant matters faster to tailor pitches. But all this works only if all the documents are in the DMS. With AI embedded in the DMS, the scale of firms will finally have a noticeably positive impact on practice: firms with more accessible and organized data will gain advantages.

These benefits accrue only with high DMS adoption. That’s why leading firms have moved to joint DMS ownership in order to combine great technology with a practice-based focus on design, adoption, and usage.

Shared DMS Ownership at Faegre Baker Daniels

To understand how Faegre Baker Daniels shares DMS ownership, we talked to Katrina Dittmer, Senior Manager of Knowledge Management. We asked her how and why the firm had taken the path of shared DMS ownership.

She explained that after the 2012 merger of Faegre & Benson and Baker & Daniels, lawyers and staff both realized that much more was involved in DMS than just technology. So management, including IT, saw the need for both the business and practice to be represented along with IT when making changes to the DMS.

At that time, Shawn Swearingen, Director of Knowledge Management, suggested the ownership change, with the support and approval of the CIO. Today, KM focuses on DMS design and adoption – how lawyers and staff use the system. This allows IT to focus almost exclusively on the operational aspects of the DMS (up-time, patching, security, tuning, backup, etc.). In contrast, KM owns the roadmap for the DMS, in regular consultation with IT.

Shortly after this change, shared ownership proved its value. Prior to the merger, legacy Baker & Daniels had not mandated the use of DMS workspaces and lawyers within and across both firms used the DMS in different ways. To bring uniformity to the merged firm, KM created a “workspace warrior” campaign to design a uniform approach and adopt proper workspace usage. And that campaign succeeded.

The KM team not only works closely with the practices, but has analyzed DMS usage data to shape how the workspaces will be designed. KM, with its close and regular connection to the practice, is able to present that message to lawyers in a way that they will understand, hear, and accept it. Data also informs day-to-day decisions: KM regularly analyzes help logs to find common issues and questions, then either provides coaching or improves the user interface to address an underlying issue.

We asked Katrina if there had been any push back to shared ownership. She reports that, in fact, the DMS system administrators were quite happy not to have to deal with user design / user issues. They can now focus more on the back end and maintenance while KM focuses more on change management.

Our final question was if Katrina has any advice for firms that do not have a dedicated KM function. Her view is that the DMS team in those circumstances needs whomever best represents the voice of users, suggesting that can include the help desk, lawyer and/or IT training, business managers, litigation support, or anyone else on staff that regularly interacts with lawyers.

Shared DMS Ownership at Perkins Coie

At Perkins Coie, we spoke with CIO Rick Howell and Director of Knowledge Management Services Gwyn McAlpine. Rick said that he was very happy to share DMS ownership with KM because he views IT as a service provider for technology. Our KM team is well aligned and integrated within our practices and has the insights necessary to help attorneys succeed, he said.

“To take advantage of AI as it becomes available in the DMS, we need all of our documents in it. We won’t get there if the DMS is prescriptive. It needs to be flexible, easy to use, and agile. Otherwise, what we deploy today, we will be rebuilding tomorrow. Working with our KM and our Governance teams, we can achieve that.” – Rick Howell

With the arrival of iManage Work 10, both Rick and Gwyn are enthused about shared ownership, so that each group can focus more in-depth on the features most relevant to each group. On the one hand, IT can focus on how to best leverage the new backend architecture in Work 10, security models with both Threat and Policy Manager, and other technology aspects. On the other hand, Gwyn’s team can transform how lawyers work, taking advantage of flexible foldering, AI, and persona based design.

We asked how the firm got to the happy marriage of KM and IT for the DMS. Rick, who started as CIO at Perkins Coie in 2016, said it matches how the firm views itself – that we best serve our customers through diverse partnerships, like KM, IT and security, working together toward shared goals. “I can’t imagine doing it any other way because it’s how we have structured our teams and overall efforts,” he said.

Gwyn agreed, citing the close relationship KM has with the practices. She observed about KM that “we are trusted. Lawyers will talk to us. We have credibility to address concerns.”

The importance of that access and understanding was recently highlighted when the firm redesigned its intranet. For that process, KM led many focus groups with lawyers and other users. The engagement from those groups pointed the way to new and better ways of working. (Fireman & Company assisted Perkins Coie with the intranet redesign.)

The firm is now applying this collaborative model to other issues, particularly use of cloud services. A governance board comprised of attorneys, risk, information governance, and KM actively engages lawyers and management to make the right decision and decide timing about all issues cloud.


We think Faegre Baker Daniels and Perkins Coie represent the leading edge of a coming wave of firms sharing DMS ownership between IT and KM.

A new, rapidly emerging tech-enabled law practice requires that business owners and IT work more closely together, with each focusing on its strengths. The old model of limited flexibility and infrequent change has been stood on its head. Software today makes customization for practices or personas easy. That flexibility, however, is a benefit only with design informed by how lawyers really work.

Fireman & Company sees this daily across our practices. We regularly work with firms on a new generation of intranets, DMS, enterprise search, and experience management. Working with IT and KM, we help ensure that the voice of lawyers is clear, and that final designs reflect how lawyers actually work.  Even if you don’t have a dedicated KM group, you can emulate this shared ownership concept in your firm.

Today, law firms can no longer afford to allow lawyers to operate outside the DMS. The benefits of security, collaboration, and tapping the collective know-how all require very high adoption. Joining KM and IT to deploy new generations of software will be an essential success factor in achieving this.

Knowledge Management for Everyone: Quick Tips to Develop a Successful Program

30 Mar

wheretostartBy Alexis Soard, Knowledge Manager, Fennemore Craig, P.C.

I first encountered legal knowledge management four years ago. I was fresh from the world of academia where I’d been a technology librarian for years, had zero legal experience, and had just been hired to lead my firm’s new knowledge management initiative. There was only one small problem.

I had no idea where to start.

Developing a KM program from scratch can seem a little daunting. Here are some suggestions on how to develop a successful program at your firm.

Define KM for Your Firm

KM is as varied as flavors of ice cream at the supermarket. The definition of KM differs depending on whom you’re talking to and when you talk to them. In general, however, most KM programs tend to center on sharing, organizing, and managing institutional information. These programs typically include determining ways to ease access to information and sometimes cross into the outside world when institutional knowledge needs to be made available to an external party, such as a client. They often cross over with other departments, such as IT and the library.

Identifying the scope of the KM program will help you identify what skills you’re looking for, particularly if you’re looking to hire or convert a position to a KM position, and what projects you envision being a part of this initiative. It will also help provide guidance and focus for the person or people put in charge of leading this effort as well as give you talking points when discussing it with your firm’s executive team or management.

Identify the Issues 

If it’s not broken, we’re not going to get the budget to fix it. Period. So, if you think your firm is ready for or needs a KM program, ask yourself what issues this program/person would solve. Maybe there are barriers getting to information or problematic processes that no one has time to resolve. Or perhaps there’s a lack of ownership between the firm’s technology and implementing it into the everyday workflows of the firm. Whatever the reason is, identifying the issue that this position or program would solve will help you justify why it’s important to the firm and how it can help long term.

Determine whether or not the identifieIdentifyd issues are actually fixable and worth fixing.

Some KM projects end up having little or no impact on our intended audience, or something that we think is a no-brainer falls flat when we talk about it to others. In order to avoid these situations, we have to determine whether or not the issue we’re trying to solve is actually worth fixing. Having critical conversations with both key project stakeholders and end users will help determine whether or not you’re trying to resolve a problem that is both fixable and worth fixing. Gathering relevant statistical data regarding the issue will also assist in identifying how wide spread it is and what the potential impact of solving it could be.

Starting a KM program can be overwhelming; however, the payoff is worth it in the long run. KM stands in the unique position of solving business problems with real world solutions and can bring about improved process and greater efficiency, leading to better overall client service.