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Value Added Services Part 2: DLA Piper’s Evolving VAS Strategy

19 Mar

ClientsatisfactionGuest post by Chris Green and Megan Jenkins, DLA Piper

In part one, we observed how more and more clients are explicitly requesting value-added services (VAS) in pitch invitations and relationship reviews.  In this second post, we explore one firm’s strategy.

With the traditional legal model under threat, meeting client demands for cost-effective legal services is challenging, to say the least.  At the root, what clients really want is good value – they want to know they have bought a little something more than legal advice.  The good news is that law firms can give good value to clients through extra services that somewhat offset the cost of legal services.

DLA Piper Case Study

At DLA Piper, we have made VAS a key part of our client relationships.  With dedicated client support functions in both KM and Marketing, we apply our international expertise to developing extra services that solve real business issues.  Granted, as a global firm we have a full array of legal and business expertise and resources to draw on in designing and delivering VAS, but many of the services we will look at in this post can be adapted by smaller firms.

DLA Piper offers a range of online tools that help a business reduce risks, enhance collaboration, check cross-border legal issues, improve efficiency, and save money.  These tools include deal rooms clients can share with third parties, webinar recordings, and interactive resources on key business themes like outsourcing. 

One of our goals is to help the clients we work with look good when they are working with their own colleagues by making them aware of potential legal issues that affect their business.  So, we offer an extensive program of training and events to give our clients the latest knowledge and help them demonstrably add value to their enterprises.  In response to client feedback, we provide these programs in user-friendly, flexible formats, such as webinars.  We also provide timely know-how through bulletins, blogs, and hotlines. 

A Win-WIN Situation

With some key clients, we provide secondments and consultancy from various support teams, including KM.  Our larger clients struggle with many of the business challenges we face, for example managing teams in multiple locations and sharing information effectively. Because in-house lawyers’ knowledge needs are quite similar to those of a firm’s lawyers, law firms can offer products and services that directly address in-house counsel’s concerns.  Although some in-house legal teams are close in size to law firms, these teams typically get far less tailored support from their company given that they are not the focus of the clients’ business.

DLA Piper’s WIN (What In-house lawyers Need) program, which recently earned us the Financial Times Most Innovative Law Firms in Client Service Award, combines a series of events, checklists, online tools, and forums offering knowledge, support, and networking to address the technical, commercial, and personal challenges of practicing law in-house.  Feedback from our clients has been excellent and many are now directly involved in developing the program to keep it relevant to them.

We continually review client needs and feedback, as well as monitor trends in the legal press and client requests, when tweaking existing and developing new tools and services.  For instance, when our clients asked for more flexible training programs, we created a webinar service that pulls together recordings of DLA Piper’s experts across the globe. 

Selling VAS

Yet, our services matter only if our clients know about them and promotion needs to come primarily from the lawyers who work with our clients.  Our lawyers can effectively promote our VAS to clients only if they become fully aware of and understand those services. Our Using Value Added Services to Solve Client Problems blog introduces and promotes best use of our client support services, such as VAS and account management.  To encourage repeat visits, KM and Marketing commit to posting new content every two weeks.  We encourage guest bloggers from other client support teams, including the wider KM team, Marketing’s client services and pitch teams, client account managers, partners, and IT’s client technology services team.  Sharing examples of client support and feedback sparks ideas to help others build relationships with clients and breaks the broad range of VAS into manageable chunks for our busy colleagues to digest.

Making it easy for client partners to promote VAS and give clients relevant information is vital, so we have developed client-friendly introductions and email templates advising clients of frequently used services. This not only streamlines the process, but also ensures delivery of consistent messages.  We create lists of cross-practice training topics and help client teams package these into bespoke training for clients.  An internal collection of DLA Piper client training materials is maintained so new tailored training materials for clients can be produced quickly and easily.

Along with our blog, the firm intranet contains comprehensive information on all of our VAS, prominently displayed within the intranet’s client section.  We also maintain and regularly update a VAS client brochure and accompanying internal guidance notes.

KM’s Crucial Role

The KM team understands what our colleagues need to improve their client relationships and offers solutions to suit them.  KM works with Marketing and client relationship teams within the business to ensure that each client gets the most appropriate services.  To continue providing a range of options, we try to fill more knowledge gaps by tapping into our geographic reach and involving legal and other professional experts. 

To support individual client needs, we work closely with client relationship partners and marketing account managers.  We engage with sector and client marketing teams to ensure we offer the best service to our key clients.  Naturally, we work closely with IT to build out technology solutions, such as deal rooms and collaboration tools, for our clients; KM also benefits from IT’s marrying our system with our clients’ IT to provide coherent service.

The wider KM community within the firm alerts us to both client needs and ad hoc services that have cropped up that we could in turn offer to other clients.  Professional support lawyers and research experts understand the current legal issues in their practice areas and help marketing repackage the information for client consumption.

Unexpected Benefits

Offering clients robust VAS brings many unexpected, intangible benefits. Developing VAS fosters new international and cross-team working relationships, both internally and with clients.  Clients enjoy being involved in pilots and shaping future resources and services.  People from different groups, sectors, and countries can be brought together, often for the first time, through VAS projects. Moreover, client-facing knowledge tools can supplement internal know-how, making internal collaboration more efficient.

The relatively small client KM team’s knowledge, though concentrated, is shared with client teams who are starting to develop their client relationships more intensively.  Every client relationship develops over time and being able to say that, “Other clients in this sector use these services” can quicken the pace.  Collaborating with clients on their needs is particularly powerful and allows us to devote our resources to developing new and valuable services together.

Client KM is now a standard part of pitches and we regularly recommend suitable services to client teams.  We find that if a client relationship starts well, it generally develops well and this has a direct impact on the bottom line.

A variation on these two posts originally appeared in Legal Knowledge Management: Insight and Practice, Ark Group/Managing Partner, 2013.

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Value Added Services Part 1: Empty Promise or Real Benefit?

5 Mar

gift Guest post by Chris Green and Megan Jenkins, DLA Piper

As law firms increasingly recognize that what their clients buy is their firm’s knowledge, legal knowledge management (KM) is becoming more client-facing.  Firms now see a very close link between the knowledge the firm relies on and their clients’ desire for value added services (VAS). Since clients tend to have fewer internal legal resources to draw on, sharing the firm’s know-how with clients can be a big win for a firm.  For many years, savvy firms have given clients extras in the form of legal updates and training programs; today firms are becoming more creative and generous with the services they give for free to the extent that clients have come to expect these perks as standard.  Evidence of the growing trend for bigger and better VAS abounds in the legal press, conferences, and the range and sophistication of client requests in RFPs and relationship reviews.

 Understanding What Gives

In an industry built on selling knowledge, giving knowledge away for free may seem counter-intuitive.  So, how did this notion of VAS arise and take root?  It likely started with business clients’ need for their legal advisers to be more like business partners who can help with strategic as well as legal decisions. Law firms quickly realized that to do this well, they would need a rich and deep understanding of their clients’ business needs, an understanding richer than possible in relationships where clients are  instructing different lawyers on each transaction with the firm.  Clients are more likely to share key strategic information with advisers they trust and building trust takes time and investment. Clients play their part through panel appointments that give firms access to the broader context that fosters solid relationships. Likewise, law firms must grasp every opportunity to learn more about their clients’ businesses and VAS create opportunities to sit and talk without the meter running; they encourage clients to share their wider business focus and plans without fear of racking up a hefty bill.

 Timing Is Everything

 Typically, clients bring work to a firm when faced with a legal problem.  Unfortunately, by that point, it may be too late to craft the best outcome for the longer-term business strategy. To be effective business advisers, firms need to keep their clients’ business goals top of mind and proactively pre-empt legal problems to help the business progress.  More often than not, this requires taking action well before legal issues crystalize. Business decisions are made for commercial reasons by directors and executives concerned about whether a change or investment is right for their business at that time.  VAS, such as access to a law firm’s online tools, can help clients analyse their business options before they even think of involving lawyers directly.  Clients have long recognised value in being able to pick their lawyers brains on small issues free-of-charge; being able to similarly discuss longer term, strategic issues with their lawyers could prove vital to the clients’ business health. 

Getting an Edge 

Law firms constantly struggle with how to best differentiate themselves from other firms.  Lawyers who understand their clients’ businesses in depth are better equipped to ask the right questions and demonstrate how their services fill gaps in ways competitors cannot.  Marketing efforts tailored to the client’s individual or business sector priorities speak volumes.  A firm’s long list of services and sheer size no longer impress today’s sophisticated clients; rather, they want to see how the firm’s services are built on knowledge and experience with the client’s business and industry. 

Most firms offer a range of VAS, some of which have existed for decades (legal updates, training, and secondments, for instance) and some more recent additions (online tools, blogs, apps, and consultancy, to name a few).  New ideas crop up frequently, especially with technology making it easier to deliver free legal and commercial services to both potential and existing clients.  All of these extra services open new opportunities for law firms to start a dialogue with clients and help them solve more business problems.  By filling a know-how, resource, or service gap in this way, firms demonstrate their broader expertise and differentiate themselves. 

A good range of VAS includes a mix of legal information and tools designed to help clients make business decisions and solve practical issues. These services also help law firms meet their clients’ challenge to streamline and enhance our interactions with them. For example, clients who first complete a structured online checklist are more likely to better instruct the lawyers working on a new deal for them, thereby increasing efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability.  

Benefits far exceed cost 

Tailoring the kinds of VAS offered to each client’s particular circumstances creates a bespoke offering for the client and ensures that the law firm spends its own resources on services that genuinely benefit each client.  Developing and sharing VAS also helps colleagues understand each other’s business and expertise, which in turn increases cross-selling as colleagues gain confidence in introducing each other to the firm’s clients. Vital to any firm’s business, active cross-selling is harder to achieve the larger a firm grows.

These benefits are critical in today’s challenging legal market where firms are competing to increase market share and create lasting client relationships in the face of shrinking demand.  All firms wants repeat clients who seek their services on a full range of legal issues.  A good roster of VAS helps firms continually demonstrate their business acumen and commerciality to business clients.  

In part two, we will look at how one firm has used a VAS strategy to differentiate itself in the market for legal services.  A variation on these two posts originally appeared in Legal Knowledge Management: Insight and Practice, Ark Group/Managing Partner, 2013).

The First Thing We Do Is Kill All the Accountants

19 Feb

Picture3 Guest Post by Gordon Vala-Webb, National Director of Innovation and Information, McMillan LLP

Lawyers like to think that the law is different, their work is different, and even their personality type is different from everyone else’s (see Dr. Larry Richard’s work on this last point). Back in 2006, David Maister, the grand-daddy of modern thinkers on all types of professional service firms, said, “After spending 25 years saying that all professions are similar and can learn from each other, I’m now ready to make a concession: Law firms are different.”

After all, can anyone really imagine Shakespeare, in Henry VI, having one of his characters say “The first thing we do is kill all the accountants”?

But accountants and lawyers (and other partnership-based professional service firms), now more than ever, have much more in common than you might think; and this raises significant implications for law-firm KM work. Having led KM efforts in a large accounting firm (PwC, previously PricewaterhouseCoopers – Canada) and having since left the dark side to work in a law firm, I think I can offer some useful advice and perspective.

The combination of a competitive market, professional services (based on a mix of technical excellence, external oversight, trust, and broader business knowledge), and partnership-owned business model, drives substantial similarities across all professional services firms.  From the KM vantage point, the essential similarity is the need to reuse work product (sometimes cleansed and reworked), locate experts (as in, “Does anyone know about…”), and have high-level conversations quickly and efficiently (to, for instance, get answers or explore an idea).

Two fundamental differences have distinguished law firms from other professional service firms.  First, those other firms tend to be much larger than firms and this remains largely true.  Second, and more importantly, other professional service firms have been engaged in a fight for market share for much longer than most corporate law firms have.  Now law firms – that formerly just shared the ever expanding pie of market growth – are facing intense competition for work (starting in 2008 in the US and since 2012 in Canada).

Larger size coupled with more intense competition has driven non-law professional service firms to:

  • invest earlier and more heavily in KM-related projects (for example, expertise-location, search engines, and intranets);
  • focus KM efforts on supporting marketing and business development outcomes (for instance, client account dashboards joining financial, business development, and client news together and RFP-production through standardized resume and boiler-plate libraries);
  • drive efficiencies in those KM operations (through outsourcing certain basic functions, using contingent on-call contractors, and developing value-contribution measures, to name a few);
  • link business processes with content stores (to reuse content or guidance) and groups or communities of practice (for continuous improvement);
  • explore emerging areas of KM, like enterprise social networking platforms (note that every major consulting and accounting firm has launched a platform – or plans to very soon – while most law firms have yet to move beyond experimentation);
  • provide tools and capabilities that support their professionals in finding and filtering news efficiently and effectively (through news aggregators or filters), and
  • deliver a richer mobile experience.

So, assuming the experience in other professional service firms is something to go by, what does the future hold for KM people within law firms?  We will need people who can implement and support enterprise social networking suites.  We will need to build much tighter relationships with both Marketing and Business Development,  as well as Professional Development and Training.  More KM people will be either outsourced or contingent on-call contractors (for instance, for certain forms of legal research).  Firms will directly employ fewer KM leaders as organizations look to combine for economies of scale or strategic advantage.  And, in-house KM people will be more business savvy and technically expert in KM and less likely to be former lawyers.

Yes, law firms are different; but, whereas that difference used to be akin to apples and oranges, it is now much more akin to McIntosh and Red Delicious.

2013 KM White Paper Released

19 Jul

20130719-121241.jpg

Post by David Hobbie, Goodwin Procter and Blogmaster, ILTA KM Blog

The 2013 KM White Paper “Knowledge Management:  Intelligent Business At Its Best” has been released! Organized by Mary Panetta of ILTA’s KM Peer Group Steering Committee, this annual publication has an in-depth look at a wide variety of traditional and cutting-edge knowledge management topics.

I was particularly impressed by the scope of topics in this issue. The articles collectively demonstrate KM’s centrality in addressing new legal business issues such as pricing, legal project management, and big data, as well as the vitality of new approaches to traditional knowledge management concerns such as precedents management, document automation, and portals.

In “KM Professionals: A Natural Fit for LPM,” Lisa Gianakos of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw & Pitman LLP, shares the results of some surveys of Legal Project Management initiatives and knowledge management professional in (mostly large) law firms. She found that the majority of the firms who responded to the survey (75%) had either formal or informal LPM programs, about the same amount as had KM programs. Where respondents had LPM and KM programs, KM was involved in LPM 59% of the time. Along with other analysis of LPM in law firms, she also shares many (anonymized) comments about how LPM programs got started and how KM interfaces with, supports, and sometimes manages LPM programs.

In “The Pricing Professional’s KM Toolkit,” Chris Emerson and Amy Wu of Bryan Cave LLP argue that professionals who are responsible for pricing and budgeting must understand a firm’s KM assets in order to excel at their work. (I have been making the same argument from the other side, that KM professionals have a tremendous amount to contribute to pricing and budgeting efforts.) The authors cover key KM resources, most notably matter experience databases, and how they can be leveraged specifically for pricing work. They also reveal another impressive Bryan Cave innovation, custom software which essentially uses a trainable probability-based software engine to greatly speed up the time required to analyze historical time entries and how they might fit into a phase-task coding framework, in similar fashion to predictive-coding eDiscovery software.

In “Big Data, Predictive Analytics and Social Consumerization: Big Hype or Big Opportunity,” KM Distinguished Peer Eric Hunter of Bradford & Barthel and Spherical Models argues that the legal industry needs to take a lesson from the social consumer companies’ use of predictive data analytics. He sees opportunities for improvements in data management, staffing, pricing, and client service. For instance, his firm uses data analytics to assess attorney performance for specific personal injury defense clients, taking into account factors such as the level of injury, doctor involved, and the like. They hope to move towards outcome prediction, both in terms of settlement payouts and litigation costs.

In “Another Look at Precedent Management“, Boston-area colleague Marybeth Corbett looks at precedent systems and Wilmer Hale’s efforts to incorporate some cutting-edge document drafting and assembly tools into its practice. I agree with you Marybeth that effective precedent systems are nothing to be ashamed of these days! She includes a useful set of key questions to ask about a precedent management blueprint.

In “Document Factories: Building Document Automation Tools,” Anthony Kikuta of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati LLP lays out criteria for selecting document assembly or automation in great detail. He addresses the range of features available in packages such as Contract Express, and spells out how to get the most out of your document assembly tools.

In “KM Standards In Practice,” KM PG Steering Committee member Andrew Baker and Dustin Robinson, of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, relay their experience with the document analytics tool “KM Standards,” summarizing it as a powerful but imperfect tool, the “Swiss Army Knife With A Slippery Handle” of precedent work. (Another firm’s experience with this technology was recently addressed in an ILTA webinar covered here.)  They see a very broad range of potential uses, but have focused on three; creating clause/precedent collections, client-specific content management, and benchmarking. They share valuable lessons about how to work with this tool to increase client value.

In “Using Design To Improve KM,” KM practitioners Andrea Alliston and April Brousseau of Stikeman Elliott and Tangledom consultant (and known design expert) Kate Simpson tell about out a “lawyer-centric design process” that in their “CLE Manager” case study significantly improved software development. They argue that the goal of the design process should be to convey to the IT designers a rich understanding of end user needs and tasks so that “at last we [speak] the same language.” KM practitioners are uniquely situated to be able to convey that understanding. Helpful charts contrast traditional software development with a design-centric approach.

In “Experience Matters at Dechert,” Kelly Breslin and Julie Ketover cover their firm’s development and incipient rollout of “DechertEXP,” an experience management system. They’ve effectively laid out the importance of tying together the many sources of information, collected at different points in the matter life-cycle, for complete experience coverage. A sidebar with “Top 10 Takeaways” has some succinct and doubtless hard-earned lessons.

Lastly, in “Creating an International Client-Facing Knowledge Website,” Jellienke Stamhuis of Ius Laboris and Richard Lister of Lewis Silkin LLP in England cover their successful efforts to launch Ius Laboris’ international client-facing KM portal addressing human resources (HR) issues. I was especially impressed with how far they advanced from where they started and by the personalization feature whereby counsel can select an HR issue and choose several countries, and receive a comparison of the laws on that issue in those countries.

The Evolving Outward-Facing Role of Knowledge Management (Part 2 of 2)

24 Jun

Guest Post by Corinn Jackson and Karen Sundermier, Littler Mendelson

In our previous post, we discussed how we see the KM role evolving from inward-facing support of practicing attorneys, to direct client services geared towards in-house attorneys.

Here, we consider how KM can successfully approach this changing role and answer the question we posited earlier: WDIHCW?  What do in-house counsel want?

Publications

In-house counsel are busy, intelligent, multi-tasking attorneys fielding questions from and advising many business units within their organization.  They want something at their fingertips that keeps them up-to-date on a wide range of areas of law.  Dependable publications from their outside counsel can serve as a first stop for in-house counsel when they have a general question about the law.  Whether these are large legal compendiums that cover multiple areas of the law in a variety of jurisdictions, or smaller more narrowly-focused guides, reliable publications of any variety can be an invaluable resource for in-house clients.

In this vein, publishing shorter online articles is a way for a KM department to provide in-house counsel with to-the-point summaries of legal developments, new cases, and new laws. In providing brief, timely legal publications, we should ask ourselves, WDIHCW?

Clients want the bottom line: “How does this affect my company?  What does it mean for our business?  Do I need to do anything?”  By their nature, online articles are not only timelier and less labor-intensive than more in-depth treatises, but they comprise a strategy any KM department—regardless of firm size or specialty—can employ to keep clients up to date on emerging legal developments.

Our ASAP articles, which are concise analyses of up-to-the minute legal developments by region, are distributed based on client-identified industry and legal areas of interest.  Likewise, Littler’s 11 different legal blogs on a variety of subjects allow clients to subscribe based on their specific area of concern.  For example, a large retail client that employs primarily hourly workers in a number of different states may be more interested in our Wage & Hour Counsel blog, while a smaller tech company might be more interested in our Workplace Privacy Counsel blog.

Subscription Expert Systems-GPS

In-house counsel are also looking for quick solutions to those “fires” they are called to put out.  Take the company with operations in several states that needs to know plant closing and layoff laws of six states immediately, lest they inadvertently break those rules by not providing enough notice of a major business restructuring happening in 61 days. While in-house counsel could call on the law firm attorney, who likely will draw on KM resources to answer the question, a KM department adds value (and pleases clients) when it offers topical legal research that in-house counsel can access from their desks, without picking up the phone and incurring a charge each time.  At Littler, we offer A Guide to Policies by State, or GPS, which is a subscription service that offers clients a continually updated database of select employment regulations for every jurisdiction in the country.  While some may argue it is not KM’s job to answer legal research questions, providing a technological platform to deliver research answers to clients is exactly what KM should be doing.  KM’s success comes when it can move outside the walls of the law firm and extend the invaluable service it has been providing to firm attorneys directly to firm clients.

Matter Management And More–Littler CaseSmart

A central goal for any successful KM department is to continually monitor new technological developments to employ cutting-edge platforms to deliver the resources necessary to most efficiently answer clients’ needs—sometimes before they know they have them.  Clients do not want to pay a law firm to continually reinvent the wheel.  One significant way that law firm attorneys can retread the same ground is processing employment charges (filed with an administrative agency) for the same client, a process which can in many ways be rote.

By developing a support system for employment charges filed with state and federal administrative agencies, which involves customized work-flow, assignment tracking, and document automation—we call it Littler CaseSmart—we have drastically streamlined the time it takes for our attorneys to respond to administrative charges.  Beyond merely streamlining the process for firm attorneys processing these charges, Littler CaseSmart provides a client dashboard showing the status of each charge and capable of creating customized reports based on the specific data the client is seeking, such as the regions where charges may be on the rise, whether certain supervisors are being repeatedly targeted, or how different state agencies may approach and resolve charges.  Clients may also monitor the dashboard to make efficiency determinations regarding how the work is being processed.  Indeed, such aggregation of data and resulting comprehensive view for in-house counsel is typically well beyond what companies have the means to create and maintain on their own.

Client Self-Help

Further value-add from KM can include automated documents, secure client extranets, customized e-newsletters, and web-based training programs to provide directly to clients.  One new platform Littler offers clients is the Healthcare Reform Advisor, a free, web-based, interactive online system that helps employers determine whether they are at risk of having to pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “pay or play” mandate and estimate what those penalties may be.  After employers complete the online evaluation, Littler’s Healthcare Reform Consulting Group offers a brief consultation to discuss the results and potential risks for penalties under the ACA.

Conclusion

Every KM department is different and the key to determining what components work best for your firm’s clients is to not only help provide traditional legal services, but to focus on applying the expertise of your attorneys delivered through the latest online technologies.

KM is moving beyond its original audience of firm attorneys and the corporate organization and now communicates directly with the purchasers of legal services.  KM can answer WDIHCW and respond to client needs in innovative ways that stretch far beyond the traditional attorney-client relationship.

The Evolving Outward-Facing Role of Knowledge Management (Part 1 of 2)

17 Jun

Guest Post by Corinn Jackson and Karen Sundermier, Littler Mendelson 

Some artists say they make art for themselves and not for their audiences. Such artists’ accountants are likely frustrated (not to mention owed money). To ignore one’s audience is generally rude, short-sighted and bad business. At most law firms, the primary audience is in-house counsel: busy, intelligent, multi-tasking attorneys fielding questions from and advising many business units within the organization. A law firm’s KM department’s usual audience is the law firm attorneys, striving to provide excellent client service. But how broad could KM’s audience be? Could it go beyond law firm attorneys?

KM’s traditional role is to develop and build systems, processes, and culture to encourage capturing and sharing information within a firm. As Michael Koenig, Professor and former and founding dean of the College of Information and Computer Science at Long Island University, describes, KM is very organizational, very corporate. Legal KM has its roots in helping attorneys practice more efficiently and effectively, by drawing on colleagues’ prior work product and through sharing information, expertise, and documents within the firm. Historically, much of this sharing happened without colleagues realizing it—KM was at work behind the scenes finding and organizing resources created by individual attorneys and providing searchable, efficient access to that product to all attorneys.

For example, when it comes to the production—and reproduction—of certain standard documents, KM can lead attorneys to a more efficient and compliant process throughout the firm. Employment attorneys often are asked to create documents— including employment related letters, forms and agreements—many times over, with little customization for case or client details. Combining strategic development of template or master resources with document automation, KM can shift attorneys from the ancient practice of search/save as/edit to web-based questionnaires that generate a customized “best practice” final document, at a fraction of the time and cost it would take to start from scratch and without the propensity for errors inherent in editing an older document.

Firm attorneys often create and re-create more complex memoranda or briefing that may be too nuanced for automation. A KM department can increase its law firm’s efficiency by going beyond just providing a static set of documents for practitioners to consult the next time they need to draft a key document. At our firm, we provide organized, catalogued access to the best—and most current—of these resources. Our internal Litigation Center and Equal Employment Opportunity Center use pre-set, constantly-updating document management searches to pool timely and easily accessible resources for practitioners working on single-plaintiff, benefits, wage and hour, and employment discrimination litigation. These sites are accessible to litigators, paralegals, and litigation secretaries to enable them to quickly find consistently up-to-date sample documents and resources.

Based on the success of technological improvements like these and others within a law firm, KM departments have flourished and attorneys have grown more confident in KM’s ability to help locate resources. As a result, the client-facing role of KM naturally evolved. For example, an attorney would ask for a resource from KM, receive something on point at a fraction of the cost and time had the attorney created it himself or herself, and then turn around and provide it to the client at that reduced price.

Eventually, at least at our firm, the firm attorney asks its trusted KM department, can you just give this directly to my client? Efficiency begets efficiency, and attorneys should not mind cutting out their role as middle-person, especially when it means the client is happy with the service and information provided and the attorney can continue to focus on counseling and litigating.

The success of a KM department in its role external to the law firm may be measured by how well it is answering the question: WDIHCW? What do in-house counsel want?

They want, and need, answers. Real, practical answers, delivered quickly. They want not to have to pick up the phone each time they have a business question. They would like to look some questions up themselves, in tools provided by their trusted law firm, preferably in an easy-to-use, online, searchable format. And they want information before they ask the questions.

They want to know about changes that will affect their business. They want realistic predictions and practical guidance. They want to anticipate change to prepare their organizations for it.

Who should create such innovative tools? Most law firm attorneys, focused on practicing law and billing their time, are not ideally suited to tool development and implementation, but it is a perfect fit for an evolved KM department. The next post,  “KM Asks: WDIHCW (What Do In-House Counsel Want)? Part II” will address more specifically how KM can approach this evolving challenge.