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2013 KM White Paper Released

19 Jul

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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.