Archive | Social Media RSS feed for this section

Book Review of “The Sherlock Syndrome: Strategic Success through Big Data and the Darwinian Disruption,” Eric Hunter

4 Mar

bookby David Hobbie, Litigation Knowledge Manager, Goodwin Procter LLP

Eric Hunter is a legal knowledge management colleague and recipient of ILTA’s 2010 Knowledge Management Champion Distinguished Peer and Innovative Member awards. He is Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Technology Strategies at Bradford & Barthel, LLP (a California law firm focused on worker’s compensation) and also Executive Director of the Spherical Models consultancy.

His wide-ranging report (available at Amazon, Ark Publishing or Amazon Kindle) puts business analytics and the insights it offers at the core of wide-ranging potential changes in legal and other industries. Though future-oriented, it spends most of its time on developments whose beginnings are firmly entrenched, such as video search, wearable tech, big data, and data visualization.

Through my own work I have come to believe that legal organizationss – and perhaps organizations in general – can obtain significant competitive advantage by leveraging analytics and technologies and taking better advantage of our increasing connectivity and ability to share inside and outside the organization. Hunter’s report provides more substantiation for those beliefs, and also projects ahead to suggest how to prepare for the increasingly rapid changes that are coming. I appreciate that Hunter is “walking the walk,” talking about increased sharing while doing so himself through this book and his many presentations at Ark and ILTA conferences (referenced throughout the report).

Sherlock Syndrome

The title’s “Sherlock Syndrome” concerns our increasing ability to observe, sense, cross-reference, and analyze information and trends much more comprehensively than before through data analytics and Big Data. The trend is one of massive increases in the ability to recall, analyze, and leverage information. Hunter posits that, at least with respect to personal preferences and search patterns, “everything is becoming predictable (and therefore marketable) through analytics.” Particularly striking to me is the thought that not only are the abundance of data and power of our computers increasing rapidly, but also the sophistication and availability of easy to use analytics tools are making this information actionable in ways that were never before possible.

I have seen this myself in my firm’s exploration of the Tableau data visualization tool. Business use-cases for Sherlockian advanced perceptions include forensic (criminal) investigations, insurance claim investigations, and, of course, targeted consumer advertising.

Darwinian Disruption

Hunter also believes that “Darwinian data disruption” is affecting the entire business world. It is not simply data—though the scope of data is increasing dramatically every year—but also computational and analytical capacity that is growing so dramatically. Hunter’s disruption is Darwinian because leveraging these changes provides a clear competitive advantage and those organizations and business leaders able to adapt to the new environment will survive. Businesses that cannot adapt to and take advantage of these technologies and changes may not survive. It may have been said many times before, but it is true: as Hunter observes with many examples, we are seeing accelerating levels of market disruptions as companies learn to innovate faster.

The (Edward) Snowden Effect

Hunter spends a good deal of time digging into the “Snowden” effect (not David Snowden the KM guru, but Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor). In Hunter’s view, Snowden’s revelations of widespread government capture of vast amounts of personal information in pursuit of national security encapsulate the inevitable tension among privacy, the right to share, and the (security and other) benefits of access to others’ information. Snowden demonstrated that cross-border information sharing is happening and will happen more and more. The NSA, US government agencies, and other governments that capture and share personal information are in his view just taking to an extreme and for different ends what corporations like Facebook and Google already do to target advertising to consumers.

The Predictive Orchestra

A skilled jazz and classical bass player, Hunter hits my sweet spot with an extended metaphor of a “predictive organization” as symphony orchestra, all playing from the same music and not simply following a leader, but also anticipating the melodies and entrances of other sections. (I would promote leaderless orchestras like New York’s Orpheus chamber ensemble as a better fit for his progressive view than the hidebound, intensely hierarchical traditional symphony orchestra. For instance, in a traditional orchestra, the musicians within a section are positioned on the stage by rank according to purported ability!)

Legal Industry Impacts

Hunter does not neglect the implications of these much broader developments for the legal industry. Within law firms, Sherlockian advanced perceptions aid pricing, methods for doing legal work, internal communications, and understanding and addressing client needs. The new technology, analytics, and cross-border flow of information have the potential to greatly enhance law firms’ understanding of their clients and clients’ understanding of legal issues. The technologies increase the capacity for clients and firms to build “targeted relationships” and provide a continually expanding set of opportunities. And, the same data collection and predictive analytics that Facebook and Bing use to identify our consumer interests also identify our business needs. Analytics technologies can be applied directly to some types of legal issues, such as the likely extent of exposure from a given worker’s compensation claim.

Another example is law firms’ new ability to bring transparency to matter work, including data analytics around pricing and profitability, staffing models, and project models. Hunter spells out how the concept of “velocity billing” combines client-specific account managers, predictive analytics driving client- and firm-appropriate fee arrangements, and social collaboration around matter and client work has affected his firm. In combination, these processes and technologies lead to very efficient and client-targeted legal work.

Another instance of these technologies manifesting in law firms is his own firm’s adoption of Google Plus (“G+”). While much-maligned as the place where only Google employees “hang out,” Hunter sees G+ as a great example of a system that is both inward- and outward-facing and combines search with a designed social platform. Creating a G+ circle is the kind of fluid, effective, searcheable content and process management Hunter sees in the future of legal work. For Hunter’s firm, G+ is both an internal- and partially external-facing social network and platform. He notes that social network implementation and internal change management, like the pricing and client management projects he has had so much success with, involve different change management dynamics needing different approaches.

For law firms and the general corporate world, the technologies, techniques, analyses, and insights gained and shared so rapidly can be applied to not just readily quantifiable attributes of work such as hours, effort, and outcomes, but also leadership and change management at the levels of self, team, and organization as a whole. Hunter’s exhortations on leadership are very similar to what you might hear from many an Eastern-philosophy or martial arts- influenced business leadership book; what differs is the tie-in to his Sherlock/Darwin analysis.

Hunter suggests that people, teams, and organizations should be reinventing themselves through these enhanced perceptions and abilities every 18 months.

Complaints, Conclusions, and Inspirations

One concept that could have been more clearly elucidated is Hunter’s “spherical analysis/spherical modeling.” Google search suggests that these terms are not widely used in the business intelligence or data analytics communities—references to spherical analysis or models typically relate to variogram models that address how distance effects correlation between variables or a method of modeling magnetic forces (see the spherical models Wikipedia article.)

Much of the report is fairly abstract; I would not go to this book for an introduction to business analytics or Big Data. Nor was it entirely easy to read, with a fair amount of repetition and some extraneous quotes from Ghandi, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Hunter’s martial arts instructor. Finally, the size of the book’s print is too small (at no more than 10-point font) and somewhat faint. Perhaps the book is easier to read on-line (admittedly an appropriate production strategy given the book’s topic).

Overall, I found Hunter’s report an intriguing and inspiring application of broad industry, technology, analytics, and behavior trends to the ground level of the key interactions between law firms, legal work, and clients. His predictions about predictive analytics and more are in some cases not predictions at all; he shows how these can play out and have an impact on a legal practice area. They should not be ignored. I would not be at all surprised if many of his other predictions are soon borne out more broadly in our industry.


What’s on Your KM Wish List?

7 Jan

wish1By Debbie A. Ting, Knowledge Management Resource Attorney, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

As I wrote this blog post during the holiday season, I wondered what I would include on my KM wish list. Thinking along the lines of a “Santa” wish list, I imagined having no technology, time, money, resource, attorney-bias or other constraints that might otherwise limit me. Ignoring these constraints can help generate creative and innovative KM ideas that might then be implemented to support your law firm’s or in-house legal department’s KM initiatives.

A long-standing item on many KM practitioners’ wish lists – including my own – is attorneys who embrace enterprise social networking and collaboration tools as their primary means of communication and working together instead of email. Oz Benamram’s article, “Why most law firms’ internal collaboration systems are doomed to fail,” provides a good analysis of potential barriers preventing attorneys from adopting these tools. However, I believe many law firms and legal departments will succeed in moving attorneys to adopt enterprise social networking and collaboration systems (“ESNC”) for the following reasons.

  1. Attorneys know the importance of mastering email overload. Every email represents a request for an attorney’s time, attention and response. The sheer volume of email can be overwhelming and takes valuable attorney time away from responding to client-related emails. Shifting internal communications to an ESNC would enable attorneys to better focus on client-related email and result in greater customer service to their clients. Information previously captured in email could be accessible on an ESNC as part of the relevant matter, practice, or other administrative site. Pop-up notifications could be sent instead of email, and a mobile app should be offered for easy access from smart phones and tablets.
  2.  Attorneys are already in the habit of asking for information at work. While an attorney may be reluctant to post a model form on an ESNC, firm culture supports sending out “Pardon the Intrusion” emails asking for information about precedents, expertise and other information needed to do their work. These emails are often sent firm-wide further cluttering inboxes for those not the object of the email. Also, the responses are forever lost in the requestor’s mailbox. Using an ESNC allows attorneys to more appropriately target their requests by expertise and opt-into communications they want to receive, while allowing others to see the thread of all responses organized in one place.
  3.  Attorneys are already in the habit of using social networks at home. Attorneys are comfortable crowd-sourcing information from their social networks (g. Facebook, Google+) for advice on things like, for instance, restaurants and doctors. Having early ESNC adopters who are partners and associates will encourage others that ESNC is accepted at work. Creating communities of interest (like pro bono practice) that encourage collaboration can also foster use.
  4.  Legal Technology has matured. Legal technology has developed robust collaboration platforms to mirror social media platforms like LinkedIn to replace email and discussion forums using older technologies. These new platforms include detailed profiles that allow attorneys to connect with each other by providing key biographical, practice, location, and other information. The technology also better supports checking access rights to information stored on ESNC based on criteria, such as user, role, group, or ethical and confidential screens.
  5.  KM Practitioners can act as champions for successful adoption. At this year’s ARK KM conference in New York City, Amy Fox shared her insight on how she successfully secured adoption of ESNC by Intel’s in-house legal department. The key takeaway from her presentation is that a KM practitioner who acts as an ESNC champion can successfully lead adoption by personally talking to attorneys about the benefits and encouraging use.

The KM wish of ESNC adoption can create a powerful KM tool by leveraging the collective legal wisdom to deliver superior legal services.

In an interview with Henry Blodget at Business Insider’s Ignition 2014, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains that continuously generating and implementing new ideas, like those on a KM wish list, can ignite “bold bets” that encourage experimentation that is vital to a company’s longevity:

 “What really matters is, companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence. Whereas companies that are making bets all along, even big bets, but not bet-the-company bets, prevail.”

Law firms and legal departments should consider adopting the same approach and add to their KM wish list. By continuing to experiment and innovate with new KM ideas, they will guarantee their competitive edge and longevity.

I found this process quite liberating and encourage you to do this exercise as a way to jump start your KM ideas in this new year. Once you have your KM wish list, brainstorm how to make these KM wishes become reality.  What is on your KM wish list and how would you implement it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Microblogging Lite: A Brief How-To

29 May

Guest Post by Andrew M. Baker, Director of Legal Technology Innovations Office (and member of the ILTA KM PG Steering Committee) and Mark Soriano, Manager of Application Development, both of Seyfarth Shaw

We probably all have a list of projects we would love to tackle, but we are not sure if we will get the chance or see a fitting opportunity.

Social Networking for the Enterprise, in the style of a Facebook or Twitter, falls into that category for us. Though we are bullish on social networking generally, we both see challenges with a full-blown solution and its fit within today’s large law firm. Most of our hesitation stems from concerns such as those Oz Benamram described in his article, “Why most law firms’ internal collaboration systems are doomed to fail.” Specifically, without the “semi-automated” solution seeding the medium from enterprise content, we see the road as awfully bumpy and fairly steep.

The Opportunity

Nevertheless, last year, we were presented with an opening for a “lite” solution. We took it and it has worked out exceptionally well. The basic business premise was this:

Our SeyfarthLean program was (and is) bustling. We needed a way to get timely news out to a moderate-sized (but growing) population of folk that were neck-deep in Lean waters. Developments were happening so fast that any real editorial process would have discouraged participation or crumbled under its own weight. Further, the people most interested in contributing were the most busy – often in airports or otherwise out of the office for a significant portion of their week.

When we heard “timely,” “raw” and hints of “mobile,” we both thought microblogging. But, we had some constraints. The need was acute and a solution would have to come fairly quickly. The budget and stomach for a full solution wasn’t there – and we wouldn’t have advocated for it, if it were.

In response, we created our own “easy” microblog called “LeanStreams.” We talked the concept through with our SeyfarthLean Steering Committee, and some scoffed (a few rather loudly), worried that it wasn’t the right approach. But, after some healthy discussion, the group acquiesced.

The Solution

LeanStreams merges native SharePoint features with somewhat straight-forward development efforts. Here’s how it works.

A custom webpart on the homepage of our intranet is visible only to certain, selected people. If the user “subscribed,” the webpart would expand and each post, or “LeanStream,” could be seen. The post shows up almost in real time, as it’s updated every two minutes. From the webpart, users can page through all past posts or unsubscribe from the digest, if desired.

Custom webpart living on our intranet homepage

Custom webpart living on our intranet homepage

Custom webpart living on our intranet homepage.

New posts enter the “stream” from a link on the webpart or via an email to the specified address. Only the text in the subject line of the email is used as the post. Anything in the body of the email is ignored. By default, Outlook and Blackberry devices limit the text to 255 characters. An iPhone will let you type more, but we have warned everyone that only 255 characters count toward the post. It’s more than Twitter, but not enough for a novella; probably right for an attorney’s  “raw” post.

1-Microblog 2

Email generated after clicking ‘add entry’ on our webpart.

Each night, LeanStreams creates and sends a stylized digest of posts. Under each post is a “mailto” link to the author of the post’s email address. That way, folk can reply on a topic fairly easily (which happens regularly).

1-Microblog 3

Digest email sent out at the specified interval.

LeanStreams Lessons

LeanStreams has been running for almost a year.  We now have over 500 people subscribing, and new posts are submitted daily – with hundreds having already been sent. The tool has been promoted primarily through our Yellow Belt trainings. As we have trained attorneys from across the Firm, LeanStreams has been positioned as a “keep the dialog going” idea at the end.

Best of all, the posts are great. People almost always read their daily digest, and it has caused a lot of cross-practice dialog from follow-ups. It’s now a mix of Lean happenings, Lean wins, client sentiments and ideas for innovation.

We see the simplicity of the tool as a large part of its success. A significant portion of LeanSteams users are not frequent Twitter or Facebook users. Profiles, hashtags and the like are great when you have a lot of content. It’s a bit different game here – in terms of content shared and user persona.

With that said, when first describing the application, we usually talk in terms of “microblogging” rather than “social.” Though our users may not send large batches of content into the Twitterspehere, they find the “microblogging” term more descriptive than the blanket “social” moniker.

Nevertheless, we readily acknowledge that the solution isn’t perfect. We have heard people want threaded replies, profiles and the like. But, in a pinch and on a shoestring, it definitely met the challenge and has already paid dividends to the Firm.

Will we move on to a bigger solution? Probably. But, not until our activity stream is feeding posts. That’s underway, actually, but a few steps out.

Technical Details

For those a bit more technically inclined, here’s a high-level overview of what we had to do to launch LeanStreams:

1. Enabled incoming email settings in SharePoint Central Administration.

2. Created a SharePoint announcements list and set the incoming email settings to have the specified list email address.

3. Created a contact object in Exchange and set the SMTP address of the contact to be the list email address of the newly created announcements list.

4. Created a custom webpart to display the items from the announcements list that are created by incoming emails.

5. Designed a custom webpart to refresh every two minues using jQuery.

6. Designed a custom webpart that allows users to subscribe to daily or weekly emails by storing the their preferences in SQL.

7. Created a console application that will send an email digest of items created in the announcements list. A scheduled task will run this console application every morning and will send a daily or weekly email based upon the user’s preference stored in SQL.

8. Created a list Event Listener to check for auto-reply emails and delete them.

Social Networking In The Enterprise–Conference Session

10 Aug

Post By David Hobbie,  Member of ILTA KM PG

Social networking within the firewall, as an improvement on email and as a method for improving efficiency, effectiveness, and engagement, is increasingly in the news and in the blogosphere, as demonstrated by two recent posts in the Three Geeks (How One Company Banned Internal Email and How and Why LAC Group Successfully Eliminated Internal Email), Mary Abraham’s It’s Time To Get Serious About Social, and the E2 Conference most recently held in Boston that I blogged about on Caselines here and here.

I’ll be presenting on building a business case for an enterprise social network as part of the second panel on the ILTA KM Peer Group’s six-session track at ILTA’s annual conference (“conference”), this year to be held in Washington DC.  It’s just a few short weeks away, and will last from August 26th to 30th.

Specifically, the second session of the track will feature three stories about enterprise social networks in legal organizations.  As mentioned I will be discussing early-stage work on developing a business case at a large law firm;  Ann Hemming will be addressing her UK law firm’s use of enterprise social network platform Yammer for idea generation, marketing coordination, and more; and Col. Scott Reid, Chief Knowledge Officer of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, will be telling the story of the Army JAG’s milnet and its successes in increasing knowledge sharing and transfer.

The formal session description:

What’s the business case for Facebook in the office and Twitter inside the firewall? Some organizations have already demonstrated the benefits of sharing knowledge through in-house social networking. Others are beginning to experiment with it. Hear how legal organizations can add value to their traditional KM offerings with internal social networking as a panel draws from their experiences with implementing various social networking programs. They will explain their strategies, implementations and user adoption challenges.

Mary Panetta will moderate this session, which she and Andrew Baker developed.

The session hashtag is #kmpg2; written tips for evaluating enterprise social networks will be provided; and it will be 1 PM on August 27th in National Harbor 2.  We look forward to seeing you there!

KM Can Assist External Social Media Initiatives

5 Apr

Guest Post by Helena Eldemir, Attorney in Knowledge Management at Littler Mendelson

KM often leads a firm’s initiative to promote the internal use of social media tools by attorneys—a natural fit given KM objectives to facilitate knowledge sharing, collaborate on matters, and identify subject matter expertise. However, when it comes to using social media to reach external audiences—clients, colleagues and thought leaders—KM can find itself sidelined, brought in late in the process, if at all, to develop a policy for regulating attorney behavior on social media platforms. This is a lost opportunity, and can hinder a successful outcome. Being involved at the outset allows KM to influence the overall process, one firmly grounded in principles of collaboration, user adoption and technical compatibility. Below are suggestions for ways in which KM can bring value to an external social media initiative.

Building a cross-departmental team with a shared vision

An external social media initiative will likely involve various facets of firm management. Broadly stated, marketing will bring expertise in branding, reputation building and business development; IT will address security, capacity and burden on systems; firm general counsel will concentrate on risk management, ethical considerations and improper communications; firm Sales & Marketing Executives (SMEs) will outline practice group needs, client perceptions and relationship building; KM will promote best practices in knowledge sharing and leveraging content for target audiences. Each department will have its own priorities, and the social media team will be challenged to reconcile departmental agendas with a shared vision for the initiative.

No stranger to collaboration, KM can help keep the project on track by insisting on a team-defined mission statement. In addition to stating the overarching goal (e.g., leverage social media to increase client awareness of expertise in a specific practice area), an effective statement will spell out narrower objectives that advance the strategy, such as producing related legal content; include a timeline for reaching milestones; and identify factors for measuring success. KM experience in project management and collaboration can provide the group with a process and framework to overcome differences and ultimately deliver results.

Overcoming resistance and misconceptions for better user adoption

KM works closely with attorneys and practice groups, and can voice the unique challenges attorneys face on external social media platforms.  These challenges can be overwhelming and may lead to resistance and misconception about the nature and role of social media in a professional setting. Therefore, it is important to identify attorney concerns, and ensure they are addressed in the overall strategy. Consider the following obstacles to attorney engagement:

  • Is there a lack of attorney knowledge about how external facing social media platforms work and what they are best suited for?
  • How does attorney experience with internal social collaborative tools like blogs, wikis, and enterprise social networks prepare them for external-facing social media activity?
  • What are the perceived risks in stating opinions, responding to posted comments or criticisms, or appearing too casual?
  • Will sharing knowledge provide competitors with an advantage, allowing them to better compete?
  • Is there misunderstanding about the nature of professional versus personal communications on external social media platforms?
  • Will sharing intellectual capital negatively impact business opportunities and actually reduce the likelihood of procuring billable work (i.e., why are we “giving it away?”)?
  • Does making contacts through public social media platforms undermine the firm’s compensation model, where clients are already “taken”?
  • Is time spent on social media platforms a good investment, or will it result in lost productivity (the “waste of time” argument)?

Tackling these issues in advance will help the team formulate an approach to training, as well as the optimal way to roll out the initiative. It may be necessary to create specific guidelines for each platform in order to assuage attorney anxiety. For example, a set of LinkedIn guidelines can address standards for accepting, declining or requesting connections; whether there are prohibitions on soliciting or providing recommendations; what is the appropriate scope of communications; and how to use descriptive words in position titles, summaries and areas of expertise. Making sure that firm attorneys—from summer associates to semi-retired partners—   understand the parameters of professional conduct in a social online setting is a key component in an external social media strategy.

Identifying the appropriate social media platform for the firm’s strategy

Often lost in the process is a discussion about the type of social media platform that will best advance the firm’s strategy. Tapping into experience with internal social media, KM can provide insight into which external platforms are best suited for the firm’s planned use:

  • Blogs are a good vehicle for shared knowledge and expertise, and are a good fit for a strategy focused on promoting firm practice groups
  • Twitter and comparable micro-blogging sites facilitate discovery of shared interests, and is conducive to a strategy that fosters communications around niche areas of laws
  • LinkedIn leverages shared relationships, and can bolster a strategy aimed at  broadening an individual’s reach
  • Wikis are structured for shared information, and could benefit a strategy built on practices that rely heavily on documents, protocols or corporate transactions
  • Facebook is a medium for shared experiences, which may be attractive to a strategy aimed at building a regional presence

KM can shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, and which is best aligned with the firm’s strategy. Bearing in mind that an external social media strategy may be executed in stages, each platform should be viewed in its context as a short, medium or long term solution.

There are, of course, other ways KM can contribute to developing an external social media strategy. The key is to get involved at the beginning, and help shape the process from the outset. Then, when it comes time to draft a firm social media policy, KM will be in a strong position to support and advance the strategy rather than get in the way–or worse, be left behind.

What Makes ILTA Social? Sharing At Conference And Implications For Knowledge Work

22 Dec

Post By David Hobbie, ILTA KM Blogmaster and Member of the KM PG Steering Committee

One of my favorite aspects of the annual ILTA conference is the willingness of peers to share information with each other.  The learning imparted in the many educational sessions is truly amazing, and while people are in general perhaps more restrained in this era of bloggers and instant dissemination of key points via Twitter,  I have heard presenters remarking  on several occasions that they have shared more than they perhaps intended in advance.  Thinking about why that is so made me realize that ILTA leadership and the collective efforts of its dedicated members have figured out a number of ways to make ILTA conference attendees social.  In other words, conference is a community where social connections, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing among members is valued and encouraged.

Without being too Kumbaya about it, legal enterprises, which at their core sell knowledge and advice, could benefit from comparable sharing and trust inside the enterprise, between lawyers.  Greater willingness to share experience, and perhaps even participate in knowledge-generating activities, could greatly enhance many a legal KM program.

So how does ILTA do it?  I don’t think there’s any one thing ILTA does that does not occur in other places, but I’ve identified here a few distinct approaches that have an impact.


Dale Carnegie‘s advice on making friends and influencing people include the point that “a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  A name badge is an easy and obvious method of enabling people to get to know and say each others’ names.  Saying someone’s name makes them feel significant and valued, albeit in a small way.

At ILTA badges have at least seven functions.  The picture above is, obviously,  my somewhat abused ILTA badge from the 2011 conference.  It has my name.  It has room for “bling” (the next social approach); ribbons are typically attached at the bottom of the badge; and it lists my title, employer, and location, allowing for affiliations and connections to be uncovered (and for e-discovery vendors to mistakenly believe that I can help them somehow).  Functionally, it allows conference workers to make sure that you are appropriately accessing the sessions and services to which you are entitled, and by virtue of the database-linked bar code it also serves in the vendor hall as the modern replacement for dropping a business card in a glass bowl.  Finally, it’s where you store meal and, yes, drink tickets.

What can we do to use the concept of badges in knowledge work?  Today’s online knowledge and information systems have badges in the form of intranet people profiles.  In more advanced collaboration systems, such as wikis, blogs, and internal social networks, every piece of activity is tagged to the person, usually with a hyperlink to some kind of profile where you can learn more about the person.  In any knowledge-based information system, being able to “pivot” on a person and uncover both contact information and more about what that person has done is absolutely critical.


“Bling” is the little circles and other pieces of cloth backed by sticky material stuck on a badge or the badge’s straps (though my daughter charmingly has absconded with a KM badge and has it on one of her dresses).  Bling indicates  interest and affiliation with subject areas like knowledge management (the keys), social media (a little twittery bird), information management, and so forth.  When I was in the ILTones chorus, we had a little piano bling too.

Bling in theory shows interests and skills.  In practice, however, it is also really fun to share and trade, and provide an opportunity for people in leadership roles to do a little something for people they meet.

Doing even apparently trivial favors for someone is a great way to build trust and enhance knowledge-sharing.  What favors can you do?   How can you have your lawyers build trust with each other?

And, what bling is on your profile?  How do lawyers share their interests and expertise in your organization?


The ribbons attached to the bottom of a badge typically identify something about person’s relationship with ILTA.  They are color-coded, and let you tell at a glance whether someone is a first-time attendee, a speaker, a peer group leader, or conference chair.  To some degree, ribbons are a status indication, but they also provide an opportunity to start a conversation (“How are you finding your first conference, newbie?”).  Ribbons are also a way for ILTA to provide recognition for various kinds of volunteer activities.

How do you recognize participation in your organization’s knowledge-sharing efforts and culture?


ILTA is a peer-driven organization.  It wouldn’t survive if it didn’t do a good job recognizing and showing appreciation for its members, who do much of the work that actually leads to conference.

Part of the appreciation is expressed through consistent messaging at formal events such as conference opening and closing sessions.  I’ve noticed that ILTA Executive Director Randi Mayes always singles out the ILTA members who support the JAG Corps and the courts, as they serve the public good as well as benefiting conference.

More recently, ILTA has established a formal recognition program, the Distinguished Peer Awards, which culminates in a black-tie dinner and Oscar-style awards presentation (admittedly, without a live orchestra, awkward thank-you speeches, or closeup shots of tearful runners-up).  I was honored to be on a short list for the KM Distinguished Peer Award this past year, and was thrilled at the opportunity to be recognized for my work, as I know all the nominees and award-winners were.

Appreciation is especially important for people working in the legal industry.  Lawyers by nature are not well-versed in working with others (see What Makes Lawyers So Challenging?), and as less sociable perfectionists are not always best at expressing appreciation or providing effective feedback.  Providing consistent, formal appreciation and recognition for our KM workers and champions can keep the KM team strong.


ILTA enables connection through surfacing affiliations any number of ways at conference. There are regional meetings, receptions by peer group, CIO meetups, meetings for social media fans, different arrangements at meals, ways for new attendees to meet, etc. etc. Each different slice brings you in contact with a different set of peers and new opportunities for connection.

This rich approach to sets of groups contrasts with the relatively simple formal structures seen in law firms. An attorney will typically major in one practice area and have a minor in another, but type of work is only one (albeit admittedly very important one) of the potential affiliation slices. What other affiliations can you leverage or encourage at your organization?


I am brought back to Larry Prusak’s wise admonishments in the Forward to “The New Edge In Knowledge” (reviewed here):

  • “Although technology surely has its place, working with knowledge is primarily a human activity needing human organization and understanding.
  • Knowledge in organizations is profoundly social and best managed in groups, networks, communities, and practices.”

People will share more where there are rich and varied opportunities to uncover and connect over shared interests and affiliations, do each other  favors, and recognize and reward team member contributions.  Extensive peer connection and structures that support communities also provide a vital support for our challenging knowledge work and for optimally functioning organizations.



Knowledge Management Sessions At ILTA Conference

17 Aug

Post By ILTA KM PG Member David Hobbie

As announced in some detail on the main ILTA blog. the conference schedule and detailed session agenda are available.  There is also a session overview that lets you compare what’s happening at the same time (so you can agonize over which of  two excellent sessions with great speakers you should choose.)  The main conference site also has such goodies as an #ilta11 twitter stream, information about the venue, and so forth.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent mobile app, available for iPhone, iPad, and whatnot (yes I have an Apple bias when it comes to mobile technology).

(By the way, in ILTA-speak, one simply omits the “ILTA” in “ILTA Conference,” along with the definite article–it’s assumed that you must be talking about the conference, with this years’ taking place in Nashville, Tennessee from August 21-26.  This is an ILTA blog, so I’m going to follow that practice.)

The theme this year is “Rev-Elation,” which, leaving aside the odd spelling, definitely invokes the high energy and insight that I’ve come to associate with conference.

Conference has both a “formal” KM track (which means those 6 sessions managed by the ILTA KM PG) and  many other sessions that may be of interest to knowledge management professionals or that even cover topics in what I consider “core” KM, such as enterprise search.

This post will briefly describe and map out the six sessions on the formal KM track, in chronological order as they appear at conference (two on Monday August 22 and four on Wednesday August 24).  You may want to “follow” the hashtag comprised of the session “codes”, e.g., #kmpg1.

1. KMPG1, Advances In Document Assembly–Monday at 11 AM,  “Canal C”

This session will address new technologies and advances in this area, which in the past has been reserved for niche legal practice areas such as trusts and estates.  They’ll cover strengths and weaknesses of different vendors and approaches.

Speakers include Peter Krakaur of Orrick, Ayelette Robinson of Littler Mendelssohn, Michael Tominna of DLA Piper, and Yvonne Willis of Pilsbury, Winthrop, Shaw & Pittman LLP.

2.  KMPG2, “Social Networking In The Legal Industry,” Monday at 1 PM, “Canal C”

Speakers are Beau Mersereau, Director of Applications, Development, and Support at Fish & Richardson, Katrina Dittmer, Practice Support Manager at Baker Daniels, and me, David Hobbie, Litigation Knowledge Manager at Goodwin Procter LLP.

“Law firms, like virtually every other business today, are discovering the benefits of social networking collaboration. Learn about the use of collaborative tools such as wikis, blogs and discussion forums, and networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.”

Amen.  Heads up for attendees–this session will focus largely on internal application of social media tools, not on the (potentially significant) marketing aspects of external-facing law firm social media activity.

3. KMPG3, “It Takes A Village To Deliver Effective AFAs,” Wednesday at 9:15 AM, “Delta C”

“Learn how KM professionals and key players from finance, IT, professional development, legal project management, records and other areas can collaborate to help law firms implement successful AFAs.”

Tom Baldwin, Toby BrownPamela Woldow headline  the outstanding panel.

4.  KMPG4, “How KM Supports Innovative Service Delivery,” Wednesday at 11:30 AM, “Delta C”

“KM isn’t just precedents anymore. Hear how some true innovators in the field have tied sustainable KM processes and tools to specific legal services in ways that show clear increases in value delivered to clients.”

Howard Nichols of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey; Scott Rechtschaffen of Littler Mendelson, P.C., and Brynn Wiswall, Baker Donelson.

5.  KMPG5, “Creating an Optimal KM Strategy,” Wednesday at 1:30 PM, “Delta C”

"A sound KM strategy is essential to success. Whether you are just starting a KM program or you've been at it for years, you'll take away insight into how your colleagues have formulated or refreshed their KM strategies to optimal levels, and what did and didn't work."
Legal KM guru Sally Gonzalez of HBR Consulting joins Steven Lastres of Debevoise & Plimpton and ILTA KM blog contributor John Gillies of Cassels Brock in this panel moderated by Patrick DiDominico.
6.  KMPG6, "KM Helps Meet the ACC Value Challenge," Wednesday at 3:30 PM, "Delta C"
"The Association for Corporate Counsel (ACC) has challenged law firms to better understand their clients’ business, be more efficient in their work, be more effective in training junior lawyers, and better budget and manage costs. Find out how knowledge management can help achieve these goals."

I'm moderating this session, the last of the track, which I previously posted about.  Panelists include  Mary Panetta of Crowell & Moring, Jeffrey Brandt of Clearspire, and Thomas Wisinski of Haynes Boone.
I look forward to seeing many ILTAns there! 


The Future of Professional Technology *Is* Personal Technology

27 Apr

Guest Post by Ayelette Robinson, Director – Knowledge Technology at Littler Mendelson (and San Francisco City Rep, in ILTA-speak).

It seems apt that my mission today is to write about how the future of professional technology is personal technology – in a blog post.

Remember when blogs first began? They were deemed the lowest common writing denominator for the masses, a place where the skilled, the new, the emotional, the academic, the personal, the angry, and the instructional could all pronounce their opinions with equal fervor and equal distribution. The equality factor, that everyone and anyone had equal access to be seen, read, and publicized, filled most with doubt: “How can I know whose posts are worth reading?” But over time, as those of you reading this are surely aware, we found ways to filter out the dross, and the wonder of equality meant that we found those diamonds in the rough.

Blogs rose to stardom in the mid-1990s, and here I am more than 15 years later leveraging this tool to exchange ideas with my professional peers. Twitter progressed from “I’m eating a sandwich” to “future of prof #IT at #ilta #km” much more quickly than blogs did (although interestingly, despite the relative speed of Twitter’s personal-to-professional use transition, the naysaying about Twitter when it launched, including and perhaps especially by knowledge professionals, was particularly absolute).

If history is any indication, we need look no further than our homes and the up-and-coming generation to discover the future of our offices and the behavior and expectations of the workers who will fill them. So, what are the tools of today that will in equal measures enrich and complicate our careers tomorrow?

Social media is surely one answer. While blogs, tweets, and LinkedIn status updates are now frequently used by professionals to exchange professional information, they are still leveraged by and large in a very personal way – to improve our own individual professional relationships, support our own individual professional development, and publicize our own individual expertise. There is still quite a ways to go before these tools are woven into the fabric of our organizational operations. But a ways to go they will, especially as the newer generations enter the workforce and bring their culture and assumptions of online collaboration with them. Whether we talk about it aloud or not, tools like SocialText and Neudesic’s Pulse will find their way into the enterprise.

An expectation of mobility has similarly seeped from our personal lives into our professional ones. But here too, enterprise technology lags behind its commercial cousin, with enterprise content, and even collaboration tools like SharePoint, still not available easily over mobile devices. This will surely change in the coming years as vendors recognize that if we can bank on our mobile devices, security is not the bottleneck.

Cultural transformations triggered by technological innovations will also begin to take shape. Practitioners will begin to recognize the power of sharing their literal and figurative locations. Instead of feeling territorial over work and relationships, they will expect their work not only to be more efficient, but also to be better, when everyone leverages the knowledge of where their colleagues are on a matter, what challenges they face, and what relationships they need. Sharing status, questions, wins, and lessons learned as enterprise-wide status updates will become second nature, and will improve both work product and relationships. Even today’s tools – time trackers, email systems, and document management platforms – are tracking some of this information, so the barrier to exposing it is cultural rather than technological. As the new generation rises within the workplace, the ensuing cultural evolution will open the door for the exchange and productive use of this type of information.

Mirroring how media trains our minds, attention-shifting tools will also begin to appear on the horizon. Current and new generations consider themselves multi-taskers, or more accurately, quick-shifters from one project to another. Tools that integrate common systems are just beginning to dot the personal technology landscape (see Rockmelt), and as our minds are trained more and more to attention-shift, these tools will eventually work their way into our professional space. As legal practitioners, we spend far too much time clicking between documents, emails, phone calls, and office drop-by’s; some argue that we need to train ourselves to focus better, but for better or for worse personal culture is training us to attention-shift. Until Times Square reduces its billboards to one, we need to accept that our attention will continue to be pulled in multiple and competing directions and that technology will help us to identify and transition to the important.

These are just some of the personal technologies I suspect will mold our professional futures. But whether you agree that these specific tools will survive or will yield to other technological phenomena, history tells a convincing tale that how we live casts how we practice.