Lawyers across firms and in-house teams have been trying to deal with one of the biggest challenges of trying to deal with is Knowledge Management (KM). What are the best ways for lawyers across teams, whether in a firm or in in-house set-ups, to easily capture, find, and share everything that the entire team/department collectively knows? Knowledge Management can support more efficient and effective operation. In a market where clients demand value and efficiency, KM should be looked upon as an essential approach to providing quality service while reducing costs.
WHAT IS KM?
Legal Knowledge Management basically refers to the process of legal teams creating, sharing and finding more information, within their team and/or organization itself. Albeit this is not a new idea, it has gained traction in the recent times due to the immense benefits it provide in terms of:
- Efficiency and effectively streamline internal processes
- Eliminating redundancy of duplication of work, and hence time and cost saved, and
- Increased and coherent teamwork
Knowledge Management can capture and reuse collective wisdom of lawyers across the firm or the organization, including experience, client information, research and more, and help solve business problems faster and in a more efficient manner. Knowledge Management involves everything from templates of contracts and agreements to personal notes and feedback of people working in their specific roles. As an example, notes on how to deal with a specific in-house legal manager vs. what’s the best way to negotiate on billing rates with a particular law firm Partner could be very useful pointers for members across teams.
It all started with documentation. In law, precedents hold high importance. Cataloging work products, be it legal research, templates of contracts or litigation filings, model transaction documents and checklists, legal knowledge management has been the answer for legal teams across law firms and in-house departments to identify and index prior work product.
This requires substantial time investment, which lawyers do not have in plenty. Hence came into existence the role of hired professional support lawyers (PSLs), who specialize in creating precedents. They cataloged quiet effectively the existing work templates, feedback and notes; to convert client or matter specific documents into more general precedents for future reference. PSLs also monitor legal and industry updates, and keep teams apprised of the same.
However, this created a cost issue. PSLs are effectively lawyers, hired to do internal legal operation, i.e. non-billable hours. To counteract this, in a lot of cases, especially law firms started outsourcing the KM services to external agencies over the years. But this raised another challenge. The one of context.
An external agency, who is not privy to client or matter details to confidentiality factors, cannot be privy to relevant background information when a certain information is being sourced from the KM bank. In-depth understanding of the context in regards to why and what information is required by a lawyer and in which context is crucial, for any legal knowledge management process’ efficiency and effectiveness. Otherwise the reusability of this information provided by the KM manager is almost nil.
Consequently, it just meant that a balance had to be found between not just creating the system of prior work, notes and ratings; but also finding experts who could connect the dots and provide the relevant information to the lawyers with the relevant information when they seek.
Especially in the western part of the world, law firms have been adopting different fee arrangement structures, like project based and more, to support such innovative and progressive initiative such as legal knowledge management. These approaches can also help boost business for law firms, as effectively clients may find it cost effective to work with firm who employ out-of-the-box initiatives such as knowledge management, and reuse work product, quickly collaborate with experts and customize precedents to automate otherwise manually-intensive tasks.
In a price sensitive market like India, alternate pricing strategies like project based fixed pricing could do wonders to generate business, all thanks to Legal Knowledge Management!
This article was first published in the Lex Witness December 2018 issue.
Pramita Sen is the Fouder & Principal Strategist at WeYou Partners. WeYou Partners is a niche consulting & advisory firm, which offers a unique blend of industry knowledge coupled with effective and proven street-smart solutions.