Assessing Outside Counsel – Asking about Knowledge Management

Assessing Outside Counsel – Asking about Knowledge Management

The Fall 2003 issue of Chief Legal Executive magazine has an interesting article by the managing partner of Arnold & Porter, The Inside Story on the Outside Firm. James J. Sandman discusses five key questions clients should ask their firms. One of the five is what KM system the firm uses. 

Mr. Sandman begins the article by noting that law departments ask many questions in RFPs and law firm interviews but frequently do not inquire about important ways the firm operates. The five questions the GC should ask are about compensation, KM, diversity, associate attrition, and training. I’ll focus on Mr. Sandman’s comments about KM.

He notes that “firms vary greatly in their ability to identify and use their own most pertinent precedents.” This ability depends on whether lawyers submit their work product, QA systems to identify and catalog best practices, search tools, and how lawyers use the system. He makes the very interesting point that the client should ask to test the firms KM resources “so that he or she can make a personal assessment of their utility.” He also notes – quite correctly – that good KM covers more than just work product. Though he does not use the term tacit, he writes that a KM system should also include tacit knowledge such as what the firm knows about the client and the client’s industry and competitors. Inability to share this information means wasted time and lost value.

It is rare to see a managing partner focus on KM and write so clearly about the importance of KM. And it verges on revolutionary for a large law firm lawyer to suggest to the client to test a firm’s KM system. I agree with Mr. Sandman and hope that GC will follow his sage advice.  [Strategic Legal Technology]

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