KM in Law Departments

KM in Law Departments.

Last week at the Marcus Evans Law Tech Forum in NYC, Phil Crowley, Assistant General Counsel of Johnson & Johnson and I presented on knowledge management in corporate law departments.

We
discussed the demand for KM and processes, technology, and staffing to
support it. Though law departments do not face the billable hour
barrier as do firms, KM is no cinch for them.

J&J is
fortunate and unusual in having a dedicated KM person and, as a result,
has done some interesting KM work. For example, the law department
created a practice guideline on the corporate Intranet to guide
business people through the process of divesting a business. I am
partial to this because I think that documenting processes is an
under-developed aspect of KM. Separately, the company has crystallized
significant legal information in an e-learning and compliance system
that reaches all employees.

Phil emphasized that KM is about
process and culture, not solely technology. Since in-house lawyers are
no more willing than law firm lawyers to “do extra work” for KM, law
departments do not have any “magic bullets” that law firms do not. Both
benefit from dedicating the efforts of “practice support lawyers” or
equivalent in pushing the effort. Given the economic barriers to
dedicated staffing, however, we also discussed some emerging automated
paths for doing more KM.

One path is “baking it into the
business,” meaning capturing additional information in established
processes. We explored the potential for “baking in KM” to case/matter
management. Phil confirmed what I have often heard, that law department
matter management systems are a bit like manual KM systems. They rely
on lawyers doing something extra (with nothing in it for them
personally), so they are not uniformly used. We agreed though, that law
departments with the collective discipline to use matter management
probably have lurking KM opportunities.

Another automated path
to better KM is deploying a specialized KM tool. For example, many law
firms are evaluating or deploying RealPractice or West km.
These products seem to have less traction among law departments. [Full
disclosure: I work with Practice Technologies, Inc., the developer of
RealPractice.]

In sum, I would say that law departments are fellow travelers with law firms on the KM road.  
[Strategic Legal Technology]

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