‘Legal Knowledge – That Which Can’t Be Measured’

Legal Knowledge – That Which Can’t Be Measured

By Chang Zi Qian, Co-Founder, and team, at Singapore-based legal knowledge company, Intelllex.

‘The most important things we need to manage can’t be measured,’   W Edwards Deming – US Engineer. 

Managment consultant, Peter Drucker, was right when he wrote: ‘What gets measured gets managed.’ This is, however, often taken to a false corollary, such as: ‘What can’t be measured need not be managed’. For example, can we truly measure the satisfaction of our employees? What metrics should we use to measure the culture of the company?

Knowledge : The forgotten Asset

A law firm’s most valuable assets are its clients, lawyers and knowledge. Of these, knowledge is arguably the least well managed. This can be partially attributed to the perception that knowledge is intangible. Its intangibility obfuscates its management, which in turn impinges on firms’ ability to measure the business impact of effective Knowledge Management (KM).

In an earlier post, we established the importance of filtering information to extract for knowledge. In this post, we hope to add clarity on how to manage knowledge, and how to achieve success in implementing an effective KM strategy.

Right knowledge. Right person. Right time.

Having ploughed through volumes of literature on this topic, our distilled definition of KM is:making the right knowledge available to the right person when they need it. The devil is in the detail, and we will cover this in more depth over our next few posts.

Expanding on this understanding, we can see that effective KM must therefore cover a few activities:

  • Consolidating explicit knowledgeand documenting tacit knowledge(e.g. consolidating the ideas expressed in the volumes of work into this article)
  • Developing an organizational memory and providing access to it with appropriate retrieval facilities (e.g. posting this article on Medium, rather than leaving it in my personal computer)
  • Facilitating the re-use of existing knowledge according to the different needsof knowledge reusers (e.g. applying the appropriate tags to this article so it can be better discovered)
  • Identifying the right knowledge worker to share the appropriate knowledge, either by way of push or pull.

Given the wide spectrum of activities involved, it is a tall order to expect technology to be the ‘silver bullet’ to effective KM. In addition to finding the right technology, law firms need to integrate the technology and the knowledge imperative into the mindsets of all its employees.

Be Realistic, But Effective

In the course of building the ideal technology platform for enterprises to create, consume, manage, and distribute knowledge, we have had close collaborations with clients to ensure they achieve success in their implementation. In so doing, we’ve noticed that implementation teams, in line with the idea expressed in this HBR article, typically comprises of:

  • a Sponsor, usually a fairly high-level person who makes sure the project receives financial and manpower resources;
  • a Champion, the salesperson, the diplomat, and the problem solver for the innovation;
  • a Project Manager, who oversees administrative details; and
  • an Integrator, who manages conflicting priorities and moulds the group through communication skills.

In addition, we’ve observed that:

  • The Sponsor and the Integrator are commonly one person, usually a senior partner who is in the position to mobilize the necessary resources. Innovation in organizations cannot happen without the commitment from the executive level.
  • The Champion is a power user. Usually a senior associate or junior partner, he/she is naturally interested in new technology. It is crucial for the Champion to have some authority over the necessary resource too, as any new technology capable of inspiring strong advocacy will also provoke opposition.
  • The Project Manager usually transcends team divisions, and is commonly either the Knowledge Manager, IT administrator, or office manager. The Project Manager is well-versed with the workflows of all the teams and advises on how each team can best fit the technology into its workflow.
  • Top management recognizes that new activities, outside of business-as-usual (BAU), and new behaviors are required to support innovation. They provide the necessary infrastructure and design incentivesto encourage user adoption (see Reed Smith’s example).

At Intelllex, we have designed our product to integrate KM into a lawyer’s BAU workflow as much as possible. For example, when users conduct legal research, they may precisely retrieve their firm’s precedents with questions expressed either in natural language or legalese. This saves them the additional steps of calling their KM team / Professional Support Lawyers for precedents, waiting for them to respond, then reviewing to see if the documents sent were helpful.

Thanks for the insights into legal tech and KM.

If you’d like to learn more about Intelllex check out their site here.