The right legal knowledge management (KM) systems could help your firm to improve collaboration, reduce time spent searching for information, and provide legal expertise to clients both faster and more effectively. A truly comprehensive system can provide endless benefits to organisations looking to make the most of collective expertise by enabling the capture and centralisation of knowledge hidden within the minds of experts.
However, choosing a legal knowledge management system can be a daunting process. With many systems offering a plethora of capabilities, it can be difficult to know which features to prioritise when selecting your firm’s KM system.
At Tiger Eye, we have worked with clients worldwide on knowledge management projects, supporting both leading full-service firms and specialist firms alike to transform KM through powerful technology. Through our experience, we have identified the three vital requirements for KM systems that are crucial for law firms looking to capture knowledge, store it securely and most importantly, make it accessible to staff.
Requirement 1: A Seamless User Experience
A legal knowledge management system must not only capture knowledge assets, but also streamline the workflows involved with finding knowledge at the point of need. To enable this, we recommend looking for systems that deliver a seamless end-to-end user experience.
Choosing The Right Platform
Firstly, we recommend choosing a system that delivers a powerful, multi-level search function, facilitating both targeted searches and knowledge browsing. With knowledge workers spending more than 10% of their working hours looking for information (APQC®, 2021), the right search experience can deliver significant time-savings for any firm, no matter the organisation’s practice area. By making it easy for users to locate knowledge, you can also reduce time waste, e.g., by eradicating time spent recreating knowledge, which can occur when users can’t find useful assets at the point of need.
However, in order to deliver knowledge to users through searches, the system must also facilitate effective content tagging behind the scenes. So, the right KM system for your firm will deliver a seamless user experience for end users and knowledge managers alike.
Connecting The Puzzle Pieces
Yet, for knowledge systems, the user experience of the actual system is only one part of the puzzle. It is also crucial that knowledge management software meets users where they are, seamlessly integrating with existing systems.
By examining the software that users engage with at each step of their daily tasks, you will be able to identify the systems that will need to work together to allow knowledge sharing to become a natural part of existing workflows, such as producing documents, accessing information, sharing insights, and communicating with both clients and colleagues.
When considering solutions for the legal industry, it is therefore essential that a KM system integrates with your firm’s document management system (DMS). The DMS acts as the centre of all operations, with all communications and documentation stored together within this business-critical system. If a KM system is not linked with the DMS – the system that users know, trust and rely on - the knowledge capture and sharing processes will become fractured. This is because users will have to leave the DMS, change platforms, change interfaces and break existing workflows just in order to share, access or use company knowledge. With legal knowledge workers spending so much of their time within the DMS, firm’s also risk low levels of adoption for new knowledge systems if the KMS is not bedded in to existing processes.
Requirement 2: The support and enhancement of existing knowledge curation processes
As mentioned, effective legal knowledge management systems should enhance existing curation processes. To produce the most accurate search results for your users, knowledge must be carefully curated, tagged and categorised so that it can be found. However, curation capabilities also ensure knowledge stores are easy to review, e.g., facilitating the identification of gaps in knowledge which then be filled by experts.
It is essential that firms look for knowledge management systems that offer a method for building, maintaining and customising taxonomies, so that the knowledge database remains categorised and easy to maintain. Such processes help knowledge stores full of high quality, up to date know-how, to meet the needs of the law firm. As such, it is also imperative that the system supports knowledge review processes, for example by automatically adding review dates to key know-how documents within the system.
Most firms will also aim to report on their investment in knowledge sharing, demonstrating the impact of the system on users. When reviewing KM systems, we recommend that firms look out for platforms that allow for usage analysis, e.g., facilitating a clear understanding of how users are engaging with the system. Showing who uses the system and in what ways, KM teams can build a true picture of the platform’s impact across the firm, and this data can be used to report on the power of knowledge processes. Such usage reports can also facilitate the continual refinement of knowledge strategies.
Requirement 3: The support of true collaboration
To most end users, their main interaction with a KM System will be through targeted searches. Accessing know-how documents or checklists when carrying out tasks, the KM platform will provide users with exactly the content they need, when they know they need it.
However, modern KM systems also offer a much broader range of methods for knowledge retrieval, including through rich knowledge browsing and knowledge pages. By offering your users a curated selection of frequently accessed documents, you may be able to eliminate the search process altogether, and further streamline knowledge retrieval workflows. Taking advantage of these newer knowledge platform capabilities, you can direct users towards specific know-how. This can be particularly useful when updating your team on changing legislation, or new internal policies. Other features such as document commenting and the ability to ‘favourite’ documents can also enable users to see the value in documents, by demonstrating how others have used and trusted in a document. Such collaboration features are vital for organisations looking to make the most of the latest capabilities of KM technologies.
In summary, a purpose-built legal knowledge management system should:
Through adopting a system that meets these needs, your firm can streamline workflows, build a collaborative culture and refine your competitive edge.
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