The most successful law firms understand that knowledge is the sector’s most valuable asset. At Tiger Eye, we are truly passionate about legal knowledge management - the process of creating, documenting and using firm-wide knowledge and experience to accelerate workflows and ensure consistency of outputs. This is because we have worked with organisations around the world to boost productivity and drive greater value for clients through unlocking, capturing and centralising internal know-how, so we have experienced first-hand the powerful impact of effective knowledge management.
From our experience of working with leading law firms, we have identified the five essential phases of any knowledge management journey. Whether restarting your knowledge strategy or building a fresh programme from scratch, we hope this guide will help you in striving towards your KM goals.
1. Define Objectives
The first step to legal knowledge management success is to clearly define the purpose behind your knowledge management activities, and set objectives to drive change. However, in order to do this, you will need to begin by assessing the existing knowledge stored within the firm, and identifying areas for improvement.
Initially, it is recommended to assess existing knowledge data stores (if the firm has any). If not, you could begin by assessing documents stored via internal intranets, or the DMS itself (such as iManage). In doing this, you may find that within your existing database, there is a lack of a specific type of know-how. For example, you may have a lack of best practice documentation within a specific team, such as your commercial team. An objective therefore may be to build up resources (and knowledge) in this particular area.
By assessing the expertise already captured within the firm, you can begin your firm’s knowledge journey with a clear understanding of where knowledge is most needed – and therefore where it could also have the greatest positive effect.
Increasing resources stored for a particular practice area could help that team to boost productivity and produce contracts more efficiently, but it may also help the team to ensure that outputs (such as documents) are consistent. By relating objectives back to the business, you can create statements and guides which truly inspire teams to focus on KM practices. Reiterating the benefits of KM when setting objectives helps to demonstrate how, where and why such concentrated efforts can have the utmost impact for internal teams – and external clients.
2. Identify existing knowledge sources
Knowledge and expertise can be found within many areas of the firm, and keeping sight on where it is kept isn’t always an easy process. This challenge is made more difficult in firms with dynamic or growing teams, and with legislation changes and other factors, it can be difficult to capture knowledge and make it accessible to others. Identifying where knowledge is being generated is the key to being able to extract it, and then leverage the results from each team across the wider firm.
Historically firms may have relied on nominated subject-matter experts, but with the rise in lateral hires, this human-led process can be unreliable as specialists can move from firm to firm. Keeping knowledge within the minds of such individuals is a high-risk strategy, as the firm could quickly lose essential know-how. It is therefore critical to document know-how and extract valuable tacit knowledge from specialists.
However, with ever-changing workflows and growing legal technology stacks, data and know-how can become difficult to track, too. Within their daily workflows, your team will use authoring tools, annotation tools and templates to progress with their tasks, and it is common for information and insights to become trapped in specific applications, spreadsheets, or presentation decks that individuals may not share outside of their team.
Depending on the nature of the work across the departments within your firm, documents, emails and communications will vary in volume and type - but such assets will always inherently contain some form of knowledge. In this modern age, we cannot rely solely on submissions to a knowledge store – we must track, assess and understand the varying sources of knowledge to ensure nothing of value is missed.
3. Choose your Knowledge Management System
The next crucial step is identifying where to keep your firm’s valuable knowledge assets. Are resources siloed within one team, or even one individual’s folders? For know-how to have the greatest impact, it needs to be central and sharable, so that every member of staff can access insights at the point of need. This is especially important for growing firms, as new starters can learn much about a firm’s business processes and expertise by accessing and using a central knowledge store.
Technology solutions are already helping firms to alleviate this issue. Knowledge management systems are commonplace tools that help firms to capture, centralise and share knowledge, however there are limited options that are tailored to the legal sector. Our knowledge management system (KMS), Tiger Eye Blueprint, is built specifically for legal knowledge management, helping firms to find, curate, secure and share know-how with integrations into key legal-specific applications, like the iManage document management system (DMS).
User experience is a critical factor for any KMS. If knowledge nomination and search processes are too complex, engagement with the system will be minimal, and the flow of knowledge will be slow. Fewer users and limited knowledge will also affect the return on investment (ROI) of knowledge processes, as staff will not be able to benefit from curated knowledge stores if they find it difficult to access them. Tiger Eye Blueprint offers single click submission within the familiar iManage interface, removing potential barriers to knowledge sharing – and knowledge access.
The security of a KMS is also imperative. Knowledge is by nature a valuable commodity, and firm-specific expertise should be protected. Firms should expect the same level of security with their knowledge systems as they do with their document management systems – with comprehensive built-in security protections and know-how storage within region-specific data centres. Beyond this, we recommend that firms prioritise security credentials with any new KMS they select, and that they also work with vendors who build on modern, scalable cloud architecture. This ensures that not only is the system highly-secure – but that it will also grow with your firm as needed.
4. Create your Knowledge Management Plan
Once knowledge sources have been identified, and a system is in place to centralise know-how, the next step is to plan the processes that will enable you to get the most out of the tools at hand. How will you encourage users to submit and use knowledge within the system? How will you create a knowledge sharing culture? These questions will drive the formulation of the overall KM strategy and plan.
By spreading awareness of your knowledge management initiative and training your users in how to use the KM system, you can begin to establish the foundations for a truly collaborative approach to knowledge. Within your KM team, creating curation, indexing and assessment processes will ensure you are using the system to create and maintain actionable resources, as such processes will guide consistency in your content, too. This should be tailored to the aims and objectives identified earlier.
An effective plan will combine each step of the knowledge management process with tangible tasks for your team to work through, and drive you towards your ultimate goals as a firm. Industry events like SKILLS.Law showcase how other firms have achieved their objectives through effective KM campaigns, and these events can be invaluable when shaping your own plans.
5. Measure and Evaluate
It can seem challenging to track and prove the power of knowledge management, as the process involves capturing and centralising what already exists within the minds of experts. However, by surfacing key measurements from tools available such as KMS usage statistics, you can clearly demonstrate how much your firm relies on KM efforts.
Tiger Eye Blueprint offers detailed reporting that can monitor knowledge engagement and submission. Aside from demonstrating the power of knowledge management, these reports can also be used in employee performance reviews. Reporting on the number of know-how submissions per employee for example, you could then incentivise users to reach system submission targets and increase knowledge sharing over time.
Other resources available demonstrate the impact of knowledge management on a broader scale. For example, our return on investment calculators use APQC data to show how the value of streamlining knowledge search processes, by comparing tech-enabled searches with traditional manual search tasks (e.g., searching through a DMS for content).
By following our clear pathway to KM success, you can empower your firm to benefit from increased productivity, powered by the curation and sharing of know-how. More than this, you can also create a culture of continual learning and personal improvement that will help you to make the most of the collective expertise within your business.
Wherever you are on your legal knowledge management journey, Tiger Eye’s expertise can help your firm to maximise the benefits of your knowledge in order to increase firmwide efficiency.
This guest post is written by Tiger Eye. To find out more about their leading knowledge management solution, visit the Tiger Eye Blueprint web page here.
Tiger Eye support law firms throughout every step of the document and email journey, delivering powerful solutions that boost productivity and streamline workflows.
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