If there is any business well suited for knowledge management (or KM for short), it is the law. As Vishal Agnihotri, Chief Knowledge Officer for Hinshaw and Culbertson, explains in the latest episode of the Technically Legal Podcast, defines knowledge management as “the ability to identify critical knowledge within an organization and then leveraging it to serve up at the right time for the right purpose.”
For law firms, in-house legal departments, and legal operations professionals interested in implementing a knowledge management program, Vishal says the first step is determining what constitutes critical legal knowledge and using tools to organize it.
For example, one of the tools Vishal implemented at her firm to help collect important information is a social collaboration app permitting users at the firm to ask questions and provide answers via a Facebook/LinkedIn-like interface. The benefit is that it creates a searchable repository of questions and answers with minimal effort from the KM team.
Vishal also suggests that another good place to start implementing KM efforts is to review and understand the tools the law firm or legal department already owns because they are often under-utilized. So a role Vishal takes very seriously is making sure members of her law firm are aware of all the technology and other tools available to them.
The backbone of a good legal KM program is a good firm/department intranet. Vishal describes it as a bulletin board type of platform that provides firm-wide information like PTO policies, office locations, available tools, and the like. She notes that internal information portals can also be used to schedule conference rooms and display event calendars.
Going even further, Vishal notes that law firm intranets can also serve as operations portals where lawyers can view their billable hours, examine their WIP (work in progress/time that is unbilled) and learn more about firm clients.
Finally, and most importantly, Vishal says KM tools must be used to build camaraderie and rapport within the firm. Vishal believes knowledge management can be the glue that brings people together. She believes people share more, share better, and share easier when they trust each other. She says “even though this feels like soft, mushy stuff, believe it or not, putting the focus on building the camaraderie within a firm, not just within the office, but within a firm, across practice groups, across offices, is actually key to having a strong knowledge sharing culture.”
To listen to the entire interview with Vishal and learn more about knowledge management for law firms and legal departments, please be sure to check it out at tlpodcast.com.