On the 15th June Chadwick Nott partnered with well-known KM consultancy 3Kites to run a lunch seminar for the legal Knowledge Management/PSL community. A very well attended event, the feedback has so positive (“I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very useful. The right number of people and perfect for networking”, commented a global firm PSL), with many topics identified for the future.
Wednesday’s event commenced with Chadwick Nott consultants Houdah Al Hakim and Claire Salter giving an informative overview of the PSL/KM job market discussing the typical KM structures of US firms, the magic circle and other London practices. They highlighted updated career structures, the progression routes for PSLs that have been developed over the last few years and the changes to the typical PSL role.
An increase in credibility and responsibility has been an obvious development in this market. Top quality and successful fee-earning lawyers are making the move to KM or PSL roles, where they have taken on increasing client facing responsibilities and been given more creative autonomy, as well as the more typical PSL functions including precedents and practice notes, legal research, and preparation and delivery of training. There has been some possibilities of combined roles emerging, including fee-earning, L&D, BD and practice management. In this ‘new’ law firm KM world and at the top of the KM tree, there are lots of high level skills and responsibilities expected by law firms such as strategy advice, thought leadership, project management, process mapping, business efficiency, stakeholder management, analysis and reporting.
Discussion around the new roles and responsibilities led seamlessly onto the presentation by 3Kites. Sally Roberts and Duncan Ogilvy took the stage and gave us all a great overview on how law firm KM is changing and what could be in store for us in the future.
The presentation touched on the current aim of KM in law firms, such as keeping lawyers up to date, avoiding reinventing the wheel, capturing a firm’s particular knowledge and experience, risk management and client facing knowledge delivery. Do many firms have a mission statement like KPMG: “we exist to turn our knowledge into value for the benefit of our client”?
But what does the future hold?
We all agreed that there is more and more emphasis on efficiency in every sector, including legal. Various research sources indicate that the appetite for project management, process management tools and methods appears to be increasingly large. Whatever anyone says, it’s all about money. Work has to be done at a price that clients find acceptable BUT also at a profitability level that the partners find acceptable.
Many firms are looking carefully at the legal process and how much fee-earner input is needed, and process mapping enables you to consider correct resourcing, firm-wide consistency and matter scoping and budgeting. Process mapping should be able to drive estimating, which is obviously linked closely with this never-ending drive for accountability on costs and efficiency.
Duncan discussed legal project management with many references to his direct experience – both successful examples and others where the process had stalled. Lots of lawyers are resistant to this but project management will improve vital communication and control resources. He has seen firms developing project management tools and templates, developing training and legal process analysis and in some cases using professional project managers for major matters. It’s about replicating best practice all the time. There will be a partner who runs his or her matters superbly – it’s about making sure all team leaders replicate this way of working. PM does of course have to be tailored but the legal process analysis can be fun – Duncan assured us!
Sally gave an overview of how KM technology is changing with next generation knowledge repositories, automatic profiling of know-how, use of social media, document assembly and artificial intelligence. Much of this is not new but is moving on, with firms at different stages. As we all know, technology is only as good as the humans that set it up. Social media is predictably being championed by the younger lawyers pushing it up to the older generation, but as with all technology the business need is being analysed and reviewed by firms. Document assembly can be a big investment but with the right documents and right people in place it has been a success.
Law firm KM is changing with a wider definition of knowledge – not just legal content but lots of detail of similar matters including charging information and finally a wide range of financial information such as estimates and costs.
Artificial intelligence was touched upon as it is an exciting topic and the legal sector is beginning to see some successful products in action – for example RAVN at BLP. There is no doubt there will be more usage and development of AI, for not only legal research but also the analysing the outcome of cases and other uses. Watch this space!
The question often is – has the technology really delivered? We were promised ‘killer apps’?! In summary Sally highlighted that the communication piece around any technology investment is crucial, it has to be business critical and pilots are crucial to successful implementation. The way forward is likely to be ‘dashboards’ bringing all information available in one place.
With law firms consistently working on improved delivery and profitability, lots of information is needed – fixed fees, AFAs, success/recovery based fees, monitoring progress against fees and so on. The legal market is getting tougher. With ABS’ and the accountants all competing for legal services, law firms are very actively looking at how they operate.
The simple conclusion from this very interesting event, that touched on so many areas of KM, was that KM is not only a key part of the solution to the current marketing pressures – it is right at the heart of it. KM has become broader in every sense and we hope to cover topics in more detail at future lunches.
The event concluded with many of the attendees taking the opportunity to catch up with fellow PSL and KMers and having a good natter!
For more information on this or future events please contact Melanie Bassett on 01179 171863 or at: email@example.com.