Knowledge Management for Law Firms: The New Frontier

There is no doubt in my mind that Knowledge Management (“KM”) will drive law firms in the future. In the past, law firms were driven by recruiting the best and the brightest lawyers and developing a reputation for good work. Hiring talented lawyers will be important in the future, but not as important as developing the best KM systems. Why do I believe that? Because the Internet makes people and information more accessible. It's scary to say, but the Internet makes people more of a commodity (not that I believe that personally). With regard to professional services, talent will no longer be the differentiator. The biggest challenge for law firms will be to harness that talent and their reservoirs of knowledge in ways that improve product quality and efficiency. In other words, “Knowledge Management”.

Defining Knowledge Management

Ok, but what is KM? Here are some definitions:

According to Wikipedia, “There is a broad range of thought on Knowledge Management with no unanimous definition current or likely.” Wikipedia itself defines Knowledge Management as a “range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness, and learning across the organisations.” The fact that wikipedia spells the word “organization” differently than I do does not give me much comfort in their definition.

The definition of Knowledge Management that I prefer is “Capturing, organizing, and storing knowledge and experiences of individual workers and groups within an organization and making this information available to others in the organization.” (Ironically, I found this definition on Google from a link that is no longer working.) It is the collaborative element of this definition that I find compelling. Lawyers sharing information will make all of us better lawyers and more efficient. KM will facilitate the process.

The Truth of What Knowledge Management Means

More practically, I think that KM encompasses all of the systems, tools, and infrastructure needed to practice law effectively. In an upcoming blog, I will attempt to break down the concept of Knowledge Management into practical terms and identify how law firms can start to lay the ground work now for developing the systems, tools, and infrastructure that I (and most lawyers) will need to access in the future.

What do you think will drive law firms in the future? Will it be KM or something else?

[thanks to blmurch and roger glovsky via cc]