Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Making Law Firm KM Smaller

I'm willing to admit, firm wide sharing is incredibly difficult to encourage. In many cases, the problem gets proportionately worse as the firm's size increases. So how does one encourage knowledge sharing if Altruistic Information Sharing Doesn’t Happen? (thanks to Rees Morrison for getting me thinking...)

One of the big challenges, in my mind, is to break down the sharing process so it means something for the Lawyers involved. One of the reasons it's difficult to get contribution to a firm wide 'black hole' KM collection is that Lawyers have no connection to it. Forgetting the value proposition for a moment, unless you can forge an affinity between a lawyer and the collection, getting any type of contribution is going to be difficult.

Creating this connection can be as easy as letting Lawyers keep track of the content they find valuable or useful (what a concept!). Or, try to promote sharing as a benefit to meaningful or functional groups - be it by practice area, or a more interesting concept, connecting those with a common topical interest.

Content collections which are grouped or classified will retain contextual meaning, and will still be accessible by global firm wide KM searches. Topical or group oriented collections can also make for more interesting browsing, and potentially encourage a 'collection connection'.

At the very least, if you create a collection holding area for a niche topic which matches a particular lawyer's interests, you may get an opportunity to showcase your services. Also, encourage your lawyers to partner with you on the content collection - to help seed it, and to help encourage others to contribute - Every content collection needs a champion!

Some of the best collections are already in existence, but need to be found (no need to create a connection here!). Want proof? Go into any Lawyer's office and look around. Do you see any personal binders of precedents or articles? The truth is, Lawyers are every bit the collection builders Librarians are, and I don't think they're hiding content. The issue is trying to get them to collect openly and beyond personal use; and that's an easier sell when they're part of the process.

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