Monday, July 10, 2006

KM & Legal Vendors

An interesting post yesterday by Cindy Chick where she notes the Los Angeles law firm Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP, and their use of three different vendors for KM document retrieval.

To start off, I like the mixed approach that Cindy advocates. She says - "The bottomline is, just like digital cameras, no product does it all." Very true, and no doubt the future for many law firms will include a multitude of product lines to serve various KM functions. Document repositories are, after all, only one element of a Knowledge Management program.

My second reaction to this post is something that I've seen coming for a while now, and I'm a bit concerned. My problem is this: Are we really comfortable tying our KM document repositories to the online vendors?

I understand why Thomson & Lexis want this. Every case cite, in every memo, letter, opinion, (...) will draw law firms closer to their product lines, will drive up usage rates, and then drive up our flat fee contracts. The Vendors will continue their 8-9% subscription hikes (nothing new to us Librarians), and objectively, it's good short term business on their part. Hard to argue...

The question for me is, why do Law Firms, who have traditionally been treated like the captured market we are, want to draw even closer to the Vendors? Are we prepared for: 1) being completely reliant on their technology platform (& rate of innovation); 2) rising costs that may force us to pick one Vendor over the other; 3) using their cost recovery modules; 4) being just like every other firm that chooses their KM 'solution', and lacking any possible KM competitive advantage.

Law firms need to get beyond the 'me too' trend here. Sometimes purchasing a ready-made 'solution' isn't as advantageous as purchasing the right tool. Case in point, the many firms who are building their own repository solutions in-house, and building them to match their firm's practices, culture, and business objectives. Guess which direction is more customizable, and which one will innovate first? ... I just hope that we, in the legal KM community, are entertaining all the options.


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