Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Public Facing Legal KM

Following up on a recent comment I left over on Lawyer KM, I'd like to relay some thoughts I've had going for a while. When it comes to legal knowledge management (KM), in my view, there will always a portion of a law firm's codified knowledge that will exist on the public web.

While I accept that smaller firms, and especially solos, can make a conscious decision to censor themselves and not web-publish their experience; I do believe that's an exception rather than the rule.

In my view, and particularly as firms get larger, a portion of lawyer knowledge is always going to public facing. For me, this goes much further than the aggregation of work product documents, related to the above comment. JD Supra is just the newest tangent that law firms should consider.

The big challenge for law firm KM practitioners, again in my view, is to harness that public facing knowledge and to make it accessible to others. Let me give a couple of non-document based examples:
  • Lawyer blog posts - If your lawyers are posting frequently to a blog, not aggregating and collecting the content generated could be a huge mistake. At the very least, the RSS feed for that blog should be piped back into your firm & published on the Intranet; or, it could be mixed with a number of other firm blogs, and imported into a searchable database behind the firewall.

  • Online Bookmarks - Using a bookmarking service like, your lawyers could easily be sharing the publications & articles they find online, and driving the firm's professional development resources in the process. What about aggregating all of the bookmarks made by firm lawyers - along with their personally chosen keyword classifications via tagging - and making those resources available internally?
Another example I gave in the comment link above was BC Real Estate Links (BCRELinks). This is a website we put together at my former law firm, and a great example of public facing KM. One important point I like to make about this website is that it gets daily attention & contribution from the lawyers involved. Why? Because it's public (read: client) facing. Believe me when I say, public facing KM isn't just about sharing knowledge for altruistic reasons. The challenge is to get this knowledge in front of decision makers. Unless clients & potential clients see it, there really isn't a business case for doing so.

In all my years conducting legal KM (I built my first web-based memo bank in 1996), I've never found a better incentive for getting lawyers to contribute to KM than marketing & business development. Oh, and throw in client service too! These are all core business goals for every law firm out there. Why wouldn't KM practitioners maximize their internal program by levering the primary goals that drive their lawyers? Mixing law firm KM with Business Development is simply good business. Now, and in the future.

So whether it's work product (court filings, decisions, research, articles, PD materials, etc...) with a site like JD Supra, or whether it's public web platforms that support blog posts, web bookmarks, or online video sharing - lawyer knowledge is being codfied online. The question now becomes - how will your firm maximize its value?

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