default logo

KM Best Practices

Knowledge management may be all about “not re-inventing the wheel.” Just how far can lawyers go in re-using know-how? Can we define “best practices?” 

The consensus answer is “no.” I recently wrote KM Best Practices (, May 29, 2007). This short piece reports on discussion highlights of a panel on KM best practices that I moderated at a February meeting of large law firm KM professionals. In brief

The bottom line is that most large law firms have, at best, only a few ‘best practices’ …. KM professionals should not bother with best practices absent special circumstances… Instead, consider the metaphor the audience evolved: The world is a dark and dangerous place; swamps are everywhere and dry land precious. KM professionals merely help keep the lawyers on dry land by providing some guideposts.

Contrast this with medicine, particularly the warranty surgeons offer for heart bypass surgery, as described in In Bid for Better Care, Surgery With a Warranty (New York Times, May 17, 2007). Offering a 90-day warranty on this surgery required defining and following best practices for about 40 steps. I think everyone acknowledges the complexity of bypass surgery. If surgeons can establish best practices for this, it’s still not obvious to me why lawyers can’t define at least some best practices.

  1. Anton Vishnyak, PMP

    You have an interesting perspective on this dilemma. It is the problem of the chicken and the egg. Why create a KM repository/culture if no best practices exist or create best practices if no KM repository/culture exists?

    In fact, best practices do exist in law. Some of these are court rules, others are from experience. However, one idea that is rarely explored in KM repositories is the fact that sometimes the knowledge is: knowing the right person.

    Attorneys find niches of the law where they become more experienced than the general population (of attorneys). Knowing which attorney knows what could be even more helpful than documenting steps for writing a brief.