I frequently suggest that law firms make knowledge management client-facing. There is an easy but overlooked way to do so. 

Secondment: “the detachment of a person from their regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere.” Some law firms second lawyers to clients. Why not second a senior KM professional to a client?

Law departments would gain a lot. Few have deep KM resources and a law firm expert on-site would be a way to learn a lot fast. If the department lacks a KM plan, the visitor would assess needs and develop a plan. If a plan is in place, he or she would help execute it. (Joy London at excited utterances has already pointed out the value of interim KM and project management appointments.)

Firms would also benefit. They would see first-hand what firm content and KM services they could deliver that would actually be useful. Moreover, the seconded person would meet many in-house lawyers. Because KM cuts across practices and lines of business, a KM professional might well return with more relationships than a seconded lawyer.

How do you do this if you don’t have a KM person to spare? Firms can view hiring an extra KM person as a marketing expense. I suspect the return would be much higher than for many other marketing activities. Marketing is all about getting to know your client and meeting their needs; how better to get close to your clients than sending an emissary?