Law firms face many knowledge management hurdles. KM success might be easier by focusing on high value activities. Empirical data can help establish where that is.  

For transactional work, identifying where KM can have maximum impact is not hard. The non-profit International Association for Contract & Commercial Management recently released its survey of most commonly negotiated contract terms in 2006. Top terms include limitation of liability, indemnification, and liquidated damages.

KM professionals could work mainly on clauses that appear most frequently. An “80-20” approach – meaning focus most effort on the limited set of clauses used most often – might make KM more manageable and valuable. This survey could be a good starting point for deciding the best focus.

Firms can also review the most commonly negotiated clauses to see how their own lawyers draft them. But finding representative clauses can be hard because top terms appear across many agreement types. Some firms, however, already have tools to simplify this. For example, RealPractice by Practice Technologies makes it easy to find like clauses across contracts. (The related Public Access product allows searching other law firm’s clauses, via access to SEC filings.)

In litigation, one could apply similar logic, analyzing the most common substantive issues and jurisdictions. This would help guide what research and which model documents have the highest value.

Disclosure: I have a consulting relationship with Practice Technologies.