A few days ago I asked if Microsoft gets KM. A recent article reports on DuPont’s adoption of the “the Edge,” an extranet designed to support teamwork and knowledge sharing among its outside counsel. I now have to ask the same question about DuPont. 

Pushing the Edge in Law Firm Inc. (Jan/Feb 2005) reports that unlike other Extranets, the Edge is driven by DuPont, not its law firms; will eventually encompass all matters and not just operate case-by-case; and incorporates incentives for using it.

I applaud DuPont for taking this initiative but think that project, as described in the article, has a big flaw. The article reports that a portion of a $1 million budget supporting the Edge will pay billable rates for “a ‘knowledge steward’ at each of DuPont’s law firms.” These stewards are usually a paralegal or someone with a tech background; their job is to make sure “everyone at the firm is actually using the system.”

In my experience, neither paralegals nor tech staff are well-positioned to persuade lawyers to change how they work. Incentives need to be embedded systems, for example, clients taking work away from lawyers who don’t follow rules or firms penalizing lawyers (less compensation for partners and bad evaluations for associates) for breaking rules. Incentives that are glommed-on top, which is what these stewards sound like, typically do not work.

The article also reports that DuPont hired Capgemini and Ernst & Young to provide business process consulting. I’d love to see their empirical data and/or reasoning in support of this idea. I may be wrong, but asking staff to bug lawyers seems likely to fail. Let’s hope we see some follow-up reports on whether this approach really works.

(I tried finding out more about the Edge at the DuPont Legal Model web site, but was not able to find additional information.)