Knowledge management typically focuses on capturing and re-using a firm’s own work product. What if you could just as easily tap other firm’s work? 

Looking Outside the Firm for On-Point Work Product (Legal Tech Newsletter, 12/8/06) by Justin Hectus of Keesal, Young & Logan explains the benefits of reviewing work product created by other law firms. His firm uses software from Practice Technologies that makes it easy to search SEC filings (via EDGAR), including the many attachments corporations file.

Hectus observes that though some lawyers “might be loathe to admit it… much of the practice of law involves the recycling of documents and information that has proven successful in the past… We’d be doing our clients a tremendous disservice if we tried to reinvent the wheel each time we had to create a new agreement, instead of leveraging previously successful work product and adding the artful interpretations and additions relevant to the current situation.”

Beyond the traditional KM goal of re-using work product (in this instance, across firms), Hectus reports that searching other firms’ work is a competitive advantage. In one instance, his firm used it to gain insight into how opposing counsel approached various issues by reviewing multiple documents it had drafted. In another, his firm refuted opposing counsel’s claim that no lawyer in his firm had ever agreed to a particular provision by finding five examples of just such a provision.

Almost 3 years ago, I wrote about the potential of “open source law.” Open source has tremendous traction in software and virtually none in law. I don’t hold out any immediate hope that this will change, but at least with access to other firm’s work, we are one step closer to the ideas behind open source.

Disclosure: I have a consulting relationship with Practice Technologies.