A classic scene in the movie THE GRADUATE explains to the young protagonist (Dustin Hoffman) that the future lies in plastics. Spool forward 50 years and the concept to replace plastics is data. 

ARK Group’s upcoming legal KM conference—October 22-23 in New York—poses the question “What is the mission for today’s law firm Knowledge Management function?”. The answer is not exactly data, but the mission definitely turns on mastering data. As the conference program notes:

“Like so many other professions, law is becoming increasingly influenced by an overwhelming amount of disparate and complex data. In fact, data and analytics have become table stakes for nearly every law firm of every size and scope. KM professionals intuitively understand the value of centralized and structured data capture. But how do you convince firm management that data management and experience management projects are of critical importance to your firm?”

My employer, LAC Group is a co-lead sponsor this year, with LexisNexis. In this post, I expand on the data theme by previewing a few sessions, including one that I will moderate.

Data is our new currency

The keynote address sets the tone with speaker Meredith Williams-Range, Chief Knowledge and Client Value Officer at Shearman & Sterling. The title of her talk is Addressing the Key Pillars of Change: People, Process, Tech…and Data. As Meredith notes, “data is our new currency.” Adding to the old adage of people, process and tech is a smart move. 


Matter management central to legal KM 

TD Bank will explain how matter management became the core of the bank’s legal KM system. And that makes sense: most law firm and law department know-how and data arise from work on specific matters. So gaining mastery of matter data can only help KM efforts.


Process maps—a view into data?

On this one, I take an expansive view. Data come in different flavors, from vast quantities of raw information, to very refined views of it. KM professionals have high awareness of this from our regular work with metadata (data about data). In my view, a process map arguably is a type of metadata. Most metadata describes the data to which it’s attached. In contrast, a process provides a guide to how different types of data interrelate to one another to accomplish a specific goal and how people work with those data. 


Moneyball for litigation

If you think a process map as metadata is a stretch too far, then Moneyball for Litigation is for you. Moneyball—the application of data to formulate winning strategies, made famous by Billy Bean of the Oakland As baseball team and the subsequent movie about him—is all about using large amounts of data to improve legal strategy. 

For anyone who reads my strategic legal technology blog, you may recall my interest in “DoLessLaw”, a big element of which is prevention. I hope we learn more here about how data can help avoid lawsuits or at least reduce the expense of dealing with them 


Our legal future won’t be anything like the present

Gabriel Teninbaum, Director, Legal Innovation & Technology concentration at Suffolk University Law School gives the day-two keynote. He will address “the impact of innovation and technology on legal work and will propose a new approach for professional development of legal professionals capable of thriving in a changing environment.”

From my market travels, I see that an emphasis on data implies the need for new skills, making more lawyers comfortable both with numbers and working with other professionals with superior data skills. I’m guessing he will talk about the need for T-shaped lawyers. (Shout out to R. Amani Smathers who coined this now widely-used term to describe lawyers with training broader than the traditional law school curriculum.)

Search and rescue

It’s one thing to create data, another to find what’s meaningful, create connections among disparate sources and make sense of it all. I suspect this panel will focus more on search tools and search results, but underlying the need for and importance of this topic is our ever-growing volume of data. In my view, search is all about finding, managing, making sense of and using large volumes of data.


Moderated by:


This session explores how firms can move “from siloed repositories of data to an understanding that each department is a steward of firm data at a designated time in the matter and client lifecycle.” Implicit in that are these concepts:

  • The value of data
  • The need to use data beyond a single purpose
  • The lifecycle of data

The session will get at these issues via case studies of how two AmLaw 100 firms consolidated multiple sources of data into functioning data warehouses and experience databases. 


Anticipating know-how needs

As we swim in more and more data, finding what we want becomes harder. Too much information can be worse than too little. I’ll moderate a session that looks at what we can do to anticipate data needs as one way to overcome information overloadCan we “push” to lawyers and staff information they need, when they need it, without them asking or looking for it? This will be an audience interactive session—panelists will offer ideas but will not come with  fully-baked answers. We will depend on audience know-how and participation to whiteboard what this future might look like. (I recently wrote a blog post just about this session, Anticipating Lawyers’ Know-How Needs.)

Concluding words

I’ve highlighted only a few sessions above; there are many other excellent ones over the two days. My colleagues and I look forward to hearing all the sessions and to seeing you there.

Register and see more information

This post originally appeared at the LAC blog.