I recently visited DC-based 60-lawyer Spriggs & Hollingsworth, which built an innovative case management system that illustrates how knowledge management can be embedded into a process.  

To to support the firm’s complex litigation practice, a substantial portion of which involves pharmaceutical product-liability claims and which involves claims of many plaintiffs in serial and multidistrict litigation, partner Marc Mayerson (who leads the firm’s national practice representing policyholders), CTO Todd Haley, and Director of Litigation Support Jeff Slater supervised extensive customizing of Legal Files, a case and matter management system.

The firm embedded significant know-how about managing cases in a sophisticated set of menus and corresponding screens with many fields. These screens systematically walk a lawyer through collecting relevant data about a plaintiff (e.g., counsel, nature of the claim, and details of product usage). The software not only helps efficiently prepare for each plaintiff, it also helps manage the entire portfolio. And in the future the system will support an all-digital file for each plaintiff. (Those attending ILTA’s upcoming conference can learn more; Todd is presenting Thursday, August 25th at 2pm about the firm’s work.)

Most KM discussions focus on precedents, document retrieval, or experience location. Here, the KM is about best practices, specifically for handling a class of cases. It is a relatively uncommon – and highly valuable – way to make explicit know-how that typically remains tacit (i.e., capture process know-how of lawyers and litigation support professionals in software). I suspect that any firm that handles a volume of complex matters could benefit from this approach. Doing so would require more collaboration among lawyers, knowledge managers, and lit supp professionals than is typical.