The Ark KM in the Legal Profession conference just wrapped up day 2 of 3. Leading knowledge management practitioners from the US, Canada, and England are participating. My take away is that KM may be morphing. 

Jason Marty, Global Director, KM, Baker McKenzie and Julia Randell-Khan, Director KM, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were among the presenters. At both firms, KM appears to include many elements of what traditionally has been separate practice support functions (i.e., the more general application of technology to law practice). Both firms have carefully aligned their efforts with their firms’ strategies. At Freshfields, my sense is that KM is, at least in part, driving the firm’s strategy, not just supporting it.

Outside the conference, I have seen firms that say they “don’t do KM” but that provide significant practice support (e.g., deal databases) that is arguably a knowledge management function. And at some firms, KM professionals get pulled away from traditional KM work to act as the “translation layer” between IT and lawyers as firms roll out major upgrades.

If these firms are early adopters rather than outliers, it will be interesting to see how KM evolves. A dozen years ago, TQM and business process re-engineering were the rage. You rarely hear these terms now, but elements of those disciplines have been widely adopted. A dozen years from now, perhaps we will no longer talk of KM; it just may be embedded in other practices and departments, with a scope broader in some respects and narrower in others than today.