These are my real time notes from an ILTA webinar on 26 September 2014 that recaps – in one hour – the six hour-long knowledge management session at the 2014 annual conference of the International Legal Technology Association, held in August in Nashville.  This is real time post, so forgive any typos or inaccurate quotes.  I have appended below the full session description and speaker bios (from here.)


Rise of Expert Systems (Michael Mills).  Question is whether expert systems threaten traditional legal services or provide an opportunity. Since all 3 panelists are building systems, panel did not have anyone who challenged the notion of expert systems.

Expert systems require experts to build – they do not create themselves automatically. They take the expertise of one or more people and encapsulate it in software. Cites a written expert system for medical treatment, from Egyptian times, pre-BC!

Expert systems have two components: knowledge represented in various forms such as Boolean logic, factor weighting, and decision trees; and the inference engine that integrates and runs the rules.

Outside of law, expert systems permeate life. Cites a medical mobile app for ER docs; IRS, Ikea, as using.  One firm, Littler, is in vanguard of using experts systems. Littler is building three types: first, for business development; second, internal systems for lawyer QC.

Students in some law school classes are now building functioning expert systems. A moot-court competition at end of semester.  Some apps have gone into production at legal aid societies. (See, for example, Iron Tech Lawyer at Georgetown Law.)


KM Security and Compliance (Tim Golden).  Security is not optional. The information in enterprise search and precedent banks may be controlled by clients, who object to sharing. So firms must consider what they share and with whom. Some clients want information segregated at the matter level (meaning it is not enough to limit to all lawyers on that client). These clients regularly audit law firm compliance with client security and sharing guidelines.

So, as security professionals, we now have a “closed” document management system (DMS). Firms must also actively manage ethical walls.  His firm has separated admin staff and lawyers; former do not have access to client documents.

But KM is not optional either. Clients pressure firms for more value and efficiency. ABA says lawyers should share information unless clients otherwise instruct. But outside counsel guidelines (example from Internet available document) limits use of information to the team working on the matter. How do we reconcile these?

Share or lock-down? Tim says this is a false choice. Security is neither total lock down nor access to everyone for everything. The way to align is for firms to consciously decide on sharing approach. Firms must consider the trade-off between usability of knowledge and security of client data (and their specific guidances). KM and security teams must talk regularly and be joined at the hip.


Leveraging Experience (David Hobbie ).  Panel focused on why experience management is important for pricing. It’s a way to do a better job setting pricing. Realization rate is at 83% on average for large firms. Having an effective experience management supports better resource allocation, which helps avoid write-offs.

Leading law firms are using data analytics to determine how various factors – admin and practice side – can predict pricing and realization issues. References software to capture pricing experience tied to experience.


Failure Party (Rachelle Rennagel).  Always interesting to be asked to speak publicly about failure. Panelists discussed issue and realize that discussing failure should not induce shame. Failure is the flip-side of success. Most success rests on many failures. Cites toddlers learning to walk as example. We all need to learn how to learn from failure in a safe environment.

Distinguishes failure from simply not acting or procrastinating to point of failure.

Recognizes that lawyers and law firms are very risk averse and therefore it’s hard to welcome failure. Panel discussed ways to mitigate this. A key panel take-away was buy-in and transparency with all new projects. At project commencement, set the ground for possible failure.

Rachelle discusses one of her “learning opportunities.” A project she brought in all the stakeholders of the firm. But project failed. As leader, accepting failure – calling its death – was hard. Organization understood that team the best it could, so it was ok.

If you experience a failure, it’s key to internalize the lessons learned and apply to future projects. Cites the importance of after-action-reviews for both failures and successes.

Rachelle learned these lessons: (1) Software vendor said it could not do a POC; “I should have insisted on a POC. (2) Needed to manage expectations.  Need to understand own and users’.  Her own expectations were very high. But needed to recognize that users’ expectation of solution features were very different (much lower).  So align expectations.  (3) Patience is required.

Summary: ok to fail and good share so we can learn collectively.


Gamification ( Milena Higgins).  Four panelists showed the gamification concept during panel.  The goal of gamification is to encourage user engagement. In the panel, used points and leaderboard to encourage audience participation. The leaderboard induced good competion – participation.

Key take-aways. First, don’t be fooled by name. Gamification is just a tool to achieve business goals.  Reward, recognition, reputation, and return drive better behaviors. Rewards drive behavior; recognition creates visibility for all; reputation ties to points and level (eg, frequent flyer programs); return means repeat behavior.

Second, expect resistance, “we are lawyers, we don’t do games”.  But that flies in face of lawyer actual behavior.  Tips to overcome…  avoid using word game and looking too much like a game. Have a champion to get things started.  “Lawyers are sheep. Conservative by nature. But they join herd”.  Iterate and improve.  Consider how leader board works, specifically frequency of update. Daily may be too much; consider monthly. You may need to “throttle” so that users cannot get too many points from easy behaviors that just drive points, not behavioral changes.


Upselling KM: What Would Don Draper Do (Joshua Fireman). Scenario is ad agency in late 1960s approached by client who wants to promote KM in his firm. Agency does not know anything about KM. So agency has to start by defining KM. But need one that will resonate with the firm: some definitions work in the KM bubble but not in the firm at large. So definition they came up with was ” connect people with knowledge, connect people with people, and connect people with solutions “.  The focus on “connections” was the theme of the “campaign”.

Agency had to figure out what lawyers care about. The key focus of lawyers they decided: money. There must be an impact on the bottom line.

One agency exec helped group understand that the client, and law firms generally, have fluid and amorphous management. A cross between Animal Farm and Lord of the Files. You have to work through a “jungle like” atmosphere.

So eschew traditional sales approach of requirements and ‘do the right thing’. Instead, focus on share of market and share of wallet; show how KM achieves these goals.

Sales is not just internal; it also needs to be to clients. Need to take sales to clients to sell them on value. Today, some firms are creating product and actively reaching out to clients.

[Did not capture try to capture Q&A]



If you missed any of the knowledge management track sessions at the ILTA Conference — or if you just want a reminder of the great stuff you saw — join session speakers from each of the six KM sessions as they boil down their presentations into 10-minute snippets. This will be a fast-paced, intense review of the excellent KM content from the conference. We’ll review the following sessions:

  • The Rise of Expert Systems: Threat or Opportunity to Traditional Legal Services?
  • KM, Security and Compliance: Fist Fight or Compromise?
  • Leveraging Experience To Enhance the Bottom Line: New Information and New Tools
  • It’s a Failure Party! How To Celebrate These Learning Opportunities
  • Gaming the Lawyers: Driving Adoption, Contribution and Change
  • Upselling KM: What Would Don Draper Do?

Patrick DiDomenico is the Director of Knowledge Management at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. A member of ILTA’s SharePoint Symposium and Knowledge Management Peer Group steering committees, he also publishes the LawyerKM blog and runs the Knowledge Management for Legal Professionals LinkedIn group. Patrick’s book about KM for lawyers will be published by the ABA at the end of 2014. Contact him at

Joshua Fireman, the founder and President of Fireman & Company, has practiced law with two of North America’s largest law firms and was in-house counsel at a multibillion-dollar, multinational corporation. He is recognized as one of the leading experts in law firm strategic consulting and as a thought leader in areas such as knowledge management and change management, and is a frequent speaker at law firm retreats and industry conferences. Contact Joshua at

Timothy Golden from McGuireWoods has been with the firm for 15 years and is responsible for all cross-functional areas within IT, including architecture review, project management, quality assurance, information security, release/change/configuration management, and IT policies, procedures and metrics. Tim is also a member of ILTA’s LegalSEC and Professional Services steering committees. Contact him

Milena Higgins is the Director of Litigation Knowledge Management at Fish & Richardson, where she drives business process improvements and litigation transformation efforts to increase efficiency and productivity and collaborates with many different groups at the firm to help collect and disseminate knowledge. She is also a member of the ILTA KM Peer Group steering committee. Contact Milena at

David Hobbie is the Litigation Knowledge Manager at Goodwin Procter, where he also evaluates new technology of potential use to the litigation department and assists the pricing and legal project management function through litigation analytics and experience management. David is the conference committee liaison for ILTA’s KM Peer Group steering committee, founded the ILTA KM blog and blogs at Caselines. Contact him

Michael Mills is a co-founder of Neota Logic. Prior to that, he was the chief knowledge officer and co-head of technology at Davis Polk & Wardwell for 20 years after practicing as a litigation and bankruptcy partner at Mayer Brown. Michael is also a director of Pro Bono Net, which provides innovative technology for the nonprofit legal sector. Contact him at

Rachelle Rennagel, E-Discovery Counsel and the Director of Practice Technologies at Patterson Belknap, oversees the firm’s practice support, paralegal and library departments, and is responsible for KM initiatives. As a practicing attorney, she also acts as an intermediary between the firm’s attorneys and IT. Rachelle is a frequent lecturer on a broad range of technology and legal issues. Contact her at