At the Ark KM Conference in October, I moderated the session “Management Views of KM.” So what do “customers” think of KM? 

I suggested and moderated this panel (moderator questions here) because full-time, practicing lawyers rarely attend KM gatherings. All three panelists (participant info here) are practice group leaders and a couple are on the firm’s management committee; their firms range in size from 100 to 400 lawyers. Their views on KM were similar, all supporting it and saying it is important. The panelists cited many KM drivers; three stood out for me:

  • Informal dollar caps on matters. Clients may not ask for budgets but for some matters, lawyers know that if they go over a certain amount, it’s asking for trouble. So they want tools for efficiency.
  • The need for speed. Clients often face deadlines they can’t control. If outside counsel can deliver work product and advice quickly, it helps make the client look good.
  • RFPs, which frequently ask about the firm’s KM capabilities.

The panel agreed in concept about the value of KM but acknowledged that getting lawyers to change how they work is hard, though some elicited “good KM behavior” in their own practices. One way they suggested to get around lawyers not contributing was to rely more on secretaries to contribute to KM efforts.

I may be guilty of seeing what I want to, but I think the panelists confirm my view that KM needs to rely more on automated approaches and morph into a broader practice support role. For additional views on the panel, see Tom Baldwin’s comments over at his Knowledgeline blog.