7/2/09

Has ‘IT’ Killed ‘KM’?

I’ve commented in the past about how I think that Knowledge Management (KM) has become so overwhelmed with technology products that the individuals in KM have become ‘tech support’ rather than knowledge managers. Yesterday, I read two different articles that reinforced my conception of what I think is a major flaw in the idea of “Knowledge Management” within law firms.

Michael Maoz of Gartner brought up the issue of why ‘IT lacked the prowess to perceive or advise on the unfolding crisis’ of the financial meltdown. When I was reading this, I kept replacing “IT” with “KM” (as I think what Maoz was talking about fit more of the KM model in the law firm setting.) Questions Maoz raised such as:

  • Where has all of our [KM] investment in data mining, analytics, forecasting, and measurement gotten us?
  • And how, exactly, did [KM] track, identify, perceive, illustrate, communicate, or work to prevent rotten loans and false premises about future growth and profit and shaky forecasts?

These questions show the flaw in how we are looking at KM. Knowledge Management isn’t a software or database issue! These questions seem to take on the idea that by putting your contacts in a database, storing your documents in a central repository, and slapping a search interface on all of these databases is “Knowledge Management”. We seem to think that if we have enough technology it will magically transform into some quasi-artificial intelligence.

The second article I read was one of the Penny Edwards’ articles on Social Networking for the Legal Profession. Edwards mentions that the approach we take to capturing “knowledge” is a hold over of the 1990’s IT ‘centralized’, or as she put it in her book “Industrial Technology.” Edwards states it best when she writes that our KM tools are ineffective because:

many of the large, centralised, top-down implementations in firms have focused on enforcing information and management processes. It's no wonder that many of these specialist applications are underused - with their different interfaces and rules for user interactions that require people to spend time figuring out how to use them, compiling information to be approved for inclusion, and then trying to find the information once it has made it into the system. They are not user-friendly, and they don't reflect the workings of a network where people turn to people to get what they need.

As I’ve said before, the original concept of KM was to “leverage our internal experience and expertise to help us face future challenges”. Knowledge Management was originally an idea that came forth in the library field as a way to catalog internal information in a similar way we where cataloging external information. However, because it would be nearly impossible for a librarian to catalog every piece of internal information, KM slowly moved over to the IT structure by attempting to make the creator of the information (that would be the attorney who wrote the document or made the contact) also be the “cataloger” of the information. Processes were created through the use of technology that were supposed to assist them in identifying the correct classification. In my opinion, this type of self-cataloging and attempt at creating a ultra-structured system creates a process that is:

  1. difficult to use;
  2. doesn’t fit the way that lawyers conduct their day-to-day work;
  3. gives a false sense of believing that the knowledge has been captured and can be easily recovered;
  4. leads to user frustration and “work around” methods; and
  5. results in expensive, underutilized software resources.

Lee Bryant mentions that applying 20th Century ideas of centralizing and applying the industrial model of mass production is the wrong approach for how we capture and apply knowledge in the 21st Century. Both Bryant and Edwards think that the answer to pulling KM out of the 20th Century structure is to get away from the centralization method and begin re-learning the way that lawyers conduct their business. They identify that the source of lawyers’ “ideas, knowledge, leads, business opportunities, support, trust and co-operation” are developed through their social interactions. The suggestion is that KM should stop trying to be a highly structured method of gathering knowledge (Industrial Knowledge Gathering or ‘KM 1.0’), and identify ways that social networking (Social Knowledge Gathering or ‘KM 2.0’) can be leveraged to influence the uptake of ideas and trends.

Bookmark and Share

7/1/09

Alternative Fees - "How To" Tech

All this talk about alternative billing and alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) might lead one to believe there are numerous tools on the market for managing these. I've previously posted on 3 Geeks about how budgets sit at the core of AFAs and on methods for building reasonable budgets. With that concept in mind, a firm needs a tool set for creating, modeling and then monitoring AFA budgets. Creating is something previously discussed. Modeling is playing with the budget; shifting tasks, adjusting leverage and generally driving numbers that will benefit clients and lead to profitable engagements for firms. Budget monitoring is the long-haul, oar-in-the-water effort of making sure efforts stay on budget and firms remain profitable. As well, these monitoring efforts will create a knowledge base that will enable more effective budget creation and modeling going forward. So what tools are out there? The short answer: not much. The Lexis owned Redwood Analytics is the the most evolved tool I found. And it's on a reasonable development path. Redwood has been around a while and with a focus on law firm financial analysis, was well-poised to meet the emerging AFA needs. So it's good to see a viable tool on the horizon. Beyond Redwood, I found vendors willing to build something. This is not encouraging. For all the push for AFAs, a lack of tools will serve as a serious impediment to adoption. A vendor building a one-off custom application is not a good option in my opinion. These leave firms in a dead-end position. The power of a commerically developed tool with ongoing development will go a long way towards driving AFA adoption and success. On a side / related note, the in-house law department vendors seem to be heading in the same direction as Redwood. I suppose with their more immediate demands for AFAs, legal departments should be driving this development. I must say I am disappointed at the lack of tools for managing AFAs. In the short-run firms will be doing a lot of AFA management manually. Not the best situation, but one we'll live with for the time being.

Bookmark and Share

6/30/09

Review of Headshift's Penny Edwards' "Social Networking for the Legal Profession"

Although I follow a number of blogs dealing with the topics of law and technology, I would have to admit that one of the best out there is the Headshift Blog. Their byline of "smarter, simpler, social" hits a chord with me and it is one of those types of blogs where you tend to read something that allows you to say "We could do something like that here."
There are a number of highly intelligent, yet approachable people at Headshift, but by far my favorite has got to be Penny Edwards. Penny and I have been "twitter-buddies" since last year and we've shared a number of experiences of how we approach social networking within the law firm. A few months ago, Penny asked if she could interview me for her upcoming Ark Group publication "Social Networking for the Legal Profession" that she co-wrote with Lee Bryant. I was happy that she thought of including me in her research, but in reality, I was really excited about talking with her over the phone and seeing if she was really as smart as she seemed via our Twitter conversations. (She is, and more!)
FYI -- The Ark Group Report can be purchased (with a special discounted price through these Headshift blog links:
Penny has since followed up her report with a series of blog posts that explain the process that she and Lee took to "look at ways in which legal professionals are exploiting social networking for business." They looked at the internal and external forces that were creating conditions to encourage law firms to "rethink the way legal practices operate and emerge as more effective businesses." Where some firms are looking at cutting back on costs while others are seeking new ways to exploit the challenges in order to find new approaches to how they conduct business.
Penny followed up with stating the fact that when law firms and lawyers talk about 'social' what they are really saying is 'business'. Whether it be "relationship building", "individual branding", "expertise and knowledge proliferation", "developing legal expertise", or "building a guild-like community", lawyers that use social networking successfully have an understanding of what they are accomplishing.
Penny's latest edition of the "Social Networking for the Legal Profession" discusses the way it is creating new ways of working. In my opinion, social networking processes can create some of the things that Knowledge Management professions have been wanting for over a decade now. I'm worried though that the process is developing in an ad hoc way and is not being recognized by many in the KM profession.
I highly recommend that you read Penny Edwards' blog posts on "Social Networking for the Legal Profession", and if your budget can afford it, to buy the Ark Group report. Penny and her cohorts over at Headshift are thought leaders not just on social networking, but also on understanding the shifting environment that is facing all of us in the legal profession. I'm happy that they are willing to share some of that expertise via the Headshift blog.

Bookmark and Share

6/27/09

How Law Firm Leaders Can Learn From Reuters' Challenges

I usually don't post on the weekends, but I found this quote last night and it really stuck with me:
We must devote the time now to demystifying what we do, and working in concert with those who would seem to be a threat to the old order. Remember that the world ultimately is a reciprocal place. Treat people with respect and as partners, and they will partner with you. Treat people as a threat or as criminals, and they will threaten your institution and ultimately bring it down. This path doesn't have to be scary.
Although this was from a speech by David Schlesinger, Editor-in-Chief Reuters News, given to the International Committee Press Commission on June 23rd, it could be given by any Chairman of any American law firm.
In a time of layoffs, lowering of associate salaries, deferment of associate start dates, removing lock-step promotions, and changing business models (billable hours, fixed fees or alternative billing), it is time for leaders to step back and see if they are doing the things that David Schlesinger mentions:
  1. You're the leader - are you taking the time to lead? (devote the time)
  2. Do those that follow you understand what it is we are doing? (demystify what we do)
  3. Have you identified the reasons for the change and understand it is not going away? (work in concert with the threats to the old world order)
  4. Are the decisions being made in a vacuum, or are you meeting with those that the change is affecting and soliciting ideas from those in the trenches? (remember the world is a reciprocal place)
  5. Are you treating everyone with respect and allowing them to team with you? (treat people as partners and they will partner with you)
  6. Or, are you treating everyone as challenger to your plan and believe that they are the barricades to your plan succeeding? (treat people as criminals and they will threaten your institution and ultimately bring it down)
Following the steps listed above can create a situation where people are moving forward, plan in hand, and with an understanding of what the goals are they are trying to achieve. People therefore understand the challenge and although they may be anxious of what the future has in store for them (it doesn't have to be scary).

Bookmark and Share

6/26/09

myCorporateResource.com - Alerting You to Law Firm Alerts

Yesterday, I had a Twitter alert that came through my "law firm search feed" that really stuck out to me. Someone was tweeting about an alert that my firm had written (and it wasn't someone within the firm doing it.) So, I got curious to see who would be interested enough to mention the alert and discovered a site that I think may be one of the best legal information tools to come around in a long time.
@HRLegalAlerts
@Memorable_Hours
The name of the website is called "myCorporateResource.com", but the name really doesn't give it the true justice that it deserves. But, I guess "OhMyGodICanFinallyQuitCompilingTheseAlerts.com" would be too long a name for the site. But, when I saw it, that was the first thing that popped into my head.
myCorporateResource [mCR] compiles the client alerts published by AmLaw 100 firms, aggregates the the alerts into categories, reviews the alerts, sorts them and summarizes the content. mCR does all of this for FREE!! I've been doing a similar project in-house for a couple of years now (but, not for free!) In addition to the compilation of articles, mCR has also produced an RSS feed for each of their categories.
mCR points to the nine general themes of their website:
  1. Corporate Team: A distinct "portal" to topical legal alerts, regulatory press releases, rules announcements and industry insider blogs.
  2. Client Memoranda: Attorney written alerts and briefings split into industry, corporate roles, area of law and geography.
  3. RSS Feeds: Over 70 feeds set up by individual categories of industry, professional role, area of law and geography.
  4. 24 (Memo)rables Hours: A list of everything they've compiled in the last 24 hours.
  5. Lex Pop: mCR tracks which articles and alerts are being clicked on the most, and lets you know which ones they are.
  6. Hot Topics: When there is a "hot topic" in the legal field, there are dozens of attorneys writing on that topic. mCR compiles those articles and alerts in one place for easy browsing.
  7. The SEC: All those press releases, blogs and rules releases that the SEC produces, all in one place.
  8. Standout Material: Although I couldn't get this link to work, I'm assuming what they are doing is highlighting what the mCR reviewers consider to be an outstanding article on a particular subject.
  9. Memo of the Week: One truly great article written that week.
I've contacted the folks at mCR and hope to have an interview with them at some point to discuss the how's and why's of mCR in a follow-up post.
I'm not sure how I've missed this site in my quest for finding good law firm articles and alerts aggregators, but I'm glad I found it. This is hands-down the best law firm articles and alerts aggregator that I've seen on the market, with Lexology being a close second.
The only criticism I have for mCR is that it would be nice to have a way to sign up for email alerts based on the same type of criteria you have with the RSS feed. And, the website itself looks a little amateurish and very busy with information. Neither of these critiques are major issues, however, as the content is really what I'm looking for.
Hats off to myCorporateResource.com for pulling all of this information together. Great Job!

Bookmark and Share

6/25/09

Legal Dating

I was sitting in a break-out session at a very prestigious law conference when an older lawyer asked, "what is marketing? I just don't get it." Out of my mouth, faster than than I could think, I said, "it's just like dating." And it is. Marketing is like trying to get that first meeting to turn into a lasting, committed relationship. Go ahead, chuckle, but it is true. Think back to when you started dating. You went places where you knew you would meet eligible partners: parties, social events, church. Any where that you thought single, eligible, like-minded people would meet. Even online, right? Then when you saw someone you were interested in meeting, you tried to figure out an opening line--a common interest. You started a conversation, listened intently to what that person was interested in and then if you asked them to go on a date and begin to develop a relationship. Well, some of us are better at dating than others. And that's what legal marketers do: we are legal matchmakers. We give you the place, the date, the list of common interests. We will even teach you how to ask someone out on that second date. But we can't guarantee that you will end up in a long-term committed relationship. That's up to you.

Bookmark and Share

6/23/09

Librarians Petition for an Improved PACER

I like the ingenuity of a group of law librarians to petition the Adminitrative Office of the US Courts to improve some of the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) services. (For those of you outside the US legal industry, PACER is the US Federal Court's online Docket system, and an extremely valuable research and information tool run by the courts.)
The Petition is short and sweet, and doesn't really ask for anything radical such as universal free access (which, some argue it should be, and others say to leave it alone, but that's a different post, for a different time.)
Here's the petition:
We ask the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to improve PACER by enhancing the authenticity, usability and availability of the system. We the undersigned, urge the Administrative Office of the US Courts (AO) to make the following changes to the PACER system:
  • For verification and reliability, the AO should digitally sign every document put into PACER using readily available technology.
  • PACER needs to be much more readily accessible if it is to be usable for research, education, and the practice of law. Improved accessibility includes both lowering the costs for using PACER and enhancing the web interfaces.
  • Depository libraries should also have free access to PACER
Here's a breakdown of what the Petition is asking:
Digital Signature -- Verifying that the document is authentic should have probably been built into the system from the beginning.
Improved Interface -- PACER's interface hasn't improved in years. Improving the end-user's ability to find and download documents faster would reduce the cost to the end user and improve the overall usability of the system.
Free Access for Depository Libraries -- The Depository Libraries have been a valuable resource both to the public and to the US Government. Giving the users of these libraries access to the PACER documents would allow citizens the access they need to court records.
These are baby steps that the Administrative Office could take to make PACER a little better for everyone. Read through some of the comments that petition signers have left, and then take the time to read the petition yourself. If you agree that the Administrative Office should make these three changes to PACER, then I encourage you to sign the petition as well.
  • #154 - Long ago I worked for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals Law Library system when PACER was just being developed. I understand the financial constraints and programming issues involved in upgrading PACER. However, I now work in a public law library serving mainly unrepresented litigants, who greatly used and benefited from PACER when it was made available for public use on a test basis. Access to these public documents should be a priority, and I respectfully urge that the AOC do whatever possible to make this happen
  • #84 - It's time that Pacer move into the 21st Century. The improvements that have been made in regards to retrieving documents is fine but the search engine and ease of use is missing. I am also requesting along with others that Pacer reflects: verification and reliability and that the AO should digitally sign every document put into PACER using readily available technology.
  • #65 - Ours is a public library in a small town, and several of our library users are attorneys or students studying law or legal history. Often these students are studying to become lawyers or paralegals. Free access to legal websites such as PACER are important for these users of our library, as well as for the general public whom they serve or hope to be serving professionally.
  • #40 - I feel the PACER interface is deplorably outdated and complicated for the layperson. If I as a law librarian sometimes feel confused using PACER, what chance does a pro se patron have of confidently using the system?
  • #29 - I have used Pacer regularly for faculty research for several years. I work in a depository library. We have one account for a law school of almost 900 students. Law students need and deserve greater access to documents in Pacer. After all, they will be using the system in their professional lives immediately after law school. In addition, there is nothing to prove the authenticity of the documents retrieved from Pacer. Both an electronic signature and a watermark with docket source seem to be worthwhile and feasible ideas. We are at a point in time where it is possible to lower the price, increase access, and maintain security. Thank you for considering the possibilities.
  • #9 - A few things would be really helpful: 1) Offer a bulk access, flat-rate license fee. Many would pay for bulk access and update. 2) Please do a better job identifying judicial opinions. Often not tagged or mis-tagged. 3) It would be great to unify PACER in a single web application instead of different apps for each court. Justia has a nice UI for this. 4) I would also support a re-rationalization of access fees so that they are proportionate to costs. I have no problem with fees to cover the costs of maintenance, or even fees to cover costs of modernization. But it seems like costs are disproportionately high for the amount of effort currently envisioned. Thanks for your consideration!
  • #4 - Access to primary legal materials is a foundational issue for the judiciary. We cannot be a nation of laws if the proceedings of our courts are distributed at high cost and with no certificate of authenticity.

Bookmark and Share

6/22/09

Know When to Hold 'Em; Know When to Fold 'Em - 2.0 Style

Here is an insight to the Web 2.0 World:
  • One of the best 'features' of Web 2.0 is that it allows you to instantly react to what others are saying.
  • One of the worst 'features' of Web 2.0 is that it allows you to instantly react to what others are saying.
The trick seems to be knowing when to react, and when to ignore. I'll give you two good examples that I've seen recently where a company (AT&T) and a law firm (Holland & Knight) played a great hand at handling rumors.
AT&T
Over the weekend, there were rumors spread by the 2.0 crowd (you know, blogs, tweets, facebook, friendfeeds and the other bazillion 2.0 tools out there) that AT&T would charge an extra $55.00 per month if you tethered your brand new iPhone 3GS. AT&T, to its credit, took this rumor by the horns - 2.0 Style - and used its Facebook page to quell the rumors and let everyone know that it would not cost an extra $55.00 to tether the phone to your laptop. That is once AT&T actually fixes the problem with its tethering capability with the new 3GS (which no one seems to know when that is.)
Holland & Knight
I almost hate to mention this one because I don't like giving any popularity to whoever is behind this effort to bad mouth (bad tweet?) a firm on a continual rotating basis. But, here I go anyway. Holland & Knight has itself a Twittergeist that originally grabbed the name @hklaw (which is Holland & Knight's URL name) and now goes by @hklawtwits - and has over 2,600 followers. This person apparently knows a couple of lines of web script and has created what seems to be a rotating montage of old news stories that link to "bad press" articles, and also gives some... shall we say "expanded" commentary (also know as "half-truths") about the story within the tweet itself.
I usually don't care if someone has a bone to pick with a firm (in fact, I usually encourage such behavior), but this one seems a little hell-bent, and there is one particular tweet that hits the rotation about a H&K Secretary that was murdered that seems to show this person doesn't really have a good social filter to know when to draw the line on what's fair game and what is just a tragedy that doesn't need to be used as leverage against a firm that he or she so despises.
So, what does Holland & Knight do to quell these rumors?? - Apparently, absolutely nothing. And, unlike some of my peers out there, I think this is the right approach. Just because you can react, doesn't mean you need to react. I think that the PR people over at H&K are probably monitoring this person and the tweets, but don't really have a need to react publicly to the rumors that are being spread. Sometimes it is better to know when to stay silent and resist those knee-jerk reactions than it is to follow your gut and go after every rumor that is placed in the 2.0 world.

Bookmark and Share

6/12/09

The Value Sweet Spot

Jay Shepherd’s post on ‘associates as overhead’ got me thinking about associates and value. Jay closes his post with the comment, “They (clients) want to pay for value.” His main point is that law firms should bill by value and not by time keeper. This idea has merit, but as I have previously posted, clients are struggling to get from here (hourly) to there (value). In the meantime, I would be cautious about a blanket write-off of associates in the value column. My read on associates and value is that the dialogue tends to focus on first year associates who make $140-160k in salary. To support that rate of pay, they have commensurate billing rates. Commentaries on value-to-price (just given rates) for this type of work are generally not favorable. And these comments dominate the associate value dialogue. Turning this evaluation up-side-down – if I were in-house counsel, which lawyers would I want working on my matters? The quick response might be Partners, since they have the most experience. However, I would challenge that assumption. If it were me and my fees were in any way, shape or form connected to the billable hour (as most fees are these days), I would want senior associates doing as much of my work as possible. I would only want partners on high-level tasks, drawing more on their wealth of knowledge than their practice experience. Senior associates are in what I would call the Value Sweet Spot. They have a strong level of experience and mid-level billing rates. Of course, I would make adjustments to this approach for matters on the fringe - matters that are either very commodity level or highly technical. But those types of matters are more exceptions than the bulk of the legal work done at firms. The Moral of My Story: In-house counsel would be wise to drive work to the Value Sweet Spot. Senior associates fit nicely in this spot.

Bookmark and Share

6/11/09

Security Priorities for Law Firms

Bruce Schneier, the guru on security, posted on the differences in information security breaches by type of industry. Schneier is referencing a scientific study of security breaches. This study was looking to see if there were major differences in types of breaches by industry. Professional Services is one of the industries highlighted. Looking into the results of the study something struck me and it was not about the differences. The study utilized a negative conclusion approach, attempting to prove there were no differences and what actually struck me were the similarities. Schneier is always great about pointing out the obvious that is overlooked due to frenzy and fear. Most organizations spend their time and money on internet security reacting to media headlines about banks being hacked. However, these attacks are actually the lowest information loss concern for all industries. Here is where the similarities come in. The top breach concern is hardware loss (38%), then internal staff – malicious or not (35%) followed by internet attacks (22%). Logically, an organization should commit its security resources along these same lines. But fear and frenzy drive organizations to expend the bulk of their security effort on protecting against hackers. While at the Utah State Bar when I would present on security (and the duty of lawyers holding client data), invariable everyone figured installing a firewall was information security. Given the actual threats to law firm information, firms and lawyers would be better off prioritizing their security by: 1) encrypting their hardware (especially laptops), then 2) establishing and following good information policies and procedures for staff, and finally 3) getting on top of firewalls, virus protection, etc. By the way – The Professional Services industry did match the expected averages. Keep this in mind next time you worry about the security of client information in your possession.

Bookmark and Share

6/10/09

How To Find Upcoming Webinars Using Web 2.0 Search Tools

Yesterday, we pointed out a few freebie online presentation tools. Last week we talked about the "new way to conference" where you can find a lot of webinars or live video feed presentations. So, that got me thinking this morning about how many actual webinars are going on throughout the day, and how on earth would I be able to get that information. I could try to "Google" this information, or maybe sign up for some type of monitoring service that would let me know when events such as webinars were coming up. But, I've tried these types of things in the past, and found that they just don't work for me.
Then the lightbulb came on. If I really want to find some "real-time" information, especially on online presentations, then I really need to search Twitter to see what people are talking about right now. With Twitter Search, or my trusty TweetDeck Search Column -- plus, years of Boolean Search Knowledge under my belt, I set forth and came up with the following search string:
Basically it says this: Find me any tweets that say either Webinar or Webcast plus the the word Today or Tomorrow in the same tweet, then also have a Link to the presentation. Plug that into my TweetDeck for continuous updating throughout the day, and viola! You have immediate results that point you to webinars that are going on either today or tomorrow.
Seo for Small Business
Google Algorithms
Blogging 101
Panel on Health Reform
Some are going to be irrelevant to what you are interested in, but there are a few that pop out at me that I might have never have thought to attend (or never have know existed) before I ran this simple search. Just another way to leveraging the power of Web 2.0 resources to help you find new and interesting things.

Bookmark and Share

6/9/09

Three Free Online Presentation Tools

I just couldn't live up to my reputation as the "cheap geek" if I didn't share this with you. There are a couple of new presentation ("free" presentation) tools out there that I thought all of you might be interested in.
1. Adobe ConnectNow (http://www.acrobat.com)
Basically a free version of webEx.
Extremely slick presentation. Share program, desktop, etc.
You can use microphone to present, plus a built in chat feature.
It also has a phone number you can use, but it is not a toll-free number. So, you'd need a MagicJack to get around the toll charges! ;-)
2. Present.IO (http://present.io)
This is a resource from Drop.IO
Not as slick as Adobe, but still free!!
I think you can upload files, but cannot share your desktop (correct me if I'm wrong on this one).
Same as Adobe, it has a phone number you can call in to conference, but not toll-free
Plus, another freebie:
3. Authorstream now has a "Present Live" feature on presenting PowerPoint Presentations.
Simple and effective way of presenting PPTs.
Allows you to move through the presentation and lets everyone keep on the same page
You can embed the presentation into a webpage (say along side your UStream video presentation)
Problem that I found is that anyone can move the PPT to the next or previous slide. So, some 'crafty' geek (cough - Toby - cough) would be having fun moving things to the next slide when you're not ready.
Okay… that's my "free" resources that you can use for the day!! Big tip-o-the-hat to Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell for their mentioning of ConnectNow and Present.IO in there podcast on The Future of Search.

Bookmark and Share
 

© 2014, All Rights Reserved.