I vacillate back-and-forth between intense frustration and mild curiosity when faced with the task of defining knowledge management (KM) for law firms. When talking with lawyers about KM, the most frequent response I get is quite curious. “KM? It’s about time we get into KM. It’s absolutely necessary to a firm’s success.” But then when I push for the person’s definition of KM, it’s typically vague or overly narrow. So … how can something so misunderstood be so universally valued?

As law firms approach KM and work to bring it into the practice, they will have to answer this first question. Attempting to implement something you can’t even define is a recipe for failure. Money spent will be money spent.

The reality of this situation is likely akin to the old ’10 blind men with their hands on the elephant’ story. Everyone can explain how KM will benefit them in a specific way, but they can’t describe the parts of the elephant they can’t see.

Perhaps the real task in defining KM is helping each person understand how their piece of KM fits so nicely into the bigger picture of KM. Finding the common threads and shedding light on them may well be the best path to a sound and useful definition.

As Dad always said; “A challenge is just an opportunity in disguise.”