Our firm certainly has amassed a lot of knowledge, having grown to over 650 attorneys focusing in just one specialty of law (labor and employment law). Much of that knowledge lies in file folders, memos, Redwelds, and in the tens of millions of documents on our firm’s electronic document management system. Perhaps even more resides in the brains of our attorneys. It’s quite an impressive collection.
But what good is the collective knowledge of so many attorneys if it cannot be summoned efficiently? What good are the millions of documents they have generated if they cannot readily be found and re-used? Our clients demand excellence, but also efficiency. That’s where Knowledge Management (KM) Counsel come in.
KM Counsel (sometimes referred to elsewhere as “Practice Support Lawyers”) are former practicing shareholders and associates now tasked, on a full-time basis, with capturing and organizing the collective knowledge of a firm’s (or legal department’s) attorneys, whether that information resides within the attorneys’ minds or exists in digital or paper form.
KM Counsel can draft or collect high-quality, up-to-date exemplar documents and templates (like “gold-standard” settlement agreements, discovery demands, or removal papers), which are readily available to the firm’s attorneys at a moment’s notice, obviating the need to reinvent the wheel at the expense of the client. They can make the millions of documents on the file system easier to find, by championing better naming protocols, better use of metadata fields, more consistent use of the document management system, and better search tools. They can vet firm attorneys for subject matter expertise, enabling a faster connection between a nuanced legal problem and a subject matter expert who has already faced it. They can create ways for practicing attorneys to collaborate (such as the creation of client-specific or topic-specific SharePoint pages or wikis available to the firm’s or department’s attorneys). They can interview senior attorneys and capture their thoughts and strategies for the next generation of attorneys.
Any one of these KM Counsel efforts will ensure you are gaining more from the collective knowledge of your firm’s attorneys. Tackle them all and you will be a champion of excellence and efficiency.
Evan J. Shenkman is Senior Knowledge Management Counsel with Ogletree Deakins.