Don’t let information fall through the cracks
Knowledge about the past determines what choices are made in the present. And lawyers seek out knowledge for this exact reason.
A law firm’s intellectual property is where its power lies.
The creation of processes and systems that allow the collection, analysis, and reuse of past work products and information plays a leading role in decision-making in the legal sector.
So, what are these legal decisions based on?
Putting aside the painfully obvious answer – the law – decisions are rooted in the findings of these three activities:
- Combing through past experiences.
- Analysing fact situations.
- Relying on the expertise and past cases of other lawyers.
With the support of abundant and invaluable information, not only do you expedite the adoption of resolutions, but also deliver increased value.
In fact, law firms distinguish themselves through their diverse talent and know-how.
Nonetheless, finding an exact match for your specific case with only a keyword search is as impossible as finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. There are countless variables, any one of which can compromise the relevance of the information found.
Given that the legal sector is saturated with information, it’s easy to imagine such an accumulation of knowledge becoming overwhelming and difficult to organise and, although legal life isn’t quite as thrilling as the back-to-back lawsuits displayed on Netflix, lawyers have enough on their plate as it is.
Challenges of Knowledge Management (KM)
Some of the challenges that legal professionals face with effective knowledge management are:
The abundance of emails – electronic mail has become one of the most common forms of communication and any one of those emails can contain that “smoking gun”.
Relevance – finding work product and precedents that are relevant to your specific situation.
Lack of context – retrieving documents that are considered relevant to the matter at hand isn’t worth much if the context of the original cases isn’t taken into account.
Identification of appropriate expertise – when trying to harness a colleague’s knowledge, it’s imperative to make sure that the colleague’s expertise is suited for the matter. Unfortunately, not all experts self-rate themselves correctly, leading to errors.
Keeping pace with technology – innovation has created a rapidly-evolving collection of industries that are working to integrate processes and appropriate technology. No company can afford to lag behind as far as tech is concerned.
Advantages of KM technology in the Legal Sector
Enter technology, the master of complex algorithms that can find significant connections between cases in a matter of seconds.
So how does technology change KM?
Cost-effectiveness – without having to hire more staff for the KM-specific job, law firms can remain cost-effective with the services offered.
Email Management – a myriad of emails cannot be managed with Outlook alone, an appropriate system that can categorise them will make them easier to access.
Relevance – Through the application of suitable metadata, which is essentially data about data, KM systems can make various connections and increase the probability of finding relevant precedents and work product
Appropriate expertise – Having previous cases at your fingertips means having the appropriate experts listed too, which means that the context will be examined correctly and professionals will not have to rate their own expertise.
Efficiency and Quality – By assigning the right experts at the right moment and in the right manner, the client will have a valuable, tailored experience.
How does a lawyer indulge in such retrospection?
The functionality of Enterprise Search has finally allowed lawyers to search across multiple resources with an internal search engine.
Search engines can go hand-in-hand with user interfaces, or separately. An example of a search engine UI is OpenText Decisiv. It offers the actual search engine and a UI that needs little customisation to create a streamlined experience for the user.
Search engines can also be used without UIs. SharePoint Search is already built on technology intended for knowledge-sharing. It powers the search but does not determine how the user receives the information.
A good balance of processes and systems is required to ensure that past cases are kept within reach for when similar matters arise.
There is an array of useful tools to collect, organise, and recycle your firm’s knowledge. It is vital to buckle up and adopt one, because missing the smallest piece of information can cause irrevocable harm to a case you’re working on.
On that note, you should also consider improving your firm’s case management systems to avoid drowning in documentation.