Blog Post

Why Knowledge Management is Critical to Legal Survival

June 12, 2020

For lawyers, leaving traditional methods and adopting new ways of doing business can be a hard concept to fathom. After all, they are trained to respect the doctrine of binding precedent and all that it entails. Every lawyer knows to stand by decisions and not disturb what is settled (Stare Decisis)! Every lawyer respects the voices of old, written across hundreds of Law Reports and law journals stacked side by side in a  law school library. To the lawyer, the finality of the gavel striking the wooden board is still as strong today, as it was when it was first used in the 1700s. Because the truth is, the legal profession is governed by tradition and best practices that cocoon us in a comfortable and prestigious zone. For many lawyers, therefore, venturing out of this can be daunting. However, the recent COVID-19 disruption and the consequent remote-working has brought to the fore, several issues that should be addressed by legal teams.

Legal knowledge management platforms should be made essential for every legal team

The law is a knowledge-driven profession. Lawyers do not sell items; they bill clients for legal advice and counsel. For many legal teams, this legal knowledge is scattered in individual hard drives or file-sharing tools across the team. Client files are still carefully stacked on office desks or alphabetized on office bookshelves.

This may have worked before COVID 19. However, with the legal teams now working remotely, knowledge that was stored in such a fashion is now trapped and siloed with individuals, making it difficult to access vital information at crucial moments. To further complicate matters, lawyers increasingly tend to share information via email, which can make capturing and preserving knowledge near impossible, particularly for large businesses. It has, therefore, become of utmost importance for knowledge silos to break down and for knowledge to be assembled and made easily accessible.

This is where legal technology comes in. Knowledge management tools that enable teams to create a knowledge/document bank or platform that stores all critical information and makes it accessible can’t be overemphasized. A partner at Holland & Knight, said his firm implemented a knowledge bank pertaining specifically to the virus to avoid duplicating efforts in the midst of so many overlapping client requests. The lawyers in the firm have been able to upload onto a such a platform, any relevant legal information that they uncovered while working a case, thereby saving other members of the team the legwork moving forward.

Legal knowledge management platforms should be systematically organized

It is one thing to assemble your legal knowledge and quite another thing to organize it in a manner that allows legal teams to find the exact information that they need when they need it.

Even before the COVID 19 pandemic, it was estimated that lawyers wasted at least 1 hour a day allocating critical information. Now with legal teams functioning remotely – with some employees working across multiple countries and time zones – quickly getting answers and expertise has become a critical challenge. Complicating the matter further is the expected increase in legal issues stemming from the pandemic; how can they make the search of legal documents more efficient?

For contracts, having advanced contract management technology that enables you to organize contracts and conduct contextual enhanced searches will be both time-saving and increase productivity for the legal teams. For all other information, legal teams should avoid making knowledge banks dumping sites. Once the banks are created and information has been centralized in one location, it is important to organize the knowledge using metadata tagging that optimizes searches.

To optimize searches, teams should ensure that keywords are used within the documents and in labeling the documents. An email that states, for example, Re: Legal Advice, will not help the junior associate specifically looking for legal advice in relation to Novation Agreements. They should, therefore, realize that having technology does not mean having the strategy. Allocating resources to ensure that your knowledge bank is functional is key in ensuring that the workflow is not disturbed. Our data discovery tool, Scarlett, allows users to quickly search across any document set to find relevant snippets, sentences, and paragraphs in just milliseconds.

Legal knowledge should be distilled from mental spaces

The reality is that even before this pandemic, law firms encountered high turnovers.  The average large firm will see a turnover of about 30% in a five-year period. That’s top to bottom and includes everyone from associates to partners, which means it’s important to preserve knowledge when you can and make it accessible to the rest of the firm.

It becomes important to distill information and create various templates, playbooks, training materials, and user guides that ensure teams aren’t over-reliant on individual team members that may or may not leave the company.

Having videos that describe your contract review process, for example, can easily replace the need for face-to-face training. Creating templates that automatically pull personal and case-relevant information into a document being created, can decrease the time spent on creating a document from scratch or editing dated versions.

Streamlining these activities will also encourage moving away from sharing knowledge via emails to relaying knowledge in prescribed formats, that are easily stored, accessed, and reused.

If you’re struggling with where to get started, or need additional resources to keep your business moving, contact us to learn how we can help.