By Legal Futures’ Associate DPS Software
We’re living in an information era, where knowledge can feel omnipresent. Yet firms often lose insights that they’ve carefully developed. This is due to poor knowledge management and retention. This poor management can have serious financial repercussions for the firm. It’s like taking the time to develop your competitive advantage – and then forgetting all about it.
So let’s think about how to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
What is knowledge and knowledge management?
As this PhD paper explains, knowledge isn’t the same as data and information. Knowledge always possesses a human factor. You can consider knowledge to be an intangible asset that contributes to a firm’s wellness. Like any asset, you will need to manage it. But it seems that traditional methods of handling human capital, innovation and learning are no longer effective. New methods of knowledge management are required. These will ensure that a firm’s knowledge does not disappear when the human factor changes. So when fee earners with the knowledge move on or retire, their knowledge doesn’t go with them.
Why do law firms need knowledge management?
- Efficiency – Law firms need to improve efficiency to meet clients’ demands on the quality of work. Using existing knowledge in a firm is an excellent way to do this.
- New competition – Firms must differentiate themselves in a globalised and saturated market. To do this, a law firm must use its unique assets. These are its specialised knowledge and knowledge workers.
- Leaving/retirement – When a lawyer moves to another firm or retires, the firm often loses valuable knowledge along with them. Knowledge management ensures that you keep that knowledge
Knowledge management: Best practices
Here are some best practices to ensure your law firm retains its knowledge and grows year on year.
Change the culture
Law firms are traditionally individualistic. Lawyers are sold the idea that their knowledge is their prime asset and they shouldn’t share it. It’s important to change that culture in your firm. This begins with the senior partners. Juniors in the organisation should see their superiors openly sharing insights and experience. They will then see that knowledge is a collective asset and will begin to treat it as such.
Use technology to create the right knowledge management architecture
For several reasons, knowledge is often forgotten in law firms. Sometimes, the person responsible for the insight has moved on or retired. Other times, law firms merge or top management changes. The new leaders don’t build on the existing knowledge in a meaningful way, and they lose that knowledge.
Creating the right architecture for knowledge management can stop this from happening. You can do this with technology. An intranet is a great way to familiarise staff with existing knowledge and insights. These are also easily referenced as and when the need arises. Case management software and company portals are also effective ways to store knowledge. Online portals allow lawyers to search through a firm’s cases, queries, reports and analysis with ease. This allows them to leverage the collective experience of the firm.
Learning is one of the ways in which knowledge is effectively transferred. It’s a great tool for knowledge management. HR should encourage a culture of learning. They can do this, for example, by implementing a programme where senior lawyers mentor junior lawyers. They would then be responsible for increasing their junior’s knowledge. Similarly, you could train lawyers via e-learning platforms and courses developed within the firm. These can be an effective way of training lawyers in the firm’s collective insights over the years.
To find out more about how DPS can help your firm retain knowledge through our software development solutions, get in touch with our friendly team today.