Day 2 of KM in the Modern Law Firm is over, and it seemed to have more energy, even amidst the normal outflux of people catching flights or responding to calls. There were three sessions today: Is KM morphing into Practice Support, KM and Professional Development, and a brainstorming session on Making KM client-facing.
The first session looked at how KM is changing for law firms. There was much debate around the idea that KM was becoming common-enough that it is just one of the things firms do to support the practice of law. On the other hand, not all firms treat the concept of practice support in the same way, and KM might be something other than supporting the practice. One of the balancing acts in the discussion was the tension that firms feel between delivering content and delivering a capability. Some firms have split the technical aspects from the informational. The other fun thing was a link to yesterday's comment, "Why can't it work like Google?" Someone suggested that people not only want Google, but a psychic button that knows exactly what I want. (Interestingly, Tom Baldwin touched on this topic on Tuesday.)
The second session talked about how professional development (PD) and KM need to work in conjunction, and the panelists used several examples from outside the legal industry to provide examples for how the learning and knowledge organizations have worked together to great success. The primary recommendation that came out of the session was that KM and PD are partners in the goal of helping provide the right stuff at the right time for lawyers. Areas of integration include using the same content in KM and learning programs; cross-linking between content; breaking learning modules into "nano learning" modules of a few minutes that provide very specific content; ability to review work assignments for the training opportunity they provide; and several others. These are essentially the same arguments I've heard for the integration of knowledge management and learning at other organizations.
One of the panelists in the second session made the interesting claim that law firms don't suffer from the tacit knowledge problem. At one level, law is ultimately explicit. The laws are on the books, and opinion and precedent can be found. However, the reason lawyers receive a high price for their services is that their training and experience can help clients through the legal process that they could not manage without.
The last session was an entertaining brainstorming session that obviated any concern about falling asleep in post-lunch a post-lunch haze. The goal of the session was to come up with "radical" ideas for developing a client-facing KM solution. The three groups came up with interesting ideas for enhancing interactions with clients. One suggested opening their current KM solutions to their existing clients, another suggested using (video) podcasts of CLE content, and the last suggested the creation of a Automatic Resolution Tool that would work from the existing litigation decision trees and build to a more sophisticated tool to help close the lawsuit. That last wins my vote for the most radical, and I think it is doable.