The first day of Ark Group's New York City version of KM in the Modern Law Firm is over. The participants are generally from larger firms - the focus of the conference - and are responsible for KM aspects of the practice in their firms. There are also a number of other consultants and some legal technology vendors, even a few others with no legal background. There was just as much interesting conversation happening in the questions and at the breaks as during the panel presentations.
The KM topics discussed today looked at deeper integration of KM (and information management) into the firm; life cycle management of information central to the business of the firm; the cultural concerns with implementing KM-like changes; and what KM can do as the firm looks outside (the panel on which I participated). I might write some more later, but some of the highlights. A number are "of course" comments, but need to be repeated from time to time.
- "Lawyers don't really collaborate. They happen to work on a file at the same time."
- KM is about the stuff in the crevices, where technology doesn't fit.
- We have to acknowledge that social interaction is a huge component of knowledge and knowledge exchange. Technology cannot replace that.
- Associate lawyers tend to "get it" in terms of the value KM and technology can bring to their work.
- There is no single solution that will solve all KM-related needs. Again, another familiar refrain, but it was interesting to hear in context.
- If we don't understand the true need, we'll provide the wrong tools. What is the common thread that runs through the needs?
- "Why can't it work like Google?" in response to focus groups. This is a familiar refrain everywhere.
- What is the "return on investment" from the perspective of the lawyer? If they provide information, does the system give it back "with interest?" I see this as a very strong link to the personal perspective of What's In It For Me?
- How do I take the knowledge and improve business?
- A familiar theme: Attorneys "live" in Outlook, and it is difficult to convince them to move elsewhere for their central information. One panelist walked through a demonstration of Ecco, and old-school personal information management tool to show a simple, powerful tool for information gathering: something that Outlook can't do without great effort. (Of course, it takes some doing to make Ecco work as well.)
- Starbucks must base their business model on sales of gift cards as incentive tools.
The idea of knowledge hoarding, or not sharing everything I know, came up a few times. It is a frequent concern in knowledge management circles. I have to wonder what is the underlying concern when this comes up so much. People say they are concerned they won't "have anything to do" once they give up their expert content. It's difficult to show people the opportunity they will have to do the non-rote aspect of their work if they are freed from doing the repetitive things.
There are also a couple other bloggers at the conference: Joy London, Ron Friedmann, and another one or two whose names I did not catch. I know Ron is going to post some slides from today at his blog.