Solicitors need to harness a vast array of information, not just that regarding the law. Of primary importance is keeping abreast of developments in their own practice areas.
But in a firm that encourages cross-selling, some awareness of the services provided by colleagues will be required. Solicitors who act for business clients can gain a competitive advantage when they develop an in-depth understanding of issues in a particular industry sector. To this can be added knowledge about: the firm’s client base and prospects; financial performance; competitor activity; and future developments in the profession.
How much of this needs to be absorbed today? Can we afford to ignore an issue like artificial intelligence for a few years? What is the most efficient way to manage knowledge in a law firm? And how are law firms organising themselves to manage knowledge effectively?
These are just a few of the questions answered in Patrick DiDomenico’s book. After practising as a litigation attorney for eight years, DiDomenico moved into knowledge management in 2005. He is chief knowledge officer for a firm specialising in international employment law, so writes with a wealth of experience at the sharp end.
To have a dedicated knowledge management officer or even a department is the sort of luxury that only larger firms can afford. This book will be of most use to a firm of any size where the management wonders how to introduce, or how best to structure, knowledge management (KM) within their firm.
Author: Patrick DiDomenico
After exploring what KM encompasses, DiDomenico makes the business case for the benefit to clients. He then looks at the various types of knowledge, and compares the structure of KM teams in a number of leading law firms in the US and the UK, as well as looking outside at the US Army JAG Corps. Readers will find these case studies very useful, as there is a surprising variety of approaches.
The book is particularly strong in addressing the human resource aspects of a KM strategy, including the employment of professional support lawyers and librarians, getting buy-in from fee-earners, the use of mentoring and how to leverage knowledge. It also covers the use of technology including intranets, enterprise search and the use of wikis, before touching on project management and some future-gazing.
As my main interest is in the marketing of legal services, I was disappointed that the overlap between KM, marketing, business development and client relations was not explored in more detail. I am aware of at least one law firm in London where the head of KM now sits with the marketing and BD team – and a couple of DiDomenico’s case studies (which include organisation trees) illustrate integrated teams. Maybe this could be expanded upon in a future edition?
Published by the ABA Law Practice division, this book is very readable. The case studies make it an excellent introduction to harnessing the power of lawyers’ knowhow for any law firm considering their first steps into structured knowledge management.
Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas