VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum Legal – 11-12 November 2010

11 November 2010

Annette Magnusson, Secretary General of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, opened the conference in her role as the chair for the day.

She described that there is an unprecedented level of interconnection and interdependency (referring to a survey by IBM on capitalising on complexity). According to a recent book by Thomas L. Friedman, “the world is flat” and needs creativity and innovation.

Magnusson explained how modern business is a business of intangibles. In the U.S., e.g., around 85 % of all businesses concern intangibles such as human capital, social media, IP, new knowledge. We are not living in a service economy anymore, but an experience economy. In the i-cubed economy, creativity is important for innovation. If experience is the important factor, it is not relevant what we do but how we do it. The “how” factor is becoming more important, e.g. soft issues such as leadership, personal interaction. The what is easy to copy, the how, on the other side, is not easy to copy.

Magnusson saw a strong trend of harmonisation. For example the rules of arbitration are being harmonised increasingly on a global basis. What will be different is how the rules are applied.

 

Nick Jarrett-Kerr, management consultant and leading international strategy adviser to law firms, talked about gripping current trends and competitive pressures and changing the traditional business model. He identified 10 current trends in the legal market:

  1. global economy (economy as corrugated or flat)
  2. trend towards global law firm consolidation (global rather than local)
  3. pricing pressures are still growing (KM can provide a solution)
  4. clients getting more demanding
  5. scale (and branding) is becoming an issue (you need to become a rather large law firm in order to be able to invest in the things you need to invest in (knowledge process outsourcing). Many law firms are struggling with the question of how they can afford the infrastructures they need in order to become competitive. Law firms then join in consortiums and share KM resources.
  6. quantity of partner level is decreasing
  7. increasing financial pressure to law firms
  8. getting traditional lawyers to change is not easy
  9. Existing market positions and client bases are being challenged
  10. outsourcing of legal work by in-house law departments

Law is still a fragmented profession, which is why the rule of three (the dominant player in a consolidated market has 40 % market share, the second one half, i.e. 20 % and the third half of that, i.e. 10 %) does not apply.

 

Caroline Malm, Senior Consultant, Gartner, spoke about knowledge management trends and the evolution hype cycle. She emphasised the created value of socialised knowledge management. Gartner defines KM as a formal program to manage an organisation’s intellectual assets. IT usually only amounts to 20 % in knowledge management efforts, while the rest (80 %) covers management incentives, culture, and communication. A challenge with embedded knowledge is that when it is moved into a database, the context may disappear.

Malm mentioned the concept of information balance, consisting of knowledge demand and knowledge supply. The consumption patterns have changed: people cut and paste pieces of different sources, before they were searching for one document.

In order to create business value one cannot stay at the base and focus on finding existing knowledge within the organisation (non-complex information), but has to add a next level of best practices (using knowledge of colleagues).

Socialised KM is more about people than information. On the demand side it focuses on

  • co-creation (knowledge is created together)
  • sharing instead of push-technique (sending information to one’s colleagues)
  • search (instead of searching only within internal knowledge repository, multiple sources are now utilised)

On the supply side, socialise KM focuses on

  • storage (links instead of storage)
  • categorisation and organisation (instead of taxonomies and ontologies, tagging, bookmarking, rating, usage are applied. instead of meta-tags, now entire content is searched)
  • validation: instead of amount of information stored, it is now important how information can improve the business (user-defined)

Malm identified as critical success factors: culture, learning from earlier KM experiences and remembering embedded knowledge and utilising collaboration tools.

 

Janet Day, Director Technology and Infrastructure Services, Berwin Leighton Paisner, spoke about competing by innovative use of IT and by using IT both as a way of delivering more efficient work and for more innovative ways to support the client. She showed two examples where clients and law firms worked together in order to create a new form of collaboration. One example included Knowledge Share where the collection of data concerning real estate transactions was also shared with the clients in question, the other example concerned Thames Water and its outsourcing of legal services to BLP. Knowledge Share supports the view that the same information can be used in different contexts and thereby become even more valuable. Day compared it to a rubik’s cube that can be looked upon in different colours from different angles.

Day shared her experience from the law firm and said that lawyers know what they want to get to, but they do not necessarily know what they can achieve. She also mentioned that it is becoming more important to refine information in context; the Google approach is not working anymore.

 

In her comments, chair Annette Magnusson quoted Eric Shinseki, former Army Chief of Staff, who said “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.”

 

After lunch, Lisa Göransson, Head of Nordic Desk, Allen & Overy, spoke about cost efficient legal services. She emphasised the importance of knowing your client’s business and working in partnership with her or him. 80 % of legal work does not require any legal training.

The overload by e-mail increases the challenges for knowledge management. Communication protocols that have developed also add to the challenges. What does it mean, e.g., when i am cc’ed in an e-mail, do i have to read the documents and comment?

Göransson quoted John F. Kennedy who said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” She closed by adding “what better way not to miss the future than actually creating it”.

 

Juliet Humphries, Head of Knowledge & Learning, Bird & Bird, then spoke about the development of KM. She started by describing the birth of KM, up to early 1980s, which resembled “the unrealised knowledge organisation“. Lawyers were trusted advisers, they did not see themselves as business. Knowledge sharing was informal, which is easier with less partners. The focus was more on what law means and not what law means for a particular client in a particular situation and KM was more about libraries. Up to the early 1980s it was more about legal bulletins and a focus on understanding of the law, not so much on the application of law (which became more important later). In this stage 1, as Humphries calls it, law firms are knowledge businesses.

From 1985-2000 knowledge was seen as a competitive asset. In this KM child phase, the slogan could be “a lot of shiny toys”. KM became more important, as business and the legal world became more complex, and law firms expanded geographically. In a sense, KM emerged as a new discipline during this area, and focused very much on the question what is knowledge (1995) and the debate between tacit vs explicit knowledge (1995/96). In 1995 most discussions concerned the definitions of data-information-knowledge, to reach wisdom. In this stage 2, the focus was on law and practice of law (what do you need to know?).

As a teenager, KM was “looking for direction”. The 2000+ were about embedding knowledge. Business continued to grow geographically and in complexity, KM aligned itself to the business, and the client was becoming more important. This stage 3 shifted the focus on business strategy. While stage 4 focused more on the clients and the

In stage 5 learning was emphasised. The question concerned how to use information. As an adult, KM reaches a mature model. Law firms go back into being knowledge businesses.

According to Humphries, the future challenges for legal KM include

  • What will a knowledge function look like in the future?
  • How will KM be aligned within a firm’s organisational structure? (Learning is often within the HR department. Should it be moved to KM?)
  • scope of outsourcing

 

David Fitch, Director of Knowledge Management, Simmons & Simmons, spoke about why knowledge management is not information technology, but how IT is an essential enabler of any knowledge program. He explained how information specialists can filter different RSS feeds and publish the filtered posts on an internal blog which then lawyers can subscribe to via RSS. Fitch described the intranet as a place for doing things instead of static content.

When it comes to automated drafting (deal builder), it is important to focus on key points of agreement (purchaser, seller friendly) instead of asking to many detailed questions. The key to make search work is meta data included in the documents. Meta data very important to increase search efficiency. When his law firm added a search engine on the KM system, they noticed that 80 % of documents had general as keyword.

Simmons & Simmons are publishing podcasts where lawyers are informing about latest development in a certain field. 2 people are employed full-time for these podcasts and a former director for BBC documentaries is in charge of filming.

 

Rowena Stent, Professional Support Lawyer, BAE Systems, shared her experiences on differences in KM work, roles and organisation between private practice and in- house.

 

Chair Annette Magnusson, closed day 1 of the conference by talking about the need for the legal profession to address the changes in economy. Magnusson quoted Gillian K. Hadfield: “Where are the ‘garage guys’ in law? Locked in the garage.”

 

12 November 2010

Day 2 started by Helena Hallgarn and Ann Björk, founders of VQ, explaining some of the challenges to the legal profession. Lawyers might ask why they should change a winning concept. The answer is in order to think about the world surrounding us. This world is changing and lawyers have to react to that. The challenges ahead concern changes in billing for lawyers (away from hourly payment), the conditions of available information and the internet, and the development of case management processes. With regards to the increasing amount of information, maybe lawyers are not the best in searching and this task could be outsourced to information specialists.

 

Carl-Henrik Lange, coach for leadership, information and communication, spoke about new business models for law firms and the courage for change. He talked about the importance to reflect about things we do not see and why we do certain things. Change can be found in these areas as well. In order to change something, it is important to go through the three steps: know – do – be.

Management by telepathy usually not very successful, communication is more than information. 75 % of communication consists of the body, the rest of the voice and the tone. Only 10 % of communication and the question of trust consists of the words being used.

 

Jenny Axäll, communications consultant, JG Communication, shared her ideas on KM and emphasised the importance of employees spending their time with the right things. Meetings should be used to handle complex and changeable things. Other communication channels can be used to transfer easy and recurring information. Understanding and engagement by employees are connected and can contribute to use working hours for the right tasks.

 

Magnus Sundqvist, Nordic Knowledge Leader, Ernst & Young, shared his experience from working with KM at Ernst & Young and the challenges of a multinational company. KM in his firm very much focuses around the clients and to provide them with new knowledge and pro-active solutions in their area of business.

 

After lunch, Reidar Gjersvik, Knowledge Manager, Thommessen, spoke about innovation and KM. Gjersvik spoke about the importance of everyday innovation and shared his experience from the project www.ideawork.no. He agreed with previous speakers that KM is 80 % social, and 20 % technique.

Gjersvik emphasised the importance of collective creativity as the basis for innovation and mentioned 7 generic drivers that have been identified by now:

  1. zoom out and in in order to get an overview
  2. rapid prototyping (testing ideas quickly, build models and discuss them afterwards)
  3. generative resistance  (research shows that many ideas are good ideas), peer assist and peer resist
  4. liberating laughter (a good working atmosphere is very important in the creative process)
  5. craving wonder
  6. getting physical
  7. Fuelling the fire: courage (to be accepted for taking risks even if they did not succeed)

Gjersvik underlined the principle “slow train coming”, creativity is not always sudden, but generates slowly.

 

Helena Hallgarn and Ann Björk, VQ, then spoke about KM as a support law firms. They agreed with previous speakers that the same information can be used in different contexts. Hallgarn and Björk mentioned Allen & Overy who outsourced standard documents to another company (PLS) which keeps them updated but is also allowed to sell the information to others. One way to be innovative is to use the information and sources that exist already.

Hallgarn and Björk presented their new service VQ Legal which allows to submit documents to Bolagsverket (Swedish Companies Registration Office).

Innovation is not about doing the same thing in a different way, but to do different things. Henry Ford did not invent faster horses but changed the idea of transportation. The iPhone changed the way people consider mobile phones. New mindsets are required in order to be innovative within legal KM as well.

 

Then Christine Kirchberger, Swedish Law & Informatics Research Institute, discussed new KM roles. She emphasised the changes in information retrieval, use of information and collaboration that the legal community faces. Google’s simplicity and the tendency towards simple search fields hide the amount of information behind the interface. Today’s legal eduction unfortunately does not always reflect the increasing need of retrieval and organisational skills. Neither are students trained in meta-data nor structuring of legal information. Collaboration is increasingly important for lawyers; the extent to which information from social networks, blogs and Twitter can be used as legal sources remains to be seen. Communication relies more on text these days, allowing for future re-use.

Kirchberger suggested an Information Retrieval (IR) model 2.3 where information is not purely seen as documents but rather as data units that allow different ways of combining and structuring. The new service VQ Legal and automated contract builders are good examples of this. In addition, other ways of presenting information can be utilised in order to improve knowledge management: word clouds, back-links and visualisation of legal information etc. In general, the doctrine of legal sources, retrieval technology as well as user behaviour have to overlap in order to achieve efficient KM. Experiences from e-government and research efforts within legal IR and KM could also contribute to innovation in legal KM.

 

Hanna Munter, Knowledge Manager, Bird & Bird, presented how the Stockholm office of Bird & Bird are working with KM. Focus is very much put on learning and knowledge. Munter mentioned that extent external sources should be used in some occasions instead of building up and maintaining internal KM tools, e.g. Wikis. Internal online discussions on specific legal matters relating to a client are easier to encourage than general discussions on a subject.

 

Thank you, VQ and all the speakers and delegates for two very inspiring and interesting conference days!

 

 

About iinek

Doctoral Candidate in Legal Informatics at Stockholm University, Sweden View all posts by iinek

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