Problem 6 - Lawyers are not using our enterprise search system

6. Problem: We spent a lot of money to implement an enterprise search system, but our lawyers are not using it.

Response: Conduct focus groups with lawyers to determine what they want.

Discussion:

Chances are, this problem arises from having pursued a technology-driven approach when designing the system. Better results will be obtained if one starts with asking the lawyers what they want. A small group of lawyers could generate examples of desirable features to catalyze the thinking of other lawyers providing feedback.

The starting point should be to catalog and share with the lawyers being questioned all the firm information repositories that could potentially be searched. Lawyers may be surprised at the number and variety of possible sources. The more obvious repositories include the standard forms library, lawyer training materials and the firm's intranet.

Less obvious, but potentially useful information repositories include OCR of paper files (to pick up agreements, closing documents and litigation materials not prepared on the firm's document management system or available via electronic feed from court filings in litigation matters), OCR of special practice group collections, opinion files, the firm's contact management database, billing data and even the work description portion of lawyer time entries. There will be issues with many of these repositories, such as the effort required to create OCR scans and security/access issues for sensitive information. However, the first step is to discover whether the questions to be answered are sufficiently important to warrant addressing these issues. Repositories can be added over time, based on a balance of importance to enterprise search and the effort required to include them.

If certain questions are of interest to a sufficient number of lawyers, serious consideration should be given to creating “canned” searches for these questions, making it easier for lawyers to pursue these searches in the enterprise search system. A surprising number of lawyers may not realize what they can accomplish with an enterprise search system unless the search queries are prepared in advance.

Once the enterprise search system has been enhanced to reflect lawyer input, an education initiative should be conducted for all the lawyers in the firm. Copious examples of possible searches, generated by each practice group, should be a featured aspect of the education sessions.

As new repositories are added to the system, that fact and the possible new searches that can be performed should be advertised to lawyers in the firm.

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KM/JD Consulting LLC renders impartial practice management advice to law firms on improving efficiency, increasing profits and reducing risk, emphasizing knowledge strategy.

Jack Bostelman, President

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Before founding KM/JD Consulting LLC, Jack practiced law in New York for 30 years as a partner of pre-eminent AmLaw 20 firm Sullivan & Cromwell.

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