What Is Knowledge Strategy?

Knowledge Strategy Is When the Firm's Senior Leaders Emphasize Lawyer Know-How Sharing

Knowledge management is about how lawyers share what they know about client work and about their firms as businesses. Some elements involve traditional law firm activities, such as lawyer training programs and practice group meetings. Other elements involve newer practices, such as after-action meetings. Knowledge management becomes knowledge strategy when all these elements are considered together as a core function managed by the firm's senior-most leaders to support the firm's strategic goals.

Knowledge strategy is best viewed broadly. Here are some examples:

  • Quality lawyer training, feedback and mentoring that not only imparts relevant senior lawyer experience to more junior lawyers, but also shares lawyer expertise among colleagues.
  • Effective practice group meetings that discuss current issues, promote group communication and include training.
  • Good checklists and related precedents.
  • Effective search system for finding your own work product - precedents, internal research, client advice (including e-mail advice).
  • System to capture knowledge that's not document-based - firm experience (what types of matters have we handled), firm expertise (what steps are involved to complete this type of matter) and lawyer expertise (who is our expert on a particular subject).
  • Knowledge about your firm as a business - what work for this client is most profitable, what are the prospects for this client and its industry, who is our competition for this client.

Knowledge is more than information - it reflects context and experience. Knowledge strategy means making the most valuable knowledge easy to find. Technology may be part of knowledge strategy, but is not the starting point.

Why Is Knowledge Strategy Important?

  • Improved Profits. Leverage junior lawyers more effectively. Reduce non-billable partner time.
  • Risk Management. Know-how sharing aids in giving high quality and consistent advice.
  • Efficiency. Avoid reinventing the wheel. Save time finding precedents and prior advice. Fewer soft write-downs and hard write-offs.
  • Client Satisfaction. Produce faster results. Lower fees without impairing profitability. Clients like knowing a firm has knowledge systems.
  • Competitive Standing. Competing law firms are increasing their knowledge strategy efforts.
  • Happier Lawyers. Good practice tools aid professional development and lead to improved retention.

Knowledge strategy operates at the high end of the spectrum of knowledge-related law firm activities.

Technology-driven. At the low end are technology-driven solutions to address law firm information needs. This is knowledge technology. These solutions are designed and implemented by the IT Dept., often without lawyer involvement. An enterprise search engine is a typical example. These solutions often fail to address lawyer needs.

Support-lawyer driven. In the middle of the spectrum are knowledge efforts overseen by a few former practicing lawyers or other non-technology professionals, operating under the firm's executive director. This is knowledge management. By themselves, these knowledge lawyers are not able to change firm culture or the way lawyers practice. Their ability to bring meaningful benefits is limited.

Leadership- and strategy-driven. At the high end of the spectrum are knowledge practices directed with the clout of the firm's senior-most leadership. This is knowledge strategy. Typically, a senior partner spends a significant amount of hands-on time, or even full-time, working with practice group leadership and the firm's managing partner or chairman to design and implement knowledge management initiatives that can dramatically change the way lawyers actually practice and that support the firm's strategic goals.

About Us

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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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How a practice management technique called knowledge strategy can help law firm leaders achieve strategic goals – ideas from a former AmLaw 20 senior partner.