“Top 10 Knowledge Strategies for Larger Law Firms,” a 57-page white paper for law firm leaders, is now available from the Knowledge Strategy Interest Group, which I chair, in the Law Practice Division of the American Bar Association. Knowledge strategy focuses on improving efficiency and quality at the practice group level through better collaboration and sharing of what lawyers know about client work, about clients, about markets for their services, and about their firms as businesses. Knowledge strategy also emphasizes involvement by the firm's senior-most leaders, which is the main driver of change in law firms.
How a practice management technique called knowledge strategy can help law firm leaders achieve strategic goals – ideas from a former AmLaw 20 senior partner.
Having compiled a list of the commercial real estate group's existing internal and external resources, Tony, the group's chair, gets input from partners and associates at the group's next monthly meeting as to which of those existing resources are most important. He also asks what new resources the group's lawyers would like. Two or three ideas become projects to add in a future phase of the intranet, such as a database of internal firm experts on various subjects. Based on the practice group meeting, Tony develops a good idea of the three most important internal resources that will drive users to the site. He makes a note that Carlos, the associate tasked with supporting the group's intranet, should make it a priority to keep these current.
Keith Mayfield, Chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm, is dismayed. He has just finished a meeting with his chief operating partner, who raised a problem with the functioning of the firm's practice groups. A review of how the groups operate revealed that associates feel lost within most groups: They are unsure where to find practice resources, unaware of current developments, inattentive to training opportunities and lacking a feeling of community. Even many partners feel this way, especially laterals. Delving deeper, the review revealed that the practice group intranet sites were by-and-large not being used, readily confirmed by a review of usage statistics kept by the IT Dept. The main reason, discovered through associate interviews, turned out to be that the content was stale. There were generally no lawyers charged with maintaining the sites. Names were assigned, but the responsibility was not taken seriously because practice group leadership did not press the importance of the sites or hold the content maintainers accountable. Associates also complained that the sites, which had been established a decade ago, were difficult to navigate and not invitingly designed when compared to current web sites.