Legal Knowledge Management (LKM) is here to stay. I remember when I first joined LKM and guys just couldn’t understand what it is I do. I was in the library, ensuring statutes are up to date, cajoling lawyers to keep up with their CPD points, organizing trainings and lawyers meetings, lots of legal research – at first glance you’d think it just administrivia going on right? Wrong! This perception couldn’t be any further from reality.
So in this post, I offer some realities. As LKM professionals we see ourselves not just as legal librarians sitting in the cornermost part of the office, but as gatekeepers of knowledge. We smartly capture and curate legal know-how to enable its re-use seamlessly.
First LKM boosts lawyer productivity, a key ingredient to deliver better value. Think of productivity in the common sense of the word i.e. output per hour as opposed to billable hours per year.
Then there’s LKM technology. For large practice firms, efficiency is king. In my previous role I used Contract express, a document assembly application on a daily basis and through a base template, I was able to churn out documents in minutes saving myself and my fee earner colleagues’ time to do more substantive work. Other applications complimented this such as Sage for my HR issues or Maconomy for time recording and billing. Legal tech and LKM are now symbiotic in that one cannot exist without the other. A survey done by Mitratech, an enterprise legal software provider, found that law firm spending on LKM technology will grow at 18% for the next few years. A high growth rate compared to other categories of software.
You may be surprised at the breadth of what LKM professionals do. Initially the focus was mainly on creating precedent and taxonomies and building both digital and physical libraries. Now the LKM toolkit is largely digital with innovations in AI, search, document assembly, social media integration into existing legal software and mobile applications for remote access to a knowledge database being some of the hottest trends right now. While the LKM toolkit grows, so does the remit of LKM professionals. Today, many support alternative fee arrangements, process improvement, and legal project management.
For in-house lawyers, LKM can improve efficiency of their own lawyers. And it can avoid paying law firms to do the same work more than once. Law firms can also improve efficiency. Plus firms can use LKM to improve their service delivery, perhaps the only sustainable way to differentiate today.