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Law Firms as Knowledge Organizations. Paul D. Callister , JD, MSLIS Director of the Leon E. Bloch Law Library & Associate Professor of Law UMKC School of Law. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License . . Scenario 1.

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law firms as knowledge organizations

Law Firms as Knowledge Organizations

Paul D. Callister, JD, MSLIS

Director of the Leon E. Bloch Law Library & Associate Professor of Law

UMKC School of Law

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

scenario 1
Scenario 1

The senior partner, my father, asked me to prepare a private placement securities offering in California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona for a firm which would contract for pharmaceuticals trials. He indicated that a similar multi-state private placement had been prepared by another attorney in the firm, my cousin, Stephen and suggested that I look at it as a model.

In speaking with Stephen, he indicated he had done the private placement for a client named “Milbank Moncrief” and handed me a stack of archive floppy disks and told me that the documents were prepared prior to networking the firm’s computers, on a PC which was, long since out of use. [Continued]

scenario 1 continued
Scenario 1 - Continued

Unfortunately, the disks were difficult to use. File names were non- standardized. Each file was a WordPerfect document, without an identifying (“wpd”) extension and could not be readily searched because of conversion issue to Microsoft-oriented products. Furthermore, several of the disks were corrupt. I gave up after forty-five minutes of frustration.

Turing to the firm’s print files, I was unable to locate the documents in Milbank Moncrief’s files. Fortunately, Stephen suggested I call a retired secretary, who used to manage the files. She suggested that the document might be under “Fruit of the Loom.” Apparently, because Moncrief’s files had gotten too fat, and separate files for several of his business entities, including “Fruit of the Loom, Corp.” had been started. In one of these, I found the private placement document.

slide4

Law Firms as Knowledge Organizations

Descriptors

  • Data: collection, preservation, integrity, migration, compatibility
  • Information: access, authentication and version control, information retrieval systems, indexing, metadata, architecture, interface, design, data mining
  • Knowledge:tacit, relationships, incentives, policies, not “reinventing the wheel”, continuing education, communication and cultural barriers, tracking work flow

K

I

D

culture human beings

Law Firms as Knowledge Organizations

Culture/Human Beings

Knowledge

Information

Data

Technology/Media

scenario 2

The senior partner, Margaret, hurried into an associate’s office indicating that a client had called and was unhappy because work had not been completed to qualify a non-profit corporation for exemption from taxation under IRC § 501(c)(3). The associate, Jako, indicated that he asked a secretary, Harvey, to file articles of incorporation and had asked another secretary, Gertrude, to type up Form 1023 for filing with IRS. On checking with two secretaries, Gertrude indicated that Form 1023 had been filed out, signed by the client, and forwarded to the IRS.

Only then did Jako remember that he had spoken with an IRS agent reviewing the application about a problem in the articles of incorporation, which needed to be amended. He had been busy with a demanding project for another partner, and so he hadn’t followed up with Harvey to see if the amendment had been prepared. [Continued]

Scenario 2
scenario 2 continued

Unfortunately, Harvey was on vacation, and so Jako had to sheepishly call client to determine if he had received an amendment had been sent to the client for signing. This set the client off. The client demanded to know why he was being asked what the status of the project was. “Didn’t the firm know what was going on?”

Jako apologized and personally prepared the amendment, overnight the documents for signing. Unfortunately, after submitting the amended articles to the IRS the file sat unanswered because the agent on the case had retired. The firm again did not catch the problem, and the client again made an angry phone call to the senior partner, who this time, asked Jako to come to her office.

Scenario 2 - Continued
what is km
What is KM?
  • Not Out-of-the-Box Software
  • Not an Online Application
  • Business Philosophy: The principle value of an organization is what (and who) it knows, not what it owns.
what is km9
What is KM?

“The only sustainable advantage a firm has comes from what it collectively knows, how efficiently it uses what it knows, and how readily it acquires and uses new knowledge.”

Thomas Davenport and Laurence Prusak

Cited in Matthew Parsons, Effective Knowledge Management for Law Firms, 4 (Oxford University Press, 2004)

how does one measure the value of a law firm
How does one measure the value of a law firm?

How does one measure the value of a law firm? Not by the real estate, equipment or other tangible assets it owns. . . . Not by its individual lawyers -- they are constantly leaving or retiring, and new ones (hopefully) are constantly being added. Not even by its client roster. . . . Instead, the true value of a law firm is in its collective knowledge. Knowledge of the law, knowledge of its capabilities, knowledge of its client needs and of its competitors. A firm's effectiveness turns on how well its lawyers can bring their collective knowledge to bear in their client's behalf and how well the firm can use this knowledge to market its services.

Rovner, J.R.(1999). Building the Smart Law Firm: Guidelines for Effective Management of Legal Knowledge Management. In Daily Journal Legal Works, The Technology Answer Show, Los Angeles 1999, Conference and Exhibition (pp. 133-138) Little Falls, NJ: Glasner Legal Works.

architecture designing document libraries
Architecture- Designing Document Libraries
  • Every item of information you can envision adding to the system fits comfortably into one of your categories or subcategories;
  • Every list of items within a subcategory is mutually exclusive (i.e., no item on the list would fit equally well in another subcategory's list) and collectively exhaustive (i.e., the list is complete);
  • The user can navigate to any item of information with three or fewer mouse clicks, regardless of the starting point;
  • The user can navigate to any item on a list with little or no scrolling.

Rovner, J.R.(1999). Building the Smart Law Firm: Guidelines for Effective Management of Legal Knowledge Management. In Daily Journal Legal Works, The Technology Answer Show, Los Angeles 1999, Conference and Exhibition (p. 135) Little Falls, NJ: Glasner Legal Works.

recommended reading
Recommended Reading
  • Botkin, J. (1999).  Smart Business:  How Knowledge Communities can Revolutionize Your Company (p.162).  New York, NY:  The Free Press.
  • Burchard, B. (1999, October). Intangible Assets + Hard Numbers =  Soft Finance. Fast Company.
  • Harvard Business Review On Knowledge Management (1998). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Paperback.
  • Matthew Parsons, Effective Knowledge Management for Law Firms, (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • Rovner, J.R.(1999). Building the Smart Law Firm: Guidelines for Effective Management of Legal Knowledge Management. In Daily Journal Legal Works, The Technology Answer Show, Los Angeles 1999, Conference and Exhibition. Little Falls, NJ: Glasner Legal Works.
  • O'Dell, C. & Grayson, C.J., Jr. (1998). If Only We Knew What We Know:  The Transfer of Internal Knowledge and Best Practice. New York, NY:  The Free Press.
the end

The End

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