Notes from the Janders Dean Law Firm Knowledge Management Conference (August 12, 2010)

Justin North, director and founder of Janders Dean opened the one-day conference, at L’Aqua at Darling Harbour. There are about 80 people in attendance today.

Presentations throughout the day included:

  • Mark Andrews (Baker & McKenzie) presented on knowledge management challenges in a global environment. Among other things, he talked about common barriers to knowledge sharing, eg, “why should I share my knowledge,” “I don’t know how to share,” and “I don’t know what’s useful to share.” From my perspective, #2 would align well with my book, User Adoption Strategies.
  • Felicity Badcock (Mallesons Stephen Jacques) talked on the evolution of enterprise search. She drew a distinction between federated search and enterprise search, and addressed the move to enterprise search within legal firms. Felicity talked about the three leaders – Recommind (MindServer), Autonomy, and Microsoft FAST – and talked about the business drivers for enterprise search in three law firms (Clifford Chance, Reed Smith, and Norton Rose).
  • After morning tea, there was a panel discussion on “Working Together – Business Development and Knowledge Management.” Panelists were Andrew Logan (DLA Phillips Fox), Chrissy Burns (Blake Dawson), and Pier D’Angelo (Allens Arthur Robinson). There was some discussion with audience members around integrating different parts a law firms to make a unified whole. The integration of KM and BD is critical because clients want to see a demonstration of expertise before signing up with a particular law firm. It was a wide ranging discussion about intra-firm collaboration.
  • Stuart Barr from HighQ Solutions in London talked about “The UK Magic Circle – Innovators, Disruptors or Just Different?” Stuart previously worked at Freshfields (2004-2007) and Headshift (2007-2009). HighQ Solutions provides dealrooms, collaboration tools, publishing and marketing, and consulting and strategy services. What happened in recent years? The dot-com rush (late 90s), the BLTPortals which saw law firms working together on a value-added service for banks (2004), group collaboration at Allen & Overy (2005), and more. However, most of these initiatives were not integrated. The key trend, in Stuart’s view, is the convergence of these different areas (dealrooms, relationship management, collaboration, etc.) into integrated products and services.
  • In the final session before lunch, Gail McGuckin from Austrade gave a comparison between knowledge management in an Australian law firm and a federal government agency. She gave two case studies, and drew some similarities between the two case studies.
  • After lunch, Simon Gilchrist (Gilbert + Tobin), James Hoare (MacroView), and myself talked about the use of SharePoint for knowledge management. I kicked off the session with a 20 minute presentation on where SharePoint is at today, and then we had a healthy debate about the pros and cons of SharePoint.
  • David Kemp (currently at Autonomy, previously the Legal and Compliance Manager at ABN AMRO) gave a practitioner’s perspective on knowledge management, based on his role as a client for law firms. Among other things, David talked about some of the reasons that inhouse legal counsel would work with external counsel. David also talked about the advanced capabilities of Autonomy’s search technologies – concept-based searching, audio and video searching, categorization, and more.
  • After afternoon tea, David Carson (Phoenix Business Solutions) presented on “Developing a Knowledge Specific Technology Business Case.” At a high level, David said there were three aspects to knowledge management: (1) submission of knowledge, (2) management of knowledge (via automated processes and human classification), and (3) presentation and delivery (via static presentation or search results). David also talked about the criticality of defining business requirements and the linkage to business justification.
  • In the second-to-last session of the day, two lawyers from Westpac’s inhouse legal team talked about knowledge management at Westpac. Westpac is up to 38,000 employees, with 160 lawyers in the inhouse legal team, spread across 13 different internal legal teams. The main focus of the presentation was on some of the approaches for working with external legal firms. There were three main themes during the presentation: (1) technology challenges – especially after the merger with St George in December 2008, (2) effective use of external information, and (3) effective use of professional development.
  • The final session of the day was a presentation from Peggy Forrell (Advocality) on “The Secret Ingredient.” It was mainly about assertive communication, the psychology of creating the message, and more. Peggy said that assertiveness is when “you choose to behave in a particular way to get an outcome you want.” Assertiveness is not aggression – manipulative, bullying, and intimative behaviour – which results in no respect and no relationship. For more of Peggy’s work, see advocality.co.uk.

It was a full-day of presentations, discussions, and interactions. My thanks to Justin for the invitation to be part of the conference.

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