How law firms move from human knowledge to institutional knowledge



Human knowledge is a beautiful thing. It is flexible, adaptable and can be applied in many contexts. People and their knowledge can help solve new, difficult problems in creative and unique ways.

But what about teaching new people to solve old problems? Where to find answers when the expert is not in town?

Law firms recognize that systematizing knowledge and processes can help them better serve their clients, support their employees, and improve the overall health of the firm. They effect cultural changes and take advantage of technology and tools that facilitate the creation of repeatable processes and avoid reinventing the wheel.

Help lawyers keep up to date

Often the purpose of knowledge management and training is to help associates learn the particular way of doing things in a business. New partners come out of law school understanding how to think like a lawyer, then firms – especially the larger ones – teach them to lawyer according to best practices and firm style.

In many fast-paced legal environments, lawyers can learn the firm-prescribed way of approaching a case from one or two busy mentors – delivered verbally with a few template documents to demonstrate the message.

Firms can build on this personal knowledge with practical and organized advice from the world of legal technology. For example, the dynamic question-and-answer feature in Practical Law combines the power of artificial intelligence with the editorial expertise of over 600 drafters to give new and seasoned lawyers a starting point for questions that are new to them. .

Give more time to the most seasoned lawyers

Not only does the practical right give new associates or anyone who needs to upgrade a better place to start, it also frees up time for mentors. Their time is extremely valuable, and this tool allows the firm’s most seasoned lawyers to dedicate time to what the firm needs most, whether it’s business development or high-stakes cases. Full-time mentoring is often not where they can (or should) spend the majority of their time.

Some large companies go even further than teaching a particular method or approach. They systematize things so that everyone essentially follows the same process to deliver exceptional customer service in an efficient and consistent manner. Seyfarth Shaw, for example, adapted Lean Six Sigma to its legal practice. The law professionals at the firm use hundreds of legal and operational process maps as well as automation tools and collaboration platforms that reduce manual effort.

Thomson Reuters Practical Law’s dynamic toolset facilitates this cohesive knowledge transfer for companies that want to start with established expertise and process. It also allows lawyers to customize based on their experience.

Having clear and efficient processes in place for common questions and tasks helps lawyers avoid wasting time creating their own path. As a result, they can spend more time developing and applying their legal expertise.

Better serve customers

Serving clients effectively means being clear about what you can say “yes” to and what to refer to another lawyer or even another firm. Having easy access to the know-how and wisdom of seasoned legal professionals within your firm and through cutting-edge tools helps lawyers say “yes” to more questions, even when they are outside of the office. their exact area of ​​expertise. With the right tools, a lawyer can instill confidence in a client even when the case presents unknowns or falls within a less familiar area of ​​practice.

Customers are also keen to see more predictability in the pricing of materials. To provide this predictability while increasing profits, companies must accurately assess the cost of delivering a business. They can compare this cost to market standards to set a retail price. Institutional processes allow companies to offer fixed prices with the confidence that they will be able to deliver the work and profit from it.

Improve the health of the law firm

Clear process maps and best practice guidance help seasoned lawyers move between practice areas and help new associates deliver billable work faster. These two factors help businesses take on more work. Satisfied customers tend to give more work to the companies that serve them best.

Both customer retention and employee retention are good for revenue. Firms are seeing growth in revenue from new client engagements and health outcomes because lawyers can get further faster. Additionally, as lawyers work faster through established processes, firms are likely to see higher profitability per case and overall, as lawyers deliver more value in less time.

Preparing the company for the future

Forward-looking law firms will see how risky there is in having key knowledge and skills locked away with people who can leave or retire. And while working to “institutionalize” knowledge can help slow employee attrition, institutionalize knowledge can also help protect against one inevitable fate: retirements. The legal profession faces an impending “money tsunami” of retired baby boomers. Navigating this transition will require both preserving the actual customer-aligned work product and making it easier for companies to master certain types of tasks or questions.

Law firms and their clients increasingly rely on repeatable processes and shared wisdom to work more efficiently. This change requires some cultural adjustment as everyone involved sees the work as a bit more science than the whole art. With the right mindset and the right tools in place, however, this change can lead to better legal outcomes and help businesses thrive.

Find out how practical law can prepare your practice for the future.


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