Program Review: Growing Beyond the Four Walls of Your Library into Strategic Knowledge Management

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E6: Growing Beyond the Four Walls of Your Library into Strategic Knowledge Management

Level: Intermediate, 60 min

Presenters:

Steven A. Lastres, Director of Library and Knowledge Management, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Alirio Gomez, Director of Library & Information, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP

This program is intended for law library directors and managers looking to extend the scope of responsibilities to enterprise knowledge management (KM). However, I highly recommend it to anyone in this profession who wants to learn about new opportunities and emerging roles of law librarians in the 21st century law firm. This intense, information packed program, squeezed into a 60-min slot, is worth hours of instruction - it provides great advice and guidance for law firm librarians.

Both presenters manage KM projects at international 500+ attorneys law firms and have a vast knowledge of the subject. Such KM projects include developing and maintaining of practice-related intranet content, management of virtual libraries, and development of global law firms’ research portals.

Steven Lastres defined knowledge management as the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. He described the types of knowledge that law firms use and how knowledge management fits into the new business model of law firms. Law librarians should rethink the library’s value proposition given the new trends in the legal market. Librarians with their advanced research and computer skills, substantive knowledge and understanding of the organization can become KM leaders and bring value to the firm by supporting the business of law, not just practice of law (i.e., a “new mission critical model”).  

Steven Lastres outlined several KM projects that require librarian competencies, including Intranet/Portal content development, creation of expertise databases, taxonomy, Legal Project Management (LPM), statistical analysis, and search engine optimization. The presentation was illustrated with informative screenshots of the actual law firm’s Intranet pages to give you an idea what KM looks like within the law firm. These screenshots, which are included in the program handout, captured various KM components - research portal, web 2.0 implementations (blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds and social tagging), library catalog, electronic delivery and distribution, and rating materials.

Alirio Gomez in his presentation focused on the project of developing a portal-based virtual library. He talked about technical, organizational and economic aspects critical for successful implementation of such project. A list of important characteristics was provided for the following categories of portal software: 1) information gathering, 2) information organization and classification, 3) information access, presentation and distribution, 4) collaboration, and 5) customization.

Project governance requires a coordinated effort between Steering Committee, Content Managers, Site Owners, IT/Library Team, Insight User Team, and Professional Development.  Alirio Gomez explained how to build cost management propositions for the project and provided advice on the best approach to start a KM Project. Law firms will want to see good long-term value for their shareholders before making an investment. Therefore, Gomez’s advice: don’t label it as a KM project – select a project that achieves a defined business goal, develop a business case with ROI analysis that clearly states the value. The program handout contains twenty pages with useful checklists, outlines and illustrations.   

The fact that this program is based on the KM project experience of the two large law firms with KM Partners, KM Counsel, and libraries staffed with dozens librarians and information specialists, should not discourage law librarians working at small and midsize law firms from starting a KM initiative. These two KM case studies provide a valuable insight in the new technologies that transform modern practice and business of law and help law firms become more efficient, productive and competitive in local and global markets. It’s also an insight in the success story of law librarians who take the lead in the proposal of the knowledge management strategy.

The skill-set required for KM projects is impressive and acquiring it may seem intimidating: you will need competencies in information technologies, project management, cost analysis and law firm economics. In reality, law librarians already perform many tasks that are part of these competencies. Just check out the YouTube clip “Helicopter rescue” from The Matrix that was shown at the end of the program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTfubgRfP7s). The Future of KM is in your hands. LET’S GO.    

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