KM rises to the ‘more for less’ challenge at the VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum in Stockholm - Legal IT Professionals, 17 October 2011

2011-10-17T00:00:00

VQ Knowledge and Strategy forum in Stockholm was organised by VQ’s Ann Björk and Helena Hallgarn, former knowledge managers at Vinge, Sweden's second largest law firm. It was an interesting and useful event with thought-provoking presentations and excellent hospitality and networking at The Grand Hotel. Over 130 delegates attended. The keynote speaker was Professor Richard Susskind, whose presentation was based on the concepts in his bestselling book ‘The End of Lawyers?’.

The VQ Forum focused on KM as a way of delivering the changes and innovation that will help firms to survive and thrive in today's dynamic and uncertain business and professional landscape. Some of the main themes in Richard Susskind's keynote were raised - and in some cases challenged - in subsequent sessions.

Clients are under pressure to reduce internal headcount and external spend, but they also require more legal and compliance work involving greater risk. Susskind believes that this challenge - to deliver more for less - will define the next decade for legal services. Susskind offers two strategies for rising to the challenge: efficiency - through commoditisation and collaboration - through technology and strategic alliances.

Commoditisation involves what Susskind describes as the decomposition of legal services - separating core and support services and automating, outsourcing or delegating non-core business to one or more third parties or internal business support professionals, leaving lawyers to concentrate on the specialist advice and expertise that differentiates them in the market.

Martin Salomon of research and strategy company Regi presented Swedish research about what clients are looking for from their legal advisors and whether law firms' were meeting their needs. They found clients most valued proactivity in terms of keeping clients informed, alternative fee arrangements - clients were generally dissatisfied with current pricing models - and most significantly follow ups with only 37% of firms performing regular follow-ups. Innovation is critical to client retention.

The 'more for less' challenge drives and requires innovation. Mikael Arborelius, engagement manager at Acando focused on the quest for innovation in the face of conservatism, compliance and commoditisation. He associates innovation with implementation - working differently. Law firms don't just need to change: they need to innovate to compete in new markets. Arborelius identifies knowledge as an important aspect of enabling innovation along with visualisation and agility.

Chris Bull of Edge International discussed KM's pivotal role in new structures within the UK legal sector and lawyers' ability to compete in an expanding legal services marketplace. As a Swedish lawyer explained to me later, although Swedish firms operate in a strong domestic market, larger, more internationally focused Swedish law firms are facing more competition than ever before from international and foreign firms, particularly for big-ticket corporate transactions.

In a lively presentation on social media, and the only presentation to use multimedia, Rob Ameerun, business consultant at I.R.I.S. Netherlands and owner of Legal IT Professionals used video to highlight its power as a real-time communications channel. He showed us one of the famous YouTube social media revolution videos and then used Dave Carroll's viral United Breaks Guitars video to highlight the power of social media.

To illustrate the potential business value of social media tools and the benefits they can bring to a firm, provided that the culture is right, Ameerun presented a detailed case study, featuring Dutch firm Dirkzwager's award winning - and cutting edge - social media KM system, which uses internal blogs to create and collate relevant knowledge and information which is then disseminated to all the firm's stakeholders including its clients.

Although most law firms are still behind the curve when it comes to social media, this case study, the preponderance of iPads in the audience, a lively Twitter feed and the fact that the forum has been mentioned in several blogs, including this one, demonstrate that things are changing.

Finally VQ presented their outsourced KM offering, the digital associate, which puts the Susskind model into practice by analysing which roles or functions could be replaced or improved by smarter technology and processes - such as the VQ Legal intelligent legal document solution - and creating non-lawyer KM roles.

Read the full Legal IT Professionals-article by Joanna Goodman here.

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