Report from VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum – Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute

On the iinek-law blog by Christine Kirchberger at the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute, a summary of VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum Legal has been published.

The report summarizes all presentations, which you can read here. Below you can read the summaries of some of the presentations.

Nick Jarrett-Kerr, management consultant and leading international strategy adviser to law firms, talked about gripping current trends and competitive pressures and changing the traditional business model. He identified 10 current trends in the legal market:

  1. global economy (economy as corrugated or flat)
  2. trend towards global law firm consolidation (global rather than local)
  3. pricing pressures are still growing (KM can provide a solution)
  4. clients getting more demanding
  5. scale (and branding) is becoming an issue (you need to become a rather large law firm in order to be able to invest in the things you need to invest in (knowledge process outsourcing). Many law firms are struggling with the question of how they can afford the infrastructures they need in order to become competitive. Law firms then join in consortiums and share KM resources.
  6. quantity of partner level is decreasing
  7. increasing financial pressure to law firms
  8. getting traditional lawyers to change is not easy
  9. Existing market positions and client bases are being challenged
  10. outsourcing of legal work by in-house law departments

Law is still a fragmented profession, which is why the rule of three (the dominant player in a consolidated market has 40 % market share, the second one half, i.e. 20 % and the third half of that, i.e. 10 %) does not apply.

Janet Day, Director Technology and Infrastructure Services, Berwin Leighton Paisner, spoke about competing by innovative use of IT and by using IT both as a way of delivering more efficient work and for more innovative ways to support the client. She showed two examples where clients and law firms worked together in order to create a new form of collaboration. One example included Knowledge Share where the collection of data concerning real estate transactions was also shared with the clients in question, the other example concerned Thames Water and its outsourcing of legal services to BLP. Knowledge Share supports the view that the same information can be used in different contexts and thereby become even more valuable. Day compared it to a rubik’s cube that can be looked upon in different colours from different angles.

Day shared her experience from the law firm and said that lawyers know what they want to get to, but they do not necessarily know what they can achieve. She also mentioned that it is becoming more important to refine information in context; the Google approach is not working anymore.

In her comments, chair Annette Magnusson quoted Eric Shinseki, former Army Chief of Staff, who said “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.”

After lunch, Lisa Göransson, Head of Nordic Desk, Allen & Overy, spoke about cost efficient legal services. She emphasised the importance of knowing your client’s business and working in partnership with her or him. 80 % of legal work does not require any legal training.

The overload by e-mail increases the challenges for knowledge management. Communication protocols that have developed also add to the challenges. What does it mean, e.g., when i am cc’ed in an e-mail, do i have to read the documents and comment?

Göransson quoted John F. Kennedy who said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” She closed by adding “what better way not to miss the future than actually creating it”.

Day 2 started by Helena Hallgarn and Ann Björk, founders of VQ, explaining some of the challenges to the legal profession. Lawyers might ask why they should change a winning concept. The answer is in order to think about the world surrounding us. This world is changing and lawyers have to react to that. The challenges ahead concern changes in billing for lawyers (away from hourly payment), the conditions of available information and the internet, and the development of case management processes. With regards to the increasing amount of information, maybe lawyers are not the best in searching and this task could be outsourced to information specialists.

After lunch, Reidar Gjersvik, Knowledge Manager, Thommessen, spoke about innovation and KM. Gjersvik spoke about the importance of everyday innovation and shared his experience from the project He agreed with previous speakers that KM is 80 % social, and 20 % technique.

Gjersvik emphasised the importance of collective creativity as the basis for innovation and mentioned 7 generic drivers that have been identified by now:

  1. zoom out and in in order to get an overview
  2. rapid prototyping (testing ideas quickly, build models and discuss them afterwards)
  3. generative resistance  (research shows that many ideas are good ideas), peer assist and peer resist
  4. liberating laughter (a good working atmosphere is very important in the creative process)
  5. craving wonder
  6. getting physical
  7. Fuelling the fire: courage (to be accepted for taking risks even if they did not succeed)

Gjersvik underlined the principle “slow train coming”, creativity is not always sudden, but generates slowly.

Then Christine Kirchberger, Swedish Law & Informatics Research Institute, discussed new KM roles. She emphasised the changes in information retrieval, use of information and collaboration that the legal community faces. Google’s simplicity and the tendency towards simple search fields hide the amount of information behind the interface. Today’s legal eduction unfortunately does not always reflect the increasing need of retrieval and organisational skills. Neither are students trained in meta-data nor structuring of legal information. Collaboration is increasingly important for lawyers; the extent to which information from social networks, blogs and Twitter can be used as legal sources remains to be seen. Communication relies more on text these days, allowing for future re-use.

Please read the full blog post for summaries of all presentation.