Featured Tags The Rise of the Modern Knowledge Practitioner

In previous chapters we talked about our history of hidden knowledge; in this chapter, we’ll talk about how modern practitioners can find it. This discipline is often called “ knowledge management ” in the legal industry, a term we’ll add nuance to in later chapters.

First, let’s talk about known knowns .

Knowing What We Know

Lew Platt, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is often credited for this famous claim:

“If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.”

The quote may or may not be apocryphal, but it’s a core principle for anyone in the knowledge management space.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of knowledge management, it is a relative newcomer to the legal environment, at least formally. “It is centrally about organizational knowledge,” Patrick DiDomenico told me, and he should know.

Patrick wrote the book Knowledge Management for Lawyers . In it, he argued that firms should take advantage of the efficiencies HP’s Lew Platt imagined.

Studies show that knowledge workers spend only 10% of their time creating new knowledge. They spend the other 90% looking for or recreating information that already exists . These inefficiencies hurt both firms and clients.

This “preservation” aspect of knowledge management, or knowing what we know, is vital in modern firms. As Prism Legal CEO and large practice consultant Ron Friedman put it to me, this activity has to do with “gathering artifacts.”

Every firm creates documents and other forms of knowledge in its daily work. Transactions come in the door and you do your job, leaving a trail of expertise in your wake. But what if you could do more than just toss that effort into the garbage bin or case file?

Using tools like 英雄联盟竞猜线上下注APP v5.3 , you can create a library of these known knowns . You can enter your next engagement with the wisdom stored in your brain and the experience stored in your hard drive.

Tempting, isn’t it? Making the vast web of knowledge available on-demand promises speedy delivery of expertise. We’ll talk more about that in later chapters.

Despite the efficiencies, however, there are risks to any backward-looking knowledge strategy. For that reason, we’ll end this chapter by talking about the dangers of copy-pasting previous knowledge. Even knowing all that is already known, a modern practitioner needs tools that empower creativity.

That balance—creating something new out of what’s known—is the idealized discipline of knowledge management. It’s also a better method for knowledge firms like yours to engage in expertise-building work.


Looking Backward

We’ve all seen the backward-looking knowledge management approach in action. A lawyer reaches out in a Facebook group or attorney listserv, asking the common question: “Does anyone have a form for [fill in the blank]?”

When we do this, we’re engaged in a kind of knowledge management. We’re looking for known knowns in the form of work products already created. Asking friends and colleagues is a nice shortcut to a more robust library.

But even listservs and social media networks are too small to encompass the vastness of current knowledge. You need better technology.

Remember Patrick DiDomenico’s list of resources large firms use to manage knowledge?

Here’s a refresher: “We use things like databases, document management systems, and intranets to put information assets into the hands of people who need them.”

Each of these tools makes known knowns quickly available to the attorneys who’d rather not inefficiently repeat work.

For individual firms, building a library of these known knowns means creating an asset that can make for a competitive advantage. I’m inclined to a more “open source” view of knowledge management, but there’s no question that retracing steps on every new project creates pain for the clients paying for those steps. If you can build an efficient and robust library, you can focus on service.


Gathering Artifacts

This artifact-driven aspect of knowledge management is built on three fundamental steps:

  1. Collecting and storing key business knowledge and information;
  2. Making those databases easy to access and sort; and
  3. Fostering a discipline of critically revising and updating the library for accuracy and precision.

Importantly, when building a library of knowledge artifacts, you shouldn’t personally supply all of the known knowns . In fact, as we’ll discuss in a later chapter on collaborative learning, waiting for a transaction to create bespoke knowledge assets is both inefficient and less informed.

Where you can, you should use existing databases as a starting point for step 1 above. This is especially helpful when that database comes with features like ease of search, as in step 2.

However, when you use these robust resources without cultivating the discipline of critically revising and updating your library (step 3), you run the risk of perpetuating error rather than efficiency.

These are the risks of copy-paste lawyering.


Avoid Copy-Paste Lawyering

Josh Gerben runs an intellectual property law firm in Washington D.C. He deals in trademarks , patents, copyright, and strategic counseling. And every day he has to access his known knowns .

He uses research databases like 英雄联盟竞猜线上下注APP v5.3 as a strategic shortcut.

“When I have a contract issue I need to understand quickly, I go to a resource like 英雄联盟竞猜线上下注APP v5.3. I look through the provisions from my research and think, ‘Okay, this is how a large public company with fancy lawyers does it.’”

With every use of tools like 英雄联盟竞猜线上下注APP v5.3, Josh is able to build a library. He uses each transaction to turn known knowns into an asset that he can use later. But he can’t simply copy and paste contract language.

“A lot of attorneys don’t know where their documents are coming from,” he told me. “They aren’t thinking.”

Instead of mindlessly plugging answers into a form builder or pasting language from another contract, Josh fosters a discipline of critical thinking. He considers 英雄联盟竞猜线上下注APP v5.3 a research platform rather than a form builder. It is, for him, a place to compare, contrast, and decide.

“Not every provision I find is right for me at that moment, but I need to see and evaluate it.”

Once he efficiently and thoughtfully responds to his present client’s needs, he begins to think of his pool of content assets. He considers the future of his library.

“These documents are a living, breathing thing,” he told me, and he schedules ways to revisit old language to update it and spruce it up.

In one sense, this may strike you as less efficient. Surely he’d be better off just using other people’s language, right? Josh doesn’t see it that way. Every minute he spends on his library of documents and decisions is an investment in future gains. When it comes time to serve a client, he can both work more quickly and with higher quality. Copying and pasting can’t give him that benefit. He has to use the method of building demonstrable, measurable expertise.

Josh’s experience underlines a few principles that are key to this chapter:

  • Lawyers should build a library of known knowns ;
  • They can start by critically researching on tools that aggregate known knowns from other lawyers; and
  • They must cultivate the discipline to return to their library so that it’s not a wasting asset.

This approach to knowledge is different than simply finding answers in legal tools. It is the foundation of a more modern knowledge firm.

To give you an idea of how this works in practice, we’ll talk in the next chapter about how another 英雄联盟竞猜线上下注APP v5.3 user trains her associate.


Read the next article in the series:
Making Experts Out of Employees

All articles in the series:
The Rise of the Modern Knowledge Practitioner

  1. The Cheapening of Knowledge
  2. Your Latest Transaction
  3. The Legal Knowledge Business
  4. Knowledge Management
  5. Making Experts Out of Employees
  6. What Clients Want
  7. The Advisor’s Burden
  8. The Modern Knowledge Firm



Mike Whelan
Mike Whelan
CEO @Lawyer Forward

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