Nov/Dec 2001

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KM PLAN. It’s a big challenge to organize all the bits and pieces of firm knowledge into a coherent, user-friendly environment. What’s the key to meeting the challenge? Knowledge management is like a garden: It requires careful, thoughtful and inclusive planning. All the KM literature I’ve read over the years raises the same key points, and each focuses on the people factor over the technology. The crucial steps most often recommended are well-worth repeating here:

• Obtain firmwide buy-in. Knowledge management is about firm culture, not firm technology. Participants must want to share the knowledge.

• Know what your lawyers need. Nurture and fulfill those needs throughout your system.

• Get adequate backing from firm leaders. Top management support is essential. You need your champion, or your KM effort will sputter aimlessly in numerous directions.

• Start with the knowledge you have now, nurture it, and then grow it.

• Start small, be specific, and make sure it’s doable before you start.

• Promote benefits and successes. But don’t be afraid of failure. It happens.


LINKS FOR ALL, BIG OR SMALL. There is no single, simple, one-fits-all solution to the challenge of implementing a KM system. However, whether your firm is small, midsize or large, the following Web sites will give you valuable information for planning a KM initiative:

• The premier KM portal, is the place to start when searching for resources. You will find dozens of links to articles, white papers, discussions and Web sites that deal specifically with KM and organizational learning. Whatever is new and exciting in the field, Brint covers it first.

• This is the Knowledge Management Initiatives site of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information Sciences. They have mounted a top-notch "KM Primer," which guides visitors through 14 modules that provide an excellent introduction to KM. Each module includes exercises, as well as related literature and Web sources.

• KM.toolnet was created with the goal of helping like-minded people share links, reading materials, ideas and vendor information. You can search for words, phrases or concepts, or you can look for resources, including articles, organizations, people and university programs or research. Best of all, you can narrow your focus to a specific industry—and the legal market is represented here. Find out what projects are being undertaken in legal departments and law firms. Check out collaboration tools for use between law firms and clients. Get the latest on topics such as intranets or legal research.

• KMWorld is one of the top-rated journals in the field. Check it for new information and ideas. And don’t neglect to search the archives, where you’ll find valuable articles such as Judith Lamont’s March 2001 piece, "KM and the Law: The Verdict Is In."

Ricki Anne Andersen ( ) is Director of Library Services for McMillan Binch in Toronto, ONT.