How Do Legal Organisations Handle Knowledge Management?

Recognising the need for storing information, collaborating and improving their work, law firms and legal departments started building intranets around 1995. Those early intranets served mostly for storing administrative information and static legal content.
 
Today, progressive legal organisations are investing in KM and are using portals with dynamic content.
 
What knowledge management does for legal professionals is to help them capture and reuse their collective wisdom, benefit from their prior work and accumulated expertise in order to solve legal and business issues by making it easier for lawyers to find information and colleagues with expertise. 
 
 
In the digital world, there is no single place that contains all of the materials related to a legal matter, however, there are portals who offer ready access to large quantities of information for a fee, but even when lawyers can find relevant documents or precedents, these materials don’t have the reuse value one might expect. The context in which they were initially used is very important to understand and reuse them; rarely, however, do lawyers capture that context. 
 
Ultimately, it lead to shifting emphasis from finding documents to finding experts. The expert could both identify important documents and explain their context and use. Early expertise location attempts relied for the most part on self-rating. These efforts usually failed because lawyers would not take part and if they did, they usually under- or over-rated themselves.
 
Parallel to this, many lawyers have started giving advice via e-mail, and capturing and reusing this advice has turned out to be more challenging than doing the same with documents.
 
Law offices that could afford to, started building their own intranets but it turned out to be too difficult as their forté is not software development. The most neglected feature was certainly user experience (UX). Good user experience and user interface is paramount if lawyers are to use any tool, especially a platform of said significance. 
 
Also, the complexity of knowledge sharing is way beyond just content management or social networking.
 
We at TallyFox know this, and this is why we crafted our platform by using user profiles or "personas". We also took our software to the next level of sophistication, which is when the platform "knows' what a lawyer might be interested in by matching relevant content with its expertise and bringing the content to them through a carefully crafted algorithm. 
 
Many law firms have opted for SaaS rather than paying for licenced applications to save money because of the monthly fee and the fact that it removes the need for organisations to handle the installation, set-up and often daily upkeep and maintenance. Because the software is hosted remotely, no need to invest in additional hardware either. 
 
There is a question, however, that many lawyers ask themselves: "How does SaaS use apply to lawyers and our duty to maintain client confidentiality?"
 
 
More and more ethics committees of various legal associations around the world are debating the question of whether it is permissible to store client documents in electronic format on third-party servers rather than a law firm’s own equipment. So far, as long as the firm exercises reasonable care in the selection of the third-party contractor, using their software is regarded as allowed. When a law firm or an organisation selects a SaaS provider, the terms of the user or license agreement will be critical in determining whether or not there is a reasonable expectation of privacy while using the service.
 
Before using any SaaS or similar service legal professionals should ask the following questions:
 
  • Who is the owner of the information once it is transferred to the service provider?
  • Who has access to our information and under what circumstances?
  • If the service is terminated, what happens to our information stored on the provider’s servers?
  • What steps does the provider take to protect against unauthorised outside access to the information and data it stores?
  • How is our data backed up?
  • What policy does the provider have to ensure confidentiality?
 
If satisfactory answers to the questions regarding privacy are provided, a law firm has fulfilled their professional obligations and responsibilities in selecting a service provider to comply with the requirements of the applicable rules of professional conduct. 
 
Exchanging knowledge should not only be self-serving but should be used with the client in mind, making sure that a swifter, well planned and error-free workflow is the higher purpose. The advantages of using this type of software are clear: all lawyers work together smoothly and continuously, use the same style, and send a consistent message to the client. 

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