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The Singapore Law Gazette

The Competitive Advantages of Strong Knowledge Management for Law Firms

These days, competition is too stiff for law firms not to seek out every advantage that will help them more effectively win clients and keep their business. Even before the coronavirus pandemic upended life as we know it, the Georgetown Law and Thomson Reuters 2020 Report on the State of the Legal Market declared that “the fundamental choice that most law firms face is to adjust to the new realities of the marketplace or face an increasing erosion of their abilities to compete effectively.”

Knowledge management (KM) is an effective way for firms to level up their external services and internal operations. Yet, according to Law Firms in Transition 2020: An Altman Weil Flash Survey, a mere 22.3 per cent of responding firms indicated that they were implementing a formal KM program to increase the efficiency of their legal service delivery. Those results were considerably lopsided based on firm size: only 14.5 per cent of firms with fewer than 250 lawyers had implemented KM, while 45.2 per cent of firms with 250 or more lawyers had done so.

Here is what a strong KM function can do for your firm.

Improve Service Delivery and Client Satisfaction

The bottom line for every legal service provider is simple: how happy are your clients? Are they so delighted with your service that they will continue to stay with you and also recommend you to everyone they know?

The driving purpose behind KM adoption is its ability to raise the bar on the delivery of legal service, offering clients consistently higher quality results. By organising your knowledge resources and promoting them effectively across the entire firm, KM enables firms to both optimise and standardise information quality and access. In our interconnected world, global companies want to have confidence that they will obtain excellent advice and assistance anywhere in the world; reducing the variability in resources and talent ensures that every office provides consistently outstanding results.

Hire — and Retain — Outstanding Talent

You can’t produce top-tier results without top-tier lawyers and staff. That is why firms spend considerable resources finding and signing on the best attorneys and support staff, only to turn around and lose billions of dollars annually from attorney turnover.

A KM programme can help you attract the best candidates, ease their transition to the firm, and entice them to stay. Having centralised, organised knowledge resources enables firms to bring new hires up to speed as quickly as possible. It also demonstrates that you value employee happiness; effective knowledge management improves productivity and lessens frustration by, for example, making it possible to surface the right content when needed.

A strong emphasis on KM shows that you value innovation and ingenuity, because you can distribute new knowledge immediately anytime someone designs a creative solution, discovers a useful and time-saving hack, identifies a new resource, or crafts an outstanding argument.

Enable the Steady Flow of Internal Knowledge 

The free flow of information and knowledge resources does not just benefit clients, it also keeps the entire firm performing at the top of its game. We have all experienced the frustration of “spending hours looking for information [that] turns out to be obsolete or outdated,” which leads to “a loss of trust [in] business critical information.” When you leverage KM to centralise your knowledge, you expedite content reuse, lowering costs, enhancing productivity, and improving the quality of your output.

Ideally, KM becomes a virtuous cycle in which attorneys locate helpful resources at the right time. Having benefitted from those resources, they are more likely to look for them again in the future. As they continue finding what they need when they need it, their appetite for knowledge sharing grows until lawyers are excited about contributing to the KM resource bank and enthusiastic about its benefits.

Additionally, KM enables firms to capture, externalise, retain, and transfer information effectively when employees retire, change positions, or leave the firm. During times of crisis as we have seen in 2020 KM helps teams to share information, reuse content, and build the firm’s institutional knowledge even when attorneys and staff are separated physically. On the broader level, KM operates as the connector between multiple streams and sources of data, which when aggregated, can provide actionable insights for the firm as a whole.

Using software to manage your content allows for smoother execution of these initiatives, and gives credence to KM as an innovation hub.

A Note About Measuring Success with KM

Don’t overlook the importance of proving the value of your KM efforts by tracking your return on investment. Assess those KPIs that relate to your firm’s key goals and objectives, be that increased client retention rates, heightened productivity (even while working remotely), decreased employee turnover, or something else.

KM produces competitive advantages in client service delivery, but it also allows firms to engage in more strategic problem-solving, improve their talent acquisition and retention rates, build and share their internal knowledge resources, and retain knowledge and access to that knowledge, despite employee turnover and crisis events.

Don’t leave these potential gains on the table. Start building your knowledge management programme today.

Chief Revenue Officer

Abhijat Saraswat helps lawyers spend less time managing work and more time doing the work. Ab is also the Founder of Fringe Legal, though which, for the last five years, he has created cutting-edge content for legal innovators focused on putting ideas into practice. He is a Barrister (non-practising) and was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2015. Abhijat has worked for several large multi-national corporations across a range of sectors and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science and Neuroscience from the University of Keele, UK.