Knowledge Management for Lawyers

AuthorTed Tjaden
This chapter discusses knowledge management and its importance to
the practice of law, along with its close relationship with legal research
and writing. As a discipline, knowledge management is generally not
discussed or t aught in law school; instead, it is often only when t he law
student becomes a law practitioner that the importance of knowledge
management can be appreciated and put into use. A nd although techno-
logical advances in the practice of law over the last twenty-f‌ive years
have both caused and supported the ascendancy of knowledge man-
agement in law f‌irms, the reality is that lawyers have always practised
forms of knowledge management, from the moment hundreds of years
ago (or longer) that a lawyer f‌irst set aside a good sample agreement or
f‌igured out a better way of doing things. As w ill be seen in this chapter,
knowledge management intersects with legal research and wr iting in
a number of ways, with precedents and research memos being the two
most obvious examples. In addition, although knowledge management
in the legal industr y is often associated with large law f‌ir ms, even small
f‌irms and sole practitioners will benef‌it from adopting personal know-
ledge management principles to become more effective in their work.
There are many def‌initions of knowledge management. One reason for
this is that knowledge management spans several disciplines (ranging
from business management, to information science, to computer tech-
nology) and any number of industries and business es. For our purpose,
a basic def‌inition is suff‌icient to introduce the topic:
Knowledge management (KM) is the proce ss of capturing, develop -
ing, sharing, a nd effectively using organizat ional knowledge. It refers
to a multi-disciplined approach to achieving organ isational object-
ives by making t he best use of knowledge . . . .
Knowledge management effort s typically focus on organ isational
objectives such as improved pe rformance, competitive advantage, in-
novation, the shari ng of lessons learne d, integration and continuous
improvement of the organisat ion. KM efforts overlap wit h organisa-
tional lear ning and may be disting uished from that by a greater focus
on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on
encouraging the sharing of knowledge. It is an enabler of orga nisa-
tional lea rning.1
From this def‌inition, we can obser ve a number of things:
Knowledge management is a “process.” There are steps that an organ-
ization can take to improve the sharing of knowledge.
Knowledge management involves “capturing, developing, sharing,
and effectively using organizational knowledge.” These aspects of
knowledge management often involve the use of technology for cap-
turing, developing, sharing, and effectively using information.
Knowledge management focuses on “improved per formance, com-
petitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, in-
tegration and continuous improvement of the organisation.” This
aspect of knowledge management acknowledges that it ca n be applied
to achieve different goals with in the organization with the end goal of
better using past knowledge and experiences to improve future per-
Another way to conceptualize this topic is to think in terms of two
categories of knowledge that are being managed: (1) explicit knowledge
(being the insights and experiences embedded in organizational pro-
cesses or practice — what is often found in document s or other tangible
content) and (2) tacit knowledge (being the insights and experiences
embodied in individuals — what and who they know). In a law f‌irm
setting, explicit knowledge tends to be precedent or sample business
agreements or litigation pleadings, checklists, research memos, opin-
ion letters, and how-to guides. Equally — if not more important — is
1 Wikipedi a contributors, “Knowledge Manageme nt,Wikipedia, The Free En-
cyclopedia, online: http://en.wikipe /Knowledge_ma nagement.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT