Article: How law firms are developing client-facing knowledge initiatives

The Global Legal Post writes..

We attended two events recently (ILTA’s Knowledge Management Special Interest Group meeting and The Future Lawyer conference) which shone a light on developments in how law firms are approaching client-facing knowledge initiatives. These are some of the things we learned.

Buy-in for client-facing knowledge projects

Knowledge teams are constantly striving to raise the profile of the work they do in their firms and to get management buy-in to their initiatives. Working on client-facing projects can be a good way of attracting senior leadership and partner sponsorship by showing that the strategic objectives of the KM (knowledge management) team and firm are aligned. It is clearly important for the KM team to foster a good mechanism for understanding what clients actually want (whether through the partners directly or through their marketing and business development colleagues) and to try to measure the return on investment so the lean KM team resource isn’t over-stretched in delivering marginal client-facing projects on top of their internal-facing work. It is always a difficult business trying to meaningfully measure the impact of KM initiatives, but some firms have, at the very least, asked their people to record time on a discrete code so the effort expended can be quantified, if not the client relationship gains.

Document automation

Opening up the firm’s document drafting automation platform to allow clients to input data directly or to use automated templates the firm generates independently were also discussed. Getting buy-in to these sorts of projects can be challenging, especially if the revenue stream associated with the effort is not immediately visible. This raised an interesting question about how far firms are comfortable charging for their ‘value added’ services and their know-how. Some feel it increases the perceived value of the know-how if a client must subscribe and pay for access to it. The question of how to price in automated processes to the cost of matters undertaken for clients is a thorny one and an area where there doesn’t seem to be consensus across the market as to a uniform approach.

How to serve up client-facing knowledge

The technological mechanisms for enabling client access to knowledge were also highlighted. For example, some firms have started to upgrade from providing extranet client portals containing information to creating shared Microsoft Teams channels to allow clients and lawyers to collaborate in the place where they do their day-to-day work. There are still some technological challenges around the security model and moving smoothly between MS Teams tenants without endless authentication issues but there is hope that these niggles will be ironed out in future and it could help the content being shared to be more readily consumed. This will be particularly helpful as it will avoid the friction of clients having to move between different (and often unfamiliar) platforms, which can be a disincentive to using the resources firms provide to them.