Thursday, March 12, 2009

Knowledge Management - on a shoestring!

I was on a marketing course last week called Marketing on a Shoestring - How to Develop your Business in a Recession. It was one of the most useful courses I've attended in a long time - worth every cent, not so much for the marketing savvy and know-how it provided, but more importantly because it remotivated me and made me rethink the ways my business can provide assistance to my clients. What with every newspaper headline, TV and radio broadcast full of bad news about the economy, I now know the recession had become embedded in my psyche and was affecting my own business plans and goals. Now, I'm rationing my TV viewing and radio listening and instead thinking about ways I can help my clients to implement KM best practice without having to raid a bank (or at least, ask for a business loan to do so).

It's important for lawyers to think about KM in the recession; firstly,because they may have more time on their hands to tackle those projects that were put on the back-burner when the Celtic Tiger was in full roar e.g. drafting precedents, assembling precedent banks, finally implementing a uniform house style, developing an Intranet, and, secondly, because they may find themselves in the sad position of having to let some staff go.

The second reason should beg legal practices to ask the question: "Have we effectively managed the work product and expertise of those individuals we now have to make redundant?" Think about it for a moment. As a solicitor in a practice, would you be able to quickly put your hands on the advice given to a client in the last few years or the research undertaken by a colleague who has since left? Also, think about the specialist knowledge that colleague may have accumulated about your clients' business or industry sector in the years they were working for you. Has this knowledge and expertise been shared and transferred to other colleagues in your firm so that you can provide a seamless, continuous and high quality service?

The worst case scenario is that the person who has left did not, in fact ,create documents on the network (but has instead saved them to the computer's hard drive (yes, this does still happen!), has made copies of your valuable precedents and previous client work. Worse still, armed with this valuable information and knowledge could they be now be in a position to take your client with them?

So, with this in mind, over the next few months I will be posting ideas on how you can turn the downturn into an opportunity to finally tackle knowledge management and become a 'work smarter' legal practice. My suggestions will be cost-effective, cost-saving and hopefully inspire you to embrace knowledge management principles - on a shoestring!

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