On Sunday July 14th, I have the opportunity to present, along with Connie Crosby and Steven Lastres at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting & Conference in Seattle, Washington. Our session is called, Surrounded by Geniuses: Knowledge Management Learning from Other Industries, hence the title for this blog post.

I am looking forward to the opportunity of sharing my KM experiences with the Law Librarians. Law Librarians are sometimes (and should be more often) involved in their firm’s knowledge management activities, it’s a good fit for them and the firms, and gives them an edge when it comes to documented knowledge in comparison to other organizations. However, sometimes that’s where the KM stops: at documented knowledge, and we all know there’s a lot more to KM than documented knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is a significant asset for any organizations, but in professional services firms and other knowledge-intensive entities tacit knowledge shouldn’t be ignored, although sadly, often is. It’s the sharing of tacit knowledge that can truly make a law firm (or any organization) a learning organization and make it stand out from its peers.

Some tacit knowledge is easily documented and stored in a lessons learned system or other such repository, but other tacit knowledge is more appropriately shared through mentoring, communities of practice, or other person-to-person.

It is important to have figured out a strategy for dealing with the knowledge in a law firm, although this really isn’t specific to law firms: it’s critical for any organization in this age to manage their knowledge effectively and efficiently, if they are going to thrive.

There a lot of similarities in this respect between law firms and other industries and organization types, but one significant difference that comes up time and again in my conversations with lawyers and partners at firms is the partnership model and the traditions that go with that model and associated hierarchy.

Knowledge thrives in a flatter organization model, where it can be shared without worrying about politics and hierarchy and power. I have heard, anecdotally that some organizations are tackling this challenge, while most seem to still be trying to figure it out.

Our presentation doesn’t address this difference, but it does illuminate the similarities and maybe by starting with the similarities and implementing KM initiatives in those areas it will provide motivation and incentive to address the differences.