Altruistic Information Sharing Doesn’t Happen: Intranets, Case Management Systems and Knowledge Management

In-house lawyers are loathe to share information.  Just think about why it has proved so hard to keep intranet sites current, or why resistance develops to populating case management systems, why KM remains a chimera with little popular support.  The reason is that lawyers do not want to take the time to make what they know available to other lawyers.  Altruistic information sharing has too little payoff, it seems to most lawyers, even though the logic seems compelling for posting information: if everyone does it, the result is richer.  Blogs too suffer from the same reluctance of lawyers to offer their thoughts.  Many many more people read blogs than comment on them. (On the other hand, with millions of blogs gushing away, maybe my point fails.)

Law departments struggle with these compilations of information because lawyers do not want to expose their ideas – lest they be criticized, perhaps; or they claim they do not have time, which really means that they do not see the payoff justifying their effort; or they are hobbled by technology, even down to the simple point of not being able to type proficiently.

One way to circumvent this obstacle is to assign lawyers responsibility for developing content.  Don’t leave it voluntary.  Another is to acquire enough material from other sources so that when someone searches among the entries, they are rewarded with a needle – and that spurs them to contribute to the haystack.  A third technique is to let software comb through documents and emails and weave it into gold (love those metaphors).

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