How to make the most of the knowledge in your law department

My skepticism about efforts in law departments to rather disseminate knowledge has been expressed (See my post of March 5, 2005 on altruistic information sharing.). Not withstanding my doubts, I believe firmly that general counsel should try to build their department’s knowledge capital. Here are some of the steps I recommend.

1. Keep an up-to-date list of lawyers and paralegals who have sufficient experience with a certain area of law to be regarded as go-to people in those areas (See my post of March 17, 2006 about internal subject-matter experts (SMEs).).
2. For documents that you use with some frequency, develop templates and standard forms (See my posts of April 5, 2007 on document assembly; and June 12, 2005 about the value when a veteran lawyer prepares form documents.).
3. Require those who attend CLE sessions to distribute their notes and materials (See my post of May 1, 2005 on this practice.).
4. Make full use of a document management system, if one is available. If not available, look into installing one (See my post of Dec. 6, 2007 regarding document management and references cited.).
5. Take advantage of training opportunities provided by your lead law firms (See my post of May 24, 2007 on free offerings by firms.).
6. Require law firms you retain to provide their work product in electronic form (See my post of Aug. 22, 2006 about the futility of law departments collecting work product.).
7. Encourage discussion among your professionals regarding what they are working on (See my posts of Sept. 10, 2005 on practice groups and communities of interest; and June 25, 2007 regarding status reports.).
8. To the extent possible, break down silos of lawyers who do not communicate or share with each other (See my posts of March 22, 2006 on solutions to silos; Jan. 30, 2006 on cross-functional teams at Independence Blue Cross; and March 28, 2006 about PPG’s efforts to break down silos.).
9. Designate “minors” – secondary areas of law to keep up on for the benefit of the entire department – for all of your lawyers and encourage them to keep up on developments in those areas (See my post of Dec. 17, 2006 for “majors” and “minors.”).

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