The access costs of knowledge, a concept useful to those who manage in-house legal staff

Enlightenment thinkers understood that knowledge only brings benefits if it enables useful change and if those who can bring about the changes can learn of it. Access to knowledge counts for as much as creation for without the means to find out, lest the candle flicker under the bushel. Akin to creativity amounting to little without effective innovation – implementation – what collectively resides in the minds and documents of law department lawyers creates far less benefit if it is not accessible without much difficulty by others.

Access costs are a theme of knowledge management. Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 (Yale Univ. 2009) stresses in many passages the vital role of information access and access costs or barriers. Mokyr defines access costs as “the costs paid by someone to find and obtain knowledge that he or she had not possessed previously” (at 42). Every dollar paid a law firm is an access cost; every subscription or CLE course has an access cost; every minute spent listening to a client describe the business problem incurs an access cost. The notion is ubiquitous as knowledge workers go about gaining and making available useful knowledge.

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