Published on:

Cost of knowledge balanced against utility of the knowledge

The cost of acquiring knowledge may be so high that it exceeds the utility of the knowledge acquired even if that utility is also high. This point from Richard A. Posner, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline (Harvard University Press 2001) at 153, applies to knowledge management in law departments – do we want to divert a senior lawyer to push it (See my post of July 21, 2005 on several other prods.) – and to productivity metrics – do we want to track internal times (See my post of Jan. 13, 2006 for pros and cons.). The calculation holds for evaluations of law firms – do we insist that lawyers complete rating forms online – and acquisition of billing information – do we spend time to make sense out of task codes (See my post of April 23, 2006 on UTBMS codes.)?

On this construal, if the law department can reduce the costs of information acquisition, it can delve deeper into matters and activities. An example of this would include electronic billing as well as full-text searching (See my post of March 5, 2005 on Google Desktop Search.), both of which reduce the costs of knowledge drastically and therefore correlatively open up more opportunities to make use of knowledge.