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Law department access, directly, to the knowledge management material of law firms

In a recent speech, Mark Chandler, the general counsel of Cisco Systems, spoke fiercely and creatively at Northwestern School of Law’s 34th Annual Securities Regulation Institute (See my post of March 8, 2007 for Chandler’s thoughts about the plummeting cost of legal information.). Chandler referred in his talk to the Legal On Ramp.

Cisco and eight other Fortune 500 companies, together with a number of law firms, have created the web site. It will “allow direct access to search the firms’ KM [knowledge management] systems. The site will use wiki technology to drive collaboration.” I think this may be the same group that in mid-2005 announced a collective effort focused on the legal needs arising from the HR function (See my post of July 21, 2005.). Chandler hints broadly that securities work will be one of the first targets of the system.

My thought is that all the information in the world, easily found and at no cost, only partially helps a busy in-house lawyer who needs to answer a particularized set of legal questions. Answers – information – won’t help if the questions are unclear and balancing considerations is required. I’m also surprised that law firms will agree to scrub their intellectual property of client identifiers and give it away.