Our “Small” Project with a Big Impact: Littler’s Knowledge Desk, A Case Study

Innovations in Legal KM Cover
By Cynthia L. Brown, Director Research Services at Littler Mendelson P.C..

This is a chapter from ARK Group’s new book Innovations in Legal KM and has been posted with permission from ARK Group. 

Littler’s library, a division of the greater KM department, bridges information needs and answers through its one-stop-shop for all KM and library research inquiries and needs via the Knowledge Desk. The Knowledge Desk is available to all Littler attorneys and staff for any legal research, traditional library resources, KM requests or questions concerning our legal training group Littler Learning Group (LLG). Via the Knowledge Desk, attorneys are connected to subject matter experts, a vast collection of databases, print materials, practice groups, internal work product and proprietary data collections, through which our team can search efficiently to locate exact information.

We had distinct goals when creating the Knowledge Desk:

  1. Centralize the gathering of attorney’s questions;
  2. Use library, KM, and LLG more efficiently;
  3. Create time for higher level projects and innovation;
  4. Better serve our attorneys.

Our first step was to determine what types of questions were separately coming to the library, KM and LLG, and who was answering these questions. We reverse-engineered the services we were providing to our attorneys and staff. The team reviewed years of emails, and sifted through mountains of data collected in our ticket-tracking system. We discovered that questions were being sent to KM that should have been sent to the library, and high-level KM attorneys were gathering documents that could have been provided by a library assistant. We were doing the wrong work with the wrong people. 

After our fact-finding, we mapped out types of requests, reviewed inquiries as they came in and then used data to shape our new policies and response protocols. We determined that all questions would be sent to one centralized email #KnowledgeDesk. The library created three teams to specialize in various types of tickets, and a system was created to elevate tickets to KM attorneys, LLG attorneys and KM management as needed. We spent significant time training the library staff to recognize KM questions and how to respond to those questions. During the pilot phase, KM attorneys were assigned to work in tandem with Librarians as we transferred work. Law firm librarians are perfectly suited to liaise between attorneys and a legal KM department, and our training and mentoring efforts served to enhance our librarian’s abilities. The training and pilot phase were critical to our success. We understood that every question received had to provide outstanding responses to ensure total firmwide adoption of our new plan. We spent several months running the Knowledge Desk with oversight by our KM attorneys and LLG teams, and in the end the training from KM and LLG merged with the expertise of our library team to create an increased level of service.

Once we knew how we wanted the Knowledge Desk to run, and we completed a successful pilot, it was time to determine how we would announce our new tool to the firm. Collaborating with our marketing team, we developed a detailed campaign. We knew it had to be more than one email announcement; it had to feel different because it was different.

The announcement had to make a splash. A team, assembled from the library, KM, and marketing, worked together on a multilevel campaign for the launch. Our Managing Directors sent out a firmwide announcement that included an animated video explaining the Knowledge Desk. We put together an animation to explain the Desk, and why attorneys and other firm employees would want to use it. We also sent each attorney, paralegal and secretary a ceramic coaster with our new logo and tag line. We wanted the Knowledge Desk to be at the forefront of their minds. Every time they picked up their coffee mug, they would see: ​​​#KnowledgeDesk: Your Answer is Here.

A year later, #KnowledgeDesk averages over 2,000 requests per month and has handled more attorney requests in the first nine months of 2017 than in all of 2016. We are on track to respond to over 26,000 requests by year-end – a 35% increase year-over-year. In the past 20 months, the number of “All Attorney” emails requesting basic or general information have dropped by over 50%, allowing our attorneys to spend time practicing law rather than digging through emails. #KnowledgeDesk ​continues to streamline workflow as the single point of contact for the Knowledge Management Attorneys, Research Librarians, and Littler Learning Group Trainers.

After this initial success, we will continue to work to improve and innovate delivering knowledge resources to our firm. We are now focusing on scaling the Knowledge Desk with smarter technology, automating processes as applicable and continuing to elevate each team member to continually improve the level and depth of service we can provide with minimal additional capital investment.

Link to ARK Group publication: , https://www.ark-group.com/product/innovations-legal-km-0#.WpgyHejFJPY

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