Reposted with permission from the ILTA KM blog.
In many law firms, the Marketing and Business Development teams (MBD) are experiencing growing demand for their services. While that speaks to the visibility and value placed upon these professionals, it can result in long hours and additional stress on the department. As a way to alleviate some of the time and resource pressures, MBD teams have been turning increasingly to, and partnering with, Library and Knowledge Management (KM) teams for research, data and other support. After consulting some colleagues from the U.S. and Canada, we have identified a number of ways that firms might maximize the value of this cross-team collaboration.
Leveraging Library Professionals
Among the many skills that librarians bring to the table is their ability to perform research, and to organize resources and content in the best way for people to easily locate and consume it.
1. Research. Not only do librarians conduct research related to the practice of law, they also can perform research related to the business of law. Researchers are well-versed in the best sources for company and industry data, biographical information, deal runs, analyst reports, and all sorts of advanced research, to assist with pitching and prospecting. They know the most authoritative and cost-effective sources, and are experts at crafting search strategies.
2. News. In addition to on-demand news research, many libraries also administer news services to watch current and potential clients, executive moves, new litigation, industry trends and more. The Library can also set up real-time alerts on the firm and its clients to ensure that MBD is alerted immediately when an announced deal, litigation settlement, or other event hits the news or web. They can also tailor watches to surface an endless variety of special events that may trigger work opportunities for the firm.
3. Visibility Opportunities. The Library can also help identify writing, speaking and sponsorship opportunities. Through their research, Librarians may be suggest which publications and conferences are most respected and reach the widest appropriate audience. Once an opportunity is defined, research librarians may assist in finding industry, economic and legal trends suitable for articles, events and session topics.
4. Copyright Compliance. The Library often serves as copyright compliance administrators, ensuring that the firm has the appropriate licensing permission to use third-party content. Navigating the complexities and challenges around fair use of text, graphics and media can and should be handled centrally, where streamlined processes and thorough record-keeping can be key. Several libraries also use plagiarism detection software to catch inadvertent misuse of intellectual property.
5. Resource Management. As library professionals are well-versed in managing large and diverse materials, the Library may be able to save MBD time and money by:
- Having the Library purchase reports, articles and subscriptions not only alleviates the clerical burden from MBD, but also may result in savings since libraries may have discount programs such as free shipping, bulk download discounts, preferred vendor contracts, and free or low-cost inter-library loan contacts;
- Ensuring that each group has the necessary resources at the best price and with the best terms, without duplication, since the departments often need access to the same or similar digital resources; and
- Leveraging library directors’ experience with evaluating, selecting and negotiating complex database contracts and licenses for electronic resources, in resource negotiations
6. Competitive Intelligence (CI) and Data Analytics. If there are CI specialists in MBD, they might partner with the Library for research assistance. For the majority of firms without any or enough CI professionals, the Library might be tapped to collect benchmarking data, watch for law firm and industry trends, and provide summaries.
Leveraging Knowledge Management Professionals
Given their legal background, KM or professional support lawyers within firms can be used as a proxy for lawyers on MBD projects and can provide MBD with certain information they require, saving lawyer time and allowing the lawyers to focus on client activity. KM professionals from other disciplines can also provide a range of support.
7. Expert/Expertise Identification and Management. Whether MBD needs to field a team for an RFP Response, recruit an author for a publication or propose a speaker for a conference, MBD might enlist KM’s assistance to identify the appropriate subject matter expert(s). If the KMers are embedded in practice groups, they often have a good sense of the lawyers with expertise in a particular area. KM lawyers can offer (candid) suggestions as to whom might be appropriate for the particular initiative, avoiding the need to send out the firm-wide email or troubling a practice group leader.
In some firms, KM may be responsible for developing and managing systems and tools which can help identify experts or experience (e.g. expertise location systems, enterprise search systems, or work product retrieval tools). MBD may ask KM to use the system to locate the experts, or to provide MBD with documentation and training on the system’s effective use. If the firm is looking to develop an expertise location system or experience management database, the KM and MBD teams should collaborate so that the solution achieves both groups’ goals, rather than having separate systems.
8. RFP Responses. In the not so distant past, the role of KM in RFPs was typically limited to reviewing the one to two paragraphs relating to the KM capabilities of the firm. Assuming capacity, KM professionals can bring additional value to the equation by potentially:
- helping MBD develop draft work plans, if requested in the RFP;
- responding to an increasing number of questions regarding the firm’s approach to matter management, legal project management, efficiency, and process improvement;
- reviewing practice area and work descriptions; and
- suggesting solutions that respond to client pain points (e.g. dashboard, portals etc.), given their knowledge of the firm’s tools and capabilities.
9. Matter Profiling/Identification. To respond quickly and efficiently to RFP Responses, league tables and directory submissions, MBD needs to be able to easily locate relevant work experience. MBD might enlist the KM team’s assistance with pinpointing responsive matters, drafting brief matter descriptions and populating some of the data points around the matter in any experience database. If the KM lawyers conduct matter debriefs, MBD can bolt onto that process and ask the KMers to capture salient marketing information at the same time so the lawyers aren’t being asked repeatedly for the same information by different people.
10. Information Architecture/Taxonomy Development. As many KM professionals are skilled in taxonomy development and the organization of information, KM might help MBD in developing a sustainable folder structure and metadata for storing, capturing and leveraging MBD information including proposals and collateral. For firms redoing their websites, KM and MBD might collaborate on creating the information architecture for the site – leveraging the KMs knowledge of the firm’s different practice areas. To the extent that the firm’s external and internal grouping may differ or have changed, KM might be recruited to develop a concordance or help with retagging or classifying content in accordance with the new taxonomy.
11. Events and Client Communication Support. For MBD charged with delivering continuing legal education events, KM lawyers can help MBD with its goal of delivering the best possible client experience. Since KMers are often responsible for monitoring developments in the law and the practice, they can be a source of topics for events. They might suggest agenda items, speakers, learning objectives and materials that can be leveraged or developed. KM lawyers can also serve as quality control – reviewing slides and takeaways. Likewise on the communications front, KM lawyers can suggest topics, and draft or review communications for marketing e-communications in accordance with firm standards.
12. Process Improvement. An increasing number of KM professionals are becoming skilled in lean and six sigma methodologies and techniques. If MBD does not have this skill set on their team, KM may be able to assist MBD in improving their own processes – leading the MBD department through a process mapping exercise in order to document the current state, identify inefficiencies and develop a new, better process (including defined roles & responsibilities, milestones and deliverables.) Or KM might facilitate a design thinking workshop with a view to helping MBD tackle a problem and develop an innovative solution.
Of course, the MBD teams can also provide support and services back to their fellow professional departments. Stay tuned for an upcoming installment of the ILTA KM Blog which will address the ways that MBD can help the library and KM departments.
Additional information: Heather Ritchie was interviewed by private law firm librarians Greg Lambert and Marlene Gebauer for Episode 27 of their podcast, The Geek in Review.