Storing the firm’s knowledge – is the document management system the right place?

June 26, 2016
On the 15 June 2016 Melanie Farquharson, James Holyday and Andrew Dey, members of  the SCL Knowledge Management Committee, hosted an event (at Linklaters) titled “Storing the firm’s knowledge – is the document management system the right place?”. The event began with a high-level level overview highlighting how law firms are currently organising their knowledge repositories and document management systems (DMS). 
Andrew Dey shared his experience of an in-house legal team’s approach – which included 10 Key Lessons for attendees to consider:
1.   What’s the structure
2.   Is it global
3.   Get the profile form right
4.   Ensure documents have an owner
5.   Agree the target audience
6.   Governance for content
7.   Quality over quantity
8.   Search v. Browse
9.   Expose the content  in other ways
10. Get – and maintain – buy-in
At the start of the evening attendees were asked to take part in a short survey. 
Key findings on the night:
•  93% of attendees had a DMS and 87% had a knowledge repository. Interestingly, only 60% of those that had a DMS stored their knowhow there, with others opting to use SharePoint/intranets or a bespoke KM system. 
•  The most surprising result from the survey was that only 53% of those that had knowledge repository made it accessible to all within the firm.
Midway through the session, table groups discussed the key features of a knowledge repository on the DMS and the pros and cons of each.
Suggested key features of a KM repository on the DMS:
•  Content in a DMS repository should be full text searchable.
•  There should be the ability to filter based on business sector or transaction type.
•  Discussions occurred on whether knowhow items should be redacted before being uploaded, the concern with cleaning the content was that it might be taken out of context or become meaningless.
•  It was suggested that rather than putting the ownership on the PSLs to identify what is particularly relevant about an item, it should be the responsibility of the submitters to explain why their items of knowhow are deemed special.
•  Open vs locked down – This question divided the room for most of the evening. Some suggesting that knowhow should be open to everyone: “It should be open, as it is the knowledge of the firm.”  Whereas others suggested “keeping it locked down helps encourage some to share because they know it won’t be seen by everyone” and “it helps to limit down search results for certain practices”.
LITIG Survey
Towards the end of the evening Andrew Dey fed back a recent poll from LITIG (The Legal IT Innovators Group – on general DMS security.
This suggested that 80% of the documents on law firms DMSs were open to all although many would then use security groups to change access from this default.  Their poll also highlighted that 20% of law firms gave clients access to relevant documents in their DMS.  And it was also identified through their survey that if in the future firms host their DMS in the cloud about 70% believe they would be sharing documents with clients.

The meeting concluded with a look to the future and some key considerations for those looking to use their DMS as a knowledge repository:
•  Security
•  Don’t over complicate things
•  Ownership
•  Longevity
•  Consistency.

Despite lots of talk about future opportunities for auto-classification and improvements in search technologies, this interesting event concluded that the document management system is still a rich source of knowledge, and is definitely to be considered for storing the firms knowledge content.

Melanie Farquharson, 3Kites
James Holyday, Linklaters LLP
Andrew Dey, Independent Legal Technology Advisor