KnowMaw: Every lawyer’s dream – the KM portal

January 1, 2001

KnowMaw will allow lawyers and support staff to search for aspecific item of information across a whole range of different informationsources from the one screen. Based on Hummingbird’s Fulcrum KM software,KnowMaw has been jointly developed with legal systems integrators Tikit. One ofthe most crucial aims of the project was to design KnowMaw so that it isintuitive and easy to use, so users do not require any specific training.

The problem…

Knowledge is undeniably power, but how does a law firm realisethis dream? The KM debate amongst the legal profession has largely centred onhow to extract knowledge from lawyers’ heads and desks – by carrots orsticks, champagne or appraisals? Whilst the accumulation of information isclearly an essential starting point in the KM process, there has been much lessfocus on the equally crucial step of how best to disseminate this information toothers within the law firm.

Without wishing to sound too complacent, I believe that Rowe& Maw has developed a good knowledge sharing culture. The firm has a longtradition of an ‘open door’ policy, encouraging all lawyers (whatever theirlevel of qualification) to pop in, bounce off ideas and swap knowledge. Theimportance of capturing internal knowhow was also recognised some years ago withthe appointment of Stephen Gare, head of the Intellectual Property & ITGroup, as head of knowhow firm-wide. Each of our major practice groups has oneor more dedicated KnowHow Lawyers, part of whose job is to maintain the knowhowdatabanks.

The Web has seen an explosion in the availability of legalinformation which was previously hard to track down. Rowe & Maw was one ofthe first, if not the first, City law firm to give all staff, not just lawyers,full Internet access. With our numerous online subscription and alertingservices and CDs, as well as knowhow databanks, there is almost no excuse fornot being able to find the answer out there somewhere. But why is the realitynot so simple?

The answer – information overload!

Knowhow lawyers and librarians are frequently met with urgentpleas: ‘Where can I find…?’,‘Help – I can’t remember my password’, ‘Where can I find that CD?’,‘It’s a while since I went on my training and I cannot remember how tosearch using…’. Whilst they cancertainly help with research, this does not negate the need for lawyers to beable to carry out their own research. Given the lawyer’s first-hand knowledgeof his/her client’s situation, it should be more efficient to research theproblem him/herself – but the reality has often been that, largely because ofthe time and effort in locating the relevant sources, delegation to a junior wasthe norm. At Rowe & Maw, we believe that all lawyers, regardless ofseniority, need to be able to access legal information readily – not least sothat they can deal with that late-night call (when everyone else has gone home)from ‘Mr Very Important New Client’ needing advice within the hour on amajor international transaction.

Until now technology has limited the efficient delivery oflegal information within law firms, largely restricting KM to group-basedsystems. Now, for lawyers at Rowe & Maw, life is looking rosier, thanks toKnowMaw.

The solution: KnowMaw

Rowe & Maw has embraced technology to help solve theproblem of information overload. We have taken ‘out-of-the-box’ Fulcrumsoftware, a non-legal searching tool produced by Hummingbird, and developed itin conjunction with legal systems integrators Tikit, to produce our customisedlegal KM system – KnowMaw. From the one screen, a single search for a specificitem of information can be carried out over many of the firm’s informationsources. One of the pre-requisites in designing KnowMaw was that it should beeasy and intuitive for all staff to use, negating the need for specific trainingand the costly and lengthy exercise of lawyers having to spend time in theclassroom.

We have just completed development work and extensive pilottesting of what we believe will be the first KM system to be rolled out on apractice-wide basis within a UK law firm.

The KnowMaw project

Having recognised the need to simplify the retrieval of legalinformation for our lawyers, we started off by evaluating various KM productswhich claimed to be suitable for the legal market (but many of which were not!).We were, at first, disappointed not to have found a ready-made solution which wecould install with minimum development work. However, we were impressed byHummingbird’s Fulcrum software, not least because it was compatible with ourexisting IT systems and allowed ‘one stop’ searching of our internalinformation, but also because it looked promising for ‘one stop’ searchingof external web-sites. So, in the end we had no choice but to embark onfull-scale development and customisation of Fulcrum (in conjunction with Tikit)in order to get what we wanted.

Our next task was to set up a core project team. Since themotivation for this project was lawyer-driven, it was important that the projectwas managed by a lawyer, rather than being a pure IT project. A knowhow lawyer(myself) was appointed as Project Manager, assisted by the Head of IT, CourtneyPark. The rest of the Rowe & Maw team comprised three knowhow lawyers andone of our own software developers. It was important that the team was keptsmall for logistical reasons, but we liased closely throughout the project withother lawyers, the full knowhow team, secretaries and the IT department. Theteam worked with Tikit, principally with a Senior Development Manager, meetingat least once a week for the last year or so.

Then it was necessary for both Tikit and ourselves to ‘getinside’ Fulcrum. This involved taking Fulcrum apart and looking at itsfunctionality, from both an IT and legal perspective. Only then were we in aposition to draw up and agree on Rowe & Maw’s specification. This latterstep, I must confess, was quite a lengthy process with a balance having to bestruck between lawyers, on the one hand, who want to document everything andsoftware developers who are keen to get on and crack the code.

The real development work could at last begin! In addition toproviding legal expertise on the design and functionality of KnowMaw andcarrying out extensive testing throughout the project, Rowe & Maw’s ownsoftware developers have contributed code and functionality.

This September we successfully piloted the system to 50 feeearners, ranging from trainees to partners, and secretaries. We are now workingtowards a firm-wide roll out of KnowMaw in November 2000.

So, what can KnowMaw search?

We are continuing to expand the information sources whichKnowMaw can search, but they include the following.

The firm’s knowhow databanks. These comprise our internalknowhow (precedents, professional practice rules, advice, counsel’s opinions,agreements, seminars, etc). For the first time we can search over all groupdatabanks, or any combination of them, simultaneously – which is importantgiven the numerous areas of law which cut across different practice groups.Also, the full text of the attached document is now searchable, not just theprofiled information, with the search term highlighted for easy identification.We can focus our searches further by searching within the specific fields of thedocument profile. Given the value of our precedents and professional practicerules, we have designed KnowMaw so that any which match the search criteria willappear at the top of the results list, regardless of the return order selected.In order to further encourage the donation of knowhow within the firm, we havetaken the opportunity to revamp the submission and inputting of knowhow usingWord, which offers significant advantages over our previous databank software.We have been able to convert all existing information into the new format sothat there is a seamless transition between ‘old’ and ‘new’ knowhow.Whilst there is no technical reason why we could not use KnowMaw to search allof our document management Word libraries, we have chosen not to do so as thebasis of Rowe & Maw’s KM strategy is quality rather than quantity. We haveinstead chosen only to search that knowhow which has been selected and to whichvalue has been added by our knowhow lawyers.

Our Intranet and web-site. KnowMaw also provides hyperlinksdirect to these sites.

Library index. For the first time fee earners can find out fromtheir own screen if we have a particular publication and where they can find it.

Marketing database. Being able to search the firm’s contactsthrough KnowMaw proved a big hit in the pilot, since it is much quicker thansearching by more traditional methods.

Your own e-mail and Outlook folders. Again this proved verypopular with those who piloted KnowMaw, as e-mail attachments are searchable,not just the profile and body of the e-mail. Also, all folders or anycombination can be searched in one go, which is not possible with Outlook. Areal bonus is that you can read your e-mails, reply and send new ones, all fromwithin KnowMaw.

Public Folders. An alternative to our intranet or databanks forallowing individuals to make useful information available across the firm.

Legal CDs. Although the Fulcrum software cannot search the CDsthemselves (due to the way in which the information is formatted), we havedeveloped a direct link from KnowMaw to our CD Tower. Fee earners no longer needto go back to their start-up screen to locate the CD Tower icon and to rememberto run LanCD software before they can access the relevant CD. More importantly,access to CDs is now possible from outside the office. Using Citrix coupled withKnowMaw, remote access to the CD Tower is now possible. Given that themaintenance of the CD Tower was previously a logistical nightmare for our ITdepartment requiring countless visits to individuals’ screens, it comes as abig relief to them that it can now be controlled centrally.

Key features of KnowMaw

  • Intuitive and easy-to-use, with no training required for fee earners or secretaries.

  • One search only involved to search across all sources, or any combination of them.

  • Full-text searching – for example, of databank document profile and attached knowhow document or of e-mail profile, text and attachment.

  • Hit highlighting of search term.

  • Simple Boolean connectors to allow easy construction of search strings.

  • Ability to search for most recent (as well as most relevant) documents.

  • Ability to re-group results – for example, by author, location, relevance or date.

  • Various options for display of results: Quick view using Fulcrum scanner; Summary mode showing context of highlighted term (we opted for this rather than the automatic summarisation feature as we did not consider it adequate for our purposes); or Open to edit a copy of the document.

  • Advanced search facility which focuses a search by searching individual (or a combination of) fields in a document profile.

  • Ability to input databank documents using PC Docs/Word, with which all fee earners are familiar. The intention is that fee earners will be able to submit their own knowhow to the databanks, regardless of which application they are in.

  • Push technology – automated e-mail updates sent to individuals if new material matching their saved searches is added to the system. Knowhow lawyers have the ability to set up shared alerts with members of their groups, so they can readily update them, for example when new material is added to a particular databank.

  • Hyperlinks from KnowMaw direct to our intranet and Web site.

  • Ability to access e-mail and all Outlook folders direct from KnowMaw without having to step outside the KM system.

What next?

One of the initial attractions to us of Fulcrum was itspotential to allow ‘one stop’ searching of Web sites from a common screen,removing the need to remember all the different passwords and variations ofconnectors. Although we have found Fulcrum suitable for searching our ownIntranet and Web site, we have now turned to Hummingbird’s new EnterpriseInformation Portal (‘EIP’) to assist with searching the larger externalsites. Hummingbird has been working with several of the online legal informationproviders (such as Butterworths, Lawtel, Lexis-Nexis, PLC and HMSO) to enablereal-time brokerage searching of their sites. We are continuing to work withTikit and Hummingbird to integrate EIP with KnowMaw.

Having developed such a flexible KM tool, we will continue todevelop KnowMaw in line with practice needs. By simplifying access to our legalinformation, KnowMaw will enable Rowe & Maw to continue to provide anefficient and high quality service to our clients.

Dr. Karen Cleaver is KnowMaw ProjectManager and Know-How Lawyer in the Intellectual Property & IT Group, Rowe& Maw: