posted 27 Jan 2004 in Volume 7 Issue 5
Five minutes with…
Jacquie Bran, project manager with the Knowledge Management events team, spoke to Ana Paula Aleixo, know-how and information officer at Linklaters, Lisbon, about her role in the development of a knowledge-management strategy within a ‘magic circle’ law firm.
When and why did you start addressing knowledge management within your organisation?
In early 2002, Linklaters became the first ‘magic circle’ firm to open an office in Portugal and I joined six weeks later in May. Before I could start to address knowledge management here, I had to find out what KM work had already been undertaken at Linklaters and identify the information bank that we would need to build up.
How did knowledge management develop at Linklaters?
The firm already had a KM strategy and structure in place. We have the Know-how and Information department, the central hub of information services, and each country office has its own Know-how and Information unit. Although each unit is organised in the same way and uses the same databases and materials, we have the flexibility to establish our own strategy in response to our specific information needs.
How long did it take to develop a knowledge-management strategy?
It took us about a year. One of the most time-consuming elements was ensuring that we fully understood our partners’ information needs, which includes legislation, jurisprudence or case law and doctrine. Our plan had to include the collection and maintenance of a library that serves the fee-earners’ needs while gathering and indexing useful legal information into databases, and organising our know-how materials. We also needed to develop a training plan for lawyers and support staff to teach them how to use our information and know-how systems. The KM team includes myself, as the know-how and information officer in charge of the Lisbon Information unit, our office manager, the partner who oversees know-how and the know-how manager in the London headquarters.
What is your timeline for implementing knowledge management and what do you anticipate will be the biggest challenges?
We aim to meet our goals over an 18-month period, but we also plan to re-evaluate and adapt our goals each year. Personally, my biggest challenge is to provide, in an efficient and effective way, all the legal information required by the firm. I must also – and this is perhaps the most difficult part – ensure that all the lawyers are as self-sufficient as possible in terms of accessing legal information.
Has fragmentation been a challenge?
This is sometimes a problem because there is such an incredible variety of information across several databases; you have to know them all so that you know where to look. To overcome this difficulty, I try to connect them and establish links between data and our databases – in a similar way to the internet – to make it as easy as possible for our users to find the information they need. Lawyers and staff regularly examine this area in training sessions. Although we have several databases that hold different kinds of information, our IT technicians are currently trying to create a new interface where everyone can look for all legal information using the same search methods in a single browser.
Has knowledge management delivered any quick-win benefits or longer terms results for you so far?
My work is never done! In fact, it is constantly growing and needs updating regularly to keep up with the proliferation of legal information sources. It is only natural that the benefits are in the medium-to-long term, but after working on KM for a year, I can already see gains and tangible results.
Did you pilot knowledge management before implementation?
We didn’t have time to pilot the strategy before its implementation. I had to lead the KM strategy and development of the Know-how and Information unit, which was particularly difficult in the first year as there were no exact guidelines or previous experiences to follow. Starting everything from scratch has been a challenge.
What are your goals for KM at Linklaters, Lisbon?
The idea is to enable both lawyers and supporting staff to access the information and know-how they need to perform to the best of their professional capacity, which will in turn enhance our competitive edge.
What important lessons have you learnt and what are your milestones for the future?
One thing I have learnt is the value of professional co-operation with colleagues, both in-house and with those in other information services. Without this, I definitely would not have been able to do my job effectively or gain the wealth of experience I now have. In the short-to-medium term, my aim for the future is to build up a committed Know-how and Information unit, staffed by carefully chosen and skilled librarians and information assistants to work together seamlessly for Linklaters, Lisbon. My cherished long-term goal is to develop an interface across the board to all of our information databases that offers ease of access to anyone who needs to use it. In this way, everyone will have the necessary tools to be self-sufficient and empowered, which is essential in today’s information society.
Ana Paula Aleixo is know-how and information officer at Linklaters, Lisbon. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org