How has technology changed the legal profession for knowledge managers?

How has technology changed the legal profession for knowledge managers?

As technology continues to change the face of the legal industry, Jon Beaumont, knowledge systems advisor at Shearman & Sterling, Sandra Smythe, knowledge manager at Mishcon de Reya, and Tim Barlow, head of legal information services at Stephenson Harwood, look at how technology has changed the roles of knowledge managers over the past few years.


Technology is changing the face of the legal industry. Established roles such as knowledge managers, IT directors and of course fee earners themselves have all been impacted in many ways. Beyond that, we are seeing the emergence of entirely new roles such as legal project managers or teams of paralegals who are no longer focused on directly supporting fee earners but are instead working on technology products built in-house. In some cases law firms are going from just selling services to actually selling technology products.

In light of all these changes, how do some of the more established members of legal teams see their roles changing? What are experienced professionals doing (or what should they be doing) to keep up to speed? Are new entrants to their professions realistic about what their futures are likely to entail and are they arriving properly equipped to perform these roles in this changing world?

The changing role of knowledge managers

The expectations placed on KMs have increased over recent years, possibly partly due to Google setting such a high bar when it comes to search functionality. According to Jon Beaumont of Shearman & Sterling: ‘Individuals and Practice Groups are no longer happy with a general search that returns no more than a handful of partially relevant documents and the odd email or piece of know-how. The challenge has always been that lawyers believe there is some sort of magical remedy to return knowledge they seek immediately with little input.

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