Why the concept of knowledge management needs to be repositioned

Why the concept of knowledge management needs to be repositioned

Knowledge ManagementEffective strategy making and knowledge management are intimately interwoven in the modern law firm. Indeed, when boiled down to its base elements, what else does a law firm do but leverage knowledge and leverage relationships. It converts knowledge to revenue through its relationships with its clients and its people.

If we step back from the strait-jacket of historic convention it is clear that every aspect of a firm’s interaction with its clients involves leveraging knowledge in some way; whether it is legal knowledge, relationship knowledge, process knowledge, systems knowledge or organisational knowledge. Defined in this way, being significantly better at managing knowledge will clearly create opportunities. How we interact with our clients and the way in which we provide services to them are, both intellectually and practically, knowledge management opportunities and challenges!

So what are the barriers to a more holistic and strategic approach to knowledge?  To an extent, the problem lies, as with so many other aspects of management within the legal environment, in the language that we use and how it is interpreted by those who hear it. For many lawyers, the term "knowledge management" has become synonymous with "legal technical know-how".

The concept of knowledge management needs to be repositioned. In the minds of many it is inexorably intertwined with legal technical knowledge at best and the management of voluminous information systems at worst. It is perceived as a world occupied by pedants rather than at the core of the business proposition; as a means by which a firm can create unique value for its clients and a strong brand position.

Whilst excellent legal knowledge is undoubtedly a business critical capability it is only rarely a source of sustainable competitive advantage. In reality it is often the "table stakes" needed to play the game within the increasingly competitive environment faced by corporate and commercial law firms. It is necessary but not sufficient.

The explanation as to why this is this case is both rational and pragmatic. Legal technical knowledge is inevitably shared either explicitly or implicitly within the legal community – it is either proprietary, being sourced from one of

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About the author:

Andrew Hedley advises law firm leaders on issues of vision, strategy and change.  Alongside project engagements, he is a sought after strategy group guide, partner retreat speaker, workshop facilitator and coach.

He is the author of Developing Strategic Client Relationships (2008) and Client Strategy in a Changing Legal Market (2011).  Andrew has been admitted as a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, the Strategic Planning Society, the Chartered Management Institute, Cambridge Marketing College and the Royal Society of Art.

Hedley Consulting is recognised as a leading boutique strategy consultancy within the legal sector.