How to identify, store and share knowledge to assess value

How to identify, store and share knowledge to assess value

There is a tension between aspiration and reality with regards to knowledge in business. People want easy access to a small well of concise information, but what they have is a “dirty ocean of information that’s leaking and failing.” This is a particular problem for in-house legal teams who, by default, often become the ad-hoc information banks for their companies.

The LIKE Forum, chaired by Sophie Gould, Head of LexisPSL In-house, and led by Ian Leedham, Head of Commercial (Consultant) at Thames Water Limited, met on March 28th 2017 to discuss how to identify, store and share the knowledge that in-house legal teams have at their disposal. At the core of the discussion was how such knowledge, once identified, could be used to add value.

The forum focussed on several key areas, including:

  • Types of information in in-house legal teams
  • Identifying and delivering value
  • The challenges and solutions
  • Storing and sharing information

Types of information

Formal and informal types of information take many forms. But while the specifics vary from team to team, some are common to all:

  • Business knowledge
  • Historical files
  • Precedents
  • Know-how
  • Experience
  • Contract library
  • Company information
  • Problem-solving data

Before selecting the best information to retain, you need to determine:

  • What is in the best interests of the organisation?
  • What is the legal team’s role in the organisation?
  • How to best use the information you have
  • What to throw away, and when?

Deciding what information to collate and use will prevent you from having an “ocean of data”. Instead, you will have access to a well of useful, valuable information.

Identifying and delivering value

When assessing and identifying value, it is important to consider “what”, “how” and “why”.

  • What is unique about the legal team? What do they offer that’s different?
  • How does the team work?
  • Why should the business use the in-house team, rather than an external firm?

The best way to deliver significant value to your company is by applying your knowledge in the most suitable way to fit the company’s core purpose and needs.

Challenges and solutions

The main obstacle to effective information management is “information silos”. There is a tendency for knowledge to be held insularly either by individuals or within the wider legal team; primarily due to the perception that holding onto it confers power. However, keeping information in people’s heads isn’t utilising it fully and adding value. A change in perception is necessary to avoid reinventing existing solutions or repeating errors that have been made in the past.

Ushering in a cultural change in attitude towards teamwork is not easy, especially because, as some delegates pointed out, lawyers don’t like change. The LIKE forum has previously discussed how to embed knowledge sharing in the culture of the legal team. Click here to read the best practice learnings.

How to share information

The way information is communicated can have a significant impact on its perceived value so it is important that knowledge is communicated and presented in the right way. The forum considered possible ways of communicating information, such as:

  • Board Reports: Regular (one-slide) updates on the activities of the legal team can be a successful tactic.
  • Department Meetings: Provide updates on key projects and lessons learnt. But only distilled information that’s useful/valuable.
  • Intranet: Useful for sharing precedents. But a plan must be in place for how to keep it up to date.
  • 1-to-1s

Storing information

There are several factors to consider with regards to storing information, including:

  • The retention schedule: How valuable is the information? You should extract relevant data and discard the rest.
  • Ease: The size and ease with which electronic systems operate can prompt companies to retain all information. However, this is inefficient. Systems should not dictate what information you keep; not all information is valuable.
  • Cost: Physical (e.g. storage boxes) and electronic (e.g. cloud-based systems) information storage costs must be weighed against the value of keeping it. Is it worth it?
  • Frequency of use: Will you use the information frequently? If so, where should you store it so it’s easily accessible (e.g. nearby/on the cloud)?
  • Taxonomy: Try to embrace a naming convention as early on as possible, so that it becomes part of the process (common understanding in the team is important).
  • Protection: This is particularly important with regards to personal information.

Creativity is key. Don’t be afraid to innovate, to challenge accepted processes, to ask questions. Are you adding value for your client? Are you delivering what you need to in the best way possible?

Don’t accept the way things are just because that’s how it has always been done. As part of an in-house legal team you should be part of a continuously evolving, improving process.

Read the full LIKE Forum report here >


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About the author:

Sophie is Head of Learning & Development at F-LEX Legal - an award winning legal tech startup helping law firms and organisations manage a flexible work force and supporting lawyers to make smarter life/work choices. 

As part of her portfolio career Sophie runs various learning and development and networking forums for in-house lawyers and mentors junior lawyers.  These include Flying Solo for small and solo legal teams and Aspire for junior in-house lawyers which she runs for LexisNexis UK.  She also works with schools and organisations to promote social mobility within the legal profession, working with The Social Mobility Business Partnership and Aspiring Solicitors. 

She trained as a lawyer in the City and worked as an in-house lawyer for 10 years including as Head of Legal for Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group.  

Outside of work she is happily married with three sons and enjoys morning walks along the beach with her two dogs.