On the 7th May 2014 SLA Europe held it’s first Irish Event for New Professionals entitled ‘New Professionals Guide to Knowledge Management’. This event was co-hosted by SLA Europe Legal Division with A&L Goodbody and was led by Knowledge Partner, Paula Reid, and Assistant Knowledge Services Manager, Lauren Lawler (last year’s SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award Winner). Please see below for the post completed by Siobhan McGuinness on this talk for New Professionals here in Ireland.
Knowledge management and many others like it have become the buzz words surrounding information and how it is utilised within a business. However Knowledge Management also known as KM, sits very well within new the business strategies of today’s information society. Managing information has always been a forte of librarians and KM manages not only to advance the skills of the library and information professional but also to merge existing pieces of work to become better and more effective within the workplace.
The particular workplace that is the focus of this piece is a large law firm. The study of law is one of great importance for any society and more importantly legal information being curated on a daily basis needs to be retrieved with minimum time wasted. Legal research is where a law librarian can develop these skills of curation, preservation and retrieval in a highly effective way. The expertise lies in knowing the importance of the information; the daily change to the law, tracking legal information and keeping current awareness throughout your daily tasks and always asking is this good law?
Paula Reid, Knowledge Partner and Lauren Lawlor Assistant Knowledge Services Manager of A&L Goodbody, emphasise the above points in their presentation in partnership with Special Libraries Association Legal Division. Paula & Lauren outline’s the role and function of a Knowledge team and how this relationship works alongside the library, now known as the knowledge centre. Here we see a change in the traditional librarian’s title, even though the physical library exists within the firm the role and space has evolved.
This relationship does stretch to the lawyers in various ways; however the degree of reliance and trust that is placed within both parties is of utmost importance. This aspect of law librarianship in my opinion makes it the most unique and specialised sector of librarianship. Reference queries have many challenges within a law firm. These include limited time allocations, usually within the hour if not quicker; the vagueness of the query can also be a challenge in many instances the lawyer asking the query may have been given the information second hand. In order to facilitate this query all sources need to be reviewed and a decision within yourself as a librarian needs to be made as to the reliance you place with the information you find, one such quote from the presentation is “no stone should be left unturned”. The main challenge here: knowing when to stop searching.
Knowledge Management is many things and many definitions can be cited within various contexts, however two elements that I find encapsulate KM in a law firms is (A) Breaking down Silos within a large organisation that does have separate departments but altogether work as a team. (B) KM brings all this information that is stored in books and minds into one system that creates a conversation. Pulling all this information together is another skill of the Knowledge Services Team, within A&L Goodbody their extensive Intranet Knowhow allows each person access to a wide range of information.
Many challenges do arise from this extensive knowledge pool, many people within the firm are too busy to update their work and make it accessible to others, the time a lawyer has is very precious and to them rewriting something they have spent weeks on seems like time wasted, and the last challenge which I personally thought was an interesting one, if the firm has junior lawyers they may be too scared to share this information with other more senior personnel. So here is where the Knowledge Team steps in and encourages each person within the firm to share their knowledge for the benefit of others.
It is of utmost importance to make this information assessable to the people within your law firm; however another crucial element is the client, the person we all need to serve. Within A&L Goodbody they have established a special service that speaks to the client only. This service is where the client can query any piece of information they need and also access this information via an Extranet. This is also another skill the Knowledge Team adds to the law firm, in creating and managing these sites it gives various people access to work with the information that is integrated with specific legal texts. With this vast amount of information it does pose many challenges, the main one being information overload, access to massive amounts of information is only good if you know how to search and when to stop, being able to adapt to constant change within the information and being able to keep on top of this change is a skill in itself, confidence within your ability is vital in keeping a strong relationship with the lawyer and the client.
The concept of Knowledge Management is one that works in organisations that have many elements and elements that need to be aligned together. With the expertise and experience of each individual a knowledge team, along with a library and information professional’s skills marry these and provide a structure whereby each person benefits from highly effective information management.