THE BUSINESS CASE
Why is Knowledge Management Necessary?
The practice of law and the business of corporate law departments require many types of knowledge,
and those types are constantly expanding. The increasingly complex regulatory environment, corporate
expansion into diverse jurisdictions, technology developments, and other changes have increased the
scope of the legal knowledge that today’s law department requires. At the same time, in-house lawyers
require a variety of types of knowledge—extending beyond legal expertise—in order to serve as both
a business advisor to clients and a savvy business manager of the department.
Even as the necessary knowledge base expands, many law departments’ resources are contracting.
Some term this “doing more with less,” but in reality, law departments must challenge themselves to
do the right things with less, evaluating the right work to be done and how best to do it. Departments’
knowledge, however, is dissipating or spreading in a variety of ways that may not be easily retrievable.
Employee turnover is an expected business reality—whether through ordinary employee attrition,
retirement or headcount reduction—and departing employees often take key department knowledge
with them. As baby-boomers begin to retire and a new generation of leadership emerges, some law
departments are experiencing a greater sense of urgency. Knowledge management helps improve
efficiency by offering the ability to leverage work, while increasing reliance on automation and
knowledge sharing. A structured knowledge management program also facilitates the transfer of
information among key individuals.
Further complicating matters, there are abundant places and ways to store the data and information
that contributes to knowledge. Gone are the days when memos and correspondence were stored as
either the official file or the employee’s reading file. Today, a typical law department employee likely
uses corporate email, has access to a corporate shared drive, uses a personal folder/drive on the
network to store files, and also has access to the corporation’s team-sites. The employee also likely
uses a corporate computer with its own hard drive, a corporate cellphone or smart phone, a personal
device such as a tablet on which she does business, and portable storage drives to store information.
And outside counsel, who also keep some of the department’s documents and information knowledge,
have the same range of storage options, with perhaps less certainty of availability when needed, as
illustrated by some clients’ struggles to retrieve their files and documents after the recent demise of
some firms. Information is everywhere, making it more difficult for individuals to have easy access to
the information they need to act most efficiently and effectively.
Globalization and corporate expansion have led to changes in many law departments through merger,
acquisition or the opening of new offices in geographically dispersed areas. Because law department
members may be spread all over the country or all over the world, there is a great need for internal
All of these factors underlie the need for corporate law departments to develop their own internal
document and information storage strategy and knowledge management program.