Overcoming Resistance to Structured Leveraging of
Those who resist programs to capture and share tacit knowledge need to be reminded that tacit
knowledge can be among the most important categories of knowledge to share, given the change-filled
environment of most law departments. Law departments grow; employees leave, retire or relocate;
companies and law departments expand globally; reorganizations occur; and companies merge.
Because of all of these changes, continuity and consistency are imperative. Law departments that have
historically relied on employee longevity and relationships to informally share knowledge suffer in this
environment. Tacit knowledge provides important context in a variety of situations (e.g., how various
strategic partners work best together based on history, culture and experience; how decisions are
actually made; how things really get done; what was tried in the past and how that influences current
decisions; whom to go to for what; and accumulated knowledge about the organization’s culture).
Naysayers might also be surprised to realize that law departments are already sharing tacit knowledge
in some circumstances. For example, conducting law firm evaluations, early case assessments, and risk
assessments rely, in part, on history combined with the perspective provided by people’s experience
Methods for Transferring Tacit Knowledge
The management and leverage of tacit knowledge requires greater investment in people and process
than in systems. Some tacit knowledge can be transferred to more explicit types of knowledge. For
example, to the extent that employees record their tacit knowledge in emails, memos or other
documents, that information can be captured in the same way as other forms of unstructured data.
Unfortunately, however, people are often not even aware of the knowledge they possess and its value
to others and to the organization. One individual’s tacit knowledge must therefore become others’
tacit knowledge. Transferal of tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge happens through socialization—
creation of common tacit knowledge through shared experiences; while transferring tacit knowledge
to explicit knowledge requires externalization—the use of dialogs to create process maps or diagrams,
for example. 2 To best leverage tacit knowledge, a combination of transferring information from
one individual to another and identifying ways to make that information reusable by others is ideal,
particularly for standard operating procedures, case studies, training materials and staffing models.
Truly and effectively transferring tacit knowledge requires a concerted effort involving extensive
personal contact and trust.
Best practices for the transfer of tacit knowledge include retrospective learning programs, immediate
application strategies and proactive learning programs.
Retrospective learning—learning from the past—can be accomplished in a variety of structured ways,
• expert interviews,
• lessons learned debriefing sessions,
2 Filemon A. Uriarte, Jr., Introduction to Knowledge Management (ASEAN Foundation 2008), available at
www.aseanfoundation.org/documents/knowledge_management_book.pdf (last viewed September 28, 2012).