Knowledge Management in the Law Firm

Inherent in this process is the challenge of making tacit knowledge explicit, so that it can be captured and shared. Tacit knowledge is the holy grail of knowledge management: the intangible, generally unspoken, “experience” that lies in the mind of an expert. This experience is the magic ingredient that allows the expert, (a lawyer) to perform the alchemy of transforming information (i.e., facts, research, etc.) into legal work product (i.e., advice and counsel, a successfully negotiated deal, or a solid legal document) that is delivered to a client.

The challenge, of course, is to get this tacit knowledge out of the mind of an expert and capture it in a form that can be used by others—traditionally, in the form of the written word. Unfortunately, this approach is labor-intensive and tedious. In its most basic form, the expert is charged with writing down his or her tacit knowledge in the form of a book, article, methodology, checklist, or a model document with annotations. In some cases, another staff member will be assigned to facilitate this capture process, by acting as a ghost writer, interviewing the expert and then (jointly) creating written materials.