Some Cultural Issues Affecting Legal Knowledge Management

The legal profession is probably one of the most knowledge rich industries. In documentary knowledge alone, a law firm could possess thousands of knowledge artifacts which could be very useful for the efficient management of the business. Although most law firms have a knowledge manager or knowledge officer, the systematization of the practice of knowledge management as a whole set of management system is far from satisfactory. Most law firms rely on informal knowledge sharing. Firms also utilized codified knowledge sparingly for their business processes. Usually, law practitioners rely on their own knowledge base rather than on the entire knowledge base of the enterprise.

This may be due to the highly specialized roles played by lawyers in their firm’s operation. Every partner or associate partner in a firm has their own set of clients. These clients rely on a single lawyer to deliver their desired services. Rarely does the entire firm meddle in their lawyer’s cases. So, this highly individualized performance of work could be the major factor why legal knowledge management is still developing.

Another major barrier to the full utilization of knowledge management system in the legal scene is the time billing culture. This is the compensation method in the legal profession. Clients are billed according to the time allotted by lawyers to their cases. So the more billing hours logged, salaries of lawyers also increase. This billing culture probably prevents lawyers to participate in knowledge management. Lawyers will normally devote more of their time billing their clients than contribute their knowledge to the information base of their firm.