Knowledge Management Priorities in Large Law Firms — 2017 Survey

1 About this Survey

1.1 The Questions Asked and Chart Labels

At the end of each year, we ask three primary questions; the quoted text in parentheses corresponds to chart labels that appear later in this report.

  1. What are your top priorities for 2017? (“2017 Priority”)
  2. What did you focus on in 2016? (“2016 Focus”)
  3. What would you like to discuss with the group in 2017? (“2017 Discuss”)

1.2 Survey Demographics and Caveats about Interpreting It

I share here survey details so that readers understand the demographics and potential limitations in interpreting results.

  1. Firm Size and Location: Most respondents work at US, Canadian, and UK firms with 500 or more lawyers.
  2. Survey Not Representative of Market. We survey large law firms where we have identified senior KM professionals. The survey therefore selects for firms with a KM commitment. We believe the survey results reflect the direction of KM for such firms but it says nothing about firms with minimal KM investments.
  3. Respondents Provide Free-Form Text Answers and Tag Answers: Respondents answer each question with free-form text and then tag their answers into one or more of 16 defined topics (tags). These tags inform most of the survey interpretation. The list of tag names follows; for purposes of charts, I abbreviate them:
  • AI or data science
  • AFA / Budget / LPM
  • Client-Facing KM (except expert systems)
  • Collaboration / Internal Social Media
  • Content management / DMS
  • eDiscovery / litigation support
  • Expert systems
  • Experience location
  • Forms, precedents & document assembly
  • Matter management
  • Portal redesign or upgrade
  • Process improvement
  • Security / access management / info. gov.
  • Search (install, upgrade, or improve)
  • Selling / marketing KM internally
  • Other
  1. Question Changes in 2017. This survey added one new question and tag versus the prior three years: AI or data science. And it consolidated two prior year tags, social media and collaboration, into just the latter.
  2. Year-to-Year Comparisons and Multiple Tag Selections Per Question Allowed: The first table below shows the number of respondents by year and number of tags per question. Because of changes in both the number and mix of respondents, year-to-year results may not be directly comparable. The second table shows tags chosen per respondent. These data provide some guidance on yearly comparability. From 2014 through 2016, we had no changes in tags. The tag changes this year may call into question inter-year comparisons.

2 Survey Results and Interpretation

2.1 Summary of 2017 Responses and Gaps Between Priority and Focus

This chart shows responses to the 2017 survey, which we administered in late 2016:

2.2 Gaps Between Priority and Focus — Shifts in Attention from 2016 to 2017

We find it instructive to examine the gap between Priority and Focus. Recall that Priority refers to 2017 priority intent and that Focus refers to what respondents worked on in 2016. The gap reflects shifting attention from last year to this year.

2.3 Shifting Priorities Across Years

The chart below shows how priorities have shifted over time. In the text below the chart, I discuss those tags with greater than a 10-percentage point shift.

2.4 2016 Priorities Compared to Discussion Interests

Each year we also compare respondents’ priorities (“Do”) with what they would like to discuss (“Talk”). Charts below show two views of this comparison.

3 Conclusions

I draw two main conclusions from the survey. First, KM remains robust. Interest in this meeting and survey remains robust. Each year we identify more firms to add to the list. Second, KM has certain core activities but also takes on an ever-changing set of initiatives. KM professionals will likely always spend some time on forms + precedents and on maintaining or upgrading search. But they also work on a shifting range of activities, from pricing, AI and process improvement, to new methods of collaboration.



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I improve law practice via KM, LPM, legal tech, and better process. Lawyer, analyst, marketer, blogger, ex-Bain, ex-econometrician. Consultant @Firemancompany