The COVID pandemic has heralded massive changes in the legal profession, but perhaps nothing more than a renewed respect for knowledge management lawyers who have played a pivotal role in the transformation to fully remote practice. Some would even say that the past two years have been the golden age of unsung knowledge management lawyers.
“What was incredibly important was how our profile and how people need our services … exploded,” said Ginevra Saylor, director of innovation and knowledge programs at Gowling WLG in Toronto. .
“I think COVID has demonstrated that focusing on basic knowledge management will serve you well if you need to pivot at some point,” said Adriana De Marco, senior director of knowledge management, education and innovation at Stikeman Elliott.
Stikeman Elliott had a “mature” knowledge management program, De Marco said, but during COVID they took much of their library and electronic resources and “repackaged them to make them more accessible to lawyers because that we knew would be an evolving need.”
Sukesh Kamra, director of knowledge and innovation at Torys, a Canadian Global 200 company, said the need for knowledge management lawyers had been “increased” during the pandemic. Previously, a paralegal or junior associate would have provided most of the legal support, but knowledge management lawyers are increasingly in demand.
Knowledge management attorneys are now required to “educate attorneys on substantive law topics, legal technology and process improvement methodologies to create efficiencies in practice,” a- he declared.
And coming out of COVID in an “agile, hybrid work scenario,” Saylor said she expects her team to continue to work hard as lawyers “have discovered” and better understand the value that knowledge management teams provide. She said she expects that in the future “we’re just going to be constantly on call, which is fantastic!”
Kamra said the number one change he’s seen during the pandemic was a change in the mindset of lawyers that created an environment where knowledge management and innovation teams could flourish.
Lawyers were “basically looking at that and saying we need to start thinking differently. We have to start changing some of our behaviors to adapt to new working styles,” he said.
That meant accessing and sharing knowledge in different ways than before the pandemic, he said. Efficient management of transactions has become very important as their number and size have increased during 2020 and 2021, which has required greater use of specific transaction-type tools such as Closing Folder, which has made it possible to manage remote transactions from any number of locations. .
Necessity, of course, compelled lawyers to adopt new practices and ways of sharing knowledge that also led to more creativity and “an openness” to wider use of legal technology and software, especially by older associates. experienced, Kamra said.
“Before the pandemic, there was always this kind of unwritten rule that associates are going to get more out of the knowledge management function than partners,” he said.
The growing importance of the knowledge management team wasn’t just internal. Saylor said customers became aware of his team’s process and technology skills and started asking the company for “solutions.” Internal customers “already know the law” so they can help spread and communicate it, she said. “It’s a really exciting new twist on the kind of work we do.”
Delving deeper into the trusted advisor role, Kamra said he often meets with general counsel and general counsel who are also going through digital transformations to compare notes and see how his team can help them in their “struggles.”
De Marco said she sees her role as also ensuring that lawyers in her firm have quick and easy access to up-to-date information, such as all the changing and complicated legislation surrounding COVID, so that they can distribute them to customers.
She added that the higher profile knowledge management is great, but to deliver the services the business now expects, the team needs to have the human resources and technology tools to facilitate rapid pivoting. At Torys, Kamra said the mindset of the partnership is that investment in knowledge management is needed because it is “the wave of the future”. He hired two new lawyers last week. Gowling’s Saylor said her team of four lawyers was maxed out and she planned to hire support in non-lawyer roles.