In the first plenary session on the Friday, Catherin Kenwright from Irwin Mitchell and Anthony Davies from LexisNexis discussed a project undertaken by Irwin Mitchell, in partnership with LexisNexis, to “deliver a comprehensive integrated knowledge solution to the firm”.
Catherine started off by detailing the challenges the Learning and Knowledge Management team at Irwin Mitchell were facing in 2008: including information being procured and accessed in “silos”, leading to time wasted in finding information; duplication in products/services leading to increased costs; lack of connectivity between IT systems; and external challenges such as the recession, client demands, and increased admin due to changes in regulations. There was also concern that the KM team was forced to be reactive, not proactive, so was not seen as a force for change.
The KM team worked collaboratively with LexisNexis to “grow business, deliver value for money, help meet regulatory obligations”, etc. 13 senior executives from Irwin Mitchell and 8 subject matter experts from LexisNexis worked on the project, which involved 37 hours of face-to-face interviews. The intention was a “holistic” review of current and future business, information and systems needs. The representative of LexisNexis was keen to stress at this point that they positioned themselves as consultants, not vendors – they didn’t go into this process with the aim of selling LexisNexis products, and took a “vendor-agnostic” approach when recommending solutions.
Some examples of solutions eventually put in place:
- Integrated workflow – one form for populating and searching all databases and checks, e.g. clients, marketing, conflict search, AML, etc. No more duplicated effort, less room for error
- Virtual bookshelf – in development. Standard texts in each practice area in digital format, can search from within case/matter
- Monitor for client websites
- CPD webinars
- Reduced supplier and business costs – products and processes streamlined wherever possible, eliminated duplication
- Automated processes allowed staff redeployment (i.e. lawyers could spend less time doing conflict searches and more time fee-earning)
- Improved the profile of the KM team within the business
- Opportunity for KM team to take on new responsibilities
- There were unexpected delays near the start of the process due to personnel changes. Not much they could have done to tackle this
- Very time-consuming process – 9 months from initial discussions to signing agreements
- Expect resistance – people don’t like changing their working habits. Especially expect resistance from IT – IT felt that KM were invading their territory
- Find ambassadors at every level (especially within other support departments – see previous point about IT)
- Promote solutions, not products
- Be commercial – don’t even think about suggesting a solution unless you can link it to increased savings and/or profits (preferably both!). Learn to speak the directors’ language
- Seize opportunities. No one asked the KM team to do this!
Sounded like a fascinating project, glad it worked out so well for the team at Irwin Mitchell!