Book Review: Knowledge Management for Lawyers by Patrick DiDomenico

I attended the Law Management Conference at the Law Society this week where, within about the space of ten minutes, Richard Susskind’s predictions on the use of artificial intelligence were followed by Tony Williams urging law firms to create a more useful database of wills clients.

It was a sharp reminder of the diversity in the legal profession when it comes to knowledge management and a nudge to get on with writing a review of a book on the subject that was published last year which will be of interest to anyone with half an eye on the opportunities for artificial intelligence.

Patrick DiDomenico practiced as a litigation attorney for eight years before moving into knowledge management in 2005. He is Chief Knowledge Officer for a firm specializing in international employment law, so writes with a wealth of experience at the sharp end in his book Knowledge Management for Lawyers.

To have a dedicated knowledge management officer or even a department is the sort of luxury that only larger firms can afford, and this book will be of most use to firms wondering how to introduce or how best to structure knowledge management within their firm.

After exploring what knowledge management encompasses, DiDomenico makes the business case for the benefit to clients. He then looks at the various types of knowledge and compares the structure of KM teams in a number of leading law firms, as well as looking outside at the US Army JAG Corps. Readers will find these case studies very useful, as there is a surprising variety of approaches.

The book is particularly strong in addressing the human resource aspects of a knowledge management strategy including the employment of professional support lawyers and librarians, getting buy-in from fee-earners, the use of mentoring and how to leverage knowledge. It also covers the use of technology including intranets, enterprise search and the use of wikis, before touching on project management and some future gazing.

As my main interest is in the marketing of legal services, I was disappointed that the overlap between knowledge management, marketing, business development and client relations was not explored in more detail. I am aware of one law firm in London where the Head of KM now sits with the marketing and BD team – and a couple of DiDomenico’s case studies (which include organisational trees) illustrate integrated teams. Maybe this could be expanded upon in a future edition?

Published by the ABA Law Practice division, it is very readable and the case studies make it an excellent introduction to harnessing the power of your lawyers’ know-how for any law firm considering their first steps into structured knowledge management.

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