You’ve handled this type of matter many times before this new client walks in the door. Their matter is academically complicated, but not procedurally difficult. It will require litigation, but its nothing unique. “You’ll handle it just like you’ve handled the 100, or maybe 1,000, similar matters that have come before it,” you think to yourself. There’s nothing different about it is there?
Are you going to handle this new client more efficiently and with more skill than you handled the 100 that have come before? Why, or why not?
If the next file is not handled more skillfully than the last file, then you’re not growing, improving and better serving your future clients. You are stagnant, you are lazy, and you are not the skilled professional you could be.
Be motivated to do things better and with greater efficiency each and every time you open a new file. Have a knowledge improvement and management strategy, and diligently execute upon that strategy each and every day.
How are you managing and filing away new knowledge and information? Is it easily accessible? Are you conducting an after action review, or “AAR” as the U.S. military would refer to it, at the conclusion of each matter? Are you regularly educating your associates and staff as to how matters are best handled and conducted?
As a professional service provider we are called upon to continuously improve upon our services, processes, and catalog of offerings. To remain stagnant is to begin to die. If you are not consciously improving upon your knowledge base by way of continuing education, reading and studying practice specific resources, and diligently filing past research and briefs, you are coming up short.
Don’t sell yourself, your practice, and your clients short by failing to conceive of a knowledge development plan that contributes to process and efficiencies, and in the end helps you provide better legal services.
Here are few simple ideas to jump start the development of your own knowledge management system:
1) Clip practice specific articles and materials to an Evernote file. It’s an easy way to capture and store information on the go and in a hurry that you can easily reference later. Don’t forget to go back and review it.
2) Create topic specific electronic files to save research and case law specific to the topic. This seems like an overly simplistic idea, but you would be surprised how many attorneys don’t capture their research previously conducted. There’s no reason to recreate the research process each time if you’ve previously researched a topic. A simple research update and shepardizing should be all that’s required if you’ve previously briefed a topic.
3) Meet with you staff, or team, to conduct an After Action Review of the file to discuss successes, and improvable areas. Don’t consider anything a failure. Only view perceived shortcomings as specific areas to improve upon, and don’t be afraid to do so.
4) Create written policies and processes to be followed in each case for common actions such as discovery, filing pleadings, drafting documents, etc. Make sure that everyone on your team understands how he or she is expected to conduct themselves and their work in each and every matter.
5) Execute! Precise execution every day will lead to success. Knowledge and information not executed upon is worth the paper it’s written on. Go and do!
Improvement upon processes relating to knowledge capture is critical to the development of your abilities and skills as an attorney. The successful attorney is one who is academically equipped, and with information so readily available today, the playing field is as level as it has ever been. Anyone with a sound knowledge development system will quickly find himself or herself equipped to compete on any front, and with any firm. Knowledge is our greatest asset as attorneys, and its consistent increase helps us do more, with more, and better live The Lawyer Life.