Managing Partner Helena Hallgarn - KM Case study: Vinge


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Managing Partner Helena Hallgarn - KM Case study: Vinge

  1. 1. km case study: vinge ON the kNOwledge knowledge management is more than just bringing various parts of a firm together, says helena hallgarn, former head of km at scandinavian firm vinge, Key who argues that to deliver benefits, km has to look beyond legal knowledge alone. points one Law firms sell knowledge. Because this knowledge It is a way of making the fee-earner’s work more Standardise is valuable to clients, firms, in turn, invest in efficient so they can focus their time on more legal documents ‘knowledge management’ (KM). But what exactly value-added work. available on the intranet. is the role of the KM function at a law firm? Is If we compare this to a manufacturing it simply about legal know-how and documents, industry producing, for example, cars, they also two or is there more to it? And are the strategic issues need all the different parts to be put together at Make fee-earners for law firms really so different from those that the right time, and in the right way, in order to responsible for affect production or industrial companies? produce a car. Toyota has worked on constantly contributing At Vinge we recently revised our KM enhancing its production capability to improve content. strategy and broadened our scope to focus on business. This has become a concept known as three business knowledge compared to the mere legal ‘LEAN’. It is not about doing things faster, but Set up a knowledge that many other KM initiatives take about doing things in the most efficient way. document as their sole focus. We have also tried to think One part of this is the standardisation of assembly tool along the lines of a production company rather procedures, which could be compared to our based on a web questionnaire. than limit ourselves to legal knowledge. To this standard documents. end we support the whole business with the In other industry types, management naturally Four development of different KM tools; to give the also looks at how to improve business by Introduce firm a competitive edge; and further, to increase building new models, new and better services, taxonomy to offer profitability. With such a focus, could it be argued new ways of producing goods, and so on. The additional context, that the KM function is actually a business- function responsible for this is often a business- suggesting other sources of development function in itself ? development function. knowledge. Is this really comparable to our KM function? Background In order to explain, I will first further describe Five Vinge is one of the leading law firms in Sweden our work. Create ‘know and employs approximately 450 people, of who’ support to whom just over 300 are lawyers. The firm is KM at vinge suggest the most suitable contact primarily focused on commercial law, particularly We chose to organise the KM work at Vinge with at the firm for international transactions. Vinge has offices a central KM group focusing on organising and further advice. in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and managing the KM work, but with fee-earners Helsingborg, as well as in London, Brussels, responsible for the content in our systems (i.e. the Hong Kong and Shanghai. documents), as they are our specialists in the legal Initially the focus of knowledge management field. This means we have partners responsible at the firm was about working with standardised for updating standard documents, fee-earners legal documents; making them easily available responsible for contributing sample documents, through the intranet. We had engaged in and so on. collecting other kinds of legal documents, The KM group currently consists of one however, to support our fee-earners and prevent head of KM, one KM lawyer, three assistants them from doing repetitive work. If someone has and local library personnel. As we are a very done extensive analysis of a particular legal issue, small KM group we have to limit our focus to this should be easily accessible for other fee- the management and organisation of knowledge earners to reuse the next time the question arises. and the exchange of knowledge. We have been 60 managing partner, may 2010
  2. 2. the spectrum of matters When deciding the best way to manage knowledge to support the business we had to look closely at the kinds of matters that were handled by our firm. Vinge offers legal services ranging from simple company registration matters to more complex M&A, public M&A, and situations where our partners are acting as trusted advisors. The fees naturally vary depending on the complexity and the value added in the service. Even within more complex transactions, however, there are often several less complex issues, such as registration matters, which should be taken care of in a competitive way. Looking at this spectrum of matters it is easy to see that there is no one KM solution applicable to all. Instead we decided to apply three different approaches to support the spectrum of matters: standardisation, knowledge sharing and innovation. Based on these approaches we have developed applicable KM tools to support working towards making document work, such as the business. When talking about a KM tool I our standard documents, only a part of the daily mean a combination of procedures, structures, knowledge work of fee-earners. That way we can IT solutions, and so on. It is sometimes part of a make knowledge work more transparent so that it change management process too, as it sometimes is simply another part of conducting business. also changes the way the fee-earners work. Now this also seems to be working in practice. The fee-earners realise how much they standardisation benefit from the KM work, and they share their When it comes to the more basic issues the focus strong know-how documents and assist in the must be on standardisation. We can only compete production of the standard documents. We with firms charging lower fees for handling receive around 75-180 spontaneous contributions similar issues if we can manage them more to our KM database each month – that’s one efficiently, and spend less time on each matter per fee-earner every two or three days. Fee- while maintaining our high quality. Our goal is earners don’t usually focus on KM, but now it to secure quality of client service by focusing on has become an integral, natural part of their supporting more efficient client work. The focus knowledge work. here is on efficiency. However, when considering gaining Our initial KM work included the competitive advantage through our KM work development of standard documents. However, we did not consider it enough to focus on the to increase focus on standardisation we also documents alone. We had to further investigate “our lawyers implemented a document-assembly tool, used how to develop our KM strategy to support the for different kinds of registration matters such are not only business as a whole. as new share issues, mergers and company focusing on liquidation. When initiating such a matter, the Broadened scope solving legal lawyer accesses a web questionnaire where We started the process of developing a new KM problems, but information about the company and details about strategy by looking at our business. Our lawyers also on solving the new share issue, for example, are submitted. are not only focusing on solving legal problems, Based on this information, a package of about business but also on solving business problems. For KM 10-15 documents will be produced and saved purposes this means it is important to focus on problems. For into our document management system. The more than legal knowledge alone. KM purposes registration number, the company name and the A lawyer solving a business problem needs this means it number of shares to be issued are only filled in to have knowledge about the company, the is important once, reducing the risk of typing errors. More industry, the business environment, what importantly, the different packages are quality to focus on knowledge the firm already has that can be of assured, pulling in appropriate statements from use, and so on. Accordingly, we broadened our more than legal the auditor, reports by the board of directors scope to focus on business knowledge as a basis knowledge and resolution proposals. The time spent on this for our new strategy. alone. ” matter can thus be focused on specific issues 61
  3. 3. km case study: vinge related to a particular client and matter, We also support shorter training and not on the general issues that arise. sessions, such as discussions regarding a certain case or a specific ruling, Knowledge sharing combined with lunch. That way there Because clients come to us for our can be a lot of exchange of knowledge, experience in handling complex matters, as these sessions also attract senior it is important to make good use of fee-earners. the skills and experience at the firm. KM supports this, where our goal is to innovation leverage the experience at the firm. There are also situations which the The first tool developed by our KM client has not experienced before, where team was our KM database. Instead of we must give new advice on ways of just being a document repository with solving a business issue. The focus here a search tool, however, it is a true basis is on expertise, and on lawyers acting as for knowledge sharing. We have a lot trusted advisers. of different kinds of documents easily In a firm supporting knowledge available, but it is not only about finding sharing, it will be easier to receive a document. We also have a taxonomy information about new ways of solving that can guide the lawyers through the problems, new business ideas and new process in several types of matters. ways of delivering our services. In our Instead of just searching by using the KM and deal databases we have new right word, you can get into the context “if looking for an asset ways of solving problems, new ways of your types of matters to see which transfer agreement, for of formulating legal structures, and so documents might be most useful. If on. By making this kind of information example, you will be looking for an asset transfer agreement, easily available to our partners they will for example, you will be guided to that guided to that area in our be aware of new possibilities. area in our taxonomy structure, and find taxonomy structure, and A partner receiving information not only an agreement, but also a memo find not only an agreement, about the client and the industry in regarding tax issues, and another on but also a memo regarding question, and who is able to combine employment issues, which could be quite that with information on new ideas in tax issues, and another on important. In addition there might be a the legal field, will have a good basis for short notice about some legal changes employment issues, which being a valuable advisor to the client. that you should be aware of. Our goal could be quite important.” is therefore that the fee-earners should supporting the business find more relevant information than disseminate knowledge regarding deals The whole business is a knowledge they expected. done. This gives us a much better view business and all fee-earners are The structure of our KM database of the experience possessed by different considered to be knowledge workers. KM is vital in many ways, however, not just people; a know-who support within the has become a true management issue. for our taxonomy structure. We have also M&A field. The only thing that gives the firm a structured the documents by dividing We also want to make better use of competitive edge, the only thing that is them into several different categories, and our external information sources, and sustainable, is what it knows; how it uses we are using cross references connecting are working on the development of a what it knows; and how fast it can learn different areas of law, and therefore business intelligence service support. For something new. making the lawyer aware of questions to example, this can support you when you Looking at KM in this light, it is consider in other areas. Furthermore, the have an interesting client case and need a management function supporting KM database is also a support for ‘know- some information about a particular the business, developing the tools and who’, as you can find an expert at the client. We collect knowledge about working towards making the business firm based on the documents he or she the different databases, make packages even more profitable. In other words, it has produced. If you find, for example, of ‘best practice’ sources for specific is simply another business development two memos regarding product liability, searches and train some personnel to function at the firm. the best way to access further knowledge handle this. Instead of spending time – in that area is to talk to the author. doing searches in some of the external Vinge is consistently ranked among databases you are used to, you can the leading law firms in Sweden instead ask for the information and get Since writing this article Helena in the area of public and private a complete package of the information Hallgarn has left Vinge and now M&A. This is an important area for available. This is to ensure an efficient joint runs a KM consultancy, Virtual knowledge sharing. Therefore we have use of our sources and access to the Intelligence VQ AB ( also implemented a deal database to right information. 62 managing partner, may 2010