,hl=en,siteUrl='http://0ldfox.blogspot.com/',authuser=0,security_token="v_SeT2Tv8vVdKRCcG9CCW-ZdIfQ:1429878696275"/> Old Fox KM Journal

Saturday, August 09, 2003

In the Know

:
A Slow Turning

Law firm Winston & Strawn turns to CRM for knowledge management, because who you know is as important as what you know.

Today's large, multinational law firm is the epitome of a knowledge organization. Lawyers, located in far-flung offices around the globe, specialize in various and often distinct practice areas ranging from litigation and antitrust to trades and estates and intellectual property.

Much of the knowledge they have acquired is tacit in nature, based on relationships with clients as much as on legal code. Yet even with different focus areas, lawyers within a large firm may have clients or other contacts such as expert witnesses in common. Identifying those common connections and making them readily available to its lawyers is something that Chicago-based firm Winston & Strawn is after with the implementation a CRM system from Interface Software.
With 900 lawyers and eight offices located in the United States and Europe, Winston & Strawn has plenty of relationships to uncover and mine. Traditionally, the firm's lawyers have relied on a hodgepodge of tools such as spreadsheets, e-mail and Word documents to track contacts and maintain client information, according to Mary Pickett, lead project engineer. "We always had client data available on an AS/400 or in an Excel spreadsheet or database, but it just wasn't consistent," Pickett says. Without a uniform knowledge base of client information, cross-selling, just to name one activity, was a challenge because lawyers in one practice area would often be unaware a prospective client was already working with Winston & Strawn lawyers in another practice area. Another problem with having pockets of information distributed throughout the firm was overlap. If six lawyers are working with a client, it makes economic sense (as well as good customer service and marketing practices) to send that client a single communication rather than six separate ones.

"Lawyers here have a fairly complex web of contacts," says Dave Hambourger, the firm's director of practice support. "One person here has to know what another person down the hall has or hasn't done in relation to a particular client." By implementing CRM software, Winston & Strawn is attempting to get a handle on who its attorneys know rather than what they know. The goal, says Hambourger has as much to do with client identification as it does with business development. "We want to exploit our networks across the firm and drive new business," he says.

Despite the worthy goals for the software, which enables lawyers to maintain their own contact information while supporting a centralized database of contacts, and even though Winston & Strawn has been using various iterations of Interface's product for several years, only about 10 percent of the firm's lawyers currently use the system. By design, says Hambourger, the rollout is gradual, relying on word of mouth among lawyers within the same practice group. Pickett concedes that many lawyers are reluctant to embrace the software because they don't have any personal issues with the way they've been maintaining their own contact information.

It's certainly not unusual for knowledge workers such as lawyers to cling to their own tried and true ways of doing things. So while Winston & Strawn's laissez-faire approach may not be the fastest path to achieving seamless client contact information, chances are it's the most practical way of gaining acceptance among the lawyers. In a perfect world, it would be great to mandate productivity—enhancing KM tools, but invariably such a heavy-handed approach will fail.


Opinion Editor Megan Santosus can be reached at santosus@cio.com.

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