Corporate Legal Departments are in knowledge business – irrespective of the wider industry within which their organisation operates. Knowledge is therefore core to the services provided by in-house legal departments. In strategic terms, the ability to develop and harness the knowledge of the company’s legal, regulatory, and risk management resources for the benefit of the organisation,gives the organisation a competitive advantage, mitigates the exposure to risk, and can directly contribute to increasing the organisation’s profitability.
Knowledge Management is a significant contributor to achieving a transparent risk mitigation and management strategies, to maintaining consistent high standards of internal advise to management, to ensuring that the company’s internal and external legal advisors are more effective, and to ensuring the company’s legal personnel develop faster, to creating a best of breed environment for the company’s lawyers to operate within. Knowledge Management not only improves risk assessment and management (by ensuring timely access to up-to-date information and continuous investment in developing leading edge know-how), but also improves the cost efficiencies of the Legal Department by ensuring outside counsel is only sought when needed.
To be a world-class in-house Legal Department, the General Counsel and all lawyers need to exploit the knowledge potential available to it by ensuring that the organisation’s desperate expertise, information and ideas (the team’s collective knowledge) is visible, shared, and applied. This ensures that the lawyers develop relationships with one another, with external advisors, and also allows the team to provide the right advise to the right people at the right time. In today’s world, there is no reason why the in-house Legal Department should be the poorer cousin to private practice lawyers and law firms when it comes to Knowledge Management working practices, disciplines, technologies and/or processes.