Cloud, Advanced Redaction and Experience-focused Search
By Javier Magaña García
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that after lawyers, data is a firm’s next most important asset. Data offers all manner of insight at a business level, but from a lawyer’s standpoint, that data also holds business-critical knowledge, which is typically hard to get access to. In a hybrid working environment, access to this knowledge has become even harder. Lawyers’ ability to collaborate is also impacted.
Knowledge management in the cloud a functional priority
Since the pandemic, adoption of a software as a service model for business-critical systems, has become a major priority for most firms. Cloud technology has proven its mettle, with the number one perceived issue previously preventing firms from adopting the technology – i.e., data security – fading away. Firms that were already in the cloud, or were able to transition to the cloud quickly during the pandemic, experienced far lesser operational issues.
As a result, with firms now truly adopting a cloud-first and mobile-first IT strategy – and especially for document management in a decentralised working environment – adopting a similar approach for knowledge management makes a lot of business sense. An on-premises knowledge management system with the document management solution in the cloud will greatly diminish the value of the KM function for the firms.
With the document management system in the cloud, users can access the solution from anywhere, on any device and at any time. This ease of access means that there are no barriers that they have to overcome to get to the information residing in the document management system. Typically, knowledge management tools integrate with document management systems. If the former is only available on-premises, whilst the latter is in the cloud, access isn’t seamless, so sometimes, a search in Google, might potentially be the easier option for lawyers. The consequence? Poor user experience leads to limited adoption, in turn resulting in minimal contribution of content to the knowledge management system – and you have a vicious cycle that will become difficult to break.
Automatic redaction, a solution for compliance with data privacy laws
The complexity of complying with, not just the European Union’s GDPR, but also with all the competing country-specific data privacy laws worldwide, is increasingly challenging professional services firms. Countries are tightening data privacy – already 137 out of 194 countries have put in place legislation, and another 17 have draft legislation.
Cloud-based knowledge management (as opposed to on-premises installations) offers tremendous potential for sharing and repurposing the collective knowledge and expertise of the firm for competitive advantage – which is the reason firms adopt this function. At the same time, however, successful compliance with all the numerous data privacy laws makes seamless and intuitive sharing of information extremely difficult. There’s a need for an operational solution that embeds compliance with all the jurisdictional data privacy regimes across the multiple cloud-based business functional systems and web services deployed in the organisation – so that knowledge is accessible and yet secure, per the dictates of the various laws.
Legal technology providers and law firms alike are working to address this issue, which is complex and honestly a way off yet. But, in the meantime, deploying automatic redaction to help ensure data privacy and confidentiality serves as a wholesome option in the interim.
With automatic redaction, firms can anonymise data based on their contractual obligations to clients whilst enabling the different departments to share case and matter-related closing folders, bound volumes, and other similar document libraries. Once anonymised, the content of documents can be passed through third party AI and web services for information extraction – i.e., clauses, legal references, links to legal databases, digital bibles, and so on. The major advantage of this approach is that firms continually enrich the internal knowledge sources, in turn making them extremely valuable overtime.
“Experience” a key deliverable of knowledge management
Knowledge management as a business function has significantly matured over the last three years. Searching for specific documents is a core functionality that is typically used by professionals in their knowledge management systems, but in a now well-embedded hybrid working environment, users need their technology solution to surface the firm’s “experience” in areas of law, subject matters or any other related aspect of their professional work.
For example, a professional working on a M&A matter – in addition to searching for a specific type of document in this area – may also want to identify experts in the firm in the M&A space, say in a different vertical to the industry the current case is relating to. This means that knowledge management systems need a level of intelligence to provide search results that span multiple and even contextual sources.
Similarly, some more functionally mature law firms could even begin to use their knowledge management systems to draw “experience” on operational matters, such as project pricing, matter management, business development, and so on.
In 2023, we will see the above mentioned trends as key areas of focus for the knowledge management function in law firms.
Ultimately, the more embedded knowledge management is in the workflow of lawyers and legal professionals, the more value the function will deliver to law firms. Cloud technology has accelerated this trend since the pandemic, across business functions.
About the author
Javier Magaña García is responsible for the successful completion of all customer projects, overseeing everything from project design and troubleshooting through to delivery of ongoing support and services. He is reputed in the wider technology community for his experience in delivering technically complex projects to some of the largest and most demanding global businesses.