Knowledge services are one of the most valuable roles in any law firm today, whether everyone realizes it or not. However, like all corporate functions, it has not been immune to the pandemic. We recently caught up with Carolyn Bach, Senior Director of the Knowledge and Research Program at LexisNexisto discuss how the pandemic has created new opportunities in knowledge services, the most important trends affecting knowledge and information professionals today, and what we can expect to see change in this area in the years to come.
Overall, how has the pandemic impacted law firm knowledge and information services?
The pandemic and the work-from-home environment have actually created significant opportunities for knowledge and information services. Everyone had to work quickly to adapt and ensure lawyers and others had access to all the resources they needed. Library services have become central to this transition.
It has also given companies’ knowledge services departments time to step back and reassess their services on a broader level. Numerous surveys were launched to better understand what was essential for lawyers and staff on a daily basis and how the tools could be improved. Some even took the opportunity to develop strategic plans in ways they hadn’t done in years, to craft an overarching strategy that would more effectively serve practice groups and better align with the firm’s vision and roadmaps. services.
What do these structural changes mean for knowledge service professionals?
In many cases, this involved restructuring the staff and replacing the titles of librarian with titles such as knowledge manager, business intelligence specialist or research analyst, in order to better reflect the responsibilities of the position and the value of the services provided. It also meant not only making sure everyone had access to what they needed, but also rethinking how they structured their training initiatives, usually to make them both shorter and highly personalized.
Knowledge and information departments began to have a much better idea of their own value and return on investment. Many started using dashboards and other tools to evaluate offerings such as how the firm used intranet practice area pages, then revamped those pages to focus on premium sources, so it’s quick and easy for end users to access and digest content. Like the rest of law in recent years, knowledge management has become much more data-driven.
Would you say this resulted in an increased workload?
Definitively. Many have seen a significant increase in search requests and overall workload. However, the increased workload did not necessarily mean that they had more resources or people. Some companies had a budget to hire more people, but others didn’t. For those who didn’t, the solution was to come up with creative ways to handle the extra workload. This often meant adjusting hours to meet work-from-home needs, implementing new collaboration tools beyond email to help with work requests and allowing people to communicate more effectively, but also to help maintain team camaraderie.
Besides the pandemic, what other trends are impacting knowledge and information workers today?
They are increasingly involved in business development and must frequently collaborate with the company’s marketing and business development professionals to assist with new business and customer retention programs and processes. As companies invest in growing their business, there are opportunities for more tools and products to enhance their business development and marketing efforts. The information professionals at these companies usually know these tools and products better than anyone.
We are also seeing increased involvement of knowledge management specialists in Client Services. They handle more consulting work directly with clients to develop client portals, research and feed content into those portals, and more. There is also a greater demand for technical skills.
Most jobs require more technical skills than before. Would you say that proficiency in technology is now a requirement in knowledge services?
Yes, although it depends on the role that is filled. In most cases, it has definitely evolved over time. Knowledge services professionals now play a leading role in the evaluation, adoption and implementation of new technologies in their business. Many of their responsibilities require the ability to create and understand data analysis and visualization, understanding of AI systems, web design and navigation, proficiency in Excel, etc. So while these skills are not required of everyone, most companies will want certain people to have these skills in the future.
Looking ahead, what hot topics are you hearing about that will be at the forefront of knowledge services in the next few years?
We will see more emphasis on data management and integration to help improve workflows. API has been the buzzword of 2022, with more and more companies exploring key use cases for APIs and laying out their plans to improve data integration into existing workflows.
We can also expect to see even more emphasis on current news and outreach. Aggregation and dissemination are key challenges and opportunities in this area. As the amount of news content on the web continues to grow exponentially, it’s more important than ever to ensure you have accurate data and relevant, digestible news, in addition to an effective way to Disseminate applicable news to internal stakeholders. Knowledge services professionals will be involved in determining the best content and the best way to consume it, in addition to calling out actionable components. This could mean companies need specialists on their staff, including those who only focus on news and current events – the days of being a generalist are largely over. Finally, innovation will be the key to the future. We will see information professionals become more involved in internal think tanks and working groups, with the aim of creating new and innovative ways to serve customers and improve internal services. They will contribute to the development of new tools and resources, both for internal use and for customer services. With this in mind, we should expect to see even more new job titles that reflect this innovation component.
It seems like a good time for the Knowledge Services community.
Yeah, I think it’s a great time. Our roles and values will continue to evolve as we raise awareness in the industry of the varied and critical areas and tasks that we actually manage today. The field of knowledge and information management is very important for LexisNexis. We’ve had a dedicated team supporting information professionals for nearly three decades, and we plan to continue supporting law firms in this area for years to come.