ILTA White Papers

Knowledge Management

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improving professional development and staff morale, and providing the high-quality infrastructure essential to the effective delivery of legal services.” For more evidence that non-attorneys are increasingly viewed by lawyers as serious administrative professionals, consider the popularity of economics-of-law sites such as Bruce MacEwen’s Adam Smith, Esq., or the relatively new Masters Certificate or Degree Program in Law Firm Management offered by George Washington University and the Hildebrandt Institute. While the lawyer/non- lawyer distinction still exists, these are signs that partners recognize the valuable contributions that other professionals bring to their law firms. KM professionals should be equally open-minded. SUPPORTING THE DIFFERENT ROLES OF ATTORNEYS It is a serious mistake to think that supporting “back office” efforts is less important, less visible or less strategic than working on projects that directly support the practice of law. Consider the theory that lawyers, like their counterparts in other service professions, consist of four types: finders, binders, minders and grinders. This theoretical categorization of professionals was developed in conjunction with the observation that it takes all kinds of performance roles and strengths for an organization to succeed. In a law firm, the “finders” are the lawyers who go out to attract and bring in new clients. The “binders” are the 22 Knowledge Management ILTA White Paper “It is a serious mistake to think that supporting ‘back office’ efforts is less important, less visible or less strategic than working on projects that directly support the practice of law.” lawyers, usually partners or senior associates (called responsible attorneys in many finance and billing systems), who communicate with existing clients and manage these relationships. The binders are also the billing attorneys, who have the challenging task of drafting, reviewing and submitting the bills for legal services to the client to ensure that they are paid. The “minders” are the lawyers who manage the client matters, overseeing the work of the “grinders.” In addition to these roles, the minders are often the lawyers who make up the firm’s internal CLE faculty. Minders may be senior associates or partners, and they are frequently sage mentors and savvy, experienced supervisors. Finally, the “grinders” are the attorneys actually doing the legal work. For litigation, they are performing legal research, writing, handling depositions and arguing in court. For transactional work, they are the attorneys drafting contracts and wills, and negotiating deals. Obviously, the four categories of lawyers are theoretical models; in practice, with the exception of the most junior lawyers, associates split time among these roles, and the roles overlap. Still, the point is that knowledge managers should be careful not to define attorney roles or their own roles too narrowly. By concentrating all our attention and energy on the forms and brief banks, or on designing and implementing various legal work enhancement and

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