Cindy Chick has written an important article called “West KM/Lexis TotalSearch or Enterprise Search Engine?
The short article does an excellent job of spelling out the differences between the West and Lexis approaches (tend to be more useful for litigation practice) and enterprise search engines. such as Recommind. Her article largely confirms my observations, except that I would say that the enterprise search engines really rock. There are a number of companies doing some very cool things in that area. I’ve offered myself to several of them to be the first beta tester if they develop a personal version of their tools.
There’s a very important point hidden in this article that I want to bring out into the open. While, as I have mentioned, there are some very talented people working on KM initiatives at large law firms, it has become very clear that KM, at least in the early stages, means using an enterprise search engine (or the Lexis or West alternatives) as a better way to find documents. There are a number of reasons for this happening that largely involve lawyer behavior.
Here’s the key point – probably the main selling point for the “big iron” document management systems large law firms have purchased is simply the ability to find the documents you need. Unfortunately, in my own experience with a high-end DMS, I had no confidence that I could find the documents I wanted or could be sure that nothing else existed. Apparently, my experience was not unique.
What does it mean when law firms are adding enterprise search tools primarily to search for documents? I was recently in a room of law firm CIOs and grew increasingly puzzled by the discussion of how KM is being implemented. I finally asked if anyone would disagree with my conclusion that they were saying that document management systems in large law firms were desperately broken? I didn’t get any takers.
What does that mean, given the money spent on DMS by law firms? What does that mean for clients of law firms when those clients have Sarbanes Oxley or other recordkeeping obligations? What are the implications of a system where fundamental doubts about security, authenticity and validity of documents managed by law firms are subject to question? I think that these are all BIG questions.