Knowledge Management In Action

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Scarce resources drive in-house counsel to do more with less. Technological innovations assist in maximizing legal operation management, which includes efficient knowledge management.

Here at our organization, we use Office 365 as part of our overall IT platform. This includes Microsoft Teams and the mind mapping application, Mindmeister. We found that using mind maps greatly enhances the capture of tacit knowledge and disseminates this knowledge throughout the organization.

As we know, KM helps organizations identify, select, organize and disseminate important information and expertise. KM forms an integral part of overall legal operations management at three various levels, strategic, management and front line staff. Having efficient KM systems at these levels then allows counsel to focus more on high value strategic legal issues.

Small legal departments work with the resources provided by the organization. The existing IT systems can be carefully torqued to provide that additional legal value for which all departments search. Using the existing Microsoft Teams forms a critical part of the overall change management of the organization. We incorporated the mind maps as a part of Microsoft Teams in order to allow staff to interact and chat about the various legal issues they face.

Mind maps explain how ideas interrelate. Essentially a single idea placed in the center of the map allows various sub-concepts to be drawn.  The mind mapping application easily allows drafting and refining various mind maps. The user easily moves around new ideas and sub-concepts.

Using a mind map application allows the viewer to see how various ideas interact with one another. Each idea provides context for other ideas. Providing context for information allows the viewer to move from information, to knowledge, and hopefully, to wisdom. Simply using a search mechanism for text loses context.

Legal departments incorporate legal operations into their overall function and processes to innovate further and change with the times. Lawyers and law firms sometimes resist change and hold on to the more traditional way of doing things. However, innovation requires trying numerous things to see what potentially works for that particular organization.

Knowledge management assists in getting legal information to front line staff quickly. If staff can find the answer to some basic legal questions, then this frees up legal time for other work. We see this as a form of demand management as overall legal supply can be limited.

The difficulty in bringing in KM shows knowledge’s messiness and how it can be found in all areas of the organization. Trying to get someone to write this down in a systematic way can be problematic. We needed a way to move tacit knowledge, bound up in people, into explicit knowledge, people talking to other people, who would the incorporate this new knowledge as their own tacit knowledge. Gaining wisdom from this knowledge requires the dual vectors of context and overall understanding.

The new corporate structures impose another difficulty and hamper KM. A central office allowed a person the opportunity to wander down the hall to a mentor and ask questions about a certain situation. Having one’s office offsite reduces this potential interaction. I moved out of the office this past August and telecommute from home most days. We can hotel and reserve an office when necessary to attend face-to-face meetings. Since necessity is the gender-neutral parent of invention, I found it necessary to interact with staff on another level. This suggested the need for an ethereal coffee room. Microsoft teams provided the necessary ethereal coffee chat room to interact with staff.

Finally, most of a corporation’s information can be bound up in precedents and procedural manuals. This type of information lacks the important concept of context. A mind map can provide that necessary context.

We initially started using a cloud based Microsoft Office 365 environment. Microsoft teams then became the collaborative platform for staff to interact. Teams uses a number of apps including Mindmeister to facilitate anyone in drafting their own mind maps.

The benefits became immediately apparent when we started working with a long-time partner on a particular water supply and quality project. The partnership has lasted for a couple of decades. However, owing to staff turnover, no one remained that was around when the project started except for this counsel. When the project renewal came up recently, the difficulty in trying to get everyone on the same page became apparent. This particular project required a cross-functional team of water biologists, engineers, conservation professionals, marketing, management, and legal.

This project illustrated how tacit knowledge locked with various staff leaves once the staff leaves. This knowledge loss, and my impending retirement in another year, or more, gave me the impetus to start collecting as much of this tacit knowledge as possible.

Using a mind map allowed us to arrange all the various tasks and previous history together on one easy to read summary. The additional benefit of the program allowed us to link relevant files directly to a particular idea. Spreading all of the necessary tasks and issues on one page allowed everyone to obtain the necessary context to move the project forward.

In addition, mind maps helped design the new legal help portal. Although anyone could search and find a particular document, the context would be lost. Using a legal help mind map allows staff to search out issues based on particular need if they were not quite aware for what they might be searching. So for example, instead of laying out documents for the various departments, we laid out opinions and documents based on user need. For example, the portal includes discussions about the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation. Staff can click on the link and download an easy to follow algorithm that explains when the need for CASL consent arises.

The initial legal portal handles the most common series of questions we receive. The benefit of using teams allows staff to ask questions and this thread can then remain with the particular topic being discussed. This builds upon the knowledge transfer from implicit to explicit. Staff can then internalize this new knowledge.

Part of change management includes enticing people to use the portal on a regular and continual basis. For the time being, once we receive a question that could have either national or continual importance; we post this as part of the portal. Part of the chat process allows us to attach a name to a response and this pushes a notification out to the intended recipient. So instead of an email that can get lost in the system, this push notification forms part of the chat which then becomes part of the tacit knowledge being collected for follow-up questions. Staff can also add their own experiences in order to provide even great context.

The measurement of success for such a KM system can be immediately apparent in the feedback provided by staff able to find the information they want or having it presented in such a way that it is easy to understand. We can also calculate the financial benefits. We count all of the legal time saved and all of the staff time saved once they had the answer they were looking for and were able to implement the knowledge into their workflow quickly and easily. You take any particular issue and determine how often this same question comes up on a annual basis multiplied by the hourly rate for the lawyers and staff multiplied by the hours spent. You take the net present value of that figure for as long as you feel that a particular issue would continue to have relevance. Perhaps even a decade or more when it comes to questions of occupier’s liability for example.

This type of approach shows a dollar saved figure in the thousands for each issue made available for staff. Savings provided by legal knowledge management illustrates the further value of in-house counsel using this approach.

 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything: You don’t have to have everything, just be one with everything

People pursue three things during their time on earth: Life, Liberty and basically everything else. I have written a narrative nonfiction book which provides a humorous view of society’s desire to pursue happiness and well-being. The book bursts with big ideas on happiness, ethics, thinking, nature, exercise, mindfulness and life. All of this and more can be found within its 81,000 words and no pictures. The footnotes are strictly for fun.

This view includes some common, not so common and sometimes completely random problems facing everyone today. Some people have gone so far as to say the writing reflects brilliance, but they have gone so far away that no one really knows what they meant and where they really are now.

I have a broad educational background including a BSc, LLB, MBA and lastly a LLM emphasizing International Economic Regulation. Truly. I am quite capable of writing on a range of topics with a humorous bent. I have even made NAFTA funny.Some of big questions look like this: Can you fit the meaning of life into a Tattoo?

 

Avaiable on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646062868/ref=cm_sw_r_em_tai_uR6-CbBE2NRC1

Waiting for Peace, Order and Good Government



Estragon: Charming spot. Inspiring prospects. Let's go.
Vladimir: We can't.
Estragon: Why not?
Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal found the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act constitutional. The court also proclaimed that climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is one of the great existential issues of our time.

Perhaps Becket’s play on existentialism may not be the first reference that pops to mind for some people, but it certainly seems to apply here. As existence proceeds essence, the play asserts that the individual must discover the meaning of life through personal experience. Everyone talks, but our actions define what we are.

The federal government created the GGPP Act to ensure a minimum national price on GHG emissions to encourage their mitigation. This did not sit well with some of the provinces that attempted to show the act as being unconstitutional. The main players included the attorney general for Canada and the attorneys general for Saskatchewan, Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick. However, the court stated that the pressing importance of limiting such emissions was accepted by all of the participants.

Significantly, the court stated that the act operates as a backstop and applies only in provinces where GHG emissions are not priced at an appropriate level. The general character of the GHG phenomenon and the basic science of climate change were not contested by any of the interveners. So, the lawyers appear to be on side that there is an issue to be dealt with here.

The decision included substantial quotes from the affidavit of Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada John Moffet. He included parts from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change 2014 report. Part of the report concluded: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. . . . Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. . . . Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. . . .Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. . . . Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

The court stated that none of these conclusions was challenged by the participants.

The federal government attempted to justify the act on numerous grounds, including taxation. Interestingly, where the Constitution Act of 1867 empowers Parliament to raise money “by any mode or system of taxation,” the court held that the applicable parts of the act do not impose taxes in the constitutional sense of the term. This finding does not appear to be changing the anti-carbon tax rhetoric from the various opposition parties.

The federal government also argued that the act was a valid exercise under the national concern branch of peace, order and good government, as allowed under the Constitution Act. One would suppose that GHGs would then be a matter national concern. The provinces tried to suggest that the federal government could then regulate all aspects of life within the province right down to cattle feed. Cattle burps come to mind. (This is actually a front-end, not a back-end emissions problem.) The court did find that trying to regulate GHG emissions was too much of an overreach.

The province of B.C. helped save the day and perhaps all of the ones in the future. As the Attorney General of British Columbia suggested, the act could instead provide “the establishment of minimum national standards of price stringency for GHG emissions.” Stringency includes the scope of application to the fuels, operations and activities to which the charge applies and the necessary regulatory regimes. The court thought that there was a good deal to recommend this approach. Cow burps could continue unabated.

No one argued to the court that the general question of GHG emissions and of climate change were not issues of superordinate consequence. The court also noted that no one challenged Moffet’s affidavit that “There is widespread international consensus that carbon pricing is a necessary measure, though not a sufficient measure, to achieve the global reductions in GHG emissions necessary to meet the Paris Agreement targets.” The court then stated that minimum national standards of price stringency for GHG emissions are matters of sufficient consequence for inclusion under the national concern branch of POGG.

The reach of the act appears to be reconcilable with the federal and provincial distribution of power. Apparently, establishing minimum national standards of price stringency still allows individuals and businesses the freedom to choose based on market signals.

This finally brings us back to the existential question of Waiting for Godot or, in this case, Waiting for POGG. Everyone has the freedom of choice, and your essence is determined by the choices you make. Or in the more familiar words generally attributed to Mark Twain, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. “ The courts have now allowed someone to do something about the changing weather.

The Shape of Water Research

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Imagine yourself immersed in a snow globe. Not a happy winter scene, but rather a black-flaked London in the 1800s during the soot-filled industrial revolution. This occurs when you scuba dive and settle into the bottom of a highly productive lake.

 

Water fascinates me. Perhaps not so much its composition, but what it can hold, foretell and create. Water holds an almost mythological attraction for Canadians. What lies beneath the waters surface provides the greatest research opportunity. And potential for misadventure.

 

The desire to explore beneath the water’s surface led to my obtaining a scuba diving certificate. Carrying a thin walled aluminum tank containing 3000 psi of compressed air provides great opportunity for hijinks. I took most of my lessons at West Hawk Lake where a meteor impact created the deepest lake in Manitoba. Within its 377 foot depth, one can find old style beer bottles, cans and other bits of litter. Visualize diving in a large well.

 

 

I majored in marine biology at the University of Victoria and spent five field seasons working with the Freshwater Institute located on the University of Manitoba Campus. My favorite season involved diving in Ontario’s Experimental Lakes Area. These people at the ELA did the initial work on impact of phosphorous on algae growth. These people also pointed out the irony of my having a degree in Marine Biology and my not being able to get any further from any coast line.

 

The ELA scientists wanted to track the phosphorous cycle in a natural environment. As team diver, I arranged for the project implementation. My task involved inserting a number of plastic bottom sample collectors into the sediment of this poor lake subtly numbered 227. Probably one of the more researched lakes in Canada based on size. This meant there could all types of research projects hidden away in the murky depths of the lake.

 

Breaking all safety protocols, I dove alone while one of the research scientists in the aluminum Lund above me watched my progress. All of the added nutrients increased the lake’s productivity and reduced visibility to about 2 feet. I swam to the bottom of this 35 foot deep lake and settled into the flocculent. Normally, when you get to the bottom of a lake, you stop there. But in this lake, I manage to sink another half foot into the muck. Technically flocculent muck.

 

I experience not a serene surrendering to the muck, but a sense of mild panic as I sink even further. Any movement raises more flocculent and reduces visibility. Using a flashlight becomes pointless as the light merely reflects back on all of the floating material in front of my face mask.

 

Regardless, I press on and press a plastic sampler into the muck. A string and float attached to the sampler allows us to collect it by boat later. Unfortunately, all of the samplers come with a 34 foot 6 inch string. Just ever so short of the 35 feet I needed. This prevents me from inserting the sampler, so the boat followed the coke bottle float to where I found 34 foot 6 inch deep water. Eventually, I plunge all of the samplers into the sediment.

 

Earlier, the science team arranged for delivery of a substantial amount of radioactive phosphorous. Not surprisingly, Canadian customs did not care for this small box marked RADIOACTIVE arriving at their centre. Every known warning covered the triangle shaped loaf of bread sized box. Everything else seemed superfluous. They had me at radioactive.

 

When the little box of radioactivity finally arrives, the head scientist dons his hazmat suit. Not something from Chernobyl or even the Andromeda Strain, but rather sheets of clear plastic held together with duct tape. He intends to break the glass vial containing the radioactive phosphorus into a plastic tub with a clever mechanism at the end of a long pipe. This clever mechanism, too clever by far, does not work and he resorts to using the rod to smash the vial in the tub along with some of the lake water. He drives around the lake while a pump sprays the liquid along the surface. Wave and wind action will do the balance of distribution.

 

The other research scientist and I intend to shield ourselves in the lead lined room. Of course, if intentions were horses, we would all gallop away. Instead, we both cower behind a boulder. Mostly Canadian shield granite. Little way in lead content, I suspect. We watch the distribution process since no horses appear to cart us away.

 

By the next day, no mutant crayfish appear. My next task involves retrieving water samples from the center of the lake. Our little Lund rests on the shore. The funny thing about this nutrient filled lake would be the amount of algae attached to the logs acting as a submerged dock. Stepping on the dock, I immediately slip and fall into the water. Only one leg. Mid thigh, thank you very much. None of my three children express any mutant superpowers. Except in their ability to boomerang home.

 

The team remains calm. They calmly express my need to sprint to the nearest non-radioactive lake and wash off. Any algae there would be happy to absorb any excess phosphorous. Even radioactive phosphorous. I carry out this additional task with a bit more zeal and urgency and swish around in the nearby lake.

 

Ultimately, the experiment provides greater insight into the phosphorous cycle. Canada’s lake form part of our heritage, so we should be doing all that we can to protect them.  Although research scientists appear to be lab-coated people in spectacles, most of them have extensive field experience collecting data. My data collection experience taught me I would make an excellent lawyer protecting Canada’s heritage from the safety of the shore.

 

 

Gary Goodwin

2042323916

Garywgoodwin@gmail.com

In Blockchain we trust

adult-bitcoin-blockchain-1037914 (1)The first thing we do, let’s disintermediate all the lawyers.

 

Imagine a virtuous world where someone says they would do something and then actually did it. Blockchain promises to revolutionize the economy since the need for virtue simply disappears. Advocates claim that Blockchain immensely raises the level of trust in the system. Alternatively, one could argue that it removes the need for trust.

 

Presently, we are more of a trust but verify type of society. If you want to buy a car, you search for comparable vehicles, haggle for the best price and sign pages of legal documents. Banks have you sign reams of paperwork and generally place a security interest on the car. The Bank also confirms the car is free of any liens. You then generally pay on time for the next four years. If you miss a couple of payments, then the bank may have to launch some proceedings for collection.

 

Undoubtedly you have heard of Bitcoin somehow in conjunction with Blockchain. Let’s ignore the Bitcoin frenzy for now and focus on what drives it.

 

Blockchain comprises a continuously growing list of records called blocks. These blocks link together using cryptography that are resistant to data modification. So instead of a single ledger of transactions held by one organization, it creates an open distributed ledger that can record transactions between parties in a verifiable way. One earlier block cannot be altered without the consensus of later blocks.

 

Blockchains can be public or private. MasterCard’s Blockchain can’t be viewed and may not have any purpose outside of marketing since all of its transactions run through the existing infrastructure. This harkens back to the time when companies advertised they were Y2K compliant.

 

You clamber down the rabbit hole and you encounter smart contracts. The name again seems a bit of a misnomer since the contracts operate a simple logic of if this happens then that happens next.

 

Smart contracts use computer protocols intended to enforce the performance of a contract. They can be fully or partially self-executing. Once various conditions are fulfilled, assets are transferred and funds are released. This transaction appears visible to all users but all parties remain anonymous.

 

We can look to Ethereum as having one of the better systems for establishing these smart contracts. Ethereum uses its own cryptocurrency called Ether. In our car example the history of the car and the dealer’s transactions reside on the Blockchain which is public. You contact your bank which has instant access to your credit history. The bank can transfer funds immediately and the dealer can arrange for the vehicle transfer by the time you get back from your test drive.

 

So long as you continue to authorize payments to the bank, all remains well. If you decide to stop payments, then the car’s systems could be disabled the next time you try to start it. Welcome to the internet of things.

 

The Blockchain concept does have the potential to extend to all types of commercial transactions. House purchases could be reduced down to days from the existing weeks it presently takes. This would require a public ledger of real estate titles, planning permissions and certificates of title. Sweden’s land-ownership authority conducts Blockchain property transactions in various staged pilot projects. A three to six month transaction could take hours instead. All that extra efficiency must come out of some intermediary’s pocket.

 

The removal of intermediaries impacts large swathes of job categories.  Any sort of job category that involves creating trust in a transaction may no longer be required. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners strongly claims that Blockchain is no mere hype train. This strong endorsement may have the effect of reducing the need for Certified Fraud Examiners by using Blockchain instead.

 

One paper suggested that insurance payouts could applied to Blockchain. They suggested that an automated system could indicate if an insured fell within an area that was recently flooded. Insurance payments would then be automatically issued.

 

Ultimately, Blockchain can be seen as a foundational change. Immense barriers remain for its adoption for businesses, government and individuals. The incorporation of Blockchain may take years.

 

However, a major function of lawyers includes the trust but verify aspect. As real estate transactions become more blockchainish, then the role of the lawyer would be substantially reduced.  This may finally drive the concept of hourly billing into a strict transactional fee type of relationship with clients.

 

Harvard Business Review goes so far as to say intermediaries such as lawyers, brokers and bankers may no longer be necessary. Not so much a ‘the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers’ as ‘let’s disintermediate all the lawyers.’ This may not have the same emotive content, but the result would be same, lawyer wise.

 

From Lawyers Daily

GoogleLaw and creative destruction of the legal profession

beating-construction-crushing-37409 (1)Google and artificial intelligence may not be the end of the legal profession, but, boy, can you see it from here.

I anticipate encountering what Joseph Schumpeter euphemistically called creative destruction. Innovation destructs archaic business models and creatively releases capital to be deployed elsewhere — a benign description of being out on the street with your law degree.

Perhaps it’s too hyperbolic, but, for example, Google has made a database of federal and state case law and legal journal articles available via its Google Scholar search. In their defence, lawyers can now purchase on Amazon the “Please Do Not Confuse Your Google Search With My Law Degree” coffee mug.

For a simpler DIY approach, YouTube displays more than 146 videos on family law. This also includes shuffle playlist for greater variety.

For comparison, AI factors into more than 38 per cent of regular enterprise planning for mainly customer interfaces. As for law firms, it’s likely not so much. Most of law firm and in-house planning centres on how to augment regular legal work with new AI tools to make this more effective and efficient.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., apparently, eliminated 360,000 hours of legal work creating legal security documents by the use of COIN, for Contract Intelligence, to review commercial loan agreements. The bank plans to use AI to analyze credit default swaps . . . since things worked out so well last time.

Other forms of AI can review entire contracts, interpret sections and even recommend sections that are not there. These recommendations can depend on which side of a particular transaction you happen to be. Similar to customizing streaming music systems, one can imagine the type of customization that can occur as you adjust the lever from buyer focused over to seller focused. We await the ultimate customization that includes sliding the scale either to the far left or far right into the “jerk” setting.

I tried a contract review application one time with a simple release. No comments came back. I imagine legal associates would be ecstatic to receive something back from a senior lawyer without any comments. I was hoping for at least one “atta boy” type of meme.

Instead of augmenting legal practice, another perspective suggests a client-based focus where the system asks questions and directs the client to certain resources. For example, The DoNotPay website helped users successfully appeal hundreds of thousands of parking tickets by having the client answer a number of questions. The system then interprets the situation and prints out a draft letter to send to the authorities.

I tested DoNotPay over the weekend and can confidently assert that the experience replicated that of retaining some legal firms. The site took in my request, said it was sorry to hear that and told me if I could email more information it would get back to me in 24 hours. Nice immediate reply, but a solution may come a bit later. Notwithstanding the delay, the value proposition — benefits divided by total costs — cannot be beat. The system is free.

So, where do the law societies stand among all of this creative destruction? Their mandate includes the protection of the public. However, the other two mandates generally include advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law, which requires the public disclosure of legal codes and processes. Societies also facilitate access to justice. This suggests making it as easy as possible for the general public unable to afford a lawyer access to some form of legal information.

This type of access does not mean providing paper or online brochures but a more customized response. In other businesses, chatbots can ask an advancing series of questions and provide a more “intelligent” and applicable answer. This forms the entire basis behind a customer-focused type of interface.

A new client-driven model suggests perhaps an Uber approach. Uber does not own cabs and tries not to employ drivers. The courts have imposed some obligations here. Generally, Uber is a simple platform that connects customers and drivers. A similar approach could connect a client and a lawyer providing the most cost-effective service. Cost is not everything, but as the law becomes more commoditized, then perhaps being “the better lawyer” may not carry the day if everyone uses the same type of AI platform to research and provide a result. And, yes, everyone shall likely have their respective settings maximized over to jerk, so there will still be plenty to argue about.

From a policy analysis perspective, one appreciates the different approaches each law society brings to the table and the complicated socio-economic analysis that would be required to balance justice access and public protection. The 2014 CBA Legal Futures Initiative outlined a number of areas that the legal profession could take to remain relevant. Implementation of the recommendations may be slow in coming.

The various law societies currently have authority over who can practise law. One can easily imagine a public lobbying effort to storm the ramparts to allow some form of AI system that can ask questions and guide the individual to a possible area where help could be found. There is nothing like a bit of urgency to assist in the legal change management process.

 

 

Canadian Lawyer November 6, 2017