ILTA KM 4: Wikis in Law Firms

The last ILTA 2008 KM Peer Group program on Monday (8/25) focused on Wikis in Law Firms.  Presenters included Doug Cornelius – Goodwin Proctor; Ayelette Robinson – Morrison Foerster, and Michael Mills – Davis Polk. 

Doug kicked of the presentation by introducing the PBwiki.com wiki called ILTA Wikis in Law Firms (PBwiki donated the commercial version of their Wiki as a demonstration of the technology to ILTA law firms.  See Doug discuss the wiki and this program below.  

You shouldn’t need a password or invite key to view or edit if you want to try it out.  (I found this interesting as Nina Platt Consulting uses PBwiki for our intranet.  With 4 of us on staff, we are able to use the commercial version for $99.00/year.  An inexpensive alternative to support our needs.)

Following the view of the PBwiki site, Doug went on to review Wikipedia including how to use the revision, history, edit, discussion and RSS features.

Morrison Foerster

Ayelette Robinson was up next.  Morrison Foerster has just begun to delve into the use of wikis.  To date a small number of admin departments are using wikis for substantive projects and workflow processes.  The practice groups have started to ask to use Sharepoint wikis but they are still exploring it (including a review of the SharePoint wiki shortcomings).

Davis Polk

Michael Mills described his firms use of the enterprise wiki software named Confluence developed and sold by Atlassian.  They experimented for six months, did a proof of concept for multiple products and selected Confluence.    Michael discussed what he sees as a fascination for a technology that is not new as a wiki is really just another website which is easier to edit than others. 

Confluence calls each wiki site a space.  Individual users have access to spaces based on security that allows them to be users of the site.  They have the ability to see their spaces, favorite pages of the spaces, recently updated spaces/pages, as well as all spaces where security sees them as users.  Michael likened the system to a simplified version of SharePoint team sites. 

Davis Polk uses wikis to track knowledge about a legal issue as well as collaboration on a specific project/matter. Each practice group is different in their level of buy-in and/or use of the wikis.  Examples of groups/departments that make good use of the wikis include the Tax group who use it for project management and collaboration and the Computer Support & Training department who use it for internal documentation. 

They have integrated Confluence pages into SharePoint where matter pages each have a link to a shell wiki they can populate if they want to use it.  Other features of Confluence include a search engine that is tailored specifically for wikis, the ability to generate an RSS feed from any page, and more.  Michael recommended that Litigation Support teams really need to be using wikis to track decisions made and actions taken to support a matter instead of the information being stored in the Litigation Support team members individual email in-boxes. 

Goodwin Proctor

Doug briefly talked about the use of wikis at his firm where they use the SharePoint wiki technology for the following:

  • Wikipedia for legal topics
  • Client & matter management
  • Project management

While Doug was presenting and audience member asked “How do you prevent people from putting content in yet another repository that could likely create problems with adhering to the records retention policies in place in the firms?”  As an avid fan of wikis, I found this to be a sobering question.  The next question from the group was one I immediately thought of as well, “If wikis are used for content regarding a matter and the firm were to determine how to deal with the records retention policy issue, isn’t there still a risk management issue?”  Some thoughts to consider as you move forward with this technology.  

Finally, an audience member asked about what shortfalls SharePoint wikis present.  Doug responded to this question with the following comments:

The notification of page changes one is sent if someone signs up to receive those updates, is a simple reprint of the web page with no hint of what the changes are.

Multiple people can enter the wiki at the same time to edit with the first editor to save preventing changes by the others editors.

~ Nina Platt

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