12 Feb, 2019· read

Retaining knowledge in the legal sector

There is a knowledge crisis coming, in fact – we’re already in the midst of it, and there is going to have to be a change in the way we treat knowledge, expertise, and the humans that all businesses rely on to supply it.

Knowledge Crisis

The ‘baby boomer’ generation, the largest generational group in the working population, have dominated critical business roles over the past 30 years. Yet from 2016 (when the oldest of the boomers turned 70) and over the next 18 years, this huge segment of the working population is going to retire; en masse. In fact, in the US it is estimated that 10,000 individuals will turn 65 every day from 2011 to 2029. The largest working population is going to become the largest retired population

10,000 individuals will turn 65 every day from 2011 to 2029

There are many, well publicised challenges that will hit society, business and public services as a result of this population shift – the impact on social care and the NHS alone is cause for much analysis and advanced planning – but one area this hasn’t had as much press is the loss of institutional knowledge and expertise that will result.

The loss of business knowledge and expertise could cost companies millions

The retiring “boomers” are likely to be the best-educated and most experienced percentage of the workforce. The loss of business knowledge and expertise could cost companies millions as they will struggle to replace the huge intellectual asset that is leaving the business.

Exit Door

There isn’t an easy solution to this problem and, consequently, industries are starting to do things to mitigate the impact: outsourcing low-level activities, employing retirees back as consultants and introducing knowledge sharing and formal mentoring.

None of these are perfect and therefore business leaders need a portfolio approach to mitigating the problem and that should include taking advantage of new technology where ever possible.

Intelligent Automation is a quick and effective solution to capture knowledge and automate activities thereby reducing demand and dependency on individuals.

38% of law firm partners will retire in the next 10 years

The legal sector provides a good example of this challenge and emerging solutions. The baby boomer retirement problem is already being felt as aging partners retire in significant numbers; 38% of law firm partners will retire in the next 10 years. This is being further compounded by a growing skills shortage of young, talented lawyers in the sector.

The challenge is to capture institutional knowledge from the retiring leaders as far as possible but also to allow the more junior workforce to learn and develop into the leaders of the future.

Technology can be utilised to complete these tasks at a lower cost, faster and more accurately.

Traditionally, new or less experienced workers are saddled with the low-level, transaction duties to build their experience and as a rite of passage but firms cannot afford to waste time and talent in this way. Technology can be utilised to complete these tasks at a lower cost, faster and more accurately. This in turn will allow individuals to focus on the complex challenges and developing knowledge with their more experienced colleagues.

Intelligent Automation has the capability to capture and automate this critical human knowledge

Intelligent Automation has the capability to capture and automate this critical human knowledge; but also, to enhance and augment with the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This means that we can now automate the completion of complex yet repetitive and often high-volume tasks to support the workforce. Examples include reviewing contracts, filling correspondence, fraud detection, claims processing - all time consuming, mundane activities for well trained, experienced lawyers whose time would be better spent working with experienced colleagues and servicing clients.

A working example

Here at XR we have developed an Intelligent Automation solution to capture institutional knowledge for a specific task that would free up talented fee-earning lawyers to focus on more complex work.

Many law firms receive thousands of pieces of correspondence every day, relating to on-going cases, and often highly trained lawyers are tasked with analysing and cataloguing each one and all attachments. We have developed a solution that reads the contents of the correspondence and catalogues them based on knowledge derived from the expert lawyers doing the work. The solution continually assesses its own success rate and adapts accordingly so that accuracy and learning would improve over time.

Using Intelligent Automation will allow firms to capture knowledge and decision-making and make it available to all so that the risk of employees retiring or leaving is mitigated. Take this a step forward and Intelligent Automation platforms could support lawyers with decision making by providing access to institutional expertise and logic and analysis of large datasets.

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