The Future of Current Awareness in the Legal Sector

With the evolution of technology and the ubiquity of mobile devices, the practice of ‘managing’ knowledge is rapidly transforming the legal sector; from the simple idea of ‘search as a platform’, to investing in a central content hub, to storing all information in one place.

Forward-thinking firms are increasingly using current awareness for a range of applications beyond the norm, thereby enhancing individual workflows and productivity.

One of the major challenges for information teams today is implementing future-proofed systems to effectively streamline their current awareness process - ultimately saving teams time and money.

However, the road to success can be a slow process when adopting new ways of innovating, especially within the legal sector.

At our recent Future of Current Awareness Round Table breakfast at The Shard, we invited knowledge managers and information teams from top tier firms such as Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields and Baker & McKenzie, to discuss the common “pain points” for many legal firms, including some key questions to consider when tackling these challenges head on.

1) Time constraints on the central team with limited resources

When you don't have time to curate personally for each partner, to what extent should you use automated alerting vs. curation? On automated alerting, one participant commented that since "lawyers are now used to scanning Twitter and Facebook, they are a lot more tolerant about having some inaccurate articles in their alerts."

Key Takeaway

With too much information, and not enough time, automated alerts are an essential tool to make sure that each lawyer receives their personal set of filtered content. 1:1 curation is now an unaffordable luxury for most firms; instead, team newsletters (curated centrally or locally within teams) complement automated alerts and mean that a little curation goes a long way.

2) Multiple communication channels – but it’s still really all about email

Email is still the preferred channel - that won't change in a hurry - but this leads to inefficiencies as users can't remember which email had the information in. How can you best combine emails with a central repository that users actually use?

One attendee commented on the requirement to "create once and then deliver in many different ways." By engaging with your audience across various channels - from intranet, email, social, to mobile, you can help your people become more effective in their roles.

Key Takeaway

Email alerts and newsletters are the primary alerting mechanism and will likely remain so for a while, but collaboration tools are becoming increasing adopted (particularly by younger colleagues). If content is consistently tagged and structured, it can be simply piped into any collaboration space that pops up. Importantly, users need ’trigger and context‘ – the push alert is the ’trigger‘, but when a user reads something interesting they want to be able to simply click through to a content hub for relevant context.

3) Managing disparate content licensing agreements

Although connecting several content sources - in particular niche content providers - into one knowledge base is a nice idea, how does it work in practice? Currently the norm is to get loads of different emails from different providers but is there an alternative - what does consolidated alerting look like?

With access to information across many different sources, an attendee observed that, with her firm, "we are seeing that lawyers are starting to look for their own information." In response, another participant said they needed to "buy more niche products to get specific alerts, particularly expert views for a team of 10 people."

Key Takeaway

We have found that both large and niche content providers are happy to integrate into content hubs, provided that their licensing terms are respected (i.e. with their content only going to licensed users). They realise that integrated alerts are more valuable to their audience; therefore their own content is more likely to be consumed if it is presented along with contextual content from third parties. Consolidated alerting is simple – content organised and grouped by topic, prioritised primarily by authority of source, presented at a time that suits the user.

4) Inefficiencies due to ’network lag’

There's a lot of knowhow across the firm, but it takes 1-2 years for each new joiner to form their personal network - how can you speed this process up? And as partners move on, how do you ensure knowledge is retained within your firm?

Key Takeaway

Through centrally connecting your silos of information - whether news content, internal research, external premium content, email etc. – and monitoring consumption and publication patterns, it is now possible to identify experts from across your organisation and externally on each key topic. We have found that this approach works well to build communities of like-minded professionals and to identify the 1:1 collaboration that may be needed to support specific projects.

5) Difficulties with Cost Control

In the current economic climate, spend on content sources needs to be carefully controlled. How can analytics tools help to justify spend and identify savings?

One attendee commented that after an information audit, she found that "three people within the same organisation bought the same global license." And after her content audit, she saved the firm £80k+ in the one year.

Key Takeaway

One of the benefits of centralizing the management and delivery of unstructured content is enabling a better oversight of key content sources. It is now possible to get detailed analytics on consumption and publication patterns by key topic – which sources should deliver the most value to you, and which are actually being consumed most on key topics and by whom. This gives you the insight to be able to better manage your vendor relationships, identify potential cost savings and also ways to increase the value of each content set.


Future of Current Awareness Round Table, chaired by Simon Levene, knowledge management consultant.

With many of these hurdles, EditorEye is working closely with legal firms to help solve these problems via our Catalyst platform.

Our technology enables information teams to take control of how knowledge is managed and shared within large organizations, from centralizing all content sources (whether global news, premium and internal) to delivering key insights via filtered alerts, PDF reports, newsletter briefings and RSS feeds.

If you are interested in an immediate pilot or learning more then get in touch via