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Webinar recap: Knowledge Unlocked: The journey of next generation search

Lucy Melendrez-Diaz

Imagine unlocking the knowledge in your firm and turning it into a competitive advantage.

Alex Smith, product lead, iManage RAVN, and Kate Simpson, National Director of Knowledge and Information, Bennett Jones, discussed the history of search over the past 20 years, and share their vision for next generation search during a recent iManage webinar.

Here are some key insights they shared from their experiences on the journey to building the next generation of search.

The Evolution of Search

Before 2000, search was about browsers and categorization. Search as we know it today didn’t exist.

However, the digital information explosion over the past 20 years that followed demanded new ways to explore archives and databases for specific information. As Google revolutionized the internet, legal professionals learned from their consumer lives about the need for browsing capabilities. They now needed to learn how to retrieve usable enterprise knowledge and information in their professional lives too, which led them to discover the need for intranets and knowledge management (KM) across their firms.

Enterprise Search meant categorization was no longer a findability solution across multiple platforms, and the potential of algorithms and taxonomy‐driven, faceted, guided navigation helped folks see that the way they tagged information would impact search. Amazon becomes the better analogy now; the perfect mix of search and taxonomy to facet down to the ideal set of results.

Fast forward to today, and we’re seeing the promise of AI to help us find information across silos. Some aspects of search will remain constant. Law firms have always had a variety of data, information, and knowledge – ranging from an unstructured collection to a highly curated thing of beauty.

The key is to figure out what search or retrieval journeys lawyers are on. There’s a huge difference between retrieving work in progress (WIP) and retrieving knowledge and precedent.

Enabling both journeys with one search engine is the goal. Afterall, as Kate noted, “Knowledge isn’t really knowledge unless it can be retrieved and used by everyone.” Algorithms are just one piece of that puzzle. The browse experience – giving the user hints and nudges to guide them on their journey are important as well.

Core Elements of a Search Project

There are several elements that are core to a search project. Overall, we must focus on findability – the journey from your intranet home page to the deep knowledge you need. We don’t know what lawyers will be looking for, so firms must design the knowledge journey to help them tell the search engine what they want.

Bennett Jones invested the time and resources identifying the connections they wanted to make amongst its data to make the search journey as fast, easy and successful as possible by:

  • Identifying the content that is most valuable to the firm in a content value matrix
  • Tagging content correctly so that search can see the relevant workflow context around it
  • Using the right metadata schemas helping to make more powerful search recommendations
  • Being clear on the filters and facets that lawyers will use versus background taxonomies

The interaction between user experience (UX) design and data is one of the key elements Kate has seen as core to her many successful search projects. There are five key elements she noted: 1) Algorithms 2) Data 3) Content 4) User Interface (UI) and 5) User Experience (UX).

In addition to taking the above into consideration, to deliver a simple, clean, intuitive search experience that promotes instant search retrieval while also supporting the cerebral kinds of deep research that lawyers do, search must also:

  • Be useful and engaging
  • Help to see the patterns between content
  • Deliver deeper insights about the firm and its expertise
  • Move complexity to the background – the user should give any thought to the UI
  • Use patterns to make what happens next intuitive
  • Have flexible interface and it cannot remain stagnant
  • Include signposts for lawyers to follow

These are constant design challenges that iManage Knowledge Unlocked is set up to address.

Competitive Advantage and Return on Investment

Investing in search is about investing in knowledge and treating it as a valuable asset. Making that content more retrievable unlocks one of Bennett Jones’ competitive advantages – its collective knowledge.

When the firm makes it simple for its lawyers to find and apply that knowledge, it ensures that every client benefits from the firm’s deep experience and expertise. It has a vision about how it all plays well together.

“Search is a wicked problem”, Kate has said that many times before and she’s not alone in that sentiment. As she further describes, “it’s not wicked in the English vernacular sense of being evil or morally bad, but in the sense of being messy and reactive and with no single solution”.

Regardless of what the motivating factor is to implement or change an organization’s approach to search and knowledge sharing, a pivot like this forces clarity on what search means to that organization. It provides a reason to focus on data and connecting silos in a search journey that makes sense to lawyers.

Choosing the Right Partner

A change in an organization’s approach to search represents a strategic pivot, and you want to take that journey with a company that has a similar vision. It was nice to hear that Bennett Jones feels they found that type of partnership with iManage. Working with iManage and the Knowledge Unlocked team over the last couple of years, Kate shared that she’s come to appreciate the number of decisions required to provide a single search engine for so many different firms whose objectives will vary greatly.

It was also important to Bennett Jones to partner with a vendor who understands document management. Kate felt that final integration step into people’s workflows requires knowing how people store and retrieve WIP and documents in the document management system.

They wanted a partner who is as passionate about search success as they are, and we are exceptionally passionate about helping our customers to unlock their collective knowledge via search and making it work for them and the clients they serve.

To learn more about iManage Knowledge Unlocked or to take a closer look at what Next Generation Search could do for your organization, contact us today.

For more insights on this topic you can view the full webinar here.

About the author

Lucy Melendrez-Diaz

Lucy is the Legal Practice lead for iManage RAVN. In her role, Lucy helps law firms leverage technology to help them achieve optimization in knowledge sharing, work process, and improvement in the quality of final work product. Prior to iManage, Lucy worked at an e-discovery company and a legal services firm. She received her JD from the University of Illinois College of Law.