Do You Know If You Own What You Know?


The firm that is able to retrieve its pre-existing knowledge and use it again, a process known as knowledge management, will be more efficient, reduce its costs and provide excellent results for clients at a lower price. But this raises a question: Who owns the knowledge, who owns the forms, the precedent knowledge? Does the client who paid for it own it? Does the law firm own it? Or does the lawyer who created it own it? This becomes more important in an age of greater lateral movement.

The answers are mixed. In some instances, even if the work product was personally created by the lawyer, the copyright protection may attach to the documents and reside with the law firm, especially if the documents were created by employees (associates) as part of their jobs. This may not apply to partners, who as owners of the firm may have an asset interest in work product, depending on what the partnership agreement provides. Another concept to review is whether the copyright belongs to the client. Here, one could use the "work for hire" concept in which the person for whom the work is created is the owner of the copyright. In this instance, files and their contents always belong to the client, not the firm or an individual lawyer.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ed Poll, LawBiz | Attorney Advertising

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