Psychology of Lawyers and Knowledge Management: Encouraging Collaboration

by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

One of the goals of knowledge management (KM) is to increase collaboration and to facilitate knowledge creation and sharing. While this can be a daunting task for KM professionals working with lawyers, who can sometimes be a protective and skeptical group, findings by a leading expert on lawyer psychology may provide some interesting and helpful guidance.

Using personality instruments such as the Caliper Profile and Hogan Assessments, Dr. Larry Richard has studied the personality traits of thousands of lawyers. According to Dr. Richard, “lawyers have above average scores on Skeptical (90th percentile), indicating a tendency to be argumentative as well as suspicious of others, and Reserved (65th percentile), indicating a tendency to distance themselves from others and become uncommunicative.” While these may be the traits of a successful lawyer, these tendencies pose a serious problem for KM initiatives in law firms. KM is based on sharing and distributing knowledge. How can this be accomplished if KM professionals often encounter barriers imposed by lawyer personalities?

While lawyers vary substantially from the “norm” on six social traits, according to Dr. Richard’s research, KM professionals can still leverage the information from this survey to collaborate and communicate more effectively with lawyers at their firm. Dr. Richard also reports that lawyers tend to value the Learning Approach (69th percentile), suggesting they value education and enjoy academic activities and discourse. Providing in-house educational sessions regarding the value of KM and its resources therefore should prove beneficial. Furthermore, implementing solutions that provide attorneys with knowledge about their practices, industries, and changes in the law has been a cornerstone of traditional legal KM. Current awareness tools support the value attorneys place on education and demonstrates that KM is aligned with the needs of their attorneys. KM has to be promoted in law firms in a way that lawyers can see the value in it.

Another set of traits that distinguishes lawyers from the general public is their higher Urgency (71st percentile) and Autonomy (89th percentile) scores. A high score on Urgency is characterized by impatience, a need to get things done, and a sense of immediacy; a high score on Autonomy reveals that lawyers value their independence and tend to resist being managed. They are results-oriented and seek efficiency and economy in their everyday business dealings, often under immense time pressures.

A brief demonstration of how KM initiatives, not just KM-related technology, can have a positive impact on their practice should more than resonate with busy attorneys. The presentation should address the areas important to attorneys, such as reducing the amount of time spent on a given task, saving the client money, promoting quality and consistency across the firm, and increasing efficiency. Indeed, what better way to efficiently obtain results than by connecting lawyers to other colleagues who have addressed a similar issue, exemplar documents already vetted for desired results, and a well-organized repository of thoughts about the legal question at hand? KM resources such as enterprise search, repositories of exemplar documents and templates, and KM Counsel (also known as Practice Support Lawyers) are aimed at addressing these issues. These resources allow attorneys to work autonomously (enterprise search and document repositories) or to rely on highly respected attorneys (KM Counsel), so as to not make them skeptical of the results.

Once your attorneys see the value of KM, their willingness to collaborate, create, and share knowledge should follow.

Jennifer Mendez is a Knowledge Management Solutions Analyst based in the Morristown, N.J. office of Ogletree Deakins.


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.

© Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.