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THE recent explosion of mergers and the tendency towards specialisation will lead to a sharp rise in the number of law firms employing "know-how" managers to share out information, recruitment consultants have predicted.
Know-how managers act as a bridge between the legal and the IT departments of the firm. The majority of the top 20 firms already employ such managers, either on a full-time or part-time basis, although it is a role which only originated about three years ago.
According to Greythorn consultant Melanie Gilbert, know-how managers are the "next growth area" of employment at firms - including smaller firms - as mergers and increased specialisation make teamwork and the ability to share information ever more important.
Gilbert said firms may have problems finding suitable candidates, owing to the mix of skills involved. She suggested a good option was to train a solicitor already working for the firm in know-how management.
QD technology consultant Paul Young also predicted an increase in know-how managers and a decline in the importance of "technocrats" in favour of "those who can combine a strong business focus with an affinity with technology".
Denton Hall know-how director Paul Hancock said his job involved quizzing lawyers about what they had learnt that week which could benefit others at the firm and transferring it to a database.
Hancock said that the job required four skills: the ability to understand information structures and design information systems; a knowledge of technology such as Intranets and search engines; an understanding of the law; and an ability to "tease" information from lawyers and convince them to use the system.
Hancock, a former solicitor, added that his job was to reverse the trend within firms of lawyers being over cautious about sharing information because fee earners are billed at hourly rates.