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06 - Knowledge Management

Best Practices in Pro Bono:
Knowledge Management

The Best Practices in Pro Bono Guides were created to provide a model for pro bono programs and increase consistency in pro bono work across organizations. The guides present concise practical information on knowledge management. The content in this section was created by Pamela Robinson, Director Pro Bono Program, University of South Carolina School of Law.

What is Knowledge Management?

Early proponents of the field of “knowledge management” defined it as getting the right knowledge to the right person at the right time. It is not just managing knowledge for knowledge’s sake or about data storage but about the creative and effective flow of information to meet the mission and goals of the pro bono program.

What is the Importance of Knowledge Management to Pro Bono

Why is Knowledge Management Important to Pro Bono?

Moving from data collection to knowledge management requires regular engagement with your stakeholders and is key to any best practice. Managi ng the knowledge crucial to your program includes but i s not limited to: good planning; strategic utilization of technology, problem solving, historical information, understand ing of the programs value, and maximizing productivity.

How Does Knowledge Management Impact Pro Bono Programs? In What Specific Areas?

Student Data

Whether it is hours performed by students on a pro bono effort or just calculating the number of students engaged, technology is key. The intersection of technology, the processes used and the people involved create best practices. T hen technology accelerates our processes, resulting in more engaged students.

Important technology management tools include: Cloud storage, proper and updated security; password access, process checklists, encryption, training, software and hardware.

Each of these tools needs to be current and documentation should be retained for future use. Creating a timeline for implementation of any data collection process is important and helps provide any future manager with an overview of this area of your program. Proprietary software can be very useful and your university should have a process for updating. Horror stories abound about the designer of a wonderful piece of software leaving and no one else understands how to change the dynamics. Avoid this by consulting with your IT staff and understanding their protocols .

Project Outcome Data

It is especially important to know your partners as well as to build a strategy on how outcome data will be used. Knowing the usages up front will be vital to developing the data necessary to collect. Again, a checklist and written plan is key.

Organizational Processes

Technology changes almost daily. Important documents such as t ask descriptions, memorandums of agreements, and checklists should be saved as a pdf.

PDF (Portable Document Format) i s a universally recognized standard format. There is nothing worse than being unable to open an older important document because you no longer have the software. Don’t forget the documents you share with partners.

Organizational Culture

Much of the culture of your pro bono program is tied to Institutional knowledge. The history of the successes and failures of your program are important to document. The stories your present and former students tell can help to capture your culture. Consider using the free StoryCorps app ( to collect these stories. To help insure you do not have knowledge loss involve everyone in the practice of your program, from the top echelon o f the law school to the outside partners. Collection of knowledge of your program is an ongoing effort not just a one and done kind of thing!

We often hear talk among lawyers about reputation. We explain this to students early in their studies but we also need to think about our program’s reputation. A good, strong reputation for quality of service, dependability, creativity an d overall organizational skills can enhance not only the program but also the law school.

Next Steps

Just imagine that you were unable to prepare your program’s successor. Ask yourself these questions? Would they be able to start my computer? Would they know where to start? Is the information clear as to how to handle student requests? And the list goes on and on. Avoid overwhelming confusion with a simple folder not only on your computer desktop but in a hard copy- label it START HERE. The f older should have copies of checklists, timelines, key agreements or their location, even a simplified step by step description of how you handle a student request or initiate a new project. Think of all the things you touch on a daily basis or that are core t o the operation of your program and include them. A yearly calendar of deadlines and e vents would be extremely useful. Think basic!

In addition to maintaining organizational processes it is also important to have transition documents. Transition documents are operational fundamentals and will insure a smooth transfer from one person to another. Who are the key contacts for projects? What colleagues can be depended on to offer mentoring or advise? What kind of support can you expect? Who does what within your program? Who in the law school are your key supporters and what role do they play in your program? These are the types of transition document s that you should retain.

Last Word

Knowledge management is a mindset; it should be a part of your daily return. Start the documentation of processes, culture at the very beginning of a program. Keep up to date on the latest in technology.


  • Beaumont, Jon; “Knowledge Management in a Regional Law Firm: A Worthwhile Investment or Time Wasted?” Business Information Review 27, no4 (2010): 227-32
  • DiDomenico, Patrick, “Knowledge Management for Lawyers” ABA Boo k Publishers (2015)
  • Marsh, Sonya Yvette, “Retention of Institutional Memory Via Knowledge Management: Perceptions Regarding the Effectiveness of Corporate Approaches Applied to Higher Education”, (2016). LSU Doctoral Dissertations.972.
  • duPlessis T. du Toit A.S.A.; “Knowledge Management and the Le gal Practice”, 26 Int’l J. Info. Mgmt. (2006)
  • Evans, M. M., Dalkir, K., & Bidian, C. (2014). A holistic view of the knowledge life cycle: The knowledge management cycle (KMC) model. Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management (EJKM) , 12 (2), 85-97.
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  • Johnson, Conrad; Donnelly, Brian “ If We Only Knew What We Know” , 88 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 729
  • Kelly, Kevin; “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future,” Penguin, 2016,
  • McCaffery, P. (2004). The Higher education manager’s handbook: Effective leadership and management in universities and colleges. London: Routledge-Falmer.
  • Swap, W., Leonard, D., Shields, M. & Abrams, L. (2001). Using mentoring and storytelling to transfer knowledge in the workplace. Journal of Management Information Systems. 18 (1), 95-114.
  • Syed-Ikhsan, S. & Rowland, F. ( 2004). Knowledge management in public organizations: A study on the relationship between organizational elements and the performance of knowledge transfer. Journal of Knowledge Management, 8 (2), 95-111.
  • Thompson, Clive; “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better”,

Category: Pro Bono

Tags: Pro Bono