Knowledge sharing in an international law firm:A case study examining practice, barriers and motivation

Authors Organisations

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • David Ellis
Award date2015
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The aim of this research project was to investigate the knowledge sharing behaviour of lawyers in an international law firm. For this purpose a literature
review was carried out with a special focus on knowledge sharing in the legal
sector. Barriers to knowledge sharing within organisations were identified. The
theoretical basis to encourage knowledge sharing and the role of extrinsic and
intrinsic motivation to share were examined. This allowed the author to develop
suggestions for improving knowledge sharing in the case study organisation.
For the research project a case study approach on the basis of a qualitative
research strategy was used. Data collection took place through semi-structured
interviews, which were transcribed, analysed and coded. The interviewees were
lawyers in the case study organisation. To obtain a variety of views lawyers at
different positions and different stages in their careers were chosen as
participants. They were questioned on the basis of themes developed from the
research questions.
The results showed that lawyers produce a large amount of client-specific
knowledge, which is difficult to share despite being in writing. In general, the
lawyers prefer personal communication over use of electronic repositories. In
accordance with the literature the most prominent barriers to knowledge sharing
are time constraints and the billable hour. The current system of incentives is not suited to encourage the sharing of tacit knowledge.
As a conclusion it is recommended to provide guidance on the submission of
documents to the electronic repository. In addition, an agenda point on lessons
learned from previous cases should be integrated into the regular meetings. It is
suggested that such sharing of knowledge is linked to a group-based reward.
Finally, facilities to provide feedback on submissions and a tool providing
information on experts in various offices would be useful.