Support staff and knowledge management specialists will take centre-stage at a major legal gathering in Sydney next week.
The Janders Dean Law Firm Knowledge & Innovation Conference will be held in Sydney on Thursday 22 September.
With legal support staff playing an increasingly important role in the running of law firms, knowledge managers and senior lawyers will address how non-lawyers can assist fee-earners to best process the glut of information they routinely receive.
"I get a lot of random queries, but that's an essential part of my role, trying to make things easier for people, so they know where to find things and who to contact in certain situations," said Sarah Lankowski, a knowledge manager with Allen & Overy in Sydney.
A former lawyer with Minter Ellison, Lankowski has been at A&O for almost one decade, coming back to Australia last year from the firm's headquarters in London to assist with the firm's entry into the Australian market.
At the conference, she will speak on the topic of global knowledge experience and expertise.
Lankowski believes that within a modern law firm, shared services staff need to be "both heard and seen" and not be confined to a background role.
At A&O's two Australian offices in Sydney and Perth, around 60 services staff and personal assistants support the firm's more than 100 lawyers.
"As a knowledge manager, I need to always liaise with our lawyers," she said. "To find out what is hitting the mark, what they regard as important, and what sort of information would be nice to have, but would not necessarily be a must have."
Lankowski said that a massive challenge for knowledge managers at global law firms was to join people up across the different offices in terms of accessing information.
"It is a blessing to have so much information at your fingertips, and to know you have colleagues all around the world who you can call on," she said. "But the flipside of that is knowing who to speak to in order to get what you need.
"Do I need to speak to someone in London, Singapore or can someone handle it here in Australia? That has been a challenge for our lawyers."
In addition to Lankowski, other speakers at the conference include Tom Baldwin, the chief knowledge officer at United States-based global law firm Reed Smith. He will address the topic of innovation in knowledge management, while Pete Williams, a partner with Deloitte Digital, will speak on the topic of "social media - friend, foe or unstoppable force".
The managing partner of Baker & Mckenzie in Australia, Chris Freeland, will kick-off the conference talking about the impact of global law firms in Australia.