Gowling WLG is a multinational law firm with more than 1,500 legal professionals in 20 cities, 9 countries and 3 continents, ranking as one of the top 100 largest law firms in the world.
Mark Tamminga is a partner and Leader of Innovation Initiatives at Gowling WLG. He has been with the firm for over 30 years. In 2016, Gowling WLG LLP was formed through the combination of Canada-based Gowling, Lafleur, Henderson LLP and UK-based Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. Following the merger, Mark began to ponder how the firm could better catalogue its global expertise and experience and make it accessible for a variety of business needs. He realized that this would require delivering dynamic responses to four fundamental business questions: What do our people know? What do our people actually do? To what groups do individuals belong? What relevant work have they done?
Mark understood that providing immediate and relevant responses to these questions would necessitate more than an inventory of skills and talents; it would require an experience management solution that would enable the firm to link individuals to groups, to their own work and the work of groups, as well as to individual representative matters and group representative matters.
Mark comments: “The ability to search this pertinent information is the holy grail of law firm knowledge management and profitability: it allows the firm to build the right client teams and to find the right person for the job at the right price.”
In a prior effort at addressing this challenge, the firm had implemented a solution that delivered little more than a phone directory-level capability for the firm’s personnel, along with a rudimentary attempt at capturing expertise.
In parallel, however, the firm had developed and maintained a highly structured, comprehensive database for representative matters, which was curated by two of the firm’s marketing professionals. The solution was highly bespoke and built with now outdated tools. The result was that, useful as the representative database was, the two marketing professionals had to be involved in every use case of the database, which was neither tenable nor the final desired state.
Meanwhile, on an ad hoc basis, the firm’s professionals were leveraging social networks to gather expertise and experience data; however, the social networks were de facto limited and not capable of providing the rich information required to support the firm’s ultimate business objectives.
“Combined,” Mark adds, “it neared the point where our ability to understand how to bring the right talent to a circumstance seemed to be an unsolvable problem.”
Fortunately, in 2017 Mark was introduced to ikaun at ILTACON.
With ikaun, Mark knew the firm had a world class experience management solution if he could find the right champion with the expertise required to implement it—which he did when Ginevra Saylor joined the firm as National Director, Innovation and Knowledge Programs.
Ginevra comments: “When I joined the firm, Mark had already convinced leadership to invest in ikaun. I was excited that the firm was so forward-thinking and had invested in a technology solution most other firms were just starting to recognize the value of. It was a huge opportunity, and I knew we should put everything into launching ikaun in the firm.”
When the pandemic hit, Mark, Ginevra and their team focused their resources and efforts into fully elaborating the ikaun infrastructure to knit together the firm’s culture.
Mark adds: “From the beginning, the firm made the decision that ikaun had to be inclusive, that this had to involve everybody in the firm, from our receptionists to the CEO. And that's proven to be a really good decision as it makes the full array of our expertise and culture accessible to all, acknowledging all of the contributors to the firm’s success.”
ikaun was officially released firm-wide in April 2022 and is now a prominent part of the lives of the firm’s professionals and an important part of the firm’s infrastructure.
Key stakeholders across various departments—including practice and sector groups, marketing and business development, knowledge management, and the firm’s executive leadership team—now have the ability to take data, tailor it to their needs and deliver high-value responses to the four fundamental business questions that sparked the project.
Ginevra and Mark held approximately 12 half-hour training sessions, each attended by hundreds of the firm’s personnel—a testament to the anticipated need for the ikaun solution firm-wide and the simplicity of the end-user experience.
“The best illustration of ikaun’s value is that people across the firm are frequently using ikaun for an array of use cases requiring quick answers common questions, which before could be answered only through disruptive email blasts—if at all,” says Ginevra.
As the ikaun repository grows, it continues to become increasingly valuable, capturing everything from soft communities and groups to client work to niche areas of practice. The firm’s non-timekeepers are also contributing their expertise, skills, languages and experiences, bringing to the fore a vital part of the firm’s population.
Mark comments: “Every professional services firm needs to know not only the expertise of its people, but the experience that those people actually have. The ability to surface that information is critically important to the operation of our business. And ikaun is your best shot at being able to put that information, unstructured and soft as it is, into a structure that allows you to conduct resilient and useful searches yielding important, timely and current results.”
“One of the best things about working on this project was the partnership between ikaun and Gowling WLG,” Ginevra concludes. “Throughout the entire project, from contract negotiations through firm-wide deployment, ikaun has been a true partner, invested in understanding our firm and our idiosyncrasies. Experience management platforms can be challenging to implement, but it was the partnership with ikaun and the relationship we developed that enabled us to complete this project successfully.”