Making Intangible Document Knowledge Finally Tangible

By Ivy B. Grey

During the drafting and filing process, every legal professional develops tacit knowledge of local rules, court preferences, and judge’s pet peeves. That knowledge goes into every filing. However, the valuable know-how behind those choices is usually left undocumented. When the employee who did the work leaves, or if a long time passes, that tacit knowledge is lost. What can we do to change that?

The Limits of Knowledge Management

Access to and ability to leverage information is critical in the knowledge economy. In fact, 76% of executives agree that knowledge management is critical. But not all information easily lends itself to documentation and distribution. A study of 700 companies found that only 2% of essential information is actually written down—the rest is all in employee’s heads.

In law firms, knowledge managers have the challenge of:

  • teaching people to recognize what information is relevant and should be captured;
  • incentivizing employees to take the time to distill and document it; and
  • convincing employees that their status won’t be harmed if it’s shared.

Assuming that employees are generally willing to share information, tacit knowledge nevertheless presents a problem. Tacit knowledge is the accumulated know-how that is usually thought of as instinct or experience. The document creation process is full of this unspoken, yet critical information.

Consider the full process of shepherding a document through to completion. It’s not just drafting. It’s synthesizing court rules, managing judge’s preferences, incorporating partner experience, and dealing with documents that inexplicably get kicked back from court clerks. All of those experiences contain important knowledge. This intangible document knowledge is a valuable asset in every firm.

To share and use that intangible document knowledge, knowledge managers must provide a framework to do so. It’s the kind of problem that appears so difficult, most law firms won’t even try to capture it. But can you imagine the rewards for those who can?

Costs of Lost Document Knowledge

Losing document-creation knowledge has a direct financial impact on the bottom line at law firms:

  • Instead of leveraging our experience to be faster, smarter, and deliver more client value, we have to start anew.
  • The competencies, experiences, and knowledge of workers are intangible assets that generate 85% of business value. That value is lost.
  • We lose valuable time searching for the information in our attempt to re-use it. Knowledge workers spend 25% of their time searching for information.

The key to changing that is capturing document information in the location where it will be drawn from for use. Incredibly, there is a technological solution. It’s inexpensive, and it’s already in use at three AmLaw 100 firms. Here’s the secret that they don’t share.

How to Store and Apply Intangible Document Knowledge

PerfectIt is an MS Word add-in that makes it possible to capture and share the valuable knowledge that legal professionals rely on to create documents and get them accepted by the courts. However, it doesn’t just store the information. It can also apply those rules and preferences to every document that you create. The key is making use of PerfectIt’s custom style sheets so that you can build the preferences of clients, partners, practice groups, judges, or jurisdictions into every document.

With PerfectIt’s custom style sheets, you can:

  • Add proper names to ensure they’re spelled, capitalized, and punctuated properly and consistently;
  • Choose between full stops or commas in numbers;
  • Avoid, replace, or standardize phrases;
  • Enforce local capitalization or italicization rules;
  • Enforce citation and publication standards;
  • Add industry-specific terms of art; and
  • Enforce local style manuals.

Custom style sheets allow you to work efficiently and delegate more. Once created, any legal professional can use this information and perform the task, which removes bottlenecks and produces uniform results. Now work can go smoothly, and as the experts, your firm can do more of it quickly.

The option to customize PerfectIt is available to all users and included in every purchase. Here’s how you can start creating your own custom style sheet today.


Intangible document knowledge is a problem that plagues every law firm. The reward for solving that problem is high, and it’s a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line. You can retain intangible document knowledge even when employees leave if you put in place systems that both collect and apply that information during document creation. With PerfectIt, legal professionals can apply court- or jurisdiction-specific document style knowledge right from the ribbon. Learn how with our free video tutorials and download to get the free trial today.


About Ivy B. Grey, JD, LLM

Ivy B. Grey is the creator of American Legal Style and an advisor to PerfectIt. Her work on technology competence and ethics has made her a respected thought leader in legal tech. In 2018, Ivy was recognized as a FastCase 50 Honoree and a Women of Legal Tech, class of 2018 honoree by the ABA Law Technology Resource Center.

Ivy practiced in the field of corporate bankruptcy law for ten years before making her transition to full-time legal tech in November 2018. Ivy received her LL.M. from St. John’s University School of Law and J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center.

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