The Legal System and Knowledge Management

By Montana, John C. | Information Management, July 2000 | Go to article overview

The Legal System and Knowledge Management

Montana, John C., Information Management

Knowledge management (KM) has been defined as a discipline focused on systematic and innovative methods, practices, and tools for managing the generation, acquisition, exchange, protection, distribution, and utilization of knowledge, intellectual capital, and intangible assets, according to Bryan Davis of The Kaieteur Institute for Knowledge Management. As such, KM represents both a conceptual leap in organizing information resources and a way of extracting additional value from them. This article examines one such set of information resources and the potential for applying KM to it.

In the age of knowledge management, law stands out as an anachronism. On one hand, law is entirely man-made. There are no hidden physical principles or great unknowns, and no lost body of knowledge. In theory, law - its principles, outcomes, and the entire body of its text - is completely knowable, down to every jot and tittle. A person researching some question of law ought to be able to quickly and easily derive an answer with certainty.

In reality, nothing is further from the truth. You can research a question of theoretical astrophysics far more easily, and derive an answer far more certain, than is possible with a moderately complex question involving the United States tax code. The reasons for this are steeped in history.

Anglo-American law is very old. In its beginnings, there was no organization at all. Local customs and mores and the local court that implemented them (collectively, the common law), plus the odd decree promulgated when the sovereign saw fit, were the entire body of law. There wasn't much of it altogether, and it was simply universally recognized and acknowledged. Organization, finding aids, and management were not needed. Even when things got a bit more complex, with statutes and other formal enactments, as well as court cases cited as precedent and recorded, there still wasn't much organization. Whatever existed got announced in court, and perhaps a written opinion was issued to the parties. Researchers interested in discovering what law might exist were left to find things as best they could. Whatever the state of the knowledge - and clearly there was some, for that old case law is still with us and is frequently still good law - there was certainly no management of it to speak of.

Law is a conservative calling steeped in its own traditions. In particular, the concept of precedent, or deferring to prior practice, is revered now as then. Once in place and blessed with the mantle of prior practice, making law, then making virtually no attempt to publish it to the world, became the way to do things. Only the direst of circumstances forced any change.

The practice continues into the present: courts issue decisions which are placed into case reporters in decision order, leaving the layman utterly baffled as to how to find anything. Our current sovereigns, in the form of various legislatures and parliaments, do the same. A year's statutory enactments are bound into a volume of session laws or unconsolidated statutes in bill number order, which only persons absolutely desperate to find the original language of an act - and with lots of time on their hands dare venture into. Only later does the codified version placed into the codified laws of the jurisdiction appear.

The First Knowledge Management

Even 200 years ago, this state of affairs caused problems. Law is based on the predictability and order of social affairs and on the articulation and uniform usage of legal and judicial principles. The point of law is to direct society toward these things. This is the value of precedent: case decisions and prior practice presumably reflect these values and guide later courts and parties.

Unfortunately, while the ability to cite precedent was well and good, finding out what precedent existed was very difficult. This became particularly acute in the United States, where vast geographic expanses made communication with distant courts next to impossible in a pre-electronic, pre-telegraphic, prerailroad society. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

The Legal System and Knowledge Management


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.