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JILT 2001 (2) - Petter Gottschalk


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Benefits from Information and Communication Technology Facilitating Inter-organisational Knowledge Networks: The Case of Eurojuris Law Firms in Norway
 

Petter Gottschalk
Norwegian School of Management, Norway
petter.gottschalk@bi.no

Acknowledgement: This research was funded by the Research Council of Norway in the NOS Project.
 

Abstract

Businesses such as law firms have recently made large investments in information and communication technology. Eurojuris is a network of law offices in Europe, covering 650 different cities/locations in 19 countries with a total of 3000 lawyers. In Eurojuris Norway, there are 11 law firms with 90 lawyers. The Eurojuris law firms have invested in information and communication technology facilitating inter-organisational knowledge management. This research investigated benefits perceived from use of the network among Eurojuris law firms in Norway. Benefit concepts were derived from value activities, knowledge categories and knowledge levels. A survey was conducted, and survey results indicate that benefits are perceived by lawyers in problem-solving, choice, control and evaluation when they get access to knowledge at an advanced level. There were significant differences in benefits perceived. For example, benefits perceived from access to declarative knowledge were significantly greater than benefits perceived from access to administrative, procedural and analytical knowledge.

Keywords: Eurojuris Law Firms, Norway, Inter-organisational Knowledge Networks, Knowledge Management Systems, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Problem-solving, Choice, Access to Declarative Knowledge, Access to Advanced Knowledge, Access to Administrative, Procedural and Analytical Knowledge.


This is a refereed article published on 2 August 2001.

Citation: Gottschalk P, ' Benefits from Information and Communication Technology Facilitating Inter-organisational Knowledge Networks: The Case of Eurojuris Law Firms in Norway', Refereed article, 2001 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT) <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/01-2/gottschalk.html>.New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2001_2/gottschalk/>.


1. Introduction

Eurojuris is a network of law offices in Europe, covering 650 different cities/locations in 19 countries with a total of 3000 lawyers. Eurojuris is made up of 18 national Eurojuris Associations, some of which may have permanent staff to manage their internal network. Each national member group federates strictly co-opted medium-sized law firms from its country. The objective of Eurojuris is to provide to companies, corporations, public authorities and private clients direct legal advice and local representation all over Europe. Europe does not have a single legal system. The method of conducting business varies from one country to another. Using local expertise from qualified lawyers, who are based on the spot where the client's problem arises, can be an effective way to serve the client or the correspondent lawyer. The local lawyer can draw on his knowledge of local authorities and procedures, speaks the language and is able to act effectively and promptly in his own environment. Using a relevant and local law firm also avoids the extra-costs of traveling expense. It may sometimes be inappropriate to use a large firm from the state capital when immediate advice may be more usefully and cost-effectively obtained at a decentralized location anywhere in Europe (Eurojuris, 2001 ).

A knowledge network can be defined as a group of persons and activities that co-operates and exchanges information. Seufert et al (1999), use the term networking to signify a number of people, resources and relationships among them, who are assembled in order to accumulate and use knowledge primarily by means of knowledge creation and transfer processes, for the purpose of creating value. A knowledge network may require the support of a technical infrastructure, a communications network and a set of information services. The information and communication technology provides partners in the network with the ability to directly communicate with each other.

Businesses such as law firms have made enormous investments in information and communication technology (ICT). Yet questions about the linkage between firm performance and ICT investments have puzzled researchers and practitioners over the last decade (Ryan and Harrison, 2000). Benefits from IT investments have been difficult to identify and isolate from other investments and developments in the firm. This research attempts to make a contribution to benefits research by studying benefits derived from ICT facilitating inter-organisational knowledge networks. Specifically, the research question is as follows:

What are the main benefits of using ICT in inter-organisational co-operation in the Eurojuris law firm network?

The term network has become the vogue in describing contemporary organisational arrangements (Nohria, 1992). While it may be true, from a network perspective at least, that every market may be considered a network and that no business is an island, firms increasingly adopt a network organisation. In this case, the notion of a network refers to an organisational form with distinct structural properties, regardless of whether it is considered to be an intermediary form between or beyond markets and hierarchies (Sydow and Windeler, 1998). According to Easton (1992), one approach to networks is to regard them as aggregations of relationships. Most cooperative inter-organisational relationships among strangers emerge incrementally and begin with small, informal deals that initially require little reliance on trust because they involve little risk (Ring and Van de Ven, 1994).

A knowledge network can be defined as a group of persons and activities that cooperates and exchanges information. According to Palmer and Richards (1999), learning will in the future take place in knowledge networks rather than within organisations. Both Kraatz (1998), who found that networks can promote learning, and by Larsson et al (1998), who found different strategies of learning in knowledge networks supports this.

According to the research literature, trust seems to be the most dominating facilitator of inter-organisational knowledge exchange (Cummings and Bromiley, 1996, Grandori and Soda, 1995, Hansen, 1999, Nahapiet and Ghoshal, 1998, Wathne et al, 1996, Aadne et al, 1996). Trust may be defined as the confidence in the goodwill of others (Ring and Van de Ven, 1994).

A knowledge network may require the support of a technical infrastructure, a communications network and a set of information services, i.e. an information architecture (Bensaou, 1997). The information and communication system provides partners with the ability to directly communicate with each other (Monge et al, 1998). Information systems have long been considered important vertical integration mechanisms within firms; more recently they have come to be seen as powerful horizontal integrators for managing interdependence between firms (Grandori and Soda, 1995). Grandori and Soda (1995) further claim that IT networks deserve a place among inter-organisational coordination mechanisms. Their contention is based, firstly, on the spectacular cost reduction in communication the networks bring about, which thereby support many forms of widespread network use otherwise hardly feasible. Secondly, because IT networks may be employed as a stand-alone coordination mechanism - based on machines rather than on human or organisational means - in an inter-firm relationship.

One advantage of knowledge networks among law firms is that they share a common language (Nahapiet and Ghoshal, 1998). According to the Wall Street Journal Europe (1999), law firms look to join forces. Alliances between law firms are motivated by the increase in cross-border business, and networks help law firms go global. In Norway, the local, well established law firms feel threatened by international law firms which often are involved in both auditing and consulting and which seem to be advanced in their IT support for knowledge management (DN, 1999). Local law firms' response is increased use of IT and search for membership in knowledge networks. It is believed that information-technology-enabled partnerships between law firms in their core business activity of legal advice will strengthen their competitive position.

2. Research Propositions

To comprehend the value that information and communication technology provides to organisations, we must first understand the way a particular organisation conducts business and how information systems affect the performance of various component activities within the organisation. Understanding how firms differ is a central challenge for both theory and practice of management. For a long time, Porter's value chain was the only value configuration known to managers. Stabell and Fjeldstad (1998) have identified two alternative value configurations. A value shop schedules activities and applies resources in a fashion that is dimensioned and appropriate to the needs of the client's problem, while a value chain performs a fixed set of activities that enables it to produce a standard product in large numbers. Examples of value shops are professional services, as found in medicine, law, architecture, and engineering. A value network links clients or customers who are or wish to be interdependent. Examples of value networks are telephone companies, retail banks and insurance companies.

A law firm can be defined as a value shop. The value creation logic is problem-solving by the change from an existing to a more desired state. There are five generic categories of primary value shop activities, illustrated in Figure 1 (Stabell and Fjeldstad, 1998):

  • Problem-finding and acquisition. Activities associated with the recording, reviewing and formulating of the problem to be solved and choosing the overall approach to solving the problem;
     

  • Problem-solving. Activities associated with generating and evaluating alternative solutions;
     

  • Choice. Activities associated with choosing among alternative problem solutions;
     

  • Execution. Activities associated with communicating, organizing, and implementing the chosen solution;
     

  • Control and evaluation. Activities associated with measuring and evaluating to what extent implementation has solved the initial statement.


Value configuration activities

Figure 1 Value Configuration Activities in a Law Firm as Value Shop


Information and communication technology facilitating inter-organisational knowledge networks may be important in all five value shop activities. However, it is expected that there are core law firm activities requiring more external communications than other law firm activities. Hence, our first research proposition:

Proposition 1: Benefits from information and communication technology facilitating inter-organisational knowledge networks will be greater for core value shop activities (e.g., problem solving and choice) than for other value shop activities (problem finding, execution and control).

A law firm can be understood as a social community specializing in the speed and efficiency in the creation and transfer of legal knowledge (Nahapiet and Ghoshal, 1998). Edwards and Mahling (1997) categorized the types of knowledge involved in the practice of law as administrative data, declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, and analytical knowledge. Administrative data includes all of the nuts and bolts information about firm operations, such as hourly billing rates for lawyers, client names and matters, staff payroll data, and client invoice data. Declarative knowledge is knowledge of the law, the legal principles contained in statutes, court opinions and other sources of primary legal authority; law students spend most of their law school careers acquiring this kind of knowledge. Procedural knowledge involves knowledge of the mechanics of complying with the law's requirements in a particular situation: what documents are necessary to transfer an asset from Company A to Company B, or what forms must be filed where to create a new corporation. Declarative knowledge is sometimes labeled know-that and know-what, while procedural knowledge is labeled know-how (Nahapiet and Ghoshal, 1998). Finally, analytical knowledge pertains to the conclusions reached about the course of action a particular client should follow in a particular situation. Analytical knowledge results, in essence, from analyzing declarative knowledge (i.e. substantive law principles) as it applies to a particular fact setting. Information and communication technology facilitating inter-organisational knowledge networks may be important in all four knowledge categories. However, it is expected that there is a core law firm work to be done internally. Hence, our second research proposition:

Proposition 2: Benefits from information and communication technology facilitating inter-organisational knowledge networks will be greater for administrative and declarative knowledge than for procedural and analytical knowledge.

Law firm knowledge can also be categorized according to knowledge level. Tiwana (2000 ) distinguishes between core knowledge, advanced knowledge and innovative knowledge:

  • Core knowledge is the basic level of knowledge required just to play the game. This is the type of knowledge that creates a barrier for entry of new companies. Since this level of knowledge is expected of all competitors, the firm must have it even though it will provide the company with no advantage that distinguishes it from its competitors. In a law firm, an example of core knowledge can be the name of the contact person in the client's office;
     

  • Advanced knowledge is what makes the company competitively viable. Such knowledge allows the firm to differentiate its product from that of a competitor, arguably, through the application of superior knowledge in certain areas. Such knowledge allows the company to compete head on with its competitors in the same market and for the same set of customers. In a law firm, an example of advanced knowledge can be the lawyer's understanding of the client's case;
     

  • Innovative knowledge allows a company to lead its entire industry to an extent that clearly differentiates it from competition. Innovative knowledge allows a company to change the rules of the game. In a law firm, an example of innovative knowledge can be the lawyer's approach to winning the client's case.

Information and communication technology facilitating inter-organisational knowledge networks may be important at all three knowledge levels. However, it is expected that there is rising return at higher levels. Hence, our third research proposition:

Proposition 3: Benefits from information and communication technology facilitating inter- organisational knowledge networks will be greater at higher levels of knowledge.

Mountain (2001) addresses the question why law firms ought to invest in online legal services when studies to date show that there is no correlation between law firm technology capabilities and profitability. It divides online legal services into two types: digital delivery and legal web advisors. It uses the framework set out by Clayton Christensen (1997 ) in The Innovator's Dilemma to explain how legal web advisors is a disruptive technology that law firm competitors (i.e. accounting firms, dot-coms, and corporate clients) are beginning to harness to erode law firm margins. Unless law firms reinvent themselves as technology organisations, they could find themselves increasingly marginalised. Large law firms need to develop legal web advisors and should consider spinning off technology subsidiaries to do so. Small law firms need to link up with online advisory services on an application service provider basis (Susskind, 2000). Hence, our fourth research proposition:

Proposition 4: The Eurojuris network has provided law firms with options to avoid the innovator's dilemma.

Eurojuris Norway represents a strategic alliance for inter-firm knowledge transfer (Mowery et al, 1996). Use of information technology for inter-firm knowledge transfer is likely to be influenced by benefits perceived, and vice versa. Hence, our fifth research proposition:

Proposition 5: The extent of information technology use for inter-firm knowledge transfer is related to benefits perceived in value shop activities, transfer of knowledge categories, transfer at knowledge levels, and perceived avoidance of the innovator's dilemma.

On their website, Eurojuris Norway argues why their network is of importance. If these arguments are actually supported by Eurojuris Norway lawyers, then one would expect higher benefits perceived from participating in the network. Hence, our sixth research proposition:

Proposition 6: The extent of agreement with website arguments for IT usefulness in the network is related to benefits perceived from the network.

3. Research Method

The sample was comprised of 90 lawyers in 11 Eurojuris law firms in Norway. Out of 90 questionnaires mailed, 19 were returned, providing a response rate of 21%. All 19 respondents were lawyers, 9 of them were law firm partners. Average number of lawyers in responding firms was 11 lawyers, average number of employees was 14, and the responding lawyer had been with the firm for 13 years on average.

All constructs in this research were measured as multiple item scales as listed in Table 1. The first column contains the construct for use of IT in inter-firm knowledge transfer between Eurojuris law firms. The second column lists the items used to measure the construct. The third and final column shows the reliability of the multiple item scale measured using Cronbach's alpha. Table 1 shows that all scales have an acceptable reliability above 0,7 (Hair et al. 1998 ).


Use of IT for:

Questions (items) concerning:

Alpha

Problem-finding

Access to new assignments
Access to new clients
Access to new cases
Access to new projects
Access to profitable cases
Access to challenging cases

.98

Problem-solving

Helping to solve difficult cases
Helping to find relevant laws
Helping to find relevant court rulings
Helping to analyze documents
Helping to draft documents
Helping to find experts in the field

.92

Choice

Information on relevant laws
Information on relevant court rulings
Information on relevant documents
Information on relevant conclusions
Information on relevant client advice
Information on important views

.94

Execution

Solutions to client problems
Clarification on opposing side
Views from participating lawyers
Views from clients
Views from opposing side
Resolving issues with client

.95

Control and evaluation

Quality assurance of closed case
Evaluation of quality
Learning from own closed cases
Learning from other's closed cases
Ideas on how to better solve client cases
Ideas on how to make a case more profitable

.95

Administrative knowledge

Information on efficient operations
Information on relevant pricing
Information on potential clients
Information on potential cases
Information on salaries in law firms
Information on billing routines

.90

Declarative knowledge

Information on laws
Information on principles
Information on court rulings
Information from other legal sources
Information on new laws in progress

.98

Procedural knowledge

What documents are needed
What mechanisms to apply
What forms to be filled
What rules to apply
What deadlines exist
What documentation requirements exist

.90

Analytical knowledge

Recommendations in a specific case
Analysis relevant to the case
Conclusions relevant to the case
Advice to support a case
Interpretation of a court ruling
Interpretation of difficult laws

.95

Usefulness

Useful IT tools
Resources spent on IT
Savings from IT applications
Internal efficiency from IT
Efficiency for clients from IT
Timesaving communication with others
Timesaving communication with clients
Easy communication with others
Easy communication with clients
Secure communication with others
Secure communication with clients
Access to standard documents
Improved firm profitability
Reduced firm costs
Increased firm revenues

.82

Core knowledge

Information on time registration
Information on text handling
Information on accounting
Information on library system
Information in legal databases
Information on document retrieval

.98

Advanced knowledge

Relevant documents in a case
Relevant experience for a case
Relevant experts for a case
Laws relevant to a case
Court opinions relevant to a case
Actors relevant to a case

.95

Innovative knowledge

Candidates for positions in the firm
Online legal services
Expert systems
Winning a case
Winning a client
Coaching a client

.92

Innovator's dilemma avoided

Online legal services
Electronic communications with clients
Electronic communication with counterpart
Electronic experts
Exploring digital economy
Transforming the firm

.91

Innovator's dilemma not avoided

Online legal services
Electronic communications with clients
Electronic communication with counterpart
Electronic experts
Exploring digital economy
Transforming the firm

.98

Knowledge transfer

Support transfer of knowledge
Receive information from other lawyers
Systematize received information
Transfer of systematized information
Access to external knowledge
Access to internal knowledge

.95

Table 1: Reliability of Multiple Item Scales


Table 2 contains descriptive statistics and correlations between study variables. The Likert-scale in the questionnaire was running from 1 (completely disagree) to 9 (completely agree). Agreement was concerned with benefits from each variable. Hence, an average score in Table 2 of less than 5 does indicate that the respondent did not report benefits from that variable. This means that use of information and communication technology facilitating inter-organizational knowledge transfer was not associated with benefits for neither problem finding nor execution. It was associated with some benefits for problem solving, choice, and control and evaluation. Overall usefulness of ICT in Eurojuris was reported quite high (6.62). Furthermore, ICT was not associated with any benefits for knowledge categories (administrative, declarative, procedural and analytical knowledge). ICT use was marginally associated with benefits for advanced knowledge, but not for core or innovative knowledge. There was little support for the suggestion that the Eurojuris ICT-based network has contributed to avoiding the innovator's dilemma, and there was even less support for the opposite suggestion that without Eurojuris, online legal services would be impossible for the law firm. Finally, usefulness measured by knowledge transfer found some agreement in this survey.

When looking at the standard deviations, there seems to be a strong agreement concerning the extent of usefulness (s.d. of 1.00). There seems to be little agreement concerning declarative knowledge and concerning the innovator's dilemma.


 

Research Variable

Mean

s.d.

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

1

Problem
finding

3.23

1.99

.63 **

.56 *

.47

.47 *

.42

.44

.53 *

.45

.77 **

.33

.72 **

.69 **

.78 **

.31

.75 **

2

Problem
solving

5.55

2.05

 

.94 **

.82 **

.84 **

.70 **

.82 **

.73 **

.64 **

.53 **

.40

.86 **

.81 **

.71 **

.34

.71 **

3

Choice

5.57

2.30

   

.91 **

.87 **

.65 **

.77 **

.77 **

.68 **

.52 *

.36

.83 **

.73 **

.58 *

.36

.69 **

4

Execution

4.38

2.08

     

.93 **

.64 *

.54 *

.79 **

.73 **

.38

.19

.72 **

.60 *

.34

-.02

.50

5

Control and evaluation

5.05

2.41

       

.81 **

.58 *

.86 **

.80 **

.29

.41

.74 **

.73 **

.48 *

.09

.46

6

Admin-
istratitve knowledge

3.29

2.07

         

.57 *

.69 **

.53 *

.36

.62 **

.52 *

.72 **

.53

-.01

.55 *

7

Declarative knowledge

4.88

2.74

           

.43

.23

.55 *

.27

.53 *

.52 *

.51 *

.24

.55 *

8

Procedural knowledge

3.62

2.00

             

.91 **

.29

.25

.77 **

.70 **

.45

.11

.39

9

Analytical knowledge

4.00

2.29

               

.11

.14

.76 **

.62 **

.33

.06

.26

10

Usefulness

6.62

1.00

                 

.36

.41

.40

.65 **

.29

.75 **

11

Core knowledge

3.27

2.18

                   

.25

.59 **

.50 *

.29

.57 *

12

Advanced knowledge

5.37

2.28

                     

.87 **

.77 **

.47

.67 **

13

Innovative knowledge

3.81

1.93

                       

.77 **

.35

.68 **

14

Innovator's dilemma avoided

4.94

2.13

                         

.59 **

.92 **

15

innovator's dilemma not avoid.

4.25

2.64

                           

.51 *

16

Knowledge transfer

5.20

2.29

                             

Statistical significance of .01<p at ** and .05<p at *

Table 2: Descriptive Statistics and Correlations


4. Research Results

Research propositions were tested as hypotheses using statistical techniques. The first proposition argued that benefits from information and communication technology facilitating inter-organizational knowledge networks will be greater for core value shop activities (e.g; problem solving and choice) than for other value shop activities (problem finding, execution and control). In Table 3, all five value shop activities are listed. The Table contains t-statistics for differences between each pair of activities. The table shows that there are significantly more benefits associated with the core value shop activity of problem solving than with problem finding, execution and control. The Table also shows that there are significantly more benefits associated with the core value shop activity of choice than with problem finding, execution and control. Hence, our first research proposition finds full support in the data collected in this research.


 

Average

Problem solving

Choice

Execution

Control and evaluation

Problem finding

3.23

-5.825**

-4.210**

-1.484

-3.158**

Problem solving

5.55

 

-.629

4.355**

1.941**

Choice

5.57

   

5.897**

2.534*

Execution

4.38

     

-2.943*

Control and evaluation

5.05

       

Statistical difference significant at p<.01 at ** and p<.05 at *

Table 3: Differences in Benefits for Value Activities


The second proposition argued that benefits from information and communication technology facilitating inter-organizational knowledge networks will be greater for administrative and declarative knowledge than for procedural and analytical knowledge. Table 4 shows t-statistics between each pair of knowledge categories. We find significant differences for declarative knowledge, providing support for the suggestion that benefits are greater for declarative knowledge than for other knowledge categories except analytical knowledge. We do not find support for the other part of this proposition concerning administrative knowledge.


 

Average

Declarative knowledge

Procedural knowledge

Analytical knowledge

Administrative knowledge

3.29

-2.983*

-.906

-1.458

Declarative knowledge

4.88

 

2.102*

1.219

Procedural knowledge

3.62

   

-1.735

Analytical knowledge

4.00

     

Statistical difference significant at p<.01 at ** and p<.05 at *

Table 4: Differences in Benefits for Knowledge Categories


The third proposition argued that benefits from information and communication technology facilitating inter-organizational knowledge networks will be greater at higher levels of knowledge. From Table 5 we see that there are significantly more benefits associated with advanced knowledge than with core knowledge, thereby providing support for more benefits at higher knowledge levels when moving from core to advanced knowledge. However, when moving from advanced knowledge to innovative knowledge there are no more benefits. Hence, the third proposition is only partly supported in the collected data. In fact, the collected data indicate that advanced knowledge is the best knowledge level for IT support as advanced knowledge is significantly higher than both core and innovative knowledge in Table 5.


 

Average

Advanced knowledge

Innovative knowledge

Core knowledge

3.27

-3.345**

-1.246

Advanced knowledge

5.37

 

5.948**

Innovative knowledge

3.81

   

Statistical difference significant at p<.01 at ** and p<.05 at *

Table 5: Differences in Benefits for Knowledge Levels


The fourth proposition suggests that the Eurojuris network has provided law firms with options to avoid the innovator's dilemma. This hypothesis was tested by comparing two variables. The first variable suggests that ICT in Eurojuris has enabled the law firms to provide online legal services. The second variable suggests that without ICT in Eurojuris, it would be impossible for the law firms to provide online legal services. Table 2 shows that there is little support for the suggestion that Eurojuris has enabled online legal services (average score 4.94). There is even less support for the suggestion that it is impossible without Eurojuris to provide online legal services (average score 4.25). No statistically significant difference was found between with-Eurojuris (4.94) and without-Eurojuris (4.25). Hence, the fourth proposition finds no support in the collected data.

The fifth proposition suggests that the extent of information technology use for inter-firm knowledge transfer is related to benefits perceived in value shop activities, transfer of knowledge categories, transfer at knowledge levels, and perceived avoidance of the innovators dilemma. To test this proposition, multiple regression was applied (Hair et al, 1998). Knowledge transfer was defined as the dependent variable, while the other variables were defined as independent variables. However, with only 19 observations, multiple regression analysis cannot be justified, making it impossible in this research to test proposition five.

The sixth and final proposition suggests that the extent of agreement with website arguments for IT usefulness in the network is related to benefits perceived from the network. Simple regression analysis was applied between usefulness and each of the benefits variables as listed in Table 6. A significant relationship was found between perceived usefulness according to the web and perceived benefits from information and communication technology facilitating inter-organization knowledge network of Eurojuris, for half of the benefits categories. An interpretation of this result is that respondents who agree with statements on the web concerning the usefulness of the Eurojuris network also find more benefits using the network for problem-finding, problem-solving, access to declarative knowledge, access to advanced knowledge, access to innovative knowledge, and enabling avoidance of the innovator's dilemma.


Dependent Variable

Adjusted
R square

F-value

Problem-finding

.56

22.494**

Problem-solving

.23

6.160*

Choice

.21

4.690

Execution

.07

1.966

Control and evaluation

.02

1.403

Administrative knowledge

.07

2.361

Declarative knowledge

.26

7.082**

Procedural knowledge

.03

1.444

Analytical knowledge

-.05

.195

Core knowledge

.08

2.403

Advanced knowledge

.12

3.210*

Innovative knowledge

.11

3.083*

Innovator avoided

.39

11.657**

Innovator impossible

.03

1.496

Knowledge transfer

.53

17.648**

Table 6: Usefulness according to the Eurojuris Web as Predictor of Perceived Benefits


5. Discussion

The research question was:

What are the main benefits of using ICT in inter-organizational co-operation in the Eurojuris law firm network?

We found, as listed in Table 2, that benefits are perceived in some, but not all, suggested areas. First, benefits are perceived in three out of five value activities: problem-solving, choice, and control and evaluation. Second, benefits are perceived in one out of three knowledge levels: advanced knowledge. Hypotheses testing indicated that there are significant differences between benefits of various value activities, knowledge categories and knowledge levels.

When little benefits are perceived in the early late stage of value creation in law firms, then this suggests that law firms may have a long way to go to do e-business as suggested by Susskind (2000). When little benefits are perceived in procedural and analytical knowledge, then this suggests that the Eurojuris network has not yet explored the potential of co-operation on a case-by-case basis. When little benefits are perceived in core knowledge, then this suggests that the Eurojuris network has not yet explored the potential of closer administrative joint support. Implications for Eurojuris Norway could be that they should first strengthen the functions and contents that already are successful, such as information for problem-solving, choice, and control and evaluation at the advanced stage of knowledge. The next step could be to explore online legal services, and thereafter information for other tasks could be strengthened.

6. Conclusion

Benefits are perceived from using information and communication technology facilitating the inter-organizational Eurojuris knowledge network. Benefits are perceived by lawyers in problem-solving, choice, control and evaluation at the advanced stage of knowledge. However, in many other areas, little benefits are perceived.

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