CCE Theses and Dissertations

An Analysis of The Implementation of an Online Collaboration System to Support Legal Communities of Practice

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Sumitra Mukherjee


The high cost of litigation is a significant issue for General Motors (GM) and other automotive companies. The widespread nature of automotive-related litigation requires automotive manufacturers to engage lawyers to defend against claims in a variety of geographic locations. The legal defense of these claims must be based on a common foundation of accurate and consistent knowledge. The inadvertent use of inaccurate, inconsistent, or out-of-date information can result in additional claims of intentional misconduct or negligence against the manufacturer. To facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise, GM encourages its network of lawyers with common legal interests to work together in informal ad hoc workgroups. However, without a supporting communication and collaboration infrastructure, these ad hoc workgroups rarely realize optimum results.

Finding ways to minimize litigation-related costs and ensure the use of accurate and consistent information by its lawyers is a significant issue for GM and other automotive manufacturers. To achieve this goal, GM is exploring ways to strengthen the sharing of knowledge and expertise by using a combination of technology tools and knowledge management techniques in sponsoring communities of practice (CoPs). The goal of this dissertation was to conduct a case study investigation that documented and evaluated the implementation by GM legal staff of an online collaboration system (OCS) to support legal CoPs.

This research was conducted to answer the question as to whether the implementation of an OCS would result in an improvement of knowledge sharing, communication, and collaboration activities among members of CoPs. The research included validation that the participants under investigation acted as sponsored CoPs.

The research also included validation that the software tool utilized in this investigation met the requirements of an OCS. Consequently, the activities and value of the OCS environment were measured (a) quantitatively by the frequency of community activities and (b) qualitatively by the perceived value of the activities as measured by members of the CoPs.

The results of this case study research add to the existing body of knowledge in several areas: clarifying the effectiveness of CoPs in knowledge sharing, identifying the benefits and limitations of sponsored CoPs, and evaluating the effectiveness of an OCS in providing support to CoPs. Recommendations for sponsored CoPs and the use of an OCS in the legal domain are also provided.

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