JD Profiles: David Hobbie, Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney, Goodwin Procter, LLP

In this new series, we are profiling legal professionals and J.D.s and asking them the hard questions that don’t always get answered in law school. For example, how did they find their job? What do they do on a day-to-day basis? And, was law school a worthwhile investment?

David Hobbie started his career as a litigator at Bingham McCutchen (then Bingham Dana & Gould) before moving to a new firm and a new type of career. Nowadays, he serves as the Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney at Goodwin Procter, LLP in Boston. David shares with us how he started blogging, how he segued into a new position, and he also shares some resources for lawyers interested in KM.

RecruiterEsq: Hi David, thanks for speaking with us. You work at Goodwin Procter, which is one of the world’s top law firms. American Lawyer Magazine ranks it in the top 50 US based firms. The firm allows you to use Twitter, LinkedIn, and maintain a blog?

Yes, my firm’s social media policy allows attorneys and staff to blog, although of course some topics are off-limits and I have to make it clear I’m not speaking for the firm. I blog (intermittently) about litigation knowledge management and related topics at Caselines; that blog is my own and it is not firm-sponsored. There are three firm-sponsored blogs, Sustainable Development (e.g., green building), Financial Crisis Recovery, and the Founder’s Toolbox blog, part of the Founder’s Workbench online resource. I do not write for them or the firm’s Twitter accounts. I’ve had my blog Caselines since 2007 and have been using Twitter since 2008. Stay tuned also for some news about a new channel related to ILTA!

Initially I was using these collaborative tools with an eye to their possible use inside my enterprise; that remains true, but they have also turned into a great way to connect with KM colleagues around the world and to keep informed of all the latest developments in my line of work. For instance, I can get a daily snapshot and preview of the content that some of my favorite tweeps are linking to at http://paper.li/kmhobbie/legal-kmers, which is a compilation of stories from the people on my “legal-kmers” Twitter list.

As for LinkedIn, there are degrees of use, but I think that it’s well past the adoption tipping point. At my firm, over 1000 of us (attorneys and non-attorneys alike) are on LinkedIn already (that is, have Goodwin Procter as their “current company”) out of a total population of south of 1500.

Goodwin Procter, LLP seems to embrace the changes in technology. For start-ups, the Founder’s Toolbox that you mentioned is an awesome resource. How does the firm’s environment foster innovative thinking and lawyering?

One of the firm’s formally expressed core values is “collective entrepreneurship.” That means that, even if you’re a relatively junior person on the team, and you have a good idea, it won’t be dismissed out of hand simply because of your seniority. Many of the firm practice areas have developed technological sophistication and social media savvy simply in order to keep with their extremely sophisticated clients.

That’s awesome to know. It’s something you don’t necessarily find out during OCIs or even interviewing as a lateral. How did you decide to start blogging?

I started blogging as part of an experiment with social media. At the time, I was lucky enough to have Doug Cornelius as a fellow KM attorney at my firm. We were looking at social collaborative tools in part because we were moving to SharePoint 2007 (which includes primitive wikis and blogs) and wanted to see how they might enhance knowledge-sharing, and what security or governance challenges they might present. Doug had started KM Space six months or so before Caselines got underway. I haven’t been able to put as much time into it as I would like, but it’s proven a useful way to capture and organize my thoughts, particularly at conferences, and it’s also raised my visibility in the legal km field and led to speaking opportunities I might not otherwise have obtained.

What are your responsibilities as Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney?

My role and that of my team is to help the litigation department attorneys and staff function more efficiently and effectively. We do this by providing cutting-edge tools for searching and browsing information about the substantive work of the firm, such as previous briefs or deals, and putting information “at the fingertips” of the attorneys and staff. So I have some daily responsibilities to help people find what they need, and longer-term responsibility to A) make sure the firm has cutting-edge search, storage, and collaboration tools and B) deliver enough training and awareness for the attorneys and staff to know the best tool to use in a given situation.

What does a typical week look like for you?

My weeks vary a lot. I typically spend a number of hours responding to specific requests relating to firm work product or other internal information, and the bulk of my time on specific projects such as budgeting and alternative fee arrangements, investigating what to do about docketing and calendaring, developing a new shared workspace, or rolling out the next training & awareness on-demand resource.

You were a litigation associate in the early part of your career. How did you segue into knowledge management?

I had enjoyed the legal research and writing I did as an associate. I also realized that I liked working in an office, with intelligent colleagues, but that I didn’t enjoy the more adversarial aspects of civil litigation. To put that into simpler terms, I didn’t like butting heads with people all the time, and having it be my job to show that the attorney on the other side was an idiot (and vice-versa, his job to show me for a fool). The litigation KM position at this firm was advertised in the state’s local legal weekly, and I knew from reading the description that it would be a great fit for me. I relish being in a “helper” role instead of an adversarial one, and while not writing memos myself I’m close enough to the process to still be participating in identifying the best firm resources that fit a particular legal or business challenge.

How do you think clients benefit when law firms invest in knowledge management?

This is a great question. With better knowledge management resources and systems, a law firm is better able to find and refind key content, and keep from reinventing the wheel. Clients should be able to get answers faster, and hence–at least under a billable hour model–cheaper. Better KM should also lead to better identification of who has the most relevant experience for that project or potential project.  Lawyers who have to worry less about how their teams organize and find information should be more able to focus on their clients’ needs.

Some KM tools, such as document assembly and checklists, also enable a firm to move work to a lower-cost provider. For instance, a junior associate might be able to generate and do basic vetting of a set of transactional documents a lot faster using such tools, work that would have required a senior associate to adopt a slightly different form of agreement. On the litigation side, to give another example, an associate can get started on a legal research project into a topic such as commonality requirements for class actions at the fourth or fifth stage, instead of at the first stage, by quickly finding and leveraging the dozens of briefs on that topic that have already been written.

Collaboration tools such as matter wikis might also prevent a matter team from having to waste time looking for information that might be buried in an email chain or otherwise not readily available.

Do you think knowledge management is something that lawyers should learn in law school? How do you think it could or should tie into the law school curriculum?

I have mixed feelings about this. The emphasis in academia is, and perhaps should be, on learning how to think like a lawyer. While study groups are great, a lot of that work is best done by the individual law student struggling with the caselaw. I start off junior lawyer training sessions by contrasting how taking advantage of other’s work is treated in law school or college, as compared to how it’s treated in a law firm. It’s grounds for expulsion in one, and the zenith of communal good in the other! So, enterprise-type KM is probably not really relevant yet.

On the other hand, law students should perhaps be thinking already about how they manage their personal store of information, their personal knowledge management. How are they going to keep up with the changes in their profession? How will they learn about the firms or other careers they hope to join? How will they be able to organize and share what they learn? There’s a whole group of people studying personal knowledge management, and increasingly impressive technological tools (such as Evernote) to help them do it.

Speaking of Evernote (which I love!), what tools do you use on a daily basis – cell phone, cell phone apps, SaaS, etc.?

I work with an at-times bewildering array of tools. On a given day, I might be developing on a SharePoint list of settlement agreements; crafting or editing a Captivate training and awareness video; searching for samples of a certain type of motion to dismiss in a certain federal court through West KM; reviewing data-mining from our BudgetManager tool about work done in previous matters; setting up a SharePoint or PBWorks wiki; or testing search features of our document management system iManage/ Autonomy.

For my personal KM I use Hootsuite to publish to Twitter and LinkedIn; paper.li to catch up on stories people I follow have published; and Evernote and Instapaper, to hold interesting posts or other content. I have an iPhone, which I use primarily to consume rather than create content.

For someone interested in knowledge management topics, are there any resources (books, websites, groups) that you can recommend?

For on-line resources, the best legal-km related blogs at the moment are above and beyond km and Three Geeks and a Law.

The twitter hashtags #km and #kmers are used quite often.

ILTA is a great way for km peers to get to know each other, though it is not the only km peer group out there. There are also a few groups on LinkedIn, though those aren’t particularly active.

Some excellent books on KM-related topics that I’ve been reading lately include Richard Susskind’s The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, Andrew MacAfee’s Enterprise 2.0, and Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.

Awesome resources. I’ve added those books to my wishlist. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us!


David Hobbie is Litigation Knowledge Manager at Goodwin Procter. A frequent speaker on legal business intelligence, knowledge management, and enterprise 2.0, you can find David on LinkedIn and Twitter or check out his blog Caselines.

WordPress for Law Firm Resource

Before my interview with Gyi, I downloaded AttorneySync’s Guide To WordPress Blogs For Lawyers.

I figured, I do this stuff for a living but may as well check out what my competition has to say!

Let me say this, if you are deciding what platform to use for your firm’s site or you’ve recently started to use WordPress, I’d recommend downloading it for yourself.

AttorneySync’s guide offers a brief explanation of how WordPress serves as a content management system.  It explains WordPress’s roles as a blogging tool and platform.

It also outlines the basic structure of how WordPress organizes its sites by default.  It explains the hierarchy and defines the terminology that WordPress uses.

Finally, the guide provides its own list of recommended resources, including one of my faves: Lorelle on WordPress.

A legal analogy:  It’s almost like an Emanuel’s outline for the WordPress Codex.

JD Profiles: Gyi Tsakalakis, Executive Director, AttorneySync

In this new series, we are profiling legal professionals and J.D.s and asking them the hard questions that don’t always get answered in law school. For example, how did they find their job? What do they do on a day-to-day basis? And, was law school a worthwhile investment?

Today, we are profiling Gyi Tsakalakis, a former Michigan attorney who is taking a break from legal practice to help attorneys build their professional reputations online.  After practicing at a small firm in the suburbs of Detroit, Gyi decided to follow his entrepreneurial instinct and started AttorneySync with a friend from undergrad.  AttorneySync helps law firms build their online presence.

RecruiterEsq: So, I see you went to the University of Michigan. I also went there. Go Blue! How did you decide to go to law school?

Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, I had studied Computer Science at U of M for 3 years when I decided that I didn’t want to be a computer programmer. I decided to study something “more practical” so I majored in Philosophy. To my surprise, there wasn’t a high demand for philosophers. I have always been interested in politics and history, so law school seemed like a natural fit.

After law school, you worked for Turner & Turner, P.C. How did you get that job? Did you work there during the summer?

I owe a great deal of gratitude, and my first legal job, to Michigan attorney Matt Turner. He was my football coach in High School and a mentor to me. I worked there as a clerk through law school, and upgraded to attorney upon graduation from law school.

What type of cases did you handle?

I worked on several civil matters but primarily handled injury and malpractice cases.

You started AttorneySync shortly after you left the practice. Was this an idea that had been brewing for some time?

I had always felt a compulsion to “go out on my own”. Whether it was going to be with my own law firm or business, I always felt a strong entrepreneurial urge. I was approached by a close friend from college, Jeff Berman, about starting “something”. We actually brainstormed several ideas, including operating a franchise before we settled on our initial concept of AttorneySync.

How did you finally decide to start the business and what steps did you have to take?

Basically, my desire to start my own business began to consume me to the point of obsession. We spent a lot of time (about a year) planning the business. From positioning, to core values, to organization, to back end systems, we laid out a complete blueprint about how our business would look and operate. We formed our LLC and were off and running.

What exactly are the services you offer to law firms? For example, do you teach them only about their websites or do you teach them about Twitter or LinkedIn?

We provide law firms a comprehensive approach to web strategy customized to their goals. From building a website to social media (including Twitter and LinkedIn) to advanced search marketing techniques, we manage a law firm’s entire web presence. We also provide consulting services for those legal professionals that want to learn how to perform web strategies for themselves.

What are some of the objections you hear from law firms about why they don’t want to invest in your services and what are your responses to those rejections?

I think there is a genuine skepticism of search engine optimization, social media, and more generally, “web consulting services”. Unfortunately, much of the industry’s reputation is deserved. We focus our efforts on educating legal professionals about what we do and how these strategies work to increase business. Our mantras are transparency and accountability. By showing legal professionals what we do, measuring tangible results, and allowing them to decide whether they are getting a return on investment, we establish a professional relationship built on trust.

As an expert in the industry of law firm online presence, what are some firm websites that impress you?

Generally speaking, I am most impressed with law firm websites that position the attorneys at the firm as experts in their field and speak to their audience in terms of solving the problems that their users are facing. Too many law firm websites are “attorney-centric”. They list their professional achievements and credentials without communicating to their readers how they can help them.

When a firm wants to work on its web presence, which decision-makers should be involved with the process?

I believe that each legal professional should have the opportunity to make an informed decision about how they are portrayed online. After all, an attorney’s professional reputation is their most valuable asset. In addition to the attorneys themselves, marketing agents and technical development staff should be included.

How did you learn about SEO and the web, in general? Or, the challenges of law firm marketing?

My computer background at U of M was very helpful in getting started. The hands-on experiences of working at a law firm were also very instructive. On the other hand, there is a lot of information available on the web. Unfortunately, a lot of it is just wrong. The key is to finding reliable sources of information. Here is a great list of 100 SEO/SEM Blogs. My personal favorites are SEOmoz.com and searchengineland.com.

I download guides from your site all of the time. How does the freemium model work in your business?

We have found the freemium model to be one of the most effective ways to build new professional relationships. Offering free educational materials is a win-win. The publisher of freemium content is able to demonstrate their knowledge and build trust with their readers. Readers of freemium content get access to free educational resources. Like other marketing strategies, using this model effectively comes down to implementation and the quality of the information you give away. Finding the right balance of how much to give away for free is the key.

What can the legal industry learn from this type of business model/alternative pricing model?

Law firms that provide free educational resources are having great success with this model. From blogging to offering free downloadable legal guides, the legal industry can greatly benefit from this type of offering. Again, the key is for legal professionals to figure out what to give away for free. Historically, the legal industry has “held its knowledge close to the vest”. In the era of the web, taking such an approach is much less effective.

For attorneys who want to become entrepreneurs, can you tell us a few lessons you learned from your mistakes?

Being an entrepreneur is a complete lifestyle change. It is not a job, it’s a way of life. Be prepared to pour everything you have into it. Once you have decided that it’s right for you, you will have to take a leap of faith. Unless you get really lucky, you will likely have to make uncomfortable sacrifices. Set measurable goals. Don’t make decisions out of fear. Read business books such as these.

Thank you so much for your input!

My pleasure, thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.


Gyi Tsakalakis serves as Executive Director at AttorneySync, an organization dedicated to helping law firms with their web strategies. Gyi can be reached on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Entrepreneurs Make Mistakes: And Schedule Webinars on Holidays

After some thinking, I’ve decided to move my first webinar to next Wednesday, September 15th from 4-5 pm and my second webinar to Wednesday, September 29th from 4-5 pm.

I know this is the second time I’ve moved the webinar so let me explain my reasons:

1) We had a short week due to Labor Day

2) Those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah have an even shorter week

3) I’d like to be able to get the power point slides to the attendees before they attend so they can have questions prepared.

4) Along the same lines, I’d like to provide more information about what I’ll be presenting during the webinar so potential guests will know if it’s for them.

On Friday, I’ll post a brief blurb about my presentation so you can find out more about it and decide whether it’s worth while for you to attend.

In the meantime, I’ll send an update to everyone who already registered for the webinar (thank you!).  You’ll get to either join for free next week or, if you can’t make it, I’ll hold a private “redux” for you.

And, no, I am not making a habit of changing times for webinars.  But, like the title says, entrepreneurs make mistakes.

Reminder: WordPress, Websites, and Your Firm

Next week, I will host my first campfire, an hour long training session that will include a presentation, Q and A, and any chatter for which we have time!

On Wed, Sep 8 2010, 4:00p.m. – 5:00p.m. EDT, the campfire will focus on how to use WordPress 3.0 to create a business website. You can sign up here.

WordPress, Websites, and Your Firm

Site members and newsletter subscribers will be able to sign up at a discount.

  • Site members should be able to login and see this post with the discount code on the blog page.
  • I’ll also send out the discount code in a newsletter announcement.

If you don’t receive the announcement but believe you should have, send me an e-mail! melissa at recruiteresq

Updated: Am Law Tweeple List

This updated Am Law Tweeple list is for members only. Like the public list, it color codes the ‘tweeple by their firm role. It also lists practice areas and whether the attorney is a partner, associate, counsel, etc.

Feel free to add anyone else who you may know.

Be sure to read the other posts in this series:

#1: Every Lawyer Knows the AMLAW Firms, First Post in the #AMLAWTweeple Series
#2: Creating & Maintaining the #AMLAWTweeple List

What’s In It For Lawyers

Hey Legal Professionals!  Want to learn about social media marketing?  How about the secrets of lead generation, sales pipelines, and networking?  Before you say no, let me rephrase the question.  We all know that hand-me-down books of business are relics of the past.  In this world of personal branding, don’t you want to build your book of business?  Or in the words of that M.I.A. partner or marketing staff member who decided to crash your annual firm evaluation: Don’t you want to make rain?

Of course, you do!  Right after you finish drafting those disclosure agreements or that Fourth Circuit brief….

Even if you did have the time – do you pay for a consultant or do you watch that free presentation on SlideShare?  Do you branch out to “thought-leaders” like Jeremiah Owyang or Jeffrey Gitomer or stay conservative and stick with Larry Bodine, Kevin O’Keefe, and David Barrett.  Who the heck is Chris Brogan anyway?

Enter “What’s In It For Lawyers,” a new column on RecruiterEsq.  A hybrid of “best of” lists and your 1L case briefs, we’ll digest all those “must-see” lessons and publish the crème de la crème in a format all lawyers can understand: We’ll emphasize the main points in bold and include a brief analysis of how lawyers can apply the lessons to their practices.  Legal professionals can add their own ideas in the comments as well.  Similar to the Examples and Explanations series, our goal is to be a secondary resource and our analysis will be a starting point, not the final word.  Again, the goal with this series is to motivate legal professionals to think about innovative ways that they can intertwine social media into their practices.

The name of the column derives from “What’s In It For Me” or WIIFM, a favorite saying among marketers and salespeople.  Without getting too technical or psychological – mostly because I can’t find a reputable source to cite – the saying serves as a reminder that rational people act with self-interest.  When a prospect hears a pitch or proposal, their immediate reaction is “What’s In It For Me?”

Lawyers are busy people.  Maybe more lawyers or law firms would like to integrate social media into their practices …if they had time or …if they knew how.

We’re going to make it easy by showing ‘em how.

If you have any suggestions of presentations or articles to feature in this column, please send me an e-mail.