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.

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

Post #2: Creating & Maintaining the #AMLAWTweeple List

Updated: July 22, 2009

Way back in February, I published a webinar on YouTube called, “netTools 101: Web Tools Every Legal Professional Should Know.”

It’s nothing fancy. The slides are hard to see on the video. I posted them underneath… which is a less-than-satisfactory fix for following along onscreen. For anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to print them as handouts, well, my suggestion is to do it in grayscale. But, hey, it was my first YouTube video! Don’t expect Tim Burton or anything! This is web development in action.

On the video, I demonstrate an easy tool to help visualize how a person or entity presents him/her/itself on the web. Although the chart is not lawyer-specific, I had created this tool to analyze how BigLaw firms – the Am Law firms – present themselves on the web as service providers and businesses. I needed a simple way to assess the firm’s web development and this is what worked.

For each Am Law firm, I collect and compile the data required by the chart. Every “web development” I find – each blog, podcast, or Feedburner account – earns the firm one point. If a firm’s web development really impresses me, I reward them with extra credit. I calculate a firm’s “BigLaw Tech Score” by totaling its points.¹

I started this project in late February. It’s late July and I’m still not finished.

Why has it taken me so long?

Well, for one, data retrieval is time-consuming! This is true in spite of the invaluable resources I had at my disposal, e.g., Kevin O’Keefe’s State of the Am Law 200 Blogosphere, Greg Lambert’s List of Large Law Firm’s “Officially Sanctioned Blogs,” Patrick DiDomenico’s list of law firms on Twitter, or Bruce Carlton’s BigLaw Lawyers on Twitter.

The other big hurdle that I’ve encountered is that I haven’t figured out a “pretty” way to publish the scores. Posts sort of cram the information together and become quickly outdated. Plus, text documents are not the optimal solution when collecting, calculating, or comparing data. On the other hand, spreadsheets lack room for thoughtful analysis.

By late May, I was itching to find a better way to proceed with the BigLaw Tech Scores.

Enter: the #AMLAWTweeple project.3

While I brainstormed the fate of the BigLaw Tech Scores, I figured I may as well publish my research in “real time.”² Technically, the #AMLAWTweeple project is my research for one component of the BigLaw Tech Scores – the Twitter accounts at Am Law firms.4

Borrowing the open-source mentality, the #AMLAWTweeple list is public (and costs nothing!). Moreover, others are enabled and encouraged to add to it.

Precisely because of these characteristics, I thought it would be prudent of me to disclose my methodology for creating the list. I aimed:

1. to make the list of Am Law Tweeple easy to read & maintain;

2. to promote interactivity; &

3. to respect people’s privacy.

I’ll address these objectives in reverse order.

Privacy

I am not ashamed to plug my internet stalking (er, research) skills. In fact, if you want to know about my mad skills, you can ask me to help you find something – anything – on the internet.

However, please understand, as a blogger since 2004, a former legal recruiter, and former plaintiff-side employment discrimination attorney, I am extremely aware of web 2.0 privacy concerns in today’s work environment.5

Therefore, on the #AMLAWTweeple list, I decided to only include people who wanted to be found. I inferred someone wanted to be found if s/he listed the firm at which s/he worked in his/her Twitter profile; if s/he linked to his/her firm URL, or if s/he used a firm e-mail address.

How did I go about finding people – who wanted to be found – to add?

For brevity’s sake, I will refer you to Greg Lambert‘s comprehensive post on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog entitled “Competitive Intelligence in a Web 2.0 World – Part 1: Finding Company Employees on Twitter.” The post describes the type of tools that I used to find #AMLAWTweeple.

As I mentioned in the comments on Greg’s site, Tweepz.com was my favorite tool for finding #AMLAWTweeple. On Tweepz, I would search for firm domain (e.g. kslaw.com) as well as by firm name (e.g. King & Spalding).

To repeat, I only included people whose names came up in public searches such as Google, Tweepz, Twitter search, or LinkedIn.6

On the other hand, even if someone showed up in one of my searches and approached me and requested to be removed or requested that I not add them at all, I obliged.

(Note: While I mention this below, I should state here that I was less stringent when it came to adding referrals.)

Interactivity

Right, so here’s this new tool, “Twitter,” a microblog through which we can make all these new connections, a global water cooler. Nevertheless, as I looked around the blogosphere, I saw lists of Tweeple – any type of Tweeple list – compiled and published on static posts.

Hrm.

(Hey! I did it too! See: BigLaw Tech Scores.)

Anyway, I decided to see how this tool worked in action. The #AMLAWTweeple list may be published to my blog, but I also tweet my research and directly ask the #AMLAWTweeple who I find if they know anyone else with a Twitter account at their firm.

By approaching #AMLAWTweeple directly, this alerts anyone who’s included on the #AMLAWTweeple list about my project. If people would like to add accounts, they can respond to me (@mjsq) (public), DM me (private), or e-mail me (even more private). It also gives #AMLAWTweeple another chance to send me a (polite) request if they wish to be removed.

In addition to broadcasting this over Twitter, I decided to publish the list as a Google Document to show the potential of collaborative word processing tools. Through the provided form, site visitors can add accounts that I’ve missed via the form – anonymously and in real time.7

While I am less stringent about my public search requirements for word-of-mouth add-ons – mainly because I trust the legal industry’s professionalism – I always tweet updates to the list and @reply people directly.

Easy to Read & Maintain

Again, the #AMLAWTweeple project started as a method to combat the pitfalls of the BigLaw Tech Scores, as I described above.

There are many fantastic resources out there listing lawyers on Twitter, BigLaw lawyers on Twitter. There are even LinkedIn Groups for lawyers and law firms on Twitter.

The #AMLAWTweeple list is not a replacement for any of these sites. It’s my research that I’m sharing with everyone in order to encourage people to share their knowledge with me. With that said, add to it, revise it, manipulate it, comment on it, or respond to it.

And, please, please, please tell me if you want off of it.

Next post in series: The Question is not whether Am Law firms have Twitter Accounts, it’s what they can do with them. More insight into why I created the #AMLAWTweeple list. (Post #3)

This is the second post in the #AMLAWTweeple series. Be sure to read the first post in the #AMLAWTweeple Series and take a look at the #AMLAWTweeple chart.

¹ In case you don’t want to watch my video, to determine a firm’s BigLaw Tech Score, I search for Facebook groups, LinkedIn profiles and groups, Jigsaw listings, official blogs, unofficial blogs, podcasts, whether the firm offers webinars, etc.

For firms with blogs and podcasts, I also list how the firm creates the blog/podcast, how it hosts the blog/podcast, and how the firm is analyzing its visitors.

To calculate the BigLaw Tech Score, a firm receives a certain number of points for each element that adds to its web presence.

I’d like to emphasize that all of the information that I find is available in Google searches or by interpreting a firm website’s source code.

² While I present the information in the BigLaw Tech Scores by firm, I compile the information by component. (E.g., I look up all Facebook profiles at once, I look up all LinkedIn profiles at once.)

³ I tag all relevant tweets with the hashtag #AMLAWTweeple. In Twitter, people can click on the #AMLAWTweeple link to view all tagged tweets.

4In the third post in this series, I’ll talk in more detail about what I think Am Law firms can gain from being on Twitter.

5In fact, all writers on my other website – http://nonpretentious.com – publish under pseudonyms. This way, writers have total control over how and to whom they reveal their online identities. They can learn to write for the web without worrying who is reading their material.

6 Again, I emphasize this as a warning and a disclaimer because these searches are easy for anyone to duplicate.

7 The Twitter names show up in real time. I edit the submissions and link ‘em back to Twitter.