JD Profiles: A Recap

Law BooksWe’ve heard some feedback that our readers love the JD Profiles but they almost wish the profiles came out less frequently so each profile would get more attention. They mentioned that this isn’t the type of stuff you hear about in law school and there’s only so much time to read in a given day.

So, dear Readers, thank you! We’re listening. Every so often, we’ll return to our archives and remind you what you missed along the way.

JD Profiles: Matt Emmer, Writer, Editor, and Former Communications Attorney

Our first profile is about Matthew Emmer, J.D. turned writer and editor. Matt’s experience in media dates back more than 25 years, including stints at CNN and the Federal Communications Commission. After law school, he worked as a communications lawyer/lobbyist in DC, mainly representing cable companies. He stayed at the same firm throughout his legal career, first as an associate, then as a partner.

JD Profiles: Gyi Tsakalakis, Executive Director, AttorneySync

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.

JD Profiles: Kevin Noonan, PhD, Patent Attorney, McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP

Kevin Noonan, Ph.D., is a partner at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, an intellectual property boutique with offices in Chicago and Washington State. With a PhD in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, Kevin specializes on biotechnology clients, including hot topics such as gene cloning and gene patenting. Kevin also co-founded the blog Patent Docs, which he manages with Donald Zuhn, Jr. Ph.D., his colleague at MBHB. Kevin talks to us about how a cab driver in New York City decides to become a patent attorney and how teaching and blogging about biotechnology patent law keeps him updated with the current issues affecting his clients.

JD Profiles: Nicole Gesher, Mediator and Owner, Gesher Mediation

Nicole Gesher is a San Francisco based mediator and attorney. She founded Gesher Mediation in February of 2010, where she happily helps resolve conflicts for her clients throughout the Bay Area. While relatively new to the ADR scene (she’s not even 30 years old!), Gesher tied for 2nd place in the Individual Mediator/Arbitrator category in the Recorder’s Best Poll (San Francisco based Legal newspaper – results published 12/6) (PDF). She is currently a panelist for the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Contra Costa County Superior Court. She is also a volunteer mediator for Community Boards, a local non-profit.

JD Profiles: Megan M. McKeon, Marketing Director, McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP

Megan M. McKeon worked her way through the evening J.D. program at The John Marshall School of Law and graduated in 2004. By day, she worked as a Marketing Magician for Schiff Hardin, an Am Law 200 firm, where she assisted with the firms marketing and recruiting efforts, including handling media relations, drafting external and internal communications, and promoting firm-hosted events. Rather than use her law degree to practice law on a daily basis, Megan continued to work in the marketing department of law firms. Eventually, Megan returned to school and achieved her M.B.A. in Marketing Management and Leadership and Change Management from DePaul University’s Charles H. Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. Today, she applies her legal and business background as Marketing Director for McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff.

JD Profiles: Richard Russeth, Vice President + General Counsel, Leprino Foods Company

Richard Russeth has worked in-house at various multi-national companies in the food industry since his graduation from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1982. In his roles as Assistant General Counsel and General Counsel, his clients may ask him questions relating to employment, intellectual property, or international tax law on any given day. Rather than focusing on one area of the law, Richard has become a rare entity – a self-proclaimed generalist. The Last Generalist talks with us once again about his career path, networking philosophies, technology, and the implications of the Food Safety Modernization Act for FDA lawyers.

JD Profiles: Philip Guzman, Director of Public Service Programs, North Carolina Central University School of Law

Philip Guzman worked in government and private practice before he became the Director of Public Service Programs at North Carolina Central University School of Law. He talks to us about his day-to-day responsibilities in the career services office as well as his career path to his ideal job or, as he calls it, “The Persistent Dream.” (Published in NALP Bulletin, Vol.22, September 2010.)

JD Profiles: Matt Podolnick, Litigation Associate, Aaronson, Rappaport, Feinstein, + Deutsch, LLP

Matt Podolnick graduated from an Ivy League law school. Like many of his classmates, he summered at a high-end litigation boutique in New York and accepted a job there post-graduation. After two years, he decided to head to a medical malpractice firm where he’d get more hands-on experience. He tells us why he never doubts taking a 40% salary cut and why he’s hesitant to want to be Superman.

JD Profiles: Susan Cartier Liebel, Owner, Solo Practice University

Susan Cartier Liebel worked in advertising then sales for ten (10) years before she decided to go to law school. As a law student, she realized there were hardly any resources for anyone who wanted to start their own law practice or learn the business side of running a law practice. She took the initiative, sought out mentors from her clinics and network of contacts, and opened her own law firm with friends from law school shortly after she graduated.  Since then, Susan has successfully practiced as a solo/small firm founder. Based on her own experiences, she started to teach others how to do the same. She served as an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University’s School of Law and then opened her own consulting firm. About two years ago, Susan brought the idea to a larger scale and started Solo Practice University, the ‘practice of law’ school. Susan talks about her journey and the void SPU fills in legal education.

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.