Of all social media platforms, LinkedIn, the “professional” social media network, is by far the most popular with lawyers. Because of its more serious and professional tone, lawyers have always been more comfortable participating on LinkedIn. That’s why, according to the 2016 ABA Legal Technology Survey report, more than 93% of lawyers surveyed now use LinkedIn, with large firm attorneys relying on it the most:
Among the respondents who personally use/maintain a presence in a social network for professional purposes, over four-fifths of each firm size report a presence in LinkedIn: 85% of respondents from firms of 2-9 attorneys, 91% of solo respondents, and 99% each of respondents from firms of 10-49 and 100 or more attorneys.
For lawyers, LinkedIn can be a great tool, both for marketing and online networking. However, because there are many facets to LinkedIn, as is the case with any social media platform, the key to using it successfully is to identify your goals before diving in.
Determine your goals
Make sure to identify and set reasonable goals when it comes to your LinkedIn presence. Understand that first and foremost, your LinkedIn profile will serve as an online resume – and the one that, for most lawyers, is the most likely to appear in search results. That’s why it’s such an important part of your online presence. In many ways, it’s the “front door” to your law practice. But LinkedIn also offers many other features beyond that, which is why it’s important to decide what you hope to get out of your LinkedIn interactions in order to get the most out of your time spent on LinkedIn.
There are many different goals that lawyers can achieve via LinkedIn. For some, it’s a way to showcase their experience and expertise. For others, it can be used to connect with potential referral sources, whether lawyers or other professionals, or even clients. Others use LinkedIn as a source of information to support their practices, including both news and legal updates relevant to their areas of practice.
So first, decide what you’d like to achieve by interacting on LinkedIn. Then, take steps designed to help you achieve those goals in a way that is both efficient and effective.
Create a robust profile
For starters, make sure to create a robust LinkedIn profile. Upload a recent photo and provide detailed information about your educational and legal background. But when doing so, be aware of your jurisdiction’s rules about certain key issues, including stating a specialization and attorney advertising, among other things, so that you don’t inadvertently violate ethical regulations. For examples and analysis of the various ethical issues presented when lawyers use LinkedIn, take a look at this article that I wrote or this more recent article that includes a similar discussion.
Connect with colleagues and potential clients
LinkedIn, like all social media platforms, is all about connecting with others. In the case of LinkedIn, the focus is on buttressing your professional network. So make sure to use LinkedIn’s built-in tools to do just that. Locate colleagues and others with whom you already know and send them an invitation to connect. Consider personalizing the invitation rather than sending out the generic LinkedIn invite in order to increase the likelihood that they’ll accept.
But when using LinkedIn’s built-in tools, be aware of a very recent ethics opinion issued by the District of Columbia Bar regarding the ethical issues presented when you allow LinkedIn to connect to your email account. I believe that the conclusion reached in this opinion represents is an outlier and will likely not be adopted by other jurisdictions, but it’s a good idea to keep it in mind, just to be on the safe side.
Once you’ve connected with people, make sure to reach out and occasionally congratulate your connections when they obtain a new job or reach a career milestone. LinkedIn will provide you with notifications of your colleagues’ achievements via email or within the app, making it easy for you to track their successes and send your congratulations.
Showcase your expertise
People hire you and refer clients to you because of your expertise. So it makes sense to highlight your expertise in an ethical manner when you’re able. Doing so increases the likelihood that you’ll be retained.
The good news is that LinkedIn offers you a number of ways to do this. First, you can include a descriptive summary of your law firm and your areas of practice either in your bio right below your photo or in the “Summary” section a bit further down the page. You can also upload articles that you’ve written or presentation slides to your profile and can list any publications that you’ve authored or CLE’s at which you’ve spoken. LinkedIn also allows you to add other sections to your profile that showcase your expertise, including languages that you speak, certifications, honors and awards, and more.
One thing to be wary of when it comes to expertise is recommendations from clients and colleagues in addition to endorsements from colleagues. Be aware, however, that both of these tools can be problematic in some jurisdictions and can trigger lawyer advertising rules or specialization prohibitions. See the articles linked to above for more information on those issues.
Curate and share knowledge
Finally, LinkedIn is a great platform for both curating and sharing knowledge relevant to your law practice. For curation of information, you can rely on your connections’ posts and also can “follow” leaders in your field. Keep tack of recent posts by receiving a daily email update from LinkedIn or by logging into LinkedIn. That way you can stay abreast of changes in your practice areas or other areas of interest. Also consider sharing news and blog posts that might be of interest to your connections. Doing so shows that you’re on top of changes in your practice areas, while simultaneously serving as a reminder of your practice areas, thus encouraging referrals.
So there you have it! Lots of tips to help you get the most out of LinkedIn. For even more tips and advice, check out the video recordings of two of our past webinars: LinkedIn for Lawyers: Let’s Get Down to Business Development and How to Make LinkedIn Work for Your Practice. And don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar, Tips and Tricks for Managing Social Media, to learn the latest on how lawyers can use LinkedIn and other social media platforms.