Lawyers and LinkedIn

Social networking is gaining in popularity, and for lawyers (and law students) LinkedIn is often the most palatable network, since it is known as the ‘professional’ network. Unlike other networks that revolve around more personal aspects of life such as vacations and hobbies, LinkedIn is a network of business people connecting with business people for business purposes.

Why Use LinkedIn?
With over 200 million members worldwide, including executives from every Fortune 500 company, LinkedIn is the ‘place to be’ for business people. The 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey1 indicates that in-house counsel are in­creasingly relying on social media as a source of information, and that LinkedIn is the social media source they use most to obtain information and expand their contacts. Sixty percent of respondents said they used LinkedIn to connect with outside counsel they work with, and almost 40% use it to connect with outside counsel they don’t work with. Sixty-one percent also used LinkedIn to get news and information.

Does it sound like your target audience might be using LinkedIn? How about your potential referral sources? Perhaps it’s time to take another look at LinkedIn.
As with any marketing or business development endeavor, you’ll want to do some thinking about why you’re using LinkedIn; what do you want to accomplish? For example, if you are using LinkedIn to help you find a job, you will use it differently than you will if you are looking for candidates to help you fill an open position. If you want to use LinkedIn to find new local clients for your law practice, you will do something different than if you want to find speaking opportunities.

There are many things that lawyers can do with LinkedIn if they make Connections wisely, use LinkedIn as a tool to keep up with colleagues, clients, industries and companies, and participate by posting updates and participating in Groups, but this article will focus on LinkedIn Profiles themselves.

Improving Your LinkedIn Profile
Regardless of why you’re using LinkedIn, the first thing you’ll want to do is to ensure that your LinkedIn Profile is complete and up to date. Mainly this is so that your Profile will be more likely to be found in searches both within LinkedIn and on external search engines, and so that when your Profile is found, the people you’re trying to reach get the best information possible about you from your LinkedIn Profile. (You’ll also want to be sure that your Profile meets the ethical rules, including those that require online information to be updated regularly and rules requiring disclaimers and attorney advertising notices).

LinkedIn did a major overhaul of the platform earlier this year, adding some features, removing others, and changing the layout and navigation of the site. One of the new additions was the “Profile Strength Meter,” which can be found in the right sidebar when you view your Profile. LinkedIn will tell you whether your Profile qualifies as Beginner, Intermediate, Expert or All-Star.

You can also find out the specific numerical percentage of completeness of your Profile by clicking on the Jobs menu in the top navigation bar and scrolling down to the “Job Seeker Toolkit” to see the percentage.

Click on “Improve Your Profile Strength” and LinkedIn will show you what additional content you can add to your Profile to make it more complete. You can also improve your Profile by following the suggestions in the “Recommended for You” section at the top right on the Edit Profile screen, or by clicking on the blue “Improve Your Profile” button that occasionally appears on your Profile.

Once you’ve reached the maximum strength, you’ll be offered the option to share your Profile on Facebook or Twitter, which might help you draw new visitors to your Profile.

LinkedIn considers your Profile 100% complete when it contains:
• Your current position, with a description
• Your industry and location
• Two past positions
• Your Education
• Your Skills (at least 3 – but be aware of the ethical issues associated with listing “Skills and Expertise” on your Profile)
• Your Profile summary
• Your Profile photo
• At least 50 connections

Let’s discuss some of these items. Profile Photo
Your photograph is an important part of your LinkedIn Profile. Professional photographs are preferable, but do not wait until you have time to get around to having a professional photograph taken. It is perfectly acceptable to use a high-quality digital photograph from your own digital camera or a cropped family or personal photograph of your face – so long as it looks professional and presents you well.

Your photograph is important for several reasons. Many people use LinkedIn to prepare for a meeting; having a photograph on LinkedIn makes you easier to recognize. People do business with people they know, like, and trust; posting a photograph helps your audience feel that they “know” you. Using the default nondescript outline makes it look like your account is inactive or you don’t pay any attention to it.

Professional Headline
Your professional headline is a one-line description that often accompanies your name on LinkedIn. The default setting is your current title, but without more, your title may not convey sufficient information for someone to seek out your entire Profile. For example, if your title is “Associate,” viewers won’t even necessarily know that you are an attorney. For better results, include your practice area and firm name, and make sure you use “lawyer” or “attorney” in your headline for those all-important search results. (For example, “Senior Trial Attorney, Medical Malpractice Defense, Smith Law Firm”).

The “Summary” field is one of the most overlooked by lawyers, but it can be valuable not only for including keywords in your Profile, but also as a synopsis of all of your experience and how that affects your current practice and representation of clients. With approximately 330 words of space for a description, this section could include an interesting description of what you do and who you do it for. Consider it a chance to give your “elevator pitch.” This may also be a good place to include your bar admission information.

Additional Options
In addition to the basics, LinkedIn provides the option to add additional sections to your Profile. Two of the most useful sections lawyers can add to their Profiles are Publications and Certifications.

Publications Published books and articles, whether in print or online, add to your credibility and help establish your expertise by demonstrating what you know. LinkedIn allows you to list the title, publication, date, a brief description, and a link to the content if it is online.

Certifications If you’re certified in a particular area of the law or specialty, this is an important section to add to your Profile; not only will it help you to stand out, but having specific certifications from accredited providers may entitle you to call yourself an ‘expert’ or indicate that you ‘specialize’ in a particular area.2

Multi-Media Options
LinkedIn has also added multimedia features which allow professionals (including lawyers) to showcase their expertise and capture the attention of potential employers, clients, referral sources and others. The Summary, Experience and Education sections offer the option of adding images, presentations, documents and other multi-media content directly to your LinkedIn Profile, or adding a link to the content if it is housed externally online (such as on your website).

If uploaded directly to LinkedIn, those who view your Profile can view your presentations or documents (such as PDF articles) directly in your Profile itself, providing direct access to a concrete manifestation of your expertise.

Ultimately, your LinkedIn Profile is a marketing document, but rather than marketing your firm, it markets you as an individual lawyer. It is your “online ambassador” and it works for you 24 hours a day. The more comprehensive your Profile is, the more reasons people have to connect or engage with you. If LinkedIn is being used as a source of information by your potential clients, referral sources or other important audiences, you’ll want to be sure that your Profile is the best representation of you it can be.

Allison C. Shields is the President of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc., providing consulting services to lawyers on practice management and business development issues. She is the co-author of LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers and can be reached at Allison@
2. New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 972 (June 26, 2013), Listing in social media.