by Bradley W. Miller, Burton Law LLC
You’ve probably heard of LinkedIn at some point in the last couple of years. It is often spoke of in the same breath as Facebook and Twitter, although it has a much different audience than either. What exactly is this LinkedIn anyway, and how as a lawyer can you use it?
What LinkedIn Is
At the most basic level, LinkedIn is a huge digital rolodex. With almost 150 million members, 60 million of those in the United State, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet. Two new members are signing up every second.
LinkedIn is a combination online resume, social network, and news source. Like Facebook, individuals create profiles. The LinkedIn profile, however, is a digital resume rather than a collage of embarrassing photos or a place to trade Farmville favors. On your profile page there are places to list your current and past positions, educational experience, professional affiliations, and charitable involvement. You can even list specific skills or practice areas that someone can search to find you.
Firms can use LinkedIn to create a company page that gives an overview of the firm, a description of the services the firm provides, and a career section to post job openings for attorney and staff positions.
Why Lawyers Should Care
According to a 2010 survey conducted by AML Legal Intelligence, approximately 1.5 million lawyers are on LinkedIn as of 2010. That number has surely increased since then. Besides lawyers, your clients are probably on LinkedIn too. Go check, I’ll wait (www.linkedin.com/ – there is a search box at the bottom of the page you can use without having to sign up).
See, told you so. Whether you represent large companies or individual consumers, chances are good at least one of your clients is on LinkedIn.
Why Lawyers Should Be On and Use LinkedIn
There are many reasons why lawyers should be on and use LinkedIn. Here are ten:
- To connect with law school classmates and former colleagues. Just type the person’s name in the search box in the top right corner of any LinkedIn page, and you can find people you might not have spoken to for 20 years. Whether they will still remember you after 20 years is another issue.
- To find up-to-date contact information. LinkedIn is a great place to find updated employment information about people you have lost contact with or who have recently changed jobs and weren’t considerate enough to let you know. A recent search on LinkedIn turned up an attorney I worked with 7 years ago. He has had 3 job changes and now works in a completely different area of law than when I worked with him. Without LinkedIn, I would have never known. When I most recently changed jobs, one of the first things I did was update my LinkedIn profile. Then I called my mother.
- To expand your professional network. I’m sure you are familiar with the Six-Degrees from Kevin Bacon game. Well, LinkedIn is set up in sort of the same way. People you have directly connected with – just like “friending” someone on Facebook – are your first-degree connections. The connections of your first degree connections are your second-degree connections. Depending on their privacy settings, you can either request to connect directly with these people or ask a first-degree connection to introduce you. This allows you to expand your network beyond just the people you know to the people that the people you know know. According to LinkedIn, I am only three degrees from Kevin Bacon (along with Jennifer Aniston and Britney Spears).
- To give and seek recommendations. LinkedIn allows you to give recommendation to your connections. If your former associate was great at preparing pleadings just how you liked it and always had them done 2 days early, you can give her a rousing recommend. This will show up on her LinkedIn profile as receiving a recommendation, and on yours as giving one. Similarly, you can ask others you have worked with, whether as a colleague, classmate, or even client, for a recommendation. These will show up on your profile page (only after you have approved it, however) so the world will know how great you are.
- To research opposing counsel or an opposing party. Just like you can search on LinkedIn for classmates and colleagues, you can also search for people on the other side of the table from you. It can be very helpful to know that the attorney you are arguing against was his school’s debate team captain, or that the co-defendant on your white collar case used to work at Enron.
- To find potential business opportunities and partners. Your LinkedIn profile is a free advertisement for what you do. Google indexes public LinkedIn profiles and incorporates them into its search results. If you are nationally-renown in inter-coastal waterway salvage law and have that prominently displayed on your profile, someone looking for just such an attorney can find you through your LinkedIn page. If you are looking for a specific type of person, such as the vice president of a medium-sized automotive manufacturing company, LinkedIn will let you search for people who fit that profile. Remember, 39% of the people on LinkedIn identify themselves with the titles manager, director, owner, chief officer, or vice president.
- To job search. Many companies, through their company pages, post job openings. A quick search for “securities law” pulled up 113 jobs based on those terms. The best part is that in addition to the job, LinkedIn tells you if there is anyone in your network (first and second-degree connections) that works at the company with the open position. This gives you a contact inside the company, which is a great advantage when job searching. Recruiters also use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates for open positions.
- To share content. Blogs and social media are currently all the rage. As a cutting-edge attorney, I’m sure you both have a blog you post to frequently and are actively involved in social media. LinkedIn allows you to connect your social media accounts and blog post feed so that they will show up on your LinkedIn profile. For search engine optimization (SEO), the more links you have back to your site, the better.
- To join (and get involved in) groups. One of the most valuable components of LinkedIn is groups. Groups allow for discussions and job listings between members (see the benefits of having an inside contact for your job search above). Simply being in a group with someone is like having a second-degree connection. Groups can be about anything: organization members, alumni, company colleagues, fans of kite surfing (www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2305456, in case you are interested), etc. The Columbus Bar Association has its own group on LinkedIn which you should a member of. If not, go to www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=723937 and join the CBA’s LinkedIn group.
- To answer questions in your practice area. The Swiss Army knife of professional networking also has a question-and-answer section. This is a place for LinkedIn members to ask questions and for you to provide insightful, well thought-out answers. Why would you do this? Karma. And it is more free marketing. You get to show off your legal knowledge, potential clients are impressed, and they contact you. And Google shares it with the world so others can see your legal knowledge and then contact you. Disclaimer: make sure you comply with legal advertising rules and take steps to avoid unwittingly creating attorney-client relationships.
LinkedIn can be a great tool and resource for lawyers, even if you only use the basic functions to set up a profile. So go on and get LinkedIn. And while you’re there, feel free to connect to me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/bradleymiller.
Have another way lawyers can benefit from LinkedIn? Leave it in the comments below.