Social media for lawyers is important for three reasons:
- Their clients are using it, so it’s essential for them to understand the tools, how they’re used, and the risks and implications so that they can effectively advise them.
- It’s an excellent place to conduct research on clients and potential clients. We all leave digital breadcrumbs on these platforms, and they provide tremendous insight into what the industry and clients care about, what worries them, and what the trends are.
- Lawyers can use social media to engage directly with their clients. Depending on the platform, they share more professionally or personally, but they use them to build relationships and add another dimension to who they are as a lawyer that makes clients more comfortable in hiring them.
LinkedIn is a favorite of lawyers, because it’s still seen as the most professional of the social media platforms available. So, lawyers can feel comfortable engaging there, while remaining professional. For law students, getting a jump on these platforms, but specifically LinkedIn, can make you an asset to both law firms and future clients. Amanda Ziemann of Major, Lindsey & Africa mentioned in her post the importance of having a robust LinkedIn profile for recruiters and networking. Starting with a robust profile, and using that to springboard your efforts, can lead to additional benefits that will put you ahead of the game.
LinkedIn as a research tool
LinkedIn offers tremendous opportunities for you as a research tool, for individuals, law firms, and the industries that you’re targeting. There are a few key steps that you’ll want to take to make the most use of this.
Make a list of the firms that you’re interested in, and determine whether they have LinkedIn pages that you can follow. Keep up with the news and updates that the firms post by regularly checking into your timeline, and engaging with the items that interest you. You can comment on the posts, “like” them, and share the ones that you find relevant to your own audiences. This provides three benefits:
- It puts you on the radar of the firm. While the firm’s marketing department likely runs the page, the more you engage with it, the more familiar your name will be to lawyers of the firm who also engage with the content, and the firm leadership who monitor the page and its analytics.
- It keeps you up to date on the firm’s latest news and what’s important to them. When you’re ready to interview with the firm, you’ll know what their strengths are, who some of their top clients might be, who the top players in the firm are, all without having to spend too much time doing additional due diligence.
- It positions you as a thought leader among your own network. When you share substantive items of interest within your own area of specialty, it helps to highlight you as a thought leader among your own network, which strengthens your value as a candidate.
LinkedIn isn’t just for networking; it’s also for research. While you want to make it a habit to connect to the people that you meet at events and otherwise, and then continue to engage with them regularly, you can also use it as a research tool.
- Before you meet with someone, look at their LinkedIn profile to identify any areas of commonality that you may be able to use to connect with them. This doesn’t have to be creepy – disclose in your conversations that you reviewed their LinkedIn profile and noticed the item as part of your research. However, if you do want to keep this to yourself, make sure to check your privacy settings to ensure that you aren’t broadcasting to people that you’ve looked at their profile.
- Do the same after you meet someone, if you haven’t previously reviewed their profile. Use this as an opportunity for follow up.
- Even though you may think you have a limited network, it’s probably more extensive than you think. Are there people that you’re connected to that you feel should meet each other? There may be opportunities for you to make introductions that will show you to be a valuable connection to both parties, and encourage them to find ways to be helpful to you in the future as well.
If you have an idea of which area of the law or which industries you’d like to focus on, use LinkedIn to identify influencers in this space that you can follow. Their content will appear in your timeline, and as you’re doing with firms, you can engage and share this to help solidify your reputation as a thought leader. Similarly, you are identifying some of the top clients of the firms that you’re interested in – start following these companies on LinkedIn as well to help understand what they care about, the trends, and their potential pain points.
LinkedIn for Publishing
LinkedIn’s support for displaying your burgeoning expertise doesn’t end with a robust profile. You may be familiar with their publishing platform, which allows you to essentially host your own blog. You are likely already either creating your own content, or starting to, and LinkedIn’s Publisher will offer you a great place to house that while you start your career.
I usually recommend Publisher to lawyers in two scenarios:
- If you don’t currently have a blog, but you’re considering increasing your level of writing to see if you could commit to a blog. This is great for law students too, because you can use LinkedIn Publisher as a testing ground for your own writing. Develop an editorial calendar that isn’t an undue burden and leverages some of the content that you’re consuming on LinkedIn already. Write there for about six months or so on a topic of your choice, and then review your progress.I’d also recommend that you use your writing here as a means for networking to really supercharge your efforts. As you come across content that you find interesting from lawyers at the firms you’d like to work at, reference it in your own work. Link to their work, and then send them a note through LinkedIn to let them know that you’ve done so. It opens a dialogue between you, and starts to strengthen your value to the firm.
- If you have an existing blog, or means of writing, LinkedIn Publisher is also great for re-posting substantive content. I’ve found, and others have told me the same thing anecdotally, that they’ve seen an increase in readership when they also post to LinkedIn. While you ultimately want to keep your content in a place that belongs to you, so it’s worth continuing to publish to a standalone blog and driving content there from LinkedIn, it only takes a few minutes to re-post to LinkedIn. I’ve also found that engagement, in terms of content and discussion, is far greater on LinkedIn, so that’s another reason to add Publisher to your relationship development tools.
LinkedIn for Groups
Now you have a robust profile, you’re engaging with firms, firm leaders, industry experts, and more, and you are publishing content to LinkedIn, what’s left?
LinkedIn also supports groups, which may be of value to you. Here, I believe that less is more. Find one or two groups that you feel you can really commit to, and get something out of, and if a group doesn’t seem to be working for you after a while, you can leave it. You’ll want to look for groups that offer the best opportunities for connection – that may mean you start with alumni groups for your law school, or maybe even alumni groups for your undergrad alma mater. But also consider looking at industry or trade groups and other networking groups. Look, too, at the groups that some of your new connections at the firms you’re interested in belong to – what types of industry and networking groups are they a part of? You want to try to stand out, and add value.
For that to happen, the key is to be an active participant, without overwhelming the group. So, post questions, answer and comment on other posts, share relevant information, etc. You can lurk for a while to see how others in the group behave, but ultimately, you want to show that you’re committed. If these groups are connected to in-person conferences or meetings, that is even better, because you can then enhance your online networking with in-person networking too.
Using LinkedIn for research, to publish content, and engage with others through groups will help you stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace, as well as provide you with the competitive intelligence you need to succeed.