If you work in the legal profession, chances are that you have an account on LinkedIn. But, like most people, you probably aren’t using it to its fullest extent, and that means you’re missing out on all it has to offer.
There are two common misconceptions when it comes to using LinkedIn. The first is to think that the purpose of the platform is to create a bare-bones profile that outlines (a) your current job, (b) where you went to law school and (c) not much else. This is the wrong attitude. When someone wants to learn more about you in a professional capacity, you can assume that your LinkedIn profile will be their first destination. Also, when people Google your name, your LinkedIn page may be the first hit that comes up in the results. So it’s in your best interest to have an attention-catching profile.
The second mistake people make when using LinkedIn is to think of it as a “social media” site, akin to Facebook or Instagram. This is not the case. Unlike those platforms, LinkedIn is not the place to post pictures of your dinner or brag about your vacation. It is a professional networking tool, a label that has been accurate since its inception.
To help you stand out on LinkedIn, let’s first address how to build a top-notch profile. My suggestion is to follow the following three steps:
- Make sure you have a recent, high-quality picture. Like it or not, this is the first thing people will look at. If your photo is years old and of poor quality, it won’t look professional and people may not take you seriously. If you don’t have a decent picture through your employer, get a professional headshot done. It’s not expensive and it may pay off later.
- Give yourself a descriptive title. There is no reason simply to call yourself a “lawyer,” “barrister” or “associate.” Instead, be more specific. If you have a practice specialty, name it. If you want to raise your profile in a certain area, mention it. Your title might sound something like this: “Experienced commercial litigator specializing in cybersecurity.”
- In the “About” section, don’t be shy or modest. Describe your practice, your skillset and notable deals and/or victories. People who are reading this description want to learn more about you, so don’t hold back.
Once you have a standout profile, turn your mind to raising your presence. This starts with building your network. The easiest way to get started in this regard is to import your email contacts into LinkedIn. If you’re not sure how to do this, here are the instructions. It’s a simple process that will give you a good head start. You can also build your network by connecting with suggested contacts. LinkedIn is not like Instagram, so you don’t have to know people personally to connect with them. People won’t be offended by invitations to connect, even if they don’t know you.
Next, stay active. The more you post and share, the more you will show up in other user’s feeds. But you want people to take you seriously, so be smart and selective when it comes to sharing content. Also, try not to share things like anecdotes and syrupy motivational quotes. If you like posting that stuff, save it for Facebook.
Instead, share content that people will actually want to read. For instance, if you publish an article somewhere, post a link to it. You can also use LinkedIn to write original content. If there is an interesting news story or relevant update to current caselaw, by all means share it. These are savvy ways to draw attention.
Surprisingly, you might find that, once you start using LinkedIn more, it will become as addictive as the other social-media platforms. You can use it to read the news, find out what your fellow lawyers are up to and to keep up with developments in the profession. You may also be surprised by how much it can elevate your career.
Daniel Waldman is a commercial litigator at Dickinson Wright LLP. He writes about career satisfaction and business development for Precedent.
Illustration by Isabel Foo