LinkedIn is back in the news since Microsoft purchased it in June for $26.2 billion (about $250 per active user). Features are being changed and added regularly, causing lawyers to ask how to use LinkedIn as a marketing tool.
Is LinkedIn a good way to generate new business?
Do the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to LinkedIn?
Is it worthwhile to pay for a premium LinkedIn membership?
What are the best ways for a lawyer to be active on LinkedIn?
Putting LinkedIn in perspective, it has 450 million members but only 106 million active users, fewer than Twitter. However, it is the de facto online directory for professionals, including lawyers. LinkedIn has much less engagement, membership, and activity than Facebook, but it is the authoritative social network for business.
LinkedIn is not a replacement for a lawyer’s website, blog, and bio – it is an online destination to extend your reach. I recommend that lawyers create a new blog post or other content for their website, and then use LinkedIn to call attention to it.
If you already have a LinkedIn bio you can:
Repost your blog by clicking on the “Write an article” pencil icon. LinkedIn reports how many times your article has been viewed and “liked.” For example, when I navigate to “Your Updates” and “Published,” I can see that I have a dozen articles published on LinkedIn.
Click “Share an Update” and include the blog title, a synopsis, and a link. You can also share news articles and links to new court opinions.
Upload a photo, such as a cell phone snapshot taken at a business event you attended. This is easily done with the LinkedIn mobile app.
Upload the slides from a presentation you just gave. LinkedIn acquired Slideshare for $119 million in 2012. To upload your PowerPoint to LinkedIn, simply visit slideshare.com, log in with your LinkedIn credentials, and click the orange “Upload” button. Once you’ve done that, simply click the blue “Add to Profile” LinkedIn icon.
Use LinkedIn as a Referral Source
LinkedIn can generate new business for you but primarily as a source of referrals. Many businesses do use LinkedIn to connect with customers, and lawyers can certainly connect with clients on LinkedIn. But in my experience, potential clients will search for you first on Google and visit your website. Your website and blog is where you should describe how you work with clients and other information to make yourself attractive to potential clients.
If searchers want to dig deeper to see you from a business perspective, they’ll look you up on LinkedIn. Typically, this will be another lawyer inquiring into where you went to law school, your bar association memberships, prior experience, years in practice, and substantive articles. Your LinkedIn profile should present you as a good choice to refer a case to.
The starting point for marketing on LinkedIn is, of course, your profile. To see what other lawyers are doing, simply type “Wisconsin attorney” in the search box. The essential elements of a good profile include a professionally taken photo (do not use anything taken with a cell phone). Presenting a blank where there should be a photo is a turn-off. Add a chronological list of everywhere you’ve worked and honors and awards (but don’t include pay-for-play badges from Super Lawyers or Best Lawyers). You can also add your skills, education, personal details, and more.
For your title do not put in “partner” or “associate,” because this does nothing to distinguish you. Put only your name in the “first name” and “last name” boxes, but feel free to add keywords in your title and summary, including terms that a person would use to find you. List the types of professionals you wish to refer clients to you and the kind of matters you handle. LinkedIn lets you edit or amplify your profile at any time.
Comply with Ethics Rules
Yes, the Rules of Professional Conduct do apply to your LinkedIn profile. Key rules to keep in mind are the following:
SCR 20:1.6: A lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent.
SCR 20:7.1: A lawyer must not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services, particularly if the communication compares the lawyer’s services with those of other lawyers.
SCR 20:7.1: The communication cannot contain any paid testimonial about, or paid endorsement of, the lawyer without identifying the fact that payment has been made or, if the testimonial or endorsement is not made by an actual client, without identifying that fact.
The prohibition against paid and nonclient testimonials comes up when lawyers receive a LinkedIn endorsement from someone they do not know. Dean R. Dietrich, writing in the May 2015 Wisconsin Lawyer, advised, “I do not believe that such an endorsement would be false or misleading if it is about an appropriate area of practice or legal experience, even though the person making the endorsement is not familiar with or knowledgeable about the lawyer’s practice.”
“[I]t would not appear necessary to continually monitor the endorsements and identify which endorsements are made by clients and which endorsements are not made by clients. Most often, the endorsements are not made by clients but rather by other people who know the attorney and would like to receive similar endorsements from the attorney,” Dietrich said.
The point of LinkedIn is to make new connections with people you do not know, to expand your network. My advice is to connect with as many potential referring lawyers as possible. When you are active on LinkedIn you will get many invitations to connect, but you should focus on local contacts whom you are likely to meet in person. If you have a specialized practice, such as plaintiff’s medical malpractice, it may make sense to connect with lawyers out of state.
When you are active
on LinkedIn you will
get many invitations to
connect, but you should
focus on local contacts
whom you are likely to
meet in person.
Over the years I have amassed 3,559 connections, although LinkedIn shows only “500+” connections. This gives me the ability to reach out to almost anyone I need via a LinkedIn email, without needing to remember the person’s email address. LinkedIn provides many prompts to reach out to your contacts, for example, when they have a job change.
A little known bonus of LinkedIn is being able to export all of your LinkedIn contacts at https://www.linkedin.com/people/export-settings. This is useful when you want to make an announcement to all your business contacts, such as when you are starting an email newsletter.
Decide Between Premium and Free LinkedIn
I’ve tried both the free and paid versions of LinkedIn and am happy with the free version. LinkedIn ordinarily has an offer to try the premium version for free. Premium LinkedIn gives users the ability to send 25 inmails (equivalent to a cold call) to people with whom you have no connection. It also gives details about who has visited your profile for the last 90 days, a chart depicting the number of views, and search terms used to find you.
Premium LinkedIn is designed for job-seekers who wish to stand out to recruiters. Recruiters also use Premium to find potential employees, and sales people use it to prospect for customers on LinkedIn. Unless a lawyer is seeking a new position, I don’t see a particular benefit of paying for Premium.
Become an Active LinkedIn User
The best way to get active on LinkedIn is to join a group – there are two million groups on LinkedIn and thousands are added every week. My recommendation is to join a local group where you can actually meet other members in person. For example, LinkedIn worked well for me when I moved from Chicago to Tucson. I was able to find like-minded people in my field easily through LinkedIn. A smart move for lawyers is to connect with a person in a group and suggest meeting for coffee or lunch to discuss referrals.
LinkedIn enables users to target a search of groups by a person’s name, company, university, and more. If you have recently connected with someone on LinkedIn, check the person’s profile to see which groups they belong to and consider joining them. If there is no group that interests you, it is a simple matter to create a group and invite your current contacts to join.
Once you have joined a group, subscribe to updates by email and get the drift of the discussions. A good starting point is to make a comment on other people’s posts in an ongoing discussion. Once you are comfortable with the group, start your own discussions and post links to new blog updates you have written.
A tactic that has worked well for me is to contact the owner of the group and inquire if he or she needs help moderating it. Most owners will say “yes,” and this approach has led to my being appointed the moderator of 10 marketing and attorney groups on LinkedIn. Being a moderator is not that much work (mainly deleting spam), and it’s a great way to make many connections.
There is no time like the present to get started with LinkedIn. Just collect your resumé, photo, and articles, and set aside an hour to fill in the blanks. Repurpose articles, blog posts, infographics, videos, and slideshows. Again, focus on your local activities and organize your material to attract referrals. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of connections and will have a powerful network to bring you new business.