The following is a guest blog post by Anabella Q. Bonfa. Ms. Bonfa is a litigator with Wellman & Warren LLP, handling business and partnership disputes, theft of trade secrets, and unfair competition. She lectures extensively on trade secrets, networking, and using social media to develop business.
LinkedIn is an excellent marketing tool for lawyers. Here’s how to make your LinkedIn profile—your first impression there—as effective as it can be.
- Get a professional photo. Your photo is the first thing people see about you on LinkedIn—it will be seen every time you comment, make a recommendation, or write an update. Use a photo of your chest up that clearly shows your face. Dress professionally, as you would appear in court, and smile. Definitely don’t edit a wedding photo or have a distracting background.
- Use the “Professional Headline” to your advantage. Under your name, you can add a professional headline. Rather than a generic title, such as “Attorney,” use this section to your advantage by stating your practice area (e.g., “Family Law Attorney”). Let potential clients and professional connections immediately know your area of expertise.
- Complete the “Summary” background section. This is the most important part of your profile. You have about 10 seconds to capture the viewer’s attention and let them know who you are. Your summary section should state who your clients are and what you do for them. Make sure to describe the types of cases you handle in a way that nonlawyers can understand. A list of your specialties is also helpful. The summary is an excellent place to discuss past non-legal work that contributes to your law practice.
- Upload photos or videos. Below the summary section, add photos to make your profile visually interesting and make you more approachable. For example, include photos of you posing with clients, giving a professional presentation, or doing community service work. You can also add video from your website, interviews, etc.
- Request recommendations. Recommendations are the heart of your LinkedIn profile. Ask your past employers or clients for a personal recommendation discussing the quality of your work and service. Let past clients know that you don’t expect them to share their legal issue, just their thoughts on the level of service you provided. Remember to return the favor and recommend others who you hold in high esteem. Note that “recommendations” differ from “endorsements.” If you choose to have your skills listed and have people “endorse you,” keep the list of skills short and don’t accept endorsements from anyone you don’t know or for skills you didn’t list yourself.
- Invite people to connect. The quality of your contacts is far more important than the quantity. View others’ profiles and link with those with whom you intend to work in the future or who already know the quality of your past work. Personalize your invitation: “Hello: This is John Smith. We met at last night’s fundraiser. I would like you to join my LinkedIn network.” If you already know someone in common, this would be an ideal place to mention your shared connection.
- Complete the “Publications” section. List all articles and books you have written, as well as oral presentations you have made before professional groups.
- Complete the “Volunteer & Causes” section. This little-used section allows you to share the community service projects and non-profit activities in which you and your firm are involved. People enjoy working with attorneys who share their own personal causes.
- Join groups. There are many LinkedIn groups specifically geared toward attorneys and law practice, e.g., groups for law schools, bar associations, practice areas, legal marketing, etc. Find groups of interest and join the conversation there. Showing the groups you have joined on your profile helps others see your interests and leads to new connections.
- Write an update. Once you have a strong profile set up, you’re ready to start posting updates—and your interesting updates will likely bring people back to view your profile. Share updates about your law practice, changes in the law, and information of interest to your colleagues and clients. You can link to a blog post or article by inserting its URL in the update box. If you don’t have time to write a regular blog, this is an excellent way to provide relevant and insightful opinions on legal issues.
Although it’s tempting, don’t use your profile to directly ask for work. Not only might this run afoul of professional responsibility rules, it makes you sound desperate. Newer attorneys should focus on the skills they have to offer based on past work experience. For example, focus on why you excel at dealing with clients, problem solving, working in a stressful environment, and managing deadlines.
Put your best self forward in your LinkedIn profile and reap the professional benefits!
For more on acquiring clients through marketing and other methods, check out CEB’s California Basic Practice Handbook, chapter 1—a great book for anyone starting out in law practice.
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