LinkedIn, acquired by Microsoft in 2016, has over 250 million active monthly users and, according to research from Attorney at Work, it is the most popular social media channel in the US legal sector, used by over 90 per cent of lawyers and forming part of the overall marketing strategy in around 70 per cent of firms. It is likely that these statistics broadly translate to the UK. LinkedIn’s popularity has increased within legal circles over recent years, with Brian Inkster, founder of Inksters citing its better rates of engagement: “I used to think LinkedIn was deadly boring compared to Twitter (which was my social media channel of choice). However, over the past year or two my views have changed. If I post a similar item on LinkedIn and Twitter it invariably gets more interaction and usually much more detailed comments on LinkedIn than on Twitter.”

Although LinkedIn commands only around 10 per cent of the monthly active users of Facebook, (which we covered in the March issue of the Newsletter), it is nevertheless arguably much more useful for lawyers, both in terms of reaching their target audience and as a personal tool.

How is LinkedIn used by lawyers?

Many lawyers and prospective lawyers initially create a LinkedIn profile primarily for the purpose of uploading their CVs and planting their personal flag in the shifting sands of the internet. Some firms and barristers chambers encourage their fee earners and tenants to maintain their LinkedIn profiles, even going so far as to dispense with traditional profile pages on their websites in favour of LinkedIn links.

In addition to the benefits of such online profiles, the ability to publish legal comment and analysis on LinkedIn and engage with other opinions is a way for lawyers to demonstrate their legal knowledge and expertise to current and prospective clients.

As to direct advertising, the model on LinkedIn works in a similar way to that on Facebook, using profiling and targeting to ensure adverts reach the desired audience.

We look in more detail at how lawyers can take advantage of LinkedIn’s facilities below.

Optimising profiles

The printed curriculum vitae is increasingly being superseded by the cultivation of a favourable online presence for all manner of professionals, not least lawyers. As a result of its good search engine rankings, LinkedIn profiles often appear at the top of Google when researching the credentials of an individual, which makes it particularly important for solicitors and barristers who want to make the right first impression. But how can profiles be tweaked to stand out from the crowd? Joanne Frears, solicitor at Lionshead Law, suggests that lawyers avoid stock phrases in their profiles, such as “I am an expert in/have 20 years’ experience in …” and vague marketing fluff such as “I have worked on a myriad of high value complex deals, for many different clients from a wide range of sectors.” Instead, she urges fee earners to: “describe what you do in terms your market will recognise, not those that lawyers use in their own jargon – and if you are a solicitor know that a client already expects you to be an expert! Add cases and projects you’ve worked on where you have permission, add endorsements and don’t be afraid to ask for them direct via LinkedIn.”

Rachel Tombs, owner of Orion Legal Marketing and LinkedIn coach, emphasises the value of testimonials: “Asking current clients to write recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is an excellent way of building trust in the mind of potential new clients. Online recommendations are word-of-mouth marketing for the digital age.” She also suggests that lawyers consider including relevant keywords in their profiles to ensure anyone searching for specific expertise has a better chance of finding them. She also notes the importance of regularly updating profiles: “When did you last take a look at your LinkedIn profile and ask yourself if it reflected who you are today?”

In addition to personal profiles, as with Facebook, firms can create business profiles using company pages and tie these in with any relevant advertising. Furthermore, they might ask their lawyers to publish articles on the company’s LinkedIn page rather than via their own profile pages (eg in order to retain control over content if the fee earner moves firm).

A publishing platform

Publishing articles, comment and analysis to demonstrate knowledge and expertise was a traditional marketing tactic for law firms well before social media or even the internet. Blogging has been effectively (and often ineffectively) used by lawyers in recent years as a way of publishing their thoughts and insights without having to pitch to and/or pay third party publications for the privilege. LinkedIn takes pitch-free publishing a step further, with the distinct advantage of automatically providing visibility to a user’s connections and followers as new posts show up in their feeds.

Joanne Frears says of LinkedIn articles, “like advertising, you have an opportunity to embed your message with your community and to demonstrate your knowledge. Wit and brevity are always well received. Technical knowledge is an expectation so be prepared to demonstrate that too.” But she warns that accuracy of content is crucial: “Typos, repetition and overly long sentences simply demonstrate you don’t check your work, don’t have attention to detail or don’t know when to stop – the opposite of what a client wants from their lawyer!”

As well as demonstrating knowledge and expertise, effective publishing on LinkedIn can also build up a readership and increase profile views over time. Rachel Tombs notes: “I recently had feedback from one of my clients, a senior partner in a law firm, that following their first post on LinkedIn they had over 100 new followers, and their profile views were up 40 per cent through regularly blogging on LinkedIn Publishing every fortnight”.

Networking and engagement

Compared to blogging, the “social” element of LinkedIn means that there is generally more engagement on LinkedIn, and this has been a noticeable trend according to Brian: “Historically blog posts I wrote would get a lot of comments on the blog itself; now that happens on LinkedIn rather than on the blog. What I now do is copy those comments over to the blog post to preserve them, otherwise they will soon be lost as social media moves onto the next topic of the day.” And, in the spirit of social media, it’s just as important to engage with the posts of others. “Make your time on LinkedIn as much about sharing other people’s contributions as your own” says Rachel, “Look at posts your connections have taken the time to post and then leave comments, or share them”. However, whenever making comments, lawyers should always bear in mind that LinkedIn is used as a professional networking platform; lolcats, flirting and trolling are inadvisable.

Choosing who to network with will be a subjective choice. Some lawyers may decide to focus on connecting with potential clients, like Joanne: “I won’t LinkIn with lots of other lawyers (unless they are foreign lawyers in my field) as they aren’t my market.” Others may use LinkedIn for general discussion with peers as much as prospecting, and Brian notes that: “You can have private LinkedIn conversations with a group of contacts and I have seen that as invaluable in exchanging ideas and information.” Either way, there are plenty of ways of connecting with people, from creating and joining relevant groups to allowing LinkedIn access to your contact list or viewing its recommendations.

Legal recruitment and advertising

LinkedIn is a useful tool for solicitors seeking a new job opportunity as well as for law firms looking to recruit fresh talent. Lawyers who are thinking of moving on can indicate their availability to recruiters by switching on the relevant setting in the Career Interests section and providing specific details such as location, start date and sector. LinkedIn’s Job Search app is available on the iTunes and Google Play stores. But even just posting articles and engaging with updates can land potential candidates a job. For example, Brian Inkster reports that a recent employee was hired at his firm as a result of seeing their LinkedIn post looking for work.

Law firms can use LinkedIn’s recruitment tool and place targeted job adverts. Rachel notes the significant savings which can be made compared to more traditional methods of law firm recruitment: “Posting a job advert on LinkedIn is a relatively inexpensive way to find candidates and a budget can range from £10 a day upwards depending on location and position etc. Compare spending £200 to finding the right candidate to paying a recruitment company 20 per cent of the candidate’s salary.” Joanne’s firm has been able to reach lawyers making a career move in this way: “Lionshead Law advertises on LinkedIn and gets many responses from people looking to change the way they work.”

Law firms can also place other types of adverts on LinkedIn, promoting their services to individuals in specific business sectors or on the basis of all manner of variables. LinkedIn advertising works in a similar manner to Facebook advertising or Google AdWords, with daily budgets and auction style bidding.

Further reading

The Law Society: LinkedIn: is it worth your time?

Law Society of Scotland: How in-house lawyers can get the most from LinkedIn

Moore Legal Technology: A Beginner’s Guide to LinkedIn for Solicitors

Wardblawg: Top 10 Linkedin Tips for Young Lawyers

Alex Heshmaty is a legal copywriter and journalist with a particular interest in legal technology. He runs Legal Words, a copywriting agency in Bristol. Email alex@legalwords.co.uk. Twitter @alexheshmaty.

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