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LinkedIn has growing value for lawyers

By Nicole L. Black, Published on July 21, 2013

LinkedIn is billed as the “professional” social network, which is why lawyers dipping their toes into social media for the first time often start with LinkedIn. The problem is that as far as social networks go, LinkedIn hasn’t always been very, well … social. In fact, up until very recently, it was a fairly static site without much daily activity worth following.

At least, that was always my take on LinkedIn and many other lawyers familiar with social media sites often agreed with me. Up until recently, I viewed LinkedIn primarily as a place to create a visible online resume.

However, lately my take on LinkedIn has changed a bit. I still don’t think it is the most vibrant or useful social network. But I do think that its value proposition for lawyers has changed over the past year or so.

There are two reasons for my belief.

First, the key to a successful online network is warm bodies. Without people, there’s just not a lot of interacting going on. And trust me when I tell you that lawyers are flocking to LinkedIn. Suddenly, lawyers I never thought I would see on social media sites are joining LinkedIn in record numbers. Local lawyers, my parents’ friends, and even lawyers whom I would describe as technophobic.

And, they’re not just joining — they’re actually checking in to LinkedIn to see what’s going on. Some read their email digests and click through from there and others actually visit the site every day. Even more surprising is that they are interacting on LinkedIn by “liking” and commenting on posts.

Second, LinkedIn endorsements have breathed a bit of life into the site. Endorsements are one of LinkedIn’s newer features and allow LinkedIn users to recognize their connections for their areas of expertise by “endorsing” them. This feature has gotten a bad rap in the blogosphere as of late, with some people suggesting that the ease of endorsing someone dilutes the value of the endorsement.

While this is a valid point, I think people are missing the big picture. Endorsements are encouraging users to participate, thus making LinkedIn more dynamic and interactive.

Endorsements also benefit lawyers’ practices as well. This is because by strategically using LinkedIn endorsements, lawyers are able to: 1) Stay on their colleagues’ radar, especially those who might refer cases to them; 2) highlight their colleagues’ areas of expertise, a simple gesture that will no doubt be appreciated; 3) encourage reciprocal endorsements from colleagues by adding appropriate skills to their profiles; and 4) stay connected to their colleagues by sending them a quick thank you after a colleague has taken the time to endorse them.

Another added benefit of endorsements is that they give lawyers a sense of how they are perceived by their colleagues. The range of endorsements that you receive should generally mimic your areas of practice and others areas of expertise, assuming that your law firm’s marketing is on target.

Of course, endorsements aren’t perfect and sometimes the LinkedIn algorithm fails and suggests inappropriate areas of endorsement, which is why red herring endorsements sometimes pop up. But overall the system works fairly well, so if you’re a personal injury attorney and the majority of your endorsements are for criminal law, then you probably should take actions to ensure that your colleagues are more aware of the types of cases that you handle.

So, overall, I think that LinkedIn is (finally) on the right track when it comes to lawyers. While it’s not the perfect social network and it has its share of problems (such as spam-ridden forums), it is beginning to offer more value to lawyers.

So if you haven’t participated on LinkedIn a while, give it a shot. It might just be worth your while.

Editor's note: this article was first published in The Daily Record ©2013 and in Sui Generis--a New York law blog. Reprinted here with permission.