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Practical and effective social media for lawyers: LinkedIn edition

This is the third in my series about how lawyers use social media in comparison to how I think lawyers should use social media to leverage relationships and, most importantly, build friendships. I’ve already looked at Twitter and Facebook. This week, I’ll talk about how I think lawyers should use LinkedIn, which has more than 400 million registered users.

“Who actually gets clients off social media?” a large-law-firm associate in a meeting I was in recently asked.

“I do all the time,” I replied.

“But Scott,” another associate chimed in, “your client list is different than his typical client.”

My clients and referral sources are people just like the associates’ are, however.. My clients are people. His clients are people (albeit people who head corporations.) People are on social media. Business people are on social media. Business people are on LinkedIn. Therefore, the associate is missing out on some extra dough by not using LinkedIn properly.

A recent Forbes article asked, “Want Hard Proof that LinkedIn Works? Ask a Lawyer.” The article goes into how one attorney who was skeptical of social media focused his efforts on LinkedIn and generated an extra $12,000 through enhancing his networking in a few weeks. Basically, the attorney did the following.

  1. He cleaned up his LinkedIn profile.
  2. He spent three hours reaching out to all the people he knew professionally and could potentially refer him business
  3. He set a standing calendar appointment to spend 30 minutes a week following up and connecting with contacts on LinkedIn.

(I would recommend reading the LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman’s book, “The Start up of You”  for more actionable items that lawyers can apply to their practice.)

The power of LinkedIn lies in its groups and the engagement in those groups. One of my favorites groups to use is the “Annapolis” LinkedIn group. Another relevant group for me might be a criminal defense LinkedIn group. As an attorney, it may be wise to get a professionally made photo.

LinkedIn is the perfect platform for lawyers to stay in touch with their contacts. When contacts get a new job, be sure not only to congratulate them via LinkedIn but to send them a personalized e-mail congratulating them.

One little-known feature of LinkedIn is that, once you are friends with someone on LinkedIn, you also can access their email address and then export your LinkedIn contacts list.

The key to LinkedIn is leveraging it to stay on people’s minds when the time comes for them to hire an attorney or to refer you work. Nothing beats face-to-face networking, of course, but Linkedin can be your foot-in-the-door for many coffee or formal meetings with relevant people. More relevant relationships leads to a higher return on investment for your time.

All lawyers, if they put the consistent time in, can enhance their networking through LinkedIn.