In addition to the potential ethical issues for lawyers raised by LinkedIn’s endorsements and recommendations features, beware of the following potential pitfalls and mistakes on LinkedIn. I’ve seen way too many real life examples of all of these.
- A bare bones profile. This does nothing to enhance your image and can even detract from it.
- No photo or only a snapshot. The absence of a photo raises questions and a poor snapshot detracts from your professionalism, especially when you are looking for a job.
- A profile written exactly like a formal resume. Such a profile screams that you are looking for a job even when you aren’t. You are also missing an opportunity to show a little personality and a human side.
- A profile inconsistent with your bio on the firm website. Your LinkedIn profile and website bio do not need to be and should not be identical, but you should avoid creating confusion about what you do.
- A “headline” (the line next to your photo) that says “New Attorney Looking for a Job”, or “Associate [or Owner] at Smith, White & Jones PLC”. Instead of blending in, make a first impression with a “headline” that describes your background, other experience and/or area of interest. Ie. “Information Technology Focused Lawyer with Project Management Experience, [SWJ]”. In addition, all lawyers should search engine optimize their profiles with descriptive terms. The basics include using the word attorney or lawyer and practice area terms in the “headline” and in the title of your current position since those are the first two places that the LinkedIn search engine searches for keywords. Use lawyer in one place and attorney in the other since people use both as search terms.
- Using your “update” bar too frequently and/or only for shameless self promotion. Constant use of the update bar can give the impression you have a lot of time on your hands and not enough work. And don’t make your updates all about you. Using the update bar solely to promote yourself is very noticeable and a big turnoff.
- Never using your “update” bar. Consider how you can provide value to your connections through the update bar by promoting an event, sharing an article (yours or someone else’s), sharing legal updates or other relevant useful news.
- Joining LinkedIn only when you are fearful of losing your job, are looking for a new job or want a book of business overnight. Build your network, on and off LinkedIn, before you need it!
- Not joining LinkedIn for fear that your employer will think you are looking for a new job. There is a reason over 100 million people are on LinkedIn and it’s not because they are all looking for jobs!
- Sharing strong political or religious views in your profile or on your updates. The appropriateness of sharing this information may depend on the nature of your practice area, clients and referral sources.
- Providing legal answers to questions in LinkedIn groups. Although LinkedIn and marketing gurus advise people to become known as “thought leaders” or experts by answering questions on LinkedIn, lawyers must be careful of unintentionally creating an attorney client relationship. Don’t provide specific advice or ask for confidential information.
- Sending LinkedIn requests without personalizing the message. Using the default message can signify laziness and it does nothing to advance or deepen an existing relationship. Also, you will increase your chances of a stranger accepting your request if you personalize the message. Avoid using the white plus sign when LinkedIn suggests you connect with someone. That is a quick connect and it will send a request without giving you an opportunity to personalize the message.
- Being afraid to decline requests to link. Go ahead and click no. LinkedIn does not send the requestor a message saying that you refused to link with them.
- Being afraid to remove a connection. Go ahead and remove a connection by pulling up your contacts list and using the remove connections tab in the top right corner. Your former connection will not receive a notice.
- Linking primarily with other lawyers and people you already know well. Think of your LinkedIn network as an investment portfolio and diversify it.
- Letting LinkedIn search your Outlook Contacts or other contacts list. I have not heard any horror stories about this feature but common sense says retain control over your own password and contacts.
- Using LinkedIn solely for your own benefit. You and your network can be tremendously helpful to your friends, family, colleagues, clients and other people in your life, now and in the future. Expand your use of LinkedIn and create some good karma.
If you would like to learn how to use LinkedIn more effectively for your law practice and career, please contact me.