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Growing business through LinkedIn

Jana Schilder remembers invoices for tens of thousands of dollars when a firm she once worked for acquired listings in legal directories. The firm “made a priori decisions on which lawyers would get listed,” recalls the managing director of First Principles Communication, noting that not all the lawyers made the cut.

Online directories disrupted that business model. The biggest disruptor may be the strictly business-branded social network LinkedIn. As evidence, a 2012 American Bar Association report states that 70 per cent of corporate counsel use LinkedIn and half of them, or 38 per cent of all corporate counsel, use it when choosing and hiring attorneys.

This is the first article in a two-part series, exploring how Canadian lawyers can best use LinkedIn. (To read part two, click here.)

The LinkedIn profile

The price of entry into LinkedIn is the creation of a professional profile. “It’s free, you can reach the whole world,” Schilder says, “but you have to do the work.”

James Speakman claims to have been active on LinkedIn for only the past few months. “Before, my profile was like a C.V., very static,” he admits. A firm-wide LinkedIn initiative at Clark Wilson, where he serves as managing partner, spurred him to improve his profile. Speakman added accomplishments which he wrote as tangible benefits that readers can identify with, “Rather than just saying I’m a lawyer, I went to school, I worked at this place, I worked at that place. That doesn’t tell anybody anything.”

“Our internal LinkedIn campaign is the first of its kind,” writes Lin Kishore, Clark Wilson’s director of client relations, of the “Great Clark Wilson LinkedIn Campaign.”

“It’s essentially a three-month… firm-wide educational initiative to teach lawyers and staff how they can provide more value to our clients and colleagues through LinkedIn.” The campaign gained traction through daily fun facts and weekly LinkedIn trivia contests.

The right keywords in Matt Flynn’s LinkedIn profile led to an unexpected e-mail inquiry about his services. The caller noted that Flynn, a technology lawyer and partner at McCarthy Tétrault, is called in Alberta and Ontario and had also worked in California. “I was able to connect all those dots,” he recalls. “He checked through his California network to get a clear picture of me, and he reached out.”

Mark Hayes adds documents to his profile using SlideShare.

“I think there have been something like 10,000 views of my papers, presentations, documents I’ve posted,” says the managing director at Hayes eLaw, adding “It’s hard to quantify how that translates into business, but it gives you some credibility.”

LinkedIn profiles can go beyond “just the facts” explanations. “I had a fertility law client,” Schilder recalls. “That practice lends itself to examples. Surrogacy law is a very specific thing, an emotionally charged area of law.” Her client mentions benefits and anecdotes in the profile summary. “Clients still talk to the lawyer years later and send pictures of their families.”

Gone are the days of job-seekers having to provide three references with their résumés. Unlike most testimonials, LinkedIn recommendations carry links to the profiles of the people who give them. Those links help people who browse LinkedIn profiles make discreet enquiries without a profile-holder’s knowledge.

LinkedIn allows members to create custom urls for their profiles. For instance, instead of having a long string of gibberish as his LinkedIn profile url, the author of this column set up which is used in places like the e-mail signature.

LinkedIn broadcasts changes to your profile when you make them, so profiles ought to be kept current. “If you update your profile to say you’re a partner, but you’ve been a partner for the last three years and you haven’t gotten around to updating your profile, you’ll get messages congratulating you on making partner,” says David Tait, partner at McCarthy Tétrault.

You can put specific calls to action in the summary, like the following from Omar Ha-Red-eye, a legal advisor with Fleet Street Law: “I write for a number of websites and regularly speak to the media. I am an avid networker, but if you’re a reader or journalist looking to connect please indicate this in the invite.”

Company page

LinkedIn company pages augment firm websites in several ways. For instance, firms can add careers pages to list job openings and perform ongoing recruiting activities. People follow company pages like they follow blogs, and companies that regularly add content (press releases, blog posts, etc.) to their pages give visitors a reason to return, and perhaps click through to firm websites.

Company pages can also be used for discussions. “There’s no official mechanism to this,” says Stuart Rudner. “All you do is post updates on your LinkedIn firm page during a preset time to address a certain topic. People post questions in the comments and we respond with our answers in the comments.”

Aside from the educational (goodwill) and promotional benefits, these Q & A sessions may improve the SEO of the company page for employment law boutique Rudner MacDonald, since the questions and answers that end up in the discussion contain keywords that people would use when searching for employment lawyers.

A daily LinkedIn routine

To keep social media efforts from encroaching on billable hours, Schilder recommends lawyers spend 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn to do each of the following: comment on a few posts, make one or two new connections and post one interesting thing that has crossed their desks.

“You contribute to get the ball rolling,” she explains.

Rudner’s routine includes the LinkedIn Connected smartphone app, one of several published to help members use the network. “I check it just about every morning to see who’s done what,” he says. “It’s so easy to send a note to people to congratulate them on a new job or wish them a happy birthday.”

This article was originally published in Lawyers Weekly Magazine. To view a PDF of the print version, click here.