Everything Lawyers and Law Students Need to Know About Using LinkedIn

We all know we should be using LinkedIn to help further our professional development and expand our networks, but many of us are unsure exactly how. That's where this post comes in. I sat down with LinkedIn guru and Intellectual Property attorney Ashli Weiss to get the low down on what lawyers and law students should be doing online. Check out her advice and start making the most of your online presence!

Ms. JD: Should everyone be on LinkedIn? 

Ashli Weiss:  My personal opinion is that law students and attorneys should be on LinkedIn.  It’s a great way to connect with your colleagues and also keep a Rolodex. If you need someone it’s always nice to have them as a connection online so if there’s a job opportunity that presents itself with a certain firm or company, you can just type in their name on LinkedIn and go from there. It’s also nice to just keep your network as open and broad as possible because the legal world is very small so we’re likely to run into one another again. 

As a law student, now is the time especially to start a LinkedIn and begin growing your network. If you start building your profile now that’s really going to come in handy a few years after law school because you’re going to have a growing network. Start early. Don’t feel self-conscious. We all started out as law students. This is a small legal world, we’re bound to run into one another. Maintain a nice cordial personality and a very strong work ethic.

Ms. JD: When should you add a connection on LinkedIn?

AW:  I like to say that your LinkedIn really complements your real world experiences, so when you go to networking events, you have a face-to-face meeting, and then typically at that point, you exchange a business card with your contact information. That’s really all you need to get started on LinkedIn, a first name, a last name, and an email.  From there what I recommend is a quick little introduction including where you met them. Connect with them either the day of or the day after, just so you stay fresh in the person's mind and they’re not trying to recollect where they met you.

Ms. JD: What will make your LinkedIn profile stand out?

AW:  A complete profile is the key to success on Linkedin. Having an image of who you are is good, especially when you’re making these connections so it's easier for people to remember meeting you.  So a photo is the first thing. Another aspect that's important is the headline. That's a quick description of who you are in about 5 or 6 words.

Another thing I like on LinkedIn is the summary. It’s typically right above your job experience. It’s a quick bio really and you can go about it a couple different ways. One way is to say your past experiences and your current work experience. Some law students might not have that much experience, so they could change it to more of an aspiration including what they want to do and what whey enjoy in school.

Then the final most important part is the resume part. You have a list of your work experience and then a brief description of that experience. It’s good for recruiters because if you have certain keywords and descriptions in there you’re going to pop up in their search results. 

Ms. JD: How far back should you go with your work history? Should law students include things they did in undergrad?

AW: I think law students should be putting it all on there, even the internships from undergrad because that’s experience. It’s important to show them that you do have that experience. The beauty of Linkedin is that you don’t have to cap it. We all feel constrained with that one page rule whenever we’re going into a job interview. But with LinkedIn, we can add as much relevant professional experiences to that profile as we want.

Ms. JD:  What about interests or volunteer work?

AW: There’s a section for volunteer experience and there’s a section for groups that you’re a member of and things that you’re interested in. There’s a lot of different aspects that go beyond your resume. It’s also a way of branding yourself. If you’re particular in a certain area of law or you have a certain passion, you can list all of those or become members of specific groups. That narrows your focus and shows you as a person.

Ms. JD: Once you've connected with someone online, how do you keep those connections alive?

AW:  One thing that is great in keeping your connections alive is sending semi-regular emails with updates in your professional career. Send a quick one or two paragraphs to connections that you really want to maintain a strong connection with and update them on your new job or internship. People like that you’ve chosen them to stay connected with because that shows that you find them as someone that is important and you want to maintain the relationship.  Another great thing to do with your connections is an informational interview. If they’re doing exactly what you want to do, send them a quick message and say you’d love an information interview, and you want to pick their brain.

Ms. JD: How do you promote your LinkedIn and get people to check it out?

AW: You can put your LinkedIn in your signature block. If someone receives your email and wants to know more about you or if they can’t remember how they know you, they can click on it.

Ms. JD: While LinkedIn is the main professional networking site, do you have any tips law students and lawyers should know about their other online presences?

AW:  Your Google reputation is very important. Google your name and see what comes up. If you find something that you don’t like, you can email the person that’s in charge of the website and ask them to remove it. Since it’s such a popular website your LinkedIn is going to be on the first page of your Google search results, which is good. You want to be able to be found. Another thing to keep in mind is that Facebook and Instagram are very popular websites so they’ll likely be on the first page of Google too. 

Facebook and Instagram are a bit more social, so it's a different type of social media and it’s not necessarily professionally geared. I recommend to just keep those social media profiles clean. One thing you can do is go from when you first started those social media accounts and just clean it up. Try and make it so your grandma would feel proud about it. You don’t have to delete these social media accounts. At the end of the day, you are a real person and hopefully your colleagues appreciate that about you.

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