LinkedIn is the largest online professional network and the social media platform lawyers are most likely to engage in. But many lawyers are not using LinkedIn effectively, and they’re missing opportunities as a result. Here are five of the top mistakes lawyers make on their LinkedIn Profiles.
1. Missing, distracting or unprofessional photo
LinkedIn is a business network, not a social network, so no selfies or photos with pets, please! Truthfully, I haven’t seen any lawyers who have posted Profile pictures with their pets, but I have seen photos that are obviously selfies (even if they tried to look professional), photos that are taken too far away and photos with distracting backgrounds. You may like the photo of you in front of your office window or your library of (obsolete) law books, but you’re much better off with a plain background for your LinkedIn Profile photo. Crop the photo so that it shows your head and shoulders only to get maximum exposure for your face – many interactions on LinkedIn use thumbnail photos which can make it difficult to tell who is in the photo if it isn’t cropped correctly.
Most disturbing are the lawyer Profiles with no photo at all. Humans relate to human faces, and many people remember faces much more easily than they remember names. Your photo is important for purposes of recognition, but also to ensure that you don’t miss out on connections.
2. Incomplete or inconsistent Profile
You’ve chosen to complete a Profile on LinkedIn because it’s a place where many business people search for and interact with other business people; you believe that your LinkedIn Profile will bring you additional exposure and help you to expand your network. You want to make business connections, whether for the purpose of getting a job, developing strategic relationships, gaining media attention, attracting business opportunities or demonstrating your expertise to potential and existing clients.
Given all of the above, it stands to reason that you also want to make a good impression, to put your best foot forward, and to provide those potential business connections with the best quality information about you. But then why would you put up a Profile with incomplete information? Often when I’m reviewing a lawyer’s LinkedIn Profile, it seems as if the attorney simply gave up or couldn’t be bothered entering the information that many business contacts would like to see – or that would make their Profile more searchable and more visible on LinkedIn.
Include descriptions of prior work experience – don’t just list employers and positions. Think about the keywords your potential clients or referral sources might use to search for lawyers like you and incorporate those terms into your Profile.
Don’t skip the summary. The summary portion of your LinkedIn Profile is akin to the cover letter to your resume (even if you’re not looking for a job). The rest of your LinkedIn Profile is divided into categories: work experience, volunteer or other organizational work, etc. The summary is your opportunity to synthesize all of your experience and explain how it informs what you do now and who you do it for. It’s an opportunity to describe your clients and their issues and to let them know how you can help them.
Remember to proofread; lawyers take care in how they present themselves to clients or in court, but don’t always take the same care when presenting themselves online. Spelling and typographical errors are inexcusable. Headlines and names of positions should be capitalized. Proper grammar and punctuation are a must.
3. Lackluster professional headline
Your professional headline is a one-line description that appears directly under your name on your Profile – and also in search results and Group discussions. It should be a differentiator that helps you to stand out in search results and it should be descriptive so that when people see your professional headline they immediately know what you do. When people read your professional headline on LinkedIn, it should entice them to want to read your full Profile.
Many lawyers make the mistake of simply using their title (Associate, Partner, etc.) as their LinkedIn professional headline. But these titles do not even identify you as a lawyer, and they may prevent you from appearing in search results when LinkedIn users are searching for attorneys. Include your practice areas or the types of work you do for clients. Consider including the name of your firm as well – it won’t always be obvious to LinkedIn users if they’re not looking at your full Profile when they encounter your name.
4. Ethics blunders
Lawyer advertising and legal ethics rules apply to online activities just as they do to offline activities. Lawyers need to be mindful of the ethical rules that apply and to ensure they are in compliance. Ignorance is no excuse. Many attorneys run afoul of legal ethics rules because they forget to apply them to their LinkedIn Profile and presence; they use words in their LinkedIn Profiles that they would not use in other marketing materials, fail to provide required disclaimers, don’t manage their endorsements and recommendations properly, or don’t include basic information that the ethics rules require. For example, many New York lawyers with LinkedIn Profiles have not removed the “Specialties” section at the bottom of their Profile, which was deemed to violate the ethics rules by the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics in August of 2013.
5. Outdated Profile
Your Profile may have been complete when you first posted it, but is it complete now? Is the photograph updated and recognizable? Too often, lawyers forget to update their LinkedIn Profile when important changes occur. If you’ve updated your law firm bio recently, begun working in a new practice area, published an article, received an award, accepted a committee, board or other leadership position but haven’t updated your LinkedIn Profile, now is the time to do it. Not only will a more updated Profile better reflect your knowledge and experience, but you may be surprised at all of the new features and sections that LinkedIn has added to help make your Profile stand out and to showcase your skills. As an added bonus, those updates often bring additional traffic to your Profile.
As your career changes, your LinkedIn Profile should change to better reflect your current experience, clients and goals. And while you’re updating, make sure you take care of any other mistakes you may be making with your Profile.
For more tips on how lawyers can use LinkedIn effectively, pick up a copy of LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers (Second Edition).