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An Expert's Take On How Lawyers Can Make The Most of LinkedIn

Originally posted by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Career de novo

Mark C.D. Newall has the better part of three decades’ experience helping lawyers develop their careers, and LinkedIn is one tool he considers indispensable in the process.

Mark Newall, a partner at Essex Partners and principal at Keystone Partners Legal, says the social networking site has become “much more than a professional job-seeking tool” and is an integral part of modern career building.

He explains how LinkedIn has become so vital, why users shouldn’t get complacent about their online networks, and the ethical concerns lawyers should always bear in mind as they interact on social media.

Q. Big-picture, what professional goals can I accomplish as a lawyer by using LinkedIn?

A. First of all, using LinkedIn demonstrates that an attorney is tech savvy. It also presents you in a professional and informational manner. And of course, it’ll help you to be connected to those in the business community who are important to you, from colleagues to clients, prospective clients and any others who will benefit your work or practice.

Q. Is having a LinkedIn profile basically mandatory these days? Will hiring managers look me up and be puzzled if they don’t find me?

A. These days, not being on LinkedIn is a red flag to many people. Not only hiring managers will be puzzled, but clients will be as well — and other professionals that are gauging your professionalism.

Q. What are the keys to a well-built profile? Is having a picture an absolute must?

A. The keys include a professional looking picture, and an informational headline that not only gives your title but also provides your areas of expertise or specialties, a summary section that pulls together your core competencies, as well as your professional and educational experience.

Q. What’s the biggest thing you wish you’d known when you first started using the platform?

A. Early on, I thought simply having a solid profile in place was enough. Later on, I realized that you have to be active, not passive, on LinkedIn. This makes a big difference both in how the site ranks your profile (i.e. all-star, etc.) and in how you’re noticed by others. Activity makes a big positive difference.

Q. Is it really the best online resource to use as a job seeker? What if I’m already in a job, but I want to monitor what’s out there?

A. It is a great tool for people seeking their next professional opportunity, however, beyond that, it’s an amazing way to stay connected with people from your background, get connected to those who can help you advance in your career, and learn a lot about professionals in your areas of interest and how they succeed in the business world. LinkedIn has grown into much more than a professional job-seeking tool.

Q. I have an OK network of people. Is it really worth trying to grow it more, or are there diminishing returns?

A. The more quality connections you make, the more potential there is for your network to grow exponentially. You not only have access to the people you’re connected to, but also access to their connections and then the next tier of connections. Keeping your online network growing is imperative to having access to new people, companies, jobs and more.

Q. Is it more important to maintain a broad group of connections, or to interact with particularly promising connections more often?

A. Finding success requires both having more than 500 connections and ensuring that those connections are quality connections. Most people maintain that they will only accept a LinkedIn connection from somebody they know. However, I suggest that you look at the request in your inbox, see if that person is connected to people you know and trust, determine if they would be a benefit to your network, and then consider accepting what could be a quality connection.

Q. Once I’ve grown a big network, will I be overwhelmed with notifications? Is there a way to control that without shutting myself out too much?

A. Absolutely. LinkedIn has created great measures to ensure that you won’t be overwhelmed with notifications. In the privacy section of your settings, there are ample opportunities to make adjustments to what people see, what other people have access to, and how many notifications you’ll receive.

Q. OK, I’m getting serious about the site and I want to make the most of it. Do I need to upgrade to premium, or is the free version enough?

A. While the free version has been sufficiently powerful for a number of years, in recent months, LinkedIn has changed what’s available to a member of a free account, and some useful features are now only available in a premium account. I recommend to each of my clients that they pay the monthly subscription for a premium account, as the benefits are well worth the nominal monthly fee. If down the road, their needs change, then they can go back to the free version.

Q. As an attorney, what professional ethics rules apply to me as I use LinkedIn?

A. Professional ethics rules apply to the use of social media tools like LinkedIn just as they do to other online activities by attorneys. Lawyers have been the subject of disciplinary review for improperly criticizing judges, divulging confidential information, publicizing cases, and so on, online. All attorneys using the site should feel free to include basic information such as a photo, educational background, honors and awards with a degree, the firm name and practice descriptions. However, attorneys should be careful to adhere to rules that prohibit divulging confidential information.

Q&A The Scoop, with Mark C.D. Newall

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