We conducted an informal survey here at FindLaw's Secret Volcano Headquarters, and for the life of us, we can't figure out what LinkedIn is supposed to be. Ten years after it launched, we know we're members of LinkedIn, but why are we there?
All of us get requests to add co-workers and friends of co-workers, and to even endorse people for skills that we may or may not know they have (you know you've done it). So what are lawyers supposed to be doing with LinkedIn, anyway? After puzzling over it for a bit, we came up with some ideas.
Clearly, this is one of the big features of LinkedIn. It's a social network, but one that's geared toward people meeting other people in business. Generally, if you're introduced to another person on LinkedIn and want to keep talking, the conversation continues "offline" -- either through email or in real life. This is the Web 2.0 equivalent of going to all those bar association social events; rather than sip watered-down cocktails and exchange business cards, you can enter people directly into a virtual Rolodex.
Updating Your Profile
LinkedIn is different things for different people. For the currently employed, it's a way to get noticed and possibly jump ship or get recruited by networking with others ("I'm friends with a guy who's friends with a guy..."). This can only happen with a good profile. A LinkedIn profile is a glorified resume, but one that's up all the time and available for anyone to see. Keep it up to date!
You're a member of ten zillion LinkedIn groups; so what? All that means is you get a zillion emails when someone posts a news article. Instead of joining every group, be selective. "Important" groups would be people in your practice area, and even people in your state in your practice area. These groups can provide valuable support for tough issues in your own field or for when you need to refer a client to a different attorney. (This is especially helpful for solos, who need all the support they can get.)
Ignoring LinkedIn Power Users
Develop your brand! Attract new clients! Blog! No, LinkedIn isn't the place for that. Why? Because no one goes to a LinkedIn page to read the user's blog; they go there to check out the person's resume. You're not likely to attract new clients, either, unless they become your friends. (The non-friend, public-facing side of your profile basically shows your resume. So why would you accept a friend request from a non-lawyer stranger?) And you'd be better served spending time developing your "brand" on your website, where you have control over all the design elements.
So how can lawyers think about LinkedIn? It's not really a destination; it's more like a road that facilitates getting you somewhere else. There are a bevy of ways to get you there, but don't forget that your LinkedIn profile should be subordinate to the substance of where you want people to go afterward.