Editor's note: This article first appeared, in a slightly longer format, in the Sept. 2017 issue of the NYSBA Journal.
An effective LinkedIn profile gives clients what they want to know. Here are four tips you can use to showcase the information about experience and relevant client matters that in-house counsel (and likely other potential clients and referral sources who are professionals or business people) want to see on a lawyer's LinkedIn profile.
Aim for Audience
Whether you are targeting in-house counsel, business owners, or divorced moms, your LinkedIn profile should be written in a way that will connect with that audience. Talk about the legal and business issues your clients confront, and use the words they use to describe them.
Using keywords that your audience uses will increase your visibility among your target audience and make it more likely that your profile will be returned in search results conducted by your audience.
Stay away from legalese and jargon, unless you are sure that your audience knows, understands, and uses that jargon regularly. Write as if you are speaking directly to your audience. Think more like a journalist and less like a legal brief writer; incorporate who, what, where, why, and when, particularly in your summary and experience sections of your profile. Use bullet points and lists to break up long content.
Show, don't tell. Instead of saying that you have "extensive experience" in your area of practice, that you are "a respected member of the bar," or that you are "skilled at" something, demonstrate those qualities by talking about the work that you do and the clients that you represent.
a Punch with Professional Headline
Your professional headline is the line that appears under your name on LinkedIn. When users first encounter you on LinkedIn, they may not be looking at your profile; they may see you as a suggestion in People You May Know on their network page, in search results, in a list of connections, or in a LinkedIn group. In many of those cases, all they will see is your photo, name, and your professional headline:
As a result, you want to make sure that your professional headline communicates enough information about you to convince users to click on your name and view your full profile.
The professional headline is a valuable tool to communicate your area of practice, your knowledge and experience, and to distinguish yourself from other lawyers. Don't limit your headline just to your title or even your title and firm name ("Partner at Flintstone and Rubble, P.C."); if a user is not familiar with your firm, this information may not be enough even to communicate that you are a lawyer (Flintstone and Rubble could be an accounting firm, for example).
Include your firm's name and your title, but add a description of your practice areas or clients keeping your audience in mind. Utilize the 120 characters that LinkedIn makes available.
For example, "Partner at Scooby and Shaggy, LLP, Management-side Labor and Employment Law Trial Attorney," "Elder Law and Estate Planning Associate at Seinfeld & Costanza," or "Partner, Scott, Schrute, Halpert, Beesly & Howard, PC, Risk Management and Legal Malpractice Attorney."
The summary appears at the bottom of the main info box at the top of your profile. Although many lawyers either skip over this section or give it short shrift, a good, complete profile should include a strong summary. It is a good opportunity to include keywords in your profile and to highlight your most relevant experience and client matters, whether past or current.
The summary should give a good impression of what you do now, who you do it for, and how you do it, but you should also reference any particularly pertinent prior experience and how it helped you to get where you are. Talk about your approach, the kinds of clients you have worked with, and specific cases or matters that might provide good insight for potential clients or referral sources about what you do.
For example, if Chuck Rhoads entered private practice, his summary might say something like:
I represent hedge fund managers, business owners, and financial professionals in business, securities, and financial litigation matters, including claims of securities fraud. I practice in all state courts in the New York metropolitan area, as well as the federal courts of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. In my 20 years in practice as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, I tried over 1,000 cases, including the landmark case United States v. Axe Capital. . . .
Your summary can include up to 2,000 characters, but with the new interface released in early 2017, only the first 200 characters or so will appear when users view your profile unless they click the "See more" link. As a result, those first 200 characters are extremely important; if they don't grab a visitor's attention, that visitor may never see the rest of your summary and may never scroll down to see the rest of your profile. Make sure you include the most important information and keywords in those first 200 characters.
The summary is also a good place to include information that does not fit neatly into other sections of your LinkedIn profile. For example, you may want to include the courts or jurisdictions in which you are admitted to practice, as well as volunteer or charitable work, publications, speaking engagements, or other activities that establish your industry knowledge, commitment to the community or professional excellence.
The summary is often the best place on your profile to include the "Attorney Advertising" disclaimer.
The experience section is another area of your LinkedIn profile that should (but often does not) contain more than just cursory information. You have 2,000 characters for each position. Instead of just listing the places you worked and your titles, or copying and pasting your resume or firm bio, use the available space to highlight
what clients and referral sources want to know. Include examples or case studies; list important reported decisions and/or representative clients.
You can also add media (images, documents, presentations, or video) to the summary and experience (and education, for law students or recent grads) sections of your profile. Including presentations, checklists, articles, video, etc., in your LinkedIn profile demonstrates your knowledge and experience much better than anything you say about yourself on your profile.
To add media to your profile, on the "Edit Profile" screen, click on the pencil icon in the section where you want to add media. Scroll until you see "Media," and click either the "Upload" or "Link" buttons. Uploading the media to your profile will allow readers to see that content - for example, to view the presentation or video directly within your LinkedIn profile itself.
Focusing on these four tips should provide potential clients and referral sources with the quality information they are looking for on LinkedIn. If you are a more advanced user, you can move on to adding profile sections, such as certifications, publications, projects (which can be used to showcase presentations or important decisions), honors and awards, organizations or volunteer work, incorporating skills and seeking recommendations from clients or colleagues to provide even more value to those who visit your LinkedIn profile.