LinkedIn for Lawyers: 10 Steps to Business Development Success

According to the 2016 ABA Legal Technology Survey report, more than 93% of lawyers surveyed now use LinkedIn, with large firm attorneys using it the most. There’s a good reason for this—LinkedIn has almost 600 million members and is easily the most “target rich” social media platform for a lawyer with a business-oriented practice. LinkedIn is a professional network, which means that people are spending time there for the purpose of doing business. There is no doubt that LinkedIn is the best place online for lawyers looking to grow their networks and their practices.

The problem, however, is that too many lawyers use LinkedIn as a place to connect and scroll through other people’s posts, rather than as a tool to aid in business development. LinkedIn has everything a lawyer might need to establish relationships that lead to new business. It’s just a matter of leveraging the tools to best effect.

Here’s how to achieve success on LinkedIn as a lawyer.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 1: Pick a Niche. As I’ve written about before, if you want to build a profitable book of business, it’s important to have a niche legal practice. Having a niche allows you to communicate your value proposition to a distinct and highly targeted market. Your message can be more relevant and contextualized to your audience, and penetrate the conversation going on in the industry you’re focused on. You can become an insider who’s trusted, not an outsider who’s viewed with a skeptical eye. The same holds true if you want to have success as a lawyer on LinkedIn. You can make connections with anyone. But you should be connecting with members of your target market. Having a niche focus should inform everything you do on LinkedIn (as explained below), from how you craft your profile to what content you create and share.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 2: Craft Your Profile. The point of spending time on LinkedIn is to make connections with those in your niche market, create awareness of your personal brand, and to position yourself as a thought leader and expert. The connections you make and the content you share on LinkedIn should serve as digital breadcrumb trails back to your profile. The problem is that most lawyer’s LinkedIn profiles read like online resumes which focus on education and practice area descriptions. Instead, write a profile that focuses on how you help your specific, targeted audience, consisting of potential clients and referral sources within your niche, to achieve their goals and solve their problems. Your profile should make it clear who you are, what you do, and the unique value and benefit you can provide to members of your specific market niche. Speak the language of your audience, not the language of a lawyer, in your profile.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 3: Build Your Network. Once you’ve optimized your profile, find members of your target audience and invite them to connect. LinkedIn is a big, powerful search engine for finding your ideal audience. You can use LinkedIn’s Search function to search for people and filter results by factors including job title, geographic location, industry type, company name, and school, among other things. If you know with great specificity who you serve, then the job of finding people with whom to connect using LinkedIn’s tools becomes much easier and more effective. 

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 4: Join Groups. In addition to making personal connections, find LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your niche and join them. There are thousands of groups that focus on almost every industry niche imaginable. They consist of people with shared interests, including, hopefully, the type of valuable content that you will be producing and sharing. By enabling groups of like minded people with similar interests to form communities, LinkedIn does the hard work for you. You just need to cast your line into a pond already stocked with fish.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 5: Share Content You’ve Published Elsewhere. There are several ways to share your content with your LinkedIn network. If the content is published on another platform, such as your firm’s blog or a third party website, then write a short summary and share the article URL using the “LinkedIn Status Update” in your LinkedIn Profile. If someone from your network “likes” or comments on your update, then it will be shared with their network. The more likes you earn, the more broadly your content will be spread. You can also share your content directly to the groups you are a member of. 

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 6: Publish Directly on LinkedIn. In addition to sharing content you publish elsewhere through status updates, you can publish content directly on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. All LinkedIn members have access to the platform, so it provides a great opportunity to expand your reach beyond your immediate network.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 7: Share Other People’s Valuable Content. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t only be sharing your own original content on LinkedIn. Add value to your network, and develop relationships with influencers within your niche, by sharing other people’s valuable content as well. This is an easy “small win” that takes little effort but pays big dividends.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 8: Use LinkedIn Video. When social media platforms roll out new features, they make a big effort to get users to adopt and start using them. Once the feature becomes popular, the platform starts to dial back distribution on the feature, and typically begins charging users to reach a wider audience. For example, for several years after Facebook rolled out “Fan” pages (the pages maintained by businesses and organizations), a post published by the Fan page administrator would be pushed out to the feeds of 100% of users who previously “liked” the page. Now only about 15% of users see such content. If a Fan page administrator wants to reach more people, it must “Boost” a post (i.e., pay Facebook an advertising fee).

In 2018, look for opportunities to play “social arbitrage” by pushing out your content via new social media platform features that allow you to widely distribute content for little or no expense. The best opportunity for attorney personal brand building on social media in 2018 is LinkedIn video. LinkedIn video was made available to most users in August 2017, and LinkedIn is making a hard push into the video space; you may have noticed that more and more video is being posted on your LinkedIn feed. Therefore, if you make and post video content (for example a webinar or a short “how to” tutorial) on LinkedIn, it’s likely to be widely distributed and viewed.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 9: Engage in Dialogue Online. Now we get to the heart of the matter: business development. All the work you do on LinkedIn to carve a niche, create and share content, and create awareness your personal brand, is building toward opportunities to generate business. Like most other social media platforms, LinkedIn offers users the opportunity to interact directly with contacts through its Messaging service. Lawyers who pay for a Premium plan can message those outside of their networks as well. 

Begin reaching out to members of your network directly, but do so in a way that serves their interests (and yours as well, but in an indirect way). One way to do this is to offer your connections a valuable resource that’s relevant to their business. Because your connections are members of a niche audience, it should be easy to create something that is highly relevant to them. Make the resource available for download on your website or blog in return for a user’s email address. Send messages via LinkedIn introducing yourself, and include a link to your free resource. The goal is to get your connections to visit your site so you can build a targeted email list that consists of people in your target market. This will allow you to have a more direct (and scalable) conversation that continues to showcase your expertise in their inboxes over time. (Learn more about lead generators and email strategy here.)

Some of your connections will ignore your messages. Such is life (and business development). Others will download your resource and you won’t hear anything further from them on LinkedIn. If this is the case, it’s still a win. The time or circumstances just may not have been right at the moment, but since you now have their email address, you’re in a position to continue the conversation. Others will message you back. When this happens it’s time to try to take the conversation offline.

LinkedIn for Lawyers Step 10: Take Conversations Offline. Digital platforms like LinkedIn are great for prospecting and establishing relationships, but as we all know business development for legal services is still an intensely personal endeavor. Opportunities are created online, but business is closed offline. When a potential client or referral source requests to connect with you on LinkedIn, if you notice someone frequently liking or commenting on your updates, or if someone engages with you on LinkedIn messaging, tactfully suggest continuing the conversation offline. Just as you would in any networking setting, suggest an introductory phone call, coffee meeting, or other meet-up outside of LinkedIn. Strike while the iron is hot.

Once You’ve Taken These Steps,
Here’s What Will Happen Next

If you’re actively engaged as a lawyer on LinkedIn by making connections, sharing valuable content, and communicating with members of your network, good things will start happening. People will start connecting with you and reaching out to you directly. They will notice that you’re a thought leader in their space worth listening to. You’ll have more success when you seek to connect and communicate with others as well. Because you’re focused on a niche, they’ll view your overtures with an open mind, rather than skepticism. Reporters who cover your niche will reach out to you as a subject matter expert, because it will be clear that you know what you’re talking about, and speak the language of their audience. Your personal brand will become more powerful. New business opportunities will arise. 

LinkedIn is a powerful tool. But like any tool it’s only useful if in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. Follow these 10 steps on LinkedIn, and you’ll become a craftsman who not only has powerful tools at your disposal, but knows what to do with them as well.

Looking to make a bigger impact on LinkedIn? As part of my coaching program, I work with lawyers one-on-one to help them leverage the power of LinkedIn as part of a broader business development and personal branding strategy. I also work with law firms to implement training programs and workshops that help groups of lawyers, from associates to partners, create more opportunities on LinkedIn.


If you’re interested in creating more personal brand awareness, growing your network, generating leads, and turning leads into new business using LinkedIn, contact me at 313.432.0287 or to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to craft a coaching or training program for your or your firm's needs. Also, please check out my new book, The Essential Associate, which is now available for purchase.

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