Lawyers sometimes seem to forget that LinkedIn is a site for professional networking. In case you’d forgotten, “networking” is a process of meeting new people in a business or social context. Networking requires action on your part. Just as you would mingle at a cocktail party and hope to make new contacts, you need to mingle on LinkedIn. You just do it a bit differently. Here are seven tips for getting started.
1. Fill out your profile. Make sure your profile is filled out completely, listing and describing your current and former positions and education. Include links to your professional website, your blog and your Twitter feed.
2. Connect your profile to your firm. If your law firm has a LinkedIn company page, be sure to link your individual profile to your company page. This helps build connections among both your colleagues at the firm and visitors to its LinkedIn page. To do this, as you edit your profile and begin to type your firm name, you should see a drop-down menu with your firm’s name. Simply select it. (If your firm does not already have a company page, you won’t see it here.)
3. Import your contacts. LinkedIn lets you upload your contacts and see which of them are on LinkedIn. That lets you connect on LinkedIn with the people who are already in your professional network. You can upload from desktop applications such as Outlook, ACT! Or Mac Address, and from webmail applications such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo!.
4. Connect with colleagues and classmates. When logged in to LinkedIn, select “Contacts > Add Connections” from the top menu. From there, click on the “Colleagues” tab to find people you’ve worked with who are on LinkedIn. Click the “Alumni” tab to find classmates from law school or college. While you’re there, click the “People You May Know” tab to see LinkedIn’s suggestions of people you may know (based on your work history and interests).
5. Search and join groups. LinkedIn Groups help you find and network with people who share common interests. Search groups for ones that relate to your areas of practice or geographic location. At a minimum, you should join your law school alumni group. Look also for non-legal groups that focus on businesses and industries related to your practice areas.
6. Post questions and answers. The Answers section of LinkedIn lets users ask and answer questions about virtually anything. You can search the questions people have asked by keywords and categories. By answering questions, you can build goodwill – and maybe new connections – while also demonstrating your knowledge. If you are wary of posting answers to legal questions online, consider posting a question. If you phrase it intelligently and articulately, even a question can position you as knowledgeable in your field.
7. Troll your connections. One way to identify people you should be connected to is to see who your connections are connected to that you aren’t. This is especially true for your connections who practice the same type of law as you or in the same city as you. Pick a connection of yours and explore that connection’s network.
While you’re at it, feel free to connect with me: http://www.linkedin.com/in/robertambrogi.