Originally posted in The National Law Journal on June 10, 2013
Here is a letter I received from Ellis Mirsky, executive director of the Network of Trial Law Firms:
“Is there a way to turn off or reject endorsements on LinkedIn? I find that people (many, almost daily) are endorsing me for skills I don’t have. I’d like to shut that down. People are using it to generate reciprocal endorsements, which I refuse to do. Endorsements on LinkedIn are becoming popularity contests. How many can one run up? He has more than she, etc. And they’re meaningless. Anyone can endorse anyone else for anything, without any check on the system. I’d like to see it eliminated.”
It’s a great question, and one that I’m hearing a lot. For almost a year, LinkedIn has been prompting every one of your connections to endorse you for your expertise, even if the endorser doesn’t really know you and is just going by stuff on your LinkedIn profile. These seem meaningless at best and unethical at worst, as Robert Ambrogi has explained on his LawSites. For practical purposes, it’s a snap to remove endorsements that you don’t want. Simply log in to LinkedIn, click on “Profile” and then “Edit Profile.” Scroll down to the endorsements section and “x” out any you don’t want. For strategic purposes, I recommend that you eliminate endorsements that don’t brand you in a specific way. If your specialty is employment law, it won’t really help to accept endorsements for immigration or personal injury.
Another question I often hear: “When someone endorses me, should I reciprocate and endorse them back?” Of course not — at least, not necessarily. If someone endorses you, you are under no obligation to endorse him in return, especially if you know nothing about his skills. This sort of endorsement is completely worthless and in some cases maybe even unethical.
If a client endorses you, and you can do so honestly, by all means endorse her for particular skills. You might even want to seek out clients you’ve fallen out of touch with and endorse them — it’s just another way to stay top-of-mind with your most valued clients.
But it’s not clear potential clients place much stock in these endorsements in any event — even the experts disagree. Consider an exchange that transpired during a panel discussion in Boston:
“The big problem with endorsements is that they assume the person making the endorsement knows anything about that person’s skills,” Darryl Cross, who leads sales teams at Lexis Nexis Group, said. Sitting right next to him, David Ackert of business-development consultancy Practice Boomers begged to differ: “Darryl doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
And that is exactly the problem.
LinkedIn endorsements can be absolutely worthless, but they don’t have to be. Endorse people whom you know are great at what they do. Accept only endorsements that really make sense for your business goals. That may give your endorsements just a little more credibility.