LinkedIn as a Business Development Tool for Lawyers? Here Are Five Ways to Get Started

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People don’t hire connections when they need a lawyer. Instead, they look to relationships, to people they know and trust...

If you’re like many lawyers, you’re on LinkedIn. You’ve got a profile, and you use the platform to push out blog posts, articles, and news about your firm. Maybe you have a few hundred connections, maybe a few thousand. Maybe you’ve developed some new relationships on the network. Maybe – if you’re one of the lucky few – you’ve landed work that traces back to your presence and activity. 

But if you’re like most lawyers, you might still wonder how to transform LinkedIn into a business development tool. How to generate meaningful opportunities that will increase your chances of additional representations. How to build value from participation in the world’s largest online professional network? Here are five ways to get started:

1. Plan your route.

Much as a GPS directs you through an unfamiliar city, a written plan will guide you to meaningful results from your new approach to LinkedIn.

Identifying what you hope to achieve and how you intend to do it will ensure that you’re strategic about the time you devote to the network, that your effort is focused on activities and people most likely to lead to success. Your plan doesn’t need to be complicated, reviewed by a committee, or account for every possible contingency that could arise.

...all you really need are some realistic objectives

In fact, all you really need are some realistic objectives, a list of action items, some notion of what it looks like when you’ve achieved your goals, like “generate two new opportunities in the next 12 months” and “make 10 new connections in the utilities industry” and “spend 30 minutes a day identifying and sharing small business news.” 

2. Become a resource 

LinkedIn is a great tool for sharing information with the people you know. Whether you post your own work, articles and blog posts written by others, or news and developments relevant to your clients and potential clients, a well-curated LinkedIn feed is a source of knowledge for those you are trying to reach, positioning you as a thought leader while providing real value to your contacts.

...a well-curated LinkedIn feed is a source of knowledge for those you are trying to reach

What’s more, regular posts of relevant information keeps you top-of-mind with your connections and, due to the way LinkedIn’s algorithms work, ensures more of them see the items in your feed.

3. Analyze the data 

Thanks to LinkedIn’s built-in analytics reports, you can see who’s reading your posts, who’s sharing them, who’s finding value in that which you put online. That’s extremely useful: getting insight and real-time feedback on the topics that are most important to the people you’re trying to reach is critical to knowing whether or not your posts are resonating with that audience. LinkedIn makes that easy to do, and you should study the data regularly to ensure that you’re connecting with the people who matter most to your success. 

4. Establish meaningful connections 

There are more than 500 million users already on LinkedIn. That means that most of your existing clients are already there, that most of the people you know professionally are already there, and that most of the people who are going to give you work in the future are already on LinkedIn too. But you’re never going to meet them if you don’t actively go out and find them. So make it a habit to spend time actively cultivating your network, looking for people you’d like to know, sending connection requests, and following up with those who have reached out to you. Isn’t that how you develop a useful network in the real world? 

5. Turn contacts into relationships

People don’t hire connections when they need a lawyer. Instead, they look to relationships, to people they know and trust. Accordingly, you’ll be most successful at generating business opportunities from LinkedIn when you treat your connections as potential relationships.

Put another way: It’s great to have 1,000 connections on LinkedIn, but it’s even better to have 20 meaningful relationships with people who know you, who appreciate your personality, your work, your experience. People who will recommend you and send opportunities your way. And, if you’re lucky, people who will hire you. 

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[Lance Godard has spent three decades within the legal profession, in-house and as a consultant, helping lawyers and practice groups grow their book of business. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow his new work on JD Supra.]

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