Before starting, a few preliminary points:-
- We are not concerned here with the technological aspects of LinkedIn, including such matters as privacy settings or different levels of membership. It is well worth making sure you are familiar with these, including via LinkedIn’s own training materials.
- As an in-house lawyer, it is worth checking your organisation’s social media policy regarding membership and activity.
- As a lawyer, you will be expected to adhere to certain professional standards regarding how you use social media platforms. See, for example, Law Society guidance for solicitors on Social Media and Protecting Your Reputation Online.
How your LinkedIn profile is not the same as a CV
While it pays to keep your CV up to date as you gain experience and learn skills during your career, its use is usually limited to when we are applying for a new position, whether that’s as part of a job change or where we are seeking another position such as a voluntary role. The purpose of a CV is to get you to interview for the job or position you want.
A LinkedIn profile has a wider purpose. For in-house lawyers the main reasons for having a profile are likely to include: -
- To build and develop new professional relationships
- To raise your profile in your organisation, sector, or profession
- To help you seek out new career opportunities.
The advantage to you in using LinkedIn is that it is a professional platform with (according to LinkedIn) around 720 million users worldwide in more than 200 countries and territories. It therefore enables you to reach a much wider audience than you would be able to do by more conventional methods.
What makes a good LinkedIn profile?
Your profile gives you the opportunity to highlight your skills and experience. It is your professional representation online. If you are seeking a new position it is now commonplace for recruiters to look at your LinkedIn profile, in addition to considering your CV and any application documentation.
Here are some suggestions on how to present yourself well in your profile: -
1. Use a professional photo
It’s good to use a photo as part of your profile page but make sure it shows you in the best light. According to LinkedIn themselves, having a photo significantly increases the views that your profile will receive. Your photo should be high quality (consider using a professional photographer) and project you as you want to be seen by others. Although you may not want to appear as too ‘buttoned down’, using a shot of you on the ski slopes or hosting a BBQ is unlikely to set the right tone either. You can also personalise the background to your photo.
2. Write a headline that attracts recruiters and others
Your headline is how you describe yourself. It will be pre-populated based in your career experience but you can edit it to better describe yourself. You may be happy to go with a job description or title – Senior In-House Lawyer at X or Deputy Legal Director at X, for example. But you can also identify particular skills or expertise here, perhaps also referencing a business sector. For example, ‘Senior lawyer, Oil & Gas EMEA, Business Ethics and Management, London.
3. Write an interesting summary
The About section of your profile allows you to describe yourself in more detail. This is your opportunity to sum up your key skills, experience and motivations. Write in the first person. You can be a little more conversational than you might be in your personal statement in a CV, for example. It allows you to say what kind of lawyer you are; the type of clients you help; your industry specialisations; and the value you deliver to clients.
4. Detail your career experience
Remember that LinkedIn is an open platform so be conscious of your professional responsibilities and any commercial confidentialities in setting out information relevant to your career experience. Subject to this, this section is the equivalent of your career summary in your CV. You’ll normally list your career positions (latest first), with details of employers, dates, roles and what you did. Just like in your CV, you don’t need to go into too much detail about every role you ever performed. Rather, focus on your key responsibilities and, particularly, what you did and your achievements, including wider business initiatives you may have been involved in. Avoid unfamiliar acronyms and management-speak and using too many flowery adjectives.
5. Volunteer experience
Don’t forget to also list your volunteer experience where this showcases relevant skills that you have developed outside the workplace. For example, if you have board experience as a trustee or non-executive director; you have coaching experience; pro bono work etc.
6. Skills, Endorsements and Recommendations
Endorsements for particular skills have limited benefit, particularly if you’re in the market for a new position. Of course, everyone likes to be recognised for a skill but a recommendation does not necessarily indicate a close working relationship. Recommendations are a bit different in that this is a personal statement recognising your value and contribution in a particular context. This section may have limited value for in-house lawyers while working for an organisation, with recommendations from business colleagues being reserved for when the lawyer moves to a new organisation, for example.
7. Publications and media
If you have published books, articles or blogs, you can provide links to them from your profile. This is a good way to raise your profile as a thought leader in your field. Similarly, commenting on interesting posts from your connections and others can be a useful way to gain a reputation as someone active in your field.
8. Connections and networks
One of the attractions of LinkedIn is that it provides an easy way to build a network. Who you connect with is clearly a personal choice but many will use it to make connections with others in their profession, industry and organisation. As with any network, the key is the extent to which you cultivate these relationships. It’s not difficult to build a large network of connections with whom you have little interaction. At the same time, LinkedIn allows you to reach out to new people such as those in your profession or industry that you respect. You know that your network can be an important way of learning about new jobs and positions, or passing these on to others. Your LinkedIn network provides you with the opportunity to widen your network but building strong relationships requires more effort.
9. Groups and influencers
There are many groups you can join through the LinkedIn platform and organisations and influencers you can follow. Groups provide another opportunity to engage with others in your area of expertise and to enhance your network. To make the most of a group you will need to be reasonably active on it by commenting and posting.
10. Job Search
If you are actively looking for a career move, the LinkedIn platform can help. First, because many jobs will be advertised on the platform. Second, recruiters can find you through the search facilities. For this reason, keywords are important as the search will focus on job titles, your location and key skills. It is possible to search for prominent keywords but you can look at the wordings of posted job adverts to see what is typically required. Particularly in your profile summary, emphasise the skills and experience required in the type of role you are pursuing. For example, a senior in-house role is likely to require management experience, demonstrable leadership qualities, negotiation and experience in particular areas of legal practice, such as corporate, contract management, and mergers and acquisitions (these will vary depending on the role and organisation). Remember also that your employer can view your profile and potentially changes to it (which may indicate that you are looking for a new role)!
LinkedIn provides a useful platform for in-house lawyers to make connections and enhance their network, raise their profile and be seen as a thought leader in their sector and search for, and attract, new career opportunities. In relation to job search, LinkedIn can be a valuable means of learning about new opportunities, including through your online network. Of course, always make sure that what you say is accurate and verifiable and respects professional and business standards and confidentialities. But used well and professionally, it is a great tool for you to build your network and (if you want to) increase your profile.