LinkedIn: Now what’s this all about?

In a new world filled with “friending” and “following” and such, we— especially those lawyers long in the tooth like me—must deal with and become familiar with these newfangled communication methods. We’ve previously written in these pages about “blogs” and “QR Codes,” so now here’s another important “networking” responsibility all of us have to get to know, like it or not. It is a good idea to learn how to use LinkedIn, but vitally important to know what it is. Involving virtually millions around the world, it is one place on the internet that allows professionals to connect, network, share their experiences, and provide opportunities in their businesses worldwide. This “LinkedIn” thing is the internet’s largest professional network, with over 200 million members all over the world. This professional internet site allows its users to join a global network of professionals and provides an opportunity to meet other professionals and connect with businesses. LinkedIn does what other “social media” networks do not, and that is provide the ability to nurture professional growth and develop new successful approaches to business of all kinds, including our legal profession.

LinkedIn consists of a unique brand of users. Unlike other social media outlets, LinkedIn serves those seeking professional advancement and, to a large extent, the legal profession. Users are unemployed job seekers, small businesses, corporate businesses, schools (of all levels), CEOs, CFOs, presidents of companies, interns, lawyers, paralegals, legal service providers of all kinds, judges, administrators, and a plethora of other titles that would take pages to list. Furthermore, LinkedIn has a user age range from 18 to 55, which attests to the nature of progress and opportunity afforded by this expanding network. Certainly, in the years to come, when older lawyers like me realize we can handle LinkedIn, that age range will expand. There’s a sense that the older American population, folks like me, don’t want to deal with these new social communication vehicles, but those folks are just simply obstinate (or possibly southern Italian, like me). All users can register on the site for free, but users are given the option to upgrade for a fee that gives access to features that enhance the user’s experience and provide opportunities in posting and searching alike. LinkedIn allows users to post photos and share information in their profile; however the site emphasizes the importance of professionalism in the profile. LinkedIn allows users an opportunity to describe themselves and their business, in their own words, to provide contact information for business inquiries and links to a professional or relevant website. Users can upload their resumes and work history. Once the user has finished his or her profile, the user can then publish it to the network for other users to view. Users also have the option to “connect” with one another and this is the key benefit of LinkedIn, ultimately a social Ponzi structure. Connections may be based on a variety of details. These connections can be based on personal connections to other users, similar employment, similar duties, similar skills, etc. The idea behind connections on LinkedIn is to build a mini network within the larger LinkedIn network.

Joining LinkedIn comes with several benefits. Users may search for available career opportunities, promote their own or recommend other user’s skills, enhance business recruiting, receive job alerts, advertise, establish positive reviews, review their competitors, and utilize a plethora of other nifty tools to make their professional career more successful and less stressful. Another important benefit is that users are given the ability to see who has viewed their profile, which could lead to the creation of a new, potentially important, connection. LinkedIn offers an opportunity to its users that never existed before. Neophyte and experienced professionals alike, and even senior lawyers, now have a place to share their stories of success and lend a hand to those that may be struggling or seeking a new career path. LinkedIn is not a place for a personal story line, but rather it is a very useful tool that enhances the professional world we are all members of. LinkedIn promotes appropriate Internet content for its users, how to highlight skills and accomplishments, the importance of making connections (on the website and in the work place), and, overall, that as professionals we can all be connected, even attorneys. ■

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This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of the ISBA's Senior Lawyers newsletter.

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