Sitting back and waiting for the law school placement office to find you a job or relying on a clerking position to springboard you to a $150,000 associate job is little dicey in this economy and the age of law firm downsizing.
Fortunately, there’s a great way for law students to build out a resume and begin networking. It’s LinkedIn, the leading professional directory – for lawyers and all other professions. And rather than it being a static resume that’s impossible to distinguish from another, you get a live resume that’s updated with your career focused activity in law school.
As a hiring employer, I look at someone’s LinkedIn profile before anything else. I then run various Google searches to get a feel for a candidate’s background. Talking to other employers, I’m finding I’m pretty typical. So if you’re a law student without a complete and growing LinkedIn profile, you’re missing the boat.
How to use LinkedIn as a law student?
- Make sure your profile is 100% complete. Picture, past employment etc. LinkedIn’s dynamic user interface will guide you through the process and indicate when your profile is at 100%.
- Connect with people. Connect with law professors, law students, employers, and professionals you meet online and offline. What looks more impressive to a hiring law firm? A candidate with 6 connections at LinkedIn or a candidate with 360 connections, including lawyers, professors, and the like. Plus employers know those connections can be used by you for future networking.
- Recommendations. Little is more powerful to an employer than recommendations from people you’ve worked for or leaders who know you well. Law professors, lawyers, or even employers unrelated to the law can be asked to provide a recommendation through LinkedIn’s simple request form. Throwing ‘references by request’ or a few names at the bottom of a resume doesn’t cut it anymore. We’re too busy. Give us a recommendation from someone we can click on and ping through LinkedIn. Gold.
- Groups. Undergrad alumni groups is a no brainer. Then join groups which you have an interest in. If there are niche areas of law you’re interested in going into, join relevant groups. If there’s interests you have outside the law, join those groups. Employers want to see you’re not afraid to get out and engage with folks with similar interests. Real go getter? Start a group – professional or law school related.
- Network. Reach out and get to know lawyers and business people in areas you’d like to work. You can do it via groups or running searches by topic and locale. Ask professionals you meet questions about legal topics, about the job market, about how they got their job etc. Ask to get together for coffee. We don’t get these overtures from law students – you’ll stick out like a shining star.
- Ask and answer questions. You can do this in either the answers section or on the groups’ discussion boards. You’re not going to have the knowledge of a lawyer who’s practiced for 20 years. So what. Pitch in where you can. You’ll get seen and the answers are reflected on your profile.
- Blog feed. Consider publishing a blog focused on an area of the law you have an interest in. LinkedIn allows you to have excerpts of your blog displayed in your profile.
- Twitter feed. LinkedIn will display your Twitter feed if you like. Whether to display it depends on who much professional info you share in comparison to personal items.
I’m looking for innovate go getters. PhD’s as I call them. Folks that are poor, hungry, and driven.
I got my first job as a lawyer by knocking on law firm doors and asking to talk with the senior lawyer I looked up in Martindale-Hubbell at the public library. It was scary as all get out. Receptionists told me later they thought I was a salesperson. But telling them I’d sit and wait till the lawyer had a few minutes, and doing so even if it was a couple hours, signaled I was different than other law grads. Or maybe just nuts.
Knocking on doors is still a good idea. But if you’re not up for it, get going with LinkedIn. A completed profile that demonstrates you’re a go getter will set you apart from the laggards.
As for the placement office telling you to go slow on the use of social media? You know ‘Everything can be used against you, you’ll ruin your career.’
Tell them you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in tuition and lost income while in school. Tell them traditional methods of gaining employment don’t work as well anymore. Tell them employers are using social networking like LinkedIn in spades.
Get a move on it.