Kevin posted a few days ago about why it’s a no-brainer for law students to be on LinkedIn. But as Northeastern University law student and social networking consultant Leora Maccabee can attest, convincing law students of the value of social networking tools for career purposes can be an uphill battle.
"I think some law students just have no idea what it is and what the value of LinkedIn is," Leora says. "These are the students who ask me, ‘well, why SHOULD I use it.’ These students should be the primary targets of career services offices at law schools, since the students would get on and start using the site if someone just nudged them in that direction."
Leora is doing her part to demonstrate how useful social networking tools can be for law students. She started an independent social networking consulting business after listening to lawyers at Northeastern Law’s Women in the Law Conference describe how they found sites like LinkedIn and Facebook confusing and hard to use. Now she blogs and Twitters (@LeoraMaccabee) about the value of social networking, like in this post on Lawyerist on How Law Students Should Use LinkedIn.
At Northeastern, she has worked with school administrators in various offices to create a law school presense on Facebook and LinkedIn. The group pages were created and populated with news, and alumi and students were encouraged to join the groups and create their own pages.
"We have tried to explain that this is just another tool to identify people they may want to connect with and it is another marketing tool for themselves (a way for them to control the way they present themselves online, if they are googled, etc.)," says Randi Friedman, Northeastern’s Assistant Dean/Director of Career Services.
But it can still be difficult for law students to see how helpful social networking can be. A recent training session Leora hosted on using LinkedIn drew only a dozen students, instead of the 30 or 40 she had hoped. In her informal chats with her fellow students, some common concerns about social networking emerged.
- Privacy concerns. Students are worried about friends or strangers on Google knowing where they work or attend school.
- Online networking is a "cop-out" and inferior to face-to-face interaction.
- Time consuming. Especially if an employer does not want their employees to be on Facebook and LinkedIn at work, these activities would take up non-work time.
- LinkedIn is "just one more thing to update."
- One 3L told her, "When a partner at a firm makes me have one, I’ll set it up."
Another hurdle for law students, particularly those in their 20s, is that they are so used to using sites like Facebook and Twitter purely for personal or social use that it can be hard to see using them for professional purposes.
Still, that’s not to say that law schools and law students are not making use of LinkedIn. Leora notes that alumni groups are flourishing: searches for "law school" and "School of Law" return close to 250 groups.
And she has several strong arguments and examples at the ready to convince students of its value:
- The high Google page rank of LinkedIn, which can be a good way to influence what people see when they search for you online
- The ability to develop and market your brand
- The ability to maintain relationships with classmates and colleagues
- The ability to seek advice from experts in your field
- The ability to find a job and find who that you know is connected to that job
Those who see the value are responding to her advice.
"A 3L friend of mine in law school (who did not yet have a LinkedIn page) was trying to find people working at a certain place of employment in New York in connection with a post-graduate employment job application she was about to send them," Leora says. "I went to my LinkedIn page, typed in the employer and learned that another student at our law school had interned at the place of employment a few years ago. Turns out that my friend and this other student were friends, but since they had never really spoken about the job search, or about past employment, they had yet to make the connection. My friend left that conversation determined to set up a LinkedIn account."