I get a lot of emails from folks who would like to add me to their professional network on LinkedIn. 90% of the time, after reviewing their background, I accept the invitation to connect. I also send out a lot of invites to connect on LinkedIn to people I meet in person and online.

So it floors me when lawyers and other professionals tell me they often decline invites to connect on LinkedIn. The reasons for declining vary.

  • I guard who gets into my LinkedIn connections. It’s a very small group of close professionals.
  • I don’t know much about LinkedIn and how it works so I just blow off the invites.
  • Privacy should be more guarded on the net. Not accepting invites on LinkedIn is one way I guard my privacy.
  • There’s so many social networking communities I can’t keep up with them all.
  • I’m overwhelmed with all this social media stuff on the Internet. I’m too busy to connect with people on LinkedIn.
  • LinkedIn is just a list of resumes. Why would I connect with people?

Wake up guys. Here’s a number of things to consider.

  • Connecting with other professionals is not a bad thing. The only thing that’ll change you from the person you are today and the person you’ll be five years from now are the people you’ll meet and the books you read. Meet and network with people.
  • Learn about LinkedIn. It’s the professional directory for the world. For lawyers — and others. No other directory comes close or is going to come close.
  • LinkedIn has over 70 million members in over 200 countries.
  • A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second.
  • Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.
  • Over 800,000 legal professionals have profiles on LinkedIn.
  • Not connecting with people who ask to connect with you on LinkedIn can be viewed as being impolite.
  • Ignorance of LinkedIn today tells people you are not looking to grow professionally by networking with peers, you’re adverse to technology, and you’re not looking to be efficient with your time (by networking through the Internet). Not what I’m looking for in my lawyer.
  • LinkedIn is the first place many business professionals look you up. I never go to a lawyer’s website to review their background. I use LinkedIn. I Google a lawyer’s name and expect their LinkedIn profile to be in the top few search results. If it’s not, I add the word ‘LinkedIn’ to their name in my Google search. I’m more like your clients and prospective clients than you think.
  • Not having a fair amount (not necessarily thousands) of connections these days can signal that you are not looking to network for professional growth, let alone business development.
  • I understand there’s a lot to keep up with. I was practicing law when we moved from carbon paper to a copier machine. And when a fax machine seemed to raise issues of confidentiality. But learning how to use LinkedIn for networking is something you need to come to grips with. It’s just too valuable.

    In 1997, while attending an Internet marketing conference in Monterey, California, I picked up the book, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, by Twin Cites business person and columnist, Harvey Mackay.

    I was practicing law in rural Wisconsin and intrigued by networking through the Internet for business development. I had started to have some success doing so by answering people’s questions on AOL. The concept of networking so as to dig my well before I got thirsty was pretty intriguing to me. It still is.

    Using LinkedIn is a powerful way you can dig your well before you get thirsty on the business development — and the professional development front.

    • Dan

      I agree with all that you say, except there is a reason to be circumspect that you don’t mention. It is not a good thing to be linked to someone with a bad reputation. A few years ago, a lawyer I knew slightly linked with me and then he kept dropping my name as though we were great buddies. I learned he is quite shady and at least two people actually called me to see what I thought of him, surprised that I was “so close” with him.
      I de-linked him and have been more careful ever since. There definitely should be some limits.

    • Kevin –
      Are you advocating open networking on LinkedIn, accepting invitations from everyone who asks?
      I agree that you should establish connections with people you meet or have established some type of business relationship. LinkedIn clearly beats a collection of business cards.
      The information from people I don’t know will drown out the updates from the people I do know and for who I want to stay up to date.

    • Depending on how you use LinkedIn Dan, linking with someone with a checkered record could be a problem. If you have quite a few connections, I’m not sure anyone is going to see that connection as reflecting poorly on you, let alone even finding that person in your connections. If you have a limited number of connections, that may be more of a problem. And if someone goes around wrongfully acting like you they’re your best bud, there’s not much you can do to stop them – except to stay 10 miles away from them.
      I do see though how you may wrongly encourage a person to see you you as a close bud by connecting them.
      I’m not sure what you mean Doug when you refer to open networking on LinkedIn. If I meet someone on or offline, through blogging or otherwise, I tend to connect with them in LinkedIn. I don’t use LinkedIn to follow my network that much, I tend to use Twitter more to stay in close touch with people I am closer to business wise.
      By connecting with quite a few people, LinkedIn opens up tremendous networking opportunities for me. When I am traveling, I look up people in the city I am traveling to. I often inivite people in that community to a get together such as a beer for bloggers for which LexBlog and I will pick up the tab.
      For example, having 160 connections in Boston allows me to reach out and connect with quite a few people, the vast majority of which are in the legal profession or a profession closely related. If I were more limited in connecting with professionals at LinkedIn, the number of my connections in Boston may be 10% of that.