5 LinkedIn privacy tips every lawyer should know


Elyse Hackney (@ecoopers), a customer success executive at Hearsay Social, recently shared 5 LinkedIn privacy tips for financial advisors. After I shared her tips on Twitter, Hackney was kind enough to allow me to share, liberally, her advice with you.

Like financial services, the legal profession places a premium on privacy. At the same time, lawyers ought not be so protective so as to be invisible and ineffective networking on LinkedIn.

Here’s five LinkedIn privacy settings you ought to take a look at. Each of the settings, other than the fifth, are configured on the LinkedIn Privacy Settings Review link reached through Account settings by clicking on your small photo on the top right of your LinkedIn profile page. See below.

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1. Your Public Profile (“Edit your public profile”)

Your public profile is what people who aren’t connected with you on LinkedIn see when they view your profile.

In order to grow your network, enable people to evaluate your expertise, and establish credibility, you need to be findable and complete profile. The best way to do this is to share as much of your profile as possible.

You’ll see below that I make each portion of my profile viewable. At the very least, Hackney recommends that you show these fields publicly: your “basics” (Name, industry, location, etc.), picture, headline, summary and current position.

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2. Activity Broadcasts (“Turn on/off your activity broadcasts”)

When you update your profile or make new connections on LinkedIn, you may have that information shared with your LinkedIn connections via their news feeds.

If you are strategic and limited with whom who you connect, this is a nice way to keep top of mind. If you are more aggressive in growing your network and do not know all of your connections well, this can be a little much for your connections.

You also need to be careful with minor changes to your profile such as modifying the description of your present position. I recently made a subtle change and had people congratulating me, via email and in person, on my new job – which I did not have.

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There is another feed setting which controls who sees the thought leadership posts you are making and sharing in your status update. Not only will sharing your items with everyone “reconnect” you with clients, prospective clients, and referral sources, but it will also allow you to engage those people who like and comments on the items you share.

For bloggers, this lets you more widely share what you’ve written and what interests you. Even just sharing articles lets people know what’s important to you and serves as another way to spark conversations.

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3. Let Others See Your Connections (“Who can see your connections?”)

You are giving the option to allow your connections to view your network of connections. In no case will your connections be viewable to the public at large.

Opening your connections raises a number concerns for lawyers. Will other lawyers try to poach my clients? Will other professionals in my network, ie, financial advisors, try to “sell” to your connections? Will displaying my connections disclose that I represent a client without that client’s consent to disclose same.

The first two ought not be overly concerning if you are prudent with whom you connect. Disclosing a client relationship is a concern. However, if you have a large number of connections, as most lawyers do today, it’s difficult for someone to know who is a client and to say you disclosed such a relationship.

I see value in letting others see your connections. It reinforces you as a valuable addition to another’s network as well as demonstrates your level of influence. As Hackney says, it’s also a good way of seeing shared connections to discover new business opportunities.

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4. Who’s Viewing Your Profile (“What others see when you’ve viewed their profile?”)

Unlike other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), LinkedIn allows you to see when others view your profile (and vice versa). LinkedIn also allows you to see who those visitors are (and vice versa).

I do not allow others to see that I have viewed their profile. I am anonymous. But because I have a premium account I do get to see the identity of those who view my profile – so long as they have chosen not to be anonymous. I find that the majority of people who view my profile do not opt for anonymity. I see who they are.

As Hackney says, the inclination of those without a premium account is to sacrifice the ability to see who has viewed their profile so that others can’t tell when they visited a profile.

But by allowing access, you receive consistent information about who has been researching you. That can be invaluable for any number of reasons. Most of the time it’s fine if someone sees you’ve viewed their profile. If you need to remain anonymous, just log out of LinkedIn and view their public profile.

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5. Recommendations and endorsements (“Manage recommendations you’ve received”)

Recommendations and endorsements raise a couple concerns for lawyers. One is whether your state’s ethics rules prohibit public testimonials altogether. Arguably, recommendations and endorsements are testimonials. From a practical standpoint lawyers are displaying them, whether their state allows testimonials or not.

Second is whether a specific recommendation or endorsement is false or misleading. That’s unethical in any state. Lawyers play fast and loose taking endorsements and  recommendations from people who are not familiar with their legal work and in areas in which the lawyer has no real expertise. This is especially true with the one-click endorsements.

LinkedIn details how you delete a one-click endorsement – though it’s after the fact.

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You are given the option to display a “real recommendation,” as opposed to a one-click endorsement.

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Networking through the Internet to build relationships and enhance your reputation requires that you not be overly conservative as to privacy concerns. LinkedIn, being a professional network with privacy options, enables you to have an effective networking environment while protecting most concerns you’d have.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Nan Palmero

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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