By Kevin O'Keefe

How law students can use LinkedIn from the first day as a 1L

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I read an article by the Boston Globe’s Julie Xie (@julieyinxie) this week asking whether you needed both a resume and a LinkedIn profile.

I know most folks will want to see at least a resume, but for me, it was a no brainer, a LinkedIn Portfolio is the key. I make it a point not to look at resumes of candidates for positions at LexBlog. I look solely at their LinkedIn profile.

The LinkedIn profile shows me initiative, or lack thereof, and gives me a “living history” of the person’s college, law school and work experience. I also do not want to see a resume tailored for us – I’d rather see what someone dreams of doing and is committed to achieving.

For law students, building out a LinkedIn profile from the first day of law school ought to be a top priority. Do not let anyone tell you it’s not important.

Employers want to see law grads with initiative and who are distinguishing themselves. Believe me, you’d be surprised how few law students have a good LinkedIn profile, let alone work on distinguishing themselves.

Attorney Dan Linna (@danlinna), Dean of Career Development at Michigan State Law School, shared with me that the school works with law students as to LinkedIn from “Day One.” My gut tells me there are not a lot of Michigan State’s out doing this.

Law students would be advised to view LinkedIn, as Kristina Corbitt (@kriscorbitt) of LexBlog tells lawyers, as your portfolio. More than a resume, a portfolio brings your growing body of work to the table.

There are plenty of blog posts, including some here on my blog, on the makings of a good LinkedIn profile and how to effectively use LinkedIn. Also check out the LinkedIn profiles of others.

Here’s a dozen ideas I have shared with law students at various times.

  • As your title list law student aspiring to…(describing what you wish to do), rather than just “law student.”
  • In your summary tell the story of why you are going to law school, what you are hoping to do even if you don’t know specifically and what attributes you have that make it likely you’ll succeed.
  • Go through your past job history, maybe even back to high school sharing what you took from each job, even if it was just the need to stick with something long enough to make a buck. More than one law firm CMO has told me they have lawyers that have never had a job until after law school.
  • Get recommendations (not one click endorsements) from past employers all the way back, past professors in undergrad and in law school and people who headed a charitable cause you worked for. Get these over time while in law school so it doesn’t look like you worked on LinkedIn your last semester.
  • For undergrad and law school explain why you chose the school. Give things some flavor rather than just listing the school with enrollment from one year to another.
  • Start building out a network, through LinkedIn connections, of lawyers, law professors, and other law students who are active online, whether active on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Ideally there’s some strategy of who you are connecting with – area of law, geography, alumni of your undergrad, worked in the same company etc.
  • Share in the status update things you are reading that relate to your legal interests. Doing so lets LinkedIn know your interests and will suggest that those with similar interests connect with you. Overtime you’ll be able to engage, via LinkedIn, people who like or comment on those things you share.
  • Follow law firms you’d like to work for. You can see their culture, identify people within areas that you would like to work in, see news, see pro bono efforts etc. You could even share on Twitter news items of firms, referencing their Twitter handle, assuming the items you felt were news worthy. You’ll know a heck of a lot more about law firms and their people than other law grads.
  • Engage connections with questions about clerkships, jobs, what you should be looking for, and maybe questions or comments about their blog posts.
  • Use LinkedIn advance search to identify past employees of firms you’d like to work at so you can find out what they know. Use the advanced search to build out a network of alumni of your undergrad to start engaging them and using them as a resource.
  • Use LinkedIn publisher to write some articles about areas of the law or culture of interest to you. Look at some good pieces from the Influencers section on LinkedIn as examples. We are not talking long pieces or items that read like case summaries. 400 to 700 words in a professional conversational tone, linking to other items and including images are some good keys to follow.
  • Look around for relevant LinkedIn groups to join. If nothing more, look to connect with and meet some of the members.

Not for a second am I implying that doing a great job on LinkedIn is a substitute for academic accomplishments, job history, internships and clerkships, acumen, commitment and more. Hopefully, you’re LinkedIn profile will be a reflection of who you are.

Working on LinkedIn just presents you with an opportunity to make connections and distinguish yourself from other law grads. It’s a gift.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

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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