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Strategic Social Media Research: Taking It a Step Beyond

Kathleen Behan

When students ask how they can achieve a particular career goal, I often direct them to LinkedIn, the social media network for professionals. Browsing profiles of lawyers who’ve reached that same goal can help students explore possible career paths. However, many students start law school without having ever used LinkedIn. Students similarly don’t realize that #LawTwitter and lawyer Facebook groups can be a great way to start building their networks.

While we’ve always offered workshops at University of Windsor Faculty of Law about using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to advance your law career, the pandemic has opened the door to new teaching methods. As our office began recording all our presentations, we launched new bite-size, on-demand social media tutorials tailored to the needs of law students. This article contains some of the most helpful information from those tutorials for you to share with your own students.

Students should follow lawyers who are frequent tweeters to maximize the chance that they will notice tweets about shadowing opportunites.

Students should follow lawyers who are frequent tweeters to maximize the chance that they will notice tweets about shadowing opportunites.

Urupong | iStock

Finding Former Employees on LinkedIn

While many employers will hire their summer and articling students back as associates, public interest employers don’t always have the funding to do so. (Note: In Canada students complete an articling placement for about a year after graduating from law school.) To help students explore longer-term career paths that these short-term opportunities can help make possible, we show students how to use LinkedIn to find an employer’s former employees (see “LinkedIn Secrets: Past Company Search,” Jonathan Perry, 2021).

This feature is particularly useful when counseling students who worry that working for a public interest employer will prevent them from transitioning into private practice later. Searching for their prospective employer’s past employees, as well as lawyers who previously worked for other nonprofit and government offices, can help dispel that myth. Students can also reach out to former summer or articling students they identify to learn more about their experience.

LinkedIn as an Introvert

I always tell students that LinkedIn is an excellent research tool. Students don’t have to use it as traditional social media if they would rather just learn more about employers and possible career paths. Viewing LinkedIn as a legal directory or a resume database can help students who are introverted or who simply dislike social media learn to embrace LinkedIn despite their misgivings. These students are often particularly interested in learning how to browse alumni profiles from your law school’s LinkedIn page.

Using Twitter Lists to Prepare for Interviews

Creating a private Twitter list (learn more at Twitter’s Help Center) can be a valuable step in interview preparation. While students’ personal Twitter feed can get chaotic, a list with just a few relevant accounts can help them get quick information ahead of an interview. For example, a student preparing to interview with a utility company could create a private list that includes the company itself, government regulators, and industry associations.

Students will have to do a little research first to identify accounts and make the list as useful as possible. Students preparing for government interviews will find Twitter particularly valuable, as reviewing a government employer’s Twitter feed is often easier than navigating their website. Some students even identified recent initiatives to discuss with their interviewers through tweets, when those initiatives weren’t yet on the government website.

Finding Similar Employers Through Twitter

Once a student finds an employer of interest on Twitter, you should recommend looking at who that employer is following. Often, employers choose to follow organizations with similar goals, who may be of interest to the student as well. This strategy works best when the employer has a relatively small number of accounts they are following.

Watching for Tweets About Job-Shadowing Opportunities

During the pandemic, Twitter has also allowed students to gain invaluable job-shadowing experiences thanks to lawyers who tweet about upcoming hearings and offer to let students observe. Students should follow lawyers who are frequent tweeters to maximize the chance that they will notice one of these great opportunities in their timeline.

Joining Lawyer Facebook Groups

While Facebook is the most informal of these three social media platforms, it can still be helpful for connecting with lawyers. Simply searching for a practice area of interest on Facebook can bring up groups of lawyers in that practice area for students to join.

Some Facebook groups are even focused on helping new lawyers, such as the Junior Refugee and Immigration Lawyers Network in Canada. These groups can be a helpful supplement to networking with local bar associations.

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Kathleen “Katie” Behan, JD

ocial Justice Career Coordinator | University of Windsor

Kathleen “Katie” Behan, JD ([email protected]) is the Social Justice Career Coordinator at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law, in Ontario. After graduating from Dartmouth College, Kathleen attended Northeastern University School of Law and focused on public interest law. She worked in poverty law at a non-profit in Detroit before moving to Canada