October 23, 2012

Online Networking for Fun and Profit

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January 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 1 | Page 45

Online Social Networking for Lawyers

Online Networking for Fun and Profit

Quick tips for lawyers looking to dive into networking on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Recently I received a phone call from an old friend from my publishing days who needed help editing a book. I declined due to time constraints but agreed to help find someone who could assist. Years ago I would have grabbed my Rolodex, but today’s first stop was LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is an online network of more than 15 million professionals around the globe. My LinkedIn account is networked to more than 1 million people through 120 first-degree contacts in my connections list. I quickly used it to find three different editors willing to talk with my friend about his project. He was thrilled and I am confident he’s receiving the help he needs. That’s just one example of the power of online networking—and one very applicable to the busy lawyer’s life. Instead of sending a desperate “all attorneys” e-mail looking for assistance in a given area, tools like LinkedIn can help identify resources faster and with less disruption.

How does it work? In the company’s words, “Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know.” It’s free to post a profile (think resume on steroids) and you can find colleagues, friends and clients by searching the global network by keyword, name, company or geography, or with your Outlook address book as a starter. A paid membership gives more features, such as contacting those outside your network via an “InMail” or seeing who has viewed your profile on the site.

Here are some quick tips for law practices looking to dive into networking on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

  • Search through the sites to see how many of your clients and colleagues are now using these tools.
  • Rather than blocking access to social networking sites, work to steer your lawyers and staff to use the tools productively for the benefit of the firm. A recent BusinessWeek article profiled a Silicon Valley software company hosting “Facebook Fridays” to encourage employees on “updating their profiles, collaborating with colleagues and clients, and recruiting.”
  • Use online networking to improve communication and awareness with your clients and alumni. This is just one more way to keep your firm top of mind and keep clients and potential referrals connected to you.
  • Establish an online networking policy for your firm as a guide for new users and a boundary for people already using the tools.
  • Consider using LinkedIn, Facebook or a customized intranet network (like www.selectminds.com or www.intronetworks.com) to turbocharge an existing CRM or act as an alternative. With discipline, a firm may gain much of the CRM benefit for a fraction of the price.

About the Author

Christopher Batio is Assistant Director for Proposal Development and Competitive Intelligence at Crowell & Moring LLP in Washington, DC. He has worked in professional services marketing with organizations like GE and KPMG for the past 10 years.