Just a few months ago, Michelle M. Friedman recommended all attorneys at her Milwaukee firm, Davis & Kuelthau s.c., join LinkedIn, a popular online social networking Web site for professionals from various disciplines. To date, about 70 percent of them have taken that advice, with positive results.
Friedman, the firm’s director of marketing and business development, is a strong proponent of online social networking. She sees it as one of the newest and most effective tools available to lawyers wishing to build their books of business — for free, from the home, office or anywhere they have a computer and Internet connection, and for a fairly minimal time commitment.
Among the D&K lawyers who took her advice was a partner who was skeptical at first. But, he later told her that, in response to two of his e-mails asking clients to connect, not only did they accept his invitation, but also, they contacted him, saying, “I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you about…”
Two new matters landed on his plate, with very little effort on his part.
Attorney Thomas N. Shorter tells similar rain-making success stories from using LinkedIn.
Shorter, a shareholder in the Madison office of Godfrey & Kahn S.C., says he has LinkedIn set as his homepage. Every time one of his 200 or so connections adds a connection, he is notified of that. If the new connection is someone that Shorter would like to know professionally, he telephones his connection and asks him or her to make an introduction. This has happened a number of times since joining LinkedIn in February, and he’s garnered a number of new cases and clients via this method.
“In my experience, LinkedIn has been a very effective and efficient network-building tool, and it can be very useful for attorneys,” says Shorter. “But it does require some effort on your part, because you have to be actively engaged in it to make the most out of it.”
Paul Trout couldn’t agree more. Trout, a business development consultant and the managing partner of the Akina Corporation in Chicago, has given a number of presentations about the power and potential of LinkedIn and other, similar sites, for lawyers. Shorter attended one of those sessions, which completely changed the way he now approaches marketing.
Trout says, “In my humble opinion, it’s the most powerful marketing tool out there. It’s a quick, simple way to manage a wide range of relationships.”
Trout recently advised a lawyer to use LinkedIn’s group function to set up an online discussion group with his law school classmates. That lawyer said the response was overwhelmingly positive — the classmates enjoyed reconnecting on a purely social level, but also, should someone who’s out-of-state need local counsel, he or she has that group as a ready resource.
LinkedIn provided an authentic reason for them to reconnect. It works, he says, because by keeping in contact, that frequency of contact takes up “mind share” in others’ thoughts.
Like any marketing tool, LinkedIn has its downsides, they agree.
Friedman says that, for well established lawyers who already have more potential business than they could possibly accept, clearly, there’s no need to invest any time on LinkedIn, or similar Web sites. Also, lawyers who aren’t comfortable with technology aren’t candidates for success on them.
That’s because LinkedIn is not exactly intuitive, says Trout. It took him several hours of digging in to mine all its features and refine them for the legal market, to create his presentation.
For his part, Shorter says some people have told him that their employers do not allow them to use sites like LinkedIn, perhaps believing that it’s not a productive use of their time. So, before anyone uses a work-provided computer to join LinkedIn, he or she should clear that beforehand — and maybe point out that all the Fortune 500 companies have executives on LinkedIn.
Shorter additionally advises using caution when deciding with whom you’ll connect. For example, although he has great respect for attorneys whom he considers competitors, as a matter of strategy, he purposely hasn’t asked them to connect, because he doesn’t want them pursuing the same leads.
He notes that, on a few occasions, he has declined invitations to join someone else’s network on LinkedIn, and, to its credit, the site does not tell them that. Moreover, it’s easy to remove someone as a connection, without their knowledge.