LinkedIn LogoThis is the next post in my series on how attorneys can make better use of social media in 2015. My last post looked at how lawyers and law firms can brand themselves through Facebook. Doing better on Mr. Zucerkberg’s creation is highly important to attorneys for several reasons. In this article I’ll take a quick look at a social network with enormous potential which attorneys don’t capitalize on – LinkedIn.

I wrote last year how attorneys can get more out of LinkedIn. I won’t re-hash that article here. One thing I will say is that I’ve spent a lot of time on the network since last year and I do find myself shaking my head over the extent to which attorneys are missing out on a golden, golden, golden (24 carrott gold) chance. The ease with which you can use the network to build a referral base is extreme and the extent to which most attorneys go about it wrong is equally extreme. Let’s talk about how to use LinkedIn, properly, and then let’s look at what most law firms do instead.

LinkedIn gives you the chance to connect with professionals in other professions who will need an attorney to refer cases to. Consider the following examples:

  • A family law attorney can connect with marriage & family therapists – a group which regularly refer out cases for divorce and child custody
  • A bankruptcy lawyer can connect with financial planners and/or real estate agents – these are groups who deal with people who are liquidating assets due to financial stress
  • A criminal law attorney can connect with the administrators of drug and alcohol treatment centers – these are groups who regularly refer out DUI matters, drug charges, etc.
  • A probate lawyer can connect with a CPA who assists his or her clients with tax planning – people who need tax planning will often need a will drafted

The first step in making these connections is to reach out and introduce yourself. Say who you are, what type of cases you handle, and, most importantly, express that you would like to see how you can be of assistance to the person you are contacting. Once the connection is made then offer to take the person to lunch and, if lunch goes well, offer the person a chance to tour your office. Throughout this process continue to make it all about how you can be of assistance to the person (how you can refer them business, how you can be available to answer quick legal questions they may have, how you are happy to offer them insight when needed, etc.). Do not make it about them referring you matters. The common mistakes attorneys make, in networking situations, is to make it about themselves and not the person they are talking to. That’s not how you build meaningful relationships.

Why is it important to make it about how you can help others instead of how they can help you? The answer is simple. That’s how you make yourself indispensable to the connection as opposed to your being a “dime a dozen” attorney who they can replace in a heartbeat. This is how you build the relationship, maintain it, and that source will reciprocate with referrals.

Making it about themselves, other than the connection, is the first mistake attorneys make when reaching out through LinkedIn. The second mistake is the amount of time attorneys put into connecting and talking to other lawyers.

Attorneys typically network with other attorneys for a number of reasons. First, that’s what attorneys traditionally do and most attorneys and law firms simply follow what is traditionally done in other practices. Second, attorneys tend to feel more comfortable talking to other attorneys. Finally, other attorneys may offer the occasional referral.

The reasons for networking with lawyers stop making sense once you stop to think about it for even a fraction of a second. Consider the following:

  • Attorneys traditionally network with each other because “that’s what lawyers do.” Attorneys will also openly admit to being bad at business. This means, if you spend your time talking to other lawyers, you are following a strategy developed by people who were admittedly bad at business development.
  • Being successful requires one to get out of their comfort zone. The fact that attorneys are comfortable talking to each other is irrelevant – one’s comfort zone is where success goes to die.
  • Attorneys may refer you the occasional case, but, guess what? Other professionals will refer you a whole lot more! Why? Because most professionals don’t have quality attorney connections due to the fact that attorneys are so frickin’ busy talking to each other! Attorney Joe may know ten other lawyers he can refer a divorce case to. The marriage and family therapist down the street, who actually has more cases than Joe does to refer, typically won’t know any.

For more, and extremely, high quality networking advice – check out these tips from our May, 2015 attorney of the month, Elise Holtzman. Want to do better on LinkedIn? Then use that “inmail” feature to connect with people outside the legal profession, who deal with your potential client base, and get ‘da ball rolling.