THE LAWYERS WEEKLY
September 30, 2011 | 23
Knowing what not to do online is as important as knowing what to
do. Allison Shields, president of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc., offers
the following do-not-do-this advice for lawyers looking to have an
effective online networking presence.
;DON’T INVITE everyone you know to connect on every
;DON’T SEND “canned” invitations to connect; make sure you let your contact know how you
know them and why it might be beneficial to join together.
;DON’T ACCEPT every connection. It dilutes the power of your network. Instead, get to
know the person.
;DON’T TRY to do everything or be everything to everyone.
GUNAY MUTLU / ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
look like you’re hiding something.”
Being visible is critical—and that
means being truly engaged. “The key is
‘participate,’ don’t ‘pitch.’ Just discuss and
provide an opinion while respecting
others. This will get your profile raised,”
“In order to get the most out of online
business development efforts, you’ve got to
be active, including periodically updating
profiles, adding new accomplishments or
case studies, participating in discussions,
[and] joining groups,” said Shields.
Being engaged is also necessary to be
found. “Search engines are looking for
active content and updated content,”
Visitors are looking for professional-
ism. “Post information that educates and
informs on a regular basis,” said Crouch.
“If you’re posting all the time every day,
well, people — potential clients — will
think you’re not working, and if you’re not
working, what’s wrong? Also, don’t be
pitching all the time, no one’s interested.
Networking online is about two things:
credibility and profile.”
The former, in particular, is a reflection
of your words. “Choose wisely and be care-
ful what you say,” said Shields. “Just like in
‘offline’ marketing, networking, and busi-
ness development, you must be careful
about what you say online—but even
more so because once it’s posted, you can’t
get it back.”
Indeed, said Fraser, “you need to be
very cautious that the Internet has a per-
petual memory, but it’s also a very giving
community. For example, lawyers link to
other lawyers’ blogs because it’s interesting
It’s not only what you say but how you
say it. “Use the words your clients use. I
call this ‘speaking your clients’ language,’”
said Shields. “If your online profiles are
filled with legalese and jargon, you create
more distance between you and your audi-
ence. If your goal is to create an online
presence to demonstrate your expertise, to
show potential clients that you understand
their problems and can help them, you
want them to feel like they know you. The
best way to do that is to speak to them in a
way that they can understand.”
While networking online is work, it is
not that much more work, noted Fraser. “I
See Online Page 26
;DON’T LET others do your online networking for you, unless you would allow those same people
to do your offline networking for you. Networking is about engagement.
Building a legal practice today is a virtual effort. While shaking hands and
schmoozing over 18 holes still has a role,
more and more networking is being done
online. That’s not to say, of course, it’s
being done effectively.
“Lawyers always go to places where
they think the clients are and the work is.
Today people don’t open the Yellow Pages.
They go online. This is particularly true for
people looking for a lawyer with a specialty,” said David Fraser, a partner with
McInnes Cooper in Halifax.
“People need to be findable online,” he
added. “You’re much more likely to be
found on a networking site than your own
law firm pages.”
The first step is to understand why
you’re taking this first step, said Allison
Shields, president of Legal Ease Consult-
ing, Inc., which helps lawyers and law
firms develop strategies to increase growth
and profitability. “Lawyers need to identify
the purpose for which they are networking
online. That purpose will help them
develop a strategy for their participation.
“It is often the lack of a purpose or an
understanding of that purpose that leads
lawyers to conclude that online networking is a waste of time,” she noted. Among
the many reasons why lawyers network
online are to expand their contacts, build
their expert status and open up conversations with others.
There are a myriad of options for professionals to reach out online. The obvious
first choice is the most well-known professional site in the country. “In Canada, the
best tool for online networking is
LinkedIn,” said Giles Crouch, president
and CEO of MediaBadger, a social media
research firm in Halifax.
Signing up is not enough, he added,
noting a good head shot, past work history, and selection of people to connect
with are essentials.
The photo is particularly important,
noted Shields. Profiles, invitations, and
questions from those without a photo are
much more likely to be ignored, she noted.
“People do business with people they
know, like, and trust. Posting a photograph helps your audience feel that they
‘know’ you. If your photo isn’t there, it may
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