How to build a great legal network through LinkedIn

Half a billion users and still climbing, LinkedIn has succeeded in becoming the world’s largest professional network. Today, the social media site plays a critical role in the modern business landscape; it is the digital business card that we use to identify key contacts, connect with likeminded professionals and promote our personal brand.

That said, most LinkedIn members rarely see the full potential that the website has to offer. Skulking in the background, scrolling the homepage and stalking from afar, their network stagnates in growth due to uncertainty of how to make the first move.

For professionals working in the field of law, it’s not hard to see how LinkedIn could seem problematic. Adding a client on a social media site seems to go against everything a lawyer has learned about confidentiality. What’s more, it’s the only social media platform that still thrives from building relationships with strangers online.

This in itself is intimidating on the surface – but in truth, it is simply the digital equivalent of the buffet table at a legal conference.

Making conversation with a new professional contact over a couple of canapés should be a staple in your networking diet: LinkedIn simply allows lawyers to build a vibrant network to advance their careers and attract new clients.

But where to begin?

Set your targets

With a thriving digital network, legal professionals can start to create and grow their online presence. However, before you start making connections, it’s a good idea to determine who you wish to target.

If you’re looking for corporate clients, you’re in luck: research suggests 80% of LinkedIn members use it for decision making. A further 50% of members would rather buy from a connection they’ve engaged with through the site.

Make a list of companies you would like to win business from and use the search function to find the right contact from the firm – be it the MD or the ops director. You should also consider which professionals could make for great referral partner and start your scouting mission accordingly.

On the other hand, linking in with fellow legal-sector professionals can further enable you to make valuable connections for career progression. A LinkedIn connection with a HR manager or head of department at a prestigious law firm can come in handy should you find yourself seeking a new role.

Join groups

LinkedIn is a powerful platform for building and nurturing business relationships. For lawyers, it can quickly become a referral goldmine – if used correctly.

This is a social network by nature: it should come as no surprise that connecting with others is key in getting value from it. Joining existing groups that are relevant to your particular niche is a great way to kickstart growth of your legal network – but it’s the taking part here that matters the most.

This is your opportunity to start a conversation and build your profile in the industry: active contribution and participation in discussions is key in making yourself known to your target audience. Beyond niche groups, LinkedIn is brimming with generic business communities waiting for you to tap into.

Start a conversation

By building your online presence through valuable content and active involvement in relevant discussions, your aim is ultimately to encourage clients to come to you rather than the other way around. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out to key contacts and start a dialogue.

LinkedIn has very powerful search capabilities that enable you to find people by location, company, job title and much more. However, they won’t do all the hard work for you. The next step is to send a customised request to a prospective client, Employer or partner.

It goes without saying that a sales-heavy introduction is unlikely to paint a good impression – especially coming from a lawyer. Your goal is to build trust, so start by being honest and stating your aim to expand your network: a personalised message will instantly build rapport and show your genuine interest in connecting with them.

Of course, not every target will connect and not every connection will reply. That’s life. Building a professional network takes time: luckily for lawyers, LinkedIn is always looking for ways to cut out the middle man and bring likeminded people together.