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As a law student, it isn't too early to create a LinkedIn account and begin growing your network. Building your network early will come in handy after law school because you’ll have a list of useful connections. As a student, it can be hard to figure out what your brand is when you are unsure which route to take into law or lack legal experience. The key to getting ahead is to start early. Don’t feel self-conscious; the legal world is small, so you may as well make some friends!
From one law student to another, here are some tips and tricks to help you make a great first impression online and build a strong profile in no time.
A picture tells a thousand words. Make sure your profile picture is a current, clearly identifiable, professional colour image. Many websites will say you need a headshot done by a professional photographer but that’s not true. Combined with a professional appearance, photos taken by your friends or family are more likely to show your warmth and personality – leaving a favourable lasting impression on recruiters. For example, my LinkedIn profile picture was taken by my classmate at university.
Your headline is your unique tagline. It should be interesting enough for someone to click on your profile. With a customised headline, you’ll distinguish yourself from other law students and give recruiters a reason to view your profile. Adding extra keywords to your headline will also boost your profile’s ranking in search results.
Here are a few inspired ideas:
In the legal sphere, it’s who you know, not what you know. As such, law students should use LinkedIn to the best of their abilities. When you need a hand, it’s always nice to have connections online so that if there’s a job opportunity that presents itself with a certain firm or chambers, you can search their name on LinkedIn and go from there. Don’t worry – LinkedIn’s algorithms and data mining make it pretty easy. Apart from connecting with your classmates or lecturers, I recommend performing a series of basic searches to find notable individuals in the legal sphere you know by name. You could send a custom message along with that invitation to make the connection more personalised. You can also choose to connect your email’s contact list to LinkedIn to find additional connections.
The idea here is to write a summary selling yourself to graduate recruiters. You should mention your internships, positions of responsibility, professional values and include facts and figures about your achievements, what your passions are in the law and areas in your life you have flourished – without sounding like you’re better than everybody else. Your summary should be three to four paragraphs long, use an informal tone and be written in the first person. Once you’ve finished writing, you can go the extra mile by copying and pasting your summary into Grammarly – a free writing assistant which helps to eliminate any human errors and provides a polished finish.
The experience section on LinkedIn can make or break you. The key question you need to ask yourself when deciding what to include here is: does this position help me as an aspiring lawyer? If the answer is no, then leave it out. For example, a brand ambassador role at a law firm is relevant experience. It’s not just legal experience that is relevant – extra-curricular or retail jobs should also be on your profile because the people skills you’ve obtained are transferable to a career in law. This includes running the law society or holding down a part-time job. However, avoid merely copying and pasting bullet points with your duties; instead, include what you were able to achieve in each position.
Nothing is more powerful than a great recommendation, so including this section is a must. But how do you actually ask someone to recommend you on LinkedIn? You need to make sure the person you’re asking can speak to your skills, work ethic and experience. Tutors, lecturers and peers (eg, the president of your university law society and mentors) can make great referees. Make sure that the person you’re asking is happy to provide you with a recommendation (obtaining a forced recommendation does more harm than good!) and is credible within their industry. You never know, your recruiter might know the person who wrote your recommendation, either personally or by reputation.
Law firms are always looking for high-flying students and graduates who can offer something different, so now is the time to flaunt those skills! Are you tech savvy? Can you code? Do you speak any other languages? Did you volunteer in a legal advice centre over the summer? Are you an avid legal blogger? Adding such information enhances your profile and is a great way to show off your unique skills.
In terms of certifications, having a LexisNexis or Westlaw certification (ranging from basic to advanced) in legal research looks good on your CV. Firms demand that trainees are fully competent in legal research and can navigate online legal information sources with confidence, so by attaining this certificate you are putting yourself firmly in the frame for the job you desire.
Joining groups on LinkedIn will show recruiters what areas of law you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in intellectual property, join a group specifically focused on that topic. When you join a group, you can see the full profiles of all members and directly connect and contact them. Being actively engaged in these groups sends a good sign, as it demonstrates your willingness to engage with your colleagues and network at the firm’s events when you qualify as a solicitor. By being part of a group, current and topical discussions will land right in your LinkedIn newsfeed, keeping you up to date and helping to develop your commercial awareness. You’ll be surprised how quickly your brain soaks up information by just flicking through your newsfeed.