updated on 04 May 2020
Despite the challenges that the UK’s lockdown presents, the importance of maintaining and building a professional online network has become increasingly evident.
With 3.8 billion social media users worldwide so far in 2020, aspiring lawyers should consider the multiple ways that platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube can not only build your own online network, but also help you to engage with content in the most effective way to support your future career prospects.
We spoke to Irwin Mitchell solicitor and Law and Broader founder Chrissie Wolfe, future Baker McKenzie trainee solicitor and founder and host of the More From Law podcast Harry Clark, and aspiring lawyer, LPC graduate and founder of LegallyRun Sophie Warren to bring you a guide on how aspiring lawyers can make the most of social media.
What can I gain from social media?
Commercial awareness and expert views
While having a Twitter or LinkedIn account is not a prerequisite for securing a training contract at your dream firm, engaging with the ideas, trends, news and updates that form much of the content on these platforms – as well as the people that create this content – can kickstart your research and in turn build your commercial awareness.
On having an active LinkedIn profile, Harry says that “for law students specifically, it is more about learning new ideas and having the opportunity to speak to people who are currently practising law or have secured their training contract, as well as other experts or contributors in the legal profession.
“It will help you to develop commercial awareness, give you more insight into the industry, as well as inform you when it comes to your career choices”.
Just like when studying, it’s also important to read around the content that you see on social media. Wider reading is likely to improve your understanding of the subject matter and subsequently your interest. As Chrissie highlights, there is a difference between simply “reading an article on a platform, such as Twitter or LinkedIn, and reading the expert comment that is attached to the article”.
These platforms enable aspiring lawyers to observe and eventually join discussions on issues affecting the business and legal worlds.
Actively engaging on relevant content is likely to “put you ahead of other people in the training contract process,” explains Chrissie. She encourages aspiring lawyers to interact with and digest comments to help you gain the “insight and commercial awareness from people you’re following as opposed to just trying to interpret it in your way from a simple read of the lone article.”
“I do think it’s a missed opportunity if you’re not using it at the very least to glean information from it,” she says. Clearly there’s a lot more to social media than just the memes, so it’s important to make sure you’re appropriately engaging with this content.
Switched on aspiring lawyers should follow relevant publications and leading industry experts, as well as like-minded law students and aspiring lawyers for updates on news and trends. Of course, who you follow will depend ultimately on the area of law that you’re interested in.
Exciting and valuable opportunities
The opportunities you could gain from social media depend on how you use your chosen platform. For those interested in establishing their own brand like Chrissie, Harry and Sophie, there are numerous opportunities available, especially if you’re connecting with the right people and in the right way.
After receiving a training contract offer from Baker McKenzie, Harry’s LinkedIn profile took off in September 2019. Since then he has met various people from across the profession, including students and lawyers from all over the world, and he has been involved in numerous projects. “I’ve been invited to judge negotiation competitions, appeared on podcasts, created my own short e-book and explored my writing styles, as well as writing articles for leading legal companies and publishers,” he says. “More specifically in relation to Baker McKenzie, I have interviewed members of graduate recruitment and taken part in live streams to actively help promote the firm before I’ve even started.”
In addition, Harry recently launched his own podcast – More From Law – which is designed to help aspiring and practising lawyers learn more about the profession from industry experts.
Opportunities are likely to come only to those who put themselves out there. If you’re at a face-to-face networking event and don’t speak to anyone, you won’t build any valuable connections – this is also applicable to your professional online profile. For example, Sophie was approached to be a social media ambassador for The University of Law during her studies – a position she would not have achieved “without a relevant and established social media platform” she explains.
Talking points for interviews
While it might seem odd to discuss your social media in an interview, it is a useful way to showcase your proactivity, projects you’ve worked on, as well as any additional skills you might have developed. Sophie explains the significance of showing personality in interviews and applications: “Law firms are looking for people, not robots. It’s important to showcase your interests outside law”.
Using these platforms as learning tools will also support you at interviews. By familiarising yourself with new ideas and trends, you can create your own portfolio of information and industry knowledge to confidently bring to an interview and demonstrate your commercial awareness.
Adding a note of caution, Harry urges aspiring lawyers to “speak with a level of competency” on both social media and during an interview. “If you’re talking about something like blockchain but you don’t know the background of the person sitting across from you, they could be the managing partner for that department of the firm and the second you try to play off that you know something that you really don’t, it will backfire.”
How can I make the most of social media?
Most aspiring lawyers will already have profiles across the various platforms but it is crucial to understand how to use them effectively in order to receive content from and/or reach the most applicable profiles.
Build an online presence and network
Platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram enable aspiring lawyers to engage and network with relevant people in a specific area of law. It’s important to consider whether you’re using the chosen platform in the most efficient way to build an online presence – for example, LinkedIn is much more than just an online CV, as Harry discovered in September 2019: “I had only ever really used it as a digital CV, which is how I think a lot of law students had viewed it. It was never a platform I thought to engage with”.
If you want to use LinkedIn more effectively, think about what valuable content you can create; what content your followers will find useful; and how you can connect and maintain professional relationships.
Harry suggests “sharing anecdotes and the lessons you have learnt”, which can be a great place to start across all platforms, as it allows you to talk about something you have experienced first-hand. “It’s about giving something to your audience, creating something of value and maintaining genuine connections”, he adds.
By building an online presence and subsequently an online network – for example, by following people you’re studying alongside, other aspiring lawyers, as well as practising lawyers and leading professionals – it demonstrates your ability to adapt in situations beyond your control, such as the coronavirus crisis. It paints a picture of you as someone with great initiative and tenacity.
As face-to-face networking is off the cards for the foreseeable future, Sophie agrees that “‘social networking’ is the new thing, particularly now we can’t attend networking events” following the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s all about promoting yourself in the correct way”, she says.
You can read our LCN Says on more ways to network online during lockdown.
Extension to application
There’s only so much information you can put on an application form so it’s worth considering how else you can illustrate to recruiters the additional skills and projects you’ve been involved in.
Not all law firm recruiters will look you up on social media, but “if there are things you can’t portray in your application, or there’s things you particularly want to show-off then you can do that on your social media platform” Chrissie says.
This will not only provide you with alternative talking points, but if a recruiter does look you up and you have showcased your skills in the right way, it can act as an “extension to your application” Chrissie says.
Your online presence might be the first impression that a law firm receives of you so it’s vital to ensure that you’re portraying yourself in a professional manner. As Chrissie says: “it must always be representative of the image you want to create of yourself. Imagine that the recruiter from your dream firm is reading it.” She adds: “social media is an amazing way to reach and meet a vast amount of people very quickly, which can be no bad thing when you’re trying to break into a profession, create a brand for yourself or even just showcase your skills.”
Build industry knowledge
To differentiate between your social media objectives, Harry recommends “curating a separate feed for law”. This will not only encourage you to separate working/studying from your personal life, but also enable you to “dedicate time and effort into learning new things from the news sites, legal commentators, influencers and article writers that you follow”.
While trying to build his own industry knowledge, Harry told us that he spoke to legal professionals in an honest and open way, explaining that he was starting law school and was keen to learn about what they were doing: “I would ask whether it would be possible to interview or speak to them”. He added “60% of the time, I wouldn’t even write an article after the conversation but just talking to the professional opened me up to new ideas and concepts to write about. Often, they’d refer me to other people to follow and interact with. This not only helps to build followers, but more importantly a network of people that you know and who have taught you something”.
Social media: dos
Do: think before you type
This might seem obvious, but even the professionals can sometimes get it wrong. Chrissie references the “eternal life of a tweet” and urges aspiring lawyers to “imagine that what you’re writing is being read back to you in court by a judge, your mum or your boss – if you wouldn’t be happy with that scenario, don’t post it”.
Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. So, think before you post to ensure you don’t undo all your hard work.
Do: collaborate with others
As your online network expands, collaborate with people who will add value to your content – for example, practising lawyers. As an advocate for social media collaboration, Harry says “I used to share my tips on X, Y and Z but then decided it would be great to collaborate with industry leaders or people with a more substantial following than myself”. Collaboration is helpful for your own development and it will also outline new perspectives to topics that interest you and your followers. Harry emphasises the need to “create something of value for people and keep the connections genuine”.
Do: check in with your connections
Much like face-to-face networking, once you start building your online network, you must continue to engage with the work your connections are doing and just generally check-in, particularly in today’s climate. “It’s important to follow up and make sure it’s a genuine and lasting connection. You never know in future whether you might need someone like that or whether you’d be able to help them”, Harry says.
Who should you be following?
If you’re new to social media or just unsure how to use it to develop your legal knowledge, Harry recommends following “accounts that clearly have some following, are providing genuine content and have some standing authority behind them, as well as being related to the areas of law you’re interested in”. Here are a few accounts that we think you should be following to help get you started:
Olivia Partridge is the content and engagement coordinator at LawCareers.Net.