Bethany Wren - How to make the most of LinkedIn as a law student
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LinkedIn might sometimes seem like Facebook’s boring older brother, but as most professionals and many employers have accounts on the platform, it’s a great place to engage with other users and follow the latest legal developments, and it can be a gateway of information, opportunities and online networking.
From those of you that haven’t updated your profile since secondary school, to those who are active on the site every day, here are my top tips for how to get the most out of LinkedIn as a law student.
1. Update your profile and keep it updated
The first step to being active on LinkedIn is to make sure that your profile is up to date and reflects you as best it can. It’s the first glimpse of you that other users (including recruiters) will have, so it’s important that it demonstrates who you are and what you do well.
In the ‘current position’ and ‘headline’ sections it’s fine to put ‘aspiring solicitor’ or ‘third-year law student’ (or something similar) to denote your position and career aspirations, if you don’t already have a law-related job. Add your current or previous universities under ‘education’, and make sure that you have a professional-looking profile picture. Please note: a drunken photo of you on a night out does not constitute a professional profile picture! If you’re unsure, why not get a friend to take a photo of you dressed smartly against a plain background?
LinkedIn now also offers the chance for users to add a cover photo so that you can further represent your personal brand. If you don’t have any suitable photos of yourself for this, a good option is to use a stock image, or to create your own on the free image editing site Canva. Here’s a useful article with some good ideas for LinkedIn cover photos.
The ‘summary’ section of your profile is a good place to explain who you are, what you do, what skills you have and why you want to become a lawyer. It doesn’t need to be a personal statement or essay, but a few key points about yourself and your interests. Most users will only see the first three lines or so of your summary when they visit your profile, but LinkedIn Recruiter will show the entire summary by default. Take a look at this article for more information about what to put in your summary.
2. Follow firms and companies
Once your profile is up to scratch, the next step is to find some firms and companies that you’re interested in following. Follow law firms and chambers that you are considering applying to for regular updates on their work and their latest news. There won’t be much content related to graduate recruitment, but there will be plenty of information on deals they are working on, awards they have been nominated for, what they want you to know – it all helps you to build a broader picture of what the firm does, and could provide topics for conversation at networking events or even at interview. LinkedIn will also recommend similar companies for you to follow in case you are interested in finding out about some new firms.
3. Make useful connections and engage with them
If you’re anything like me, you might have started off with plenty of LinkedIn connections from secondary school and previous part-time jobs. Although it’s great to keep up with what they are all doing on LinkedIn, it’s imperative that you use the site to build a network of useful and relevant contacts: people you have met or worked with in a legal capacity, and even graduate recruiters at law firms.
You can start by adding your course mates and fellow university students, but in reality, there are many places where you will meet new, interesting people that you can later connect with on LinkedIn. Why not take note of the names of people you speak to at law fairs or company presentations? Or connect with people you’ve encountered during work experience or vacation scheme placements, for example.
It’s worth pointing out that not everybody is on LinkedIn, or keen to connect with people they don’t know very well, but you can always add a personalised invitation and say that ‘it was great to meet you at x event, and I would like to stay in touch’. Worst comes to worst, they will just ignore your connection invite!
Graduate recruiters are often inundated with connection requests on LinkedIn and they will all have different approaches to the platform, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear anything back from them, but it’s certainly worth a try.
4. Post interesting and thought-provoking content
I am connected with many students on LinkedIn and while it’s great to hear that somebody received 71.24% in their second-year contract law module, personally I don’t think LinkedIn should be used for showing off the minutiae of your academic life. I prefer seeing students sharing interesting articles, inviting discussion on relevant topics and even sharing their experiences at law firm open days, events and vacation schemes. Tag the firms in your posts and recruiters and people from the firm will be sure to remember your name.
If you write for a student newspaper or if you have a blog, these are great things to post about on LinkedIn, even if they don’t necessarily relate to your chosen career. If you’re really keen to share your thoughts with the world, you can write and publish articles within LinkedIn itself with LinkedIn Publishing.
5. Join relevant and interesting groups
LinkedIn groups are a fantastic way to be part of an online community and to engage with people with similar interests. There are sure to be groups on LinkedIn that match your career aspirations and give you the chance to chat to other aspiring lawyers. And if you can’t find one that suits you – then create one! You could use it to share your experiences and ideas, and to start discussions on the subjects you want to talk about.
If you would like to find out how to make the most of Twitter to further your legal career, read my LCN Says. And don’t forget to follow LawCareers.Net on LinkedIn for the latest legal jobs, advice and opportunities to get into law.