In the first of our three-part series on how to use LinkedIn, we talked about how the platform can optimize efforts to grow your law practice and expand your network. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and write a LinkedIn profile that attracts clients and establishes a leadership position in your area of practice.
Writing about oneself is difficult, particularly when you’re trying to be your own cheering section. It helps to approach the process with a sense of humor. Wendy Witt, Esq., author of the website Attorney Alchemy, couldn’t be more blunt. In her blogpost, “If You’re a Lawyer, Your LinkedIn Profile S*cks,” she muses about the typical attorney profile on LinkedIn, asking “Why would you squander valuable free real estate and the opportunity to tell your story?” Witt is right: If you are going to use LinkedIn (and you should), you need to write a profile that lets everyone know what kind of law you practice, what a fine attorney you are, and — to the extent possible — why you are different or better than others in your practice area.
Before crafting your LinkedIn profile, there are a few rules you need to know regarding how many characters and words LinkedIn allows. First, let’s talk about the basic “architecture” of a LinkedIn profile. It’s pretty simple: name, “headline,” a profile summary, and a photo. You need all four of these features to look like you’ve got your head in the game. We’ll tackle these components one at a time.
Writing about oneself is difficult, particularly when you’re trying to be your own cheering section. It helps to approach the process with a sense of humor.
Name — LinkedIn allows 20 characters for your first name and 40 characters for your last name. LinkedIn calculates character count by including letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and spaces between words. Fortunately, LinkedIn has a character counter built into its software, so you don’t have to actually count, just stay within their parameters.
Headline — You get 120 characters. While your name should be straightforward — just as it appears on your business card — your professional headline deserves a little love. So, indulge in a little free-writing. What do you do, professionally? Who are your typical clients? What do you do for these clients? And how do you stand out? Ask pals who know you well: What makes you special? And why, if they needed an attorney, would they call you? Pro tip: Short things like headlines are harder to write than lengthier pieces, which is why Mark Twain said: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” If you can’t think of a great headline, come back to it after you’ve finished the summary and try again.
Summary — LinkedIn allows 2,000 characters for the Summary, or roughly 300 words. This is the meat of the matter, so make the most of it. But first, do some homework. Write you’re your answers to these questions:
- What are your favorite types of cases?
- What kinds of problems do people usually approach you with?
- How would you describe your ideal client?
- If you had to list your top three areas of expertise, what would they be?
- Do you have any personal interests?
- What about volunteer work?
- Any awards or special recognition you’ve received?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to start writing your summary. Make the first few lines compelling. On your home page, LinkedIn will only show the first two lines of your summary — roughly 30 words, give or take — so it’s important to nab your reader’s attention. Pro tip: Write your first few drafts in the third person. It’s easier to blow your own horn when you’re pretending to write about somebody else.
Photo — Ask yourself, “Would I ever choose to work with someone who won’t put a photo on their LinkedIn account?” Seriously, an anonymous gray placeholder doesn’t exactly scream “Trust me!” You don’t have to get a professional headshot, but if you have one, use it. A decently lighted phone selfie also will do. LinkedIn profile pictures should be 400 x 400 pixels, and should include just your smiling face, from elbows up, looking directly into the camera. Dress professionally and use a relatively recent photo. Pro tip: Use a background photo for your LinkedIn page, too. If you’ve got a snazzy office suite you’d like to showcase, use that. Otherwise, try some of the sites on the internet, where you’ll find royalty free images that you can use on LinkedIn.
Finally, don’t forget to customize your LinkedIn URL. The so-called “vanity URL” is a great way to both personalize and promote your LinkedIn presence. You can use between 5 and 30 letters or numbers, but no special symbols or spaces. Your URL will look something like www.linkedin.com/in/yournamehere. Still stuck? LinkedIn provides simple instructions to Customizing Your Public Profile URL on its site.
One last Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to visit other people’s LinkedIn profiles, for inspiration and courage. Obviously, you don’t want to use their information or their words — that’s not cool, or legal — but it’s okay to see what everyone’s else is doing, so that you can do it better.