LinkedIn’s reach is huge. There are approximately 810 million users worldwide, spanning over 200 countries, and 185 million LinkedIn members in the United States. Daily activity on the site is tremendous, with over 24 million users posting more than once per week, while over 40 million members are applying for a job at least once per week.
While lawyers are not the largest presence, those numbers are significant. Twenty-one percent of top legal decision-makers are actively using LinkedIn: searching for innovative ideas; finding new attorneys; connecting with others; staying visible. Obviously, there is a world of potential clients depending on your practice area, but the logical utility for lawyers marketing on LinkedIn is to develop and expand their network of referrals. This is especially beneficial for lawyers with niche practices.
Our firm has had a long-standing nationwide practice representing plaintiffs in Federal Tort Claims Act medical malpractice cases. Our marketing has evolved from print ads to the internet. As the practice grew and became well-known, we got increasing numbers of referrals, but we wanted to increase the proportion. Referrals have a much higher conversion rate than advertising. With our internet advertising, slightly more than 1% of our contacts become actual cases. With referrals—even ones where an unknown attorney has simply provided our name—the rate is well above 5%.
While our lawyers have been on LinkedIn for a long time, no one was particularly active. We had profiles, but that was about it. Toward the end of 2019, Brewster Rawls, our founder and senior attorney, made a deliberate effort to become more active. During 2020, he posted an average of three to four times per week. In 2021, he bumped that to five or six per week.
Our offline contacts increased dramatically in 2020 and again in 2021. In 2018 and 2019, we averaged 266 offline contacts annually. In 2020 there were 523, and 585 in 2021. Actual file openings have increased as well. While one cannot say with absolute certainty that this almost 100% increase in contacts was due to LinkedIn activity, it was the only non-internet marketing initiative we changed. There must be a substantial connection.
In 2020, we had perhaps half a dozen referrals that were directly from LinkedIn. That number more than doubled in 2021.
An obvious question or concern is the amount of time involved. Unlike many plaintiff firms, ours tracks hours. Brewster’s weekly marketing time, which is mostly LinkedIn-related, averages about 2.5 hours per week. On an annual basis, that is not an insignificant amount of time, about 125 hours. When you consider his other marketing efforts, Brewster spends about 200 hours per year on such practice development activities, about 10% of his total effort. Frankly, lawyers should be committing the time and resources necessary to expand online marketing and networking.
Here are our top 10 tips for those who want to develop a viable marketing plan using LinkedIn:
1. Identify Your Target Audience and Actively Seek Connections
Simply having a volume of connections or followers is meaningless if they are not likely to turn into clients or referral sources. Moreover, you can easily end up with a vast number of people trying to sell you services or products. We focus on other plaintiffs’ lawyers. Most do not do FTCA cases at all. Likewise, many refer out malpractice cases in general, as it is such a specialized area. We will accept connection requests from other types of lawyers, as well as from related fields, such as nurse consultants, court reporters, etc. Beyond that, we are wary. No one can fault financial planners and marketing experts for wanting to sell their services, but experience has taught us that that is often all such individuals do – sell, often a very persistent hard sell.
2. Post Regularly
If you are not willing to post something at least two or three times a week, the effort is not likely to be beneficial. It is better if something can go up at least once every business day or every other business day if the latter is more realistic.
Sharing what you know and what your audience can relate to with consistency and authority will make your content relevant and authentic.
3. Lawyers Must Create Their Own Content
What resonates with readers is genuine content. A LinkedIn post can be short, and the character limitations will force you to be concise regardless. Make a single point or two. That is all that is needed. You can also publish your own LinkedIn article if you write a lengthy piece that exceeds regular post limitations. LinkedIn articles can be written in the integrated publishing platform of LinkedIn. In addition to promoting thought leadership, articles also provide industry insights that are indexed by Google.
Sometimes we will simply post a link to an interesting article. That can usually be done in 50 words or less. Some are a bit more involved.
People can smell canned content—and they pass it by.
A busy lawyer creating his or her own content seems daunting—and at first, it can be. However, once you are in the habit of creating daily content, you will find that it can be done quickly. Probably 80% of Brewster’s content is posted before 7 a.m. It is rumored that he composes many posts on his smartphone, drinking coffee while still in bed.
4. Whenever You Can, Use Your Own Photos or Art
Posts with a picture often get more traction than those that are just text. We have found that simple pictures taken organically by Brewster are often quite effective. While hardly professional, the impact is significantly better than using stock photos. This practice reminds your connections that you are, in fact, a human.
5. Tell People What You Do, But Do Not Make That the Only Thing You Tell Them
You must tell your audience what you do. That is obvious. On the other hand, beating them over the head is likely to be counterproductive. We try to post a range of topics, mostly but not exclusively dealing with law practice and lawyer life. Less than 10% of the posts are directly about our FTCA practice, usually about a case outcome or some notable ruling. Maybe 30-40% of our posts will mention it, often as an aside. The others are silent as to our practice areas.
The logic of this strategy is simple. In our case, most readers are not likely to have a daily interest in FTCA matters. The purpose is to remind lawyers that someone out there does this work, so that when they are looking for a referral, they think of us. If they enjoy reading your daily content, this will keep you fresh in their minds.
6. Tell People Who You Are, And Do Not Be Afraid to Show Vulnerability
Let your readers get a sense of who you are, both as a lawyer and as a person. You do not have to get into over-sharing, but it is entirely okay to mention your family and things you enjoy doing.
Sharing work experiences and even what might be described as “war stories” is effective. Trial lawyers often love a good, relatable story.
7. Provide Both Specific and More General Insights
Sometimes we provide extremely specific information about handling certain law practice issues, such as written discovery or deposition strategies. Other times, the message is about general issues of workplace conduct or interactions. A few even get a bit philosophical. The key is to offer a mix of material, always with the thought of staying engaged with the readers.
8. Humor Is Good; Meanness Is Not
A fair number of Brewster’s posts will include something about his dog, Maggie. People love it. Almost always, the post will have some general legal insight and the dog reference is usually loose. Being a bit lighthearted is totally okay.
You want to avoid rants. LinkedIn is not the place for you to get strident about your political or cultural beliefs. That is not to say that you cannot touch on such issues—they are often hard to separate from who you are—but you need to be careful and respectful.
9. Engage With Others on the Platform
Take a bit of time to look at the posts of others and comment, engage or react. Occasionally respond to comments made to your posts. Readers appreciate it a lot. Doing so also sends a message of accessibility. LinkedIn gives you the option to react with sentiments of like, celebrate, support, love, insight, or curiosity. This offers connections the ability to personalize their reaction to posts.
When you get direct messages on LinkedIn, you should treat it like email. You do not have to respond to every sales pitch—and you will get a few—but otherwise, you should do so. We have received more than a few referrals directly on this platform.
10. The Results Will Not Be Instant; Be Patient
Consistency will pay off, but it will not always be quick or even obvious. Stay the course.
Almost any practice that relies heavily on referrals, or has a narrow focus, can benefit from driven LinkedIn-related marketing efforts.
About the Authors
Brewster S. Rawls (left) is the founder and Faith E. Jenkins (right) is the director of marketing at Rawls Law Group, a medical malpractice law firm based in Virginia.