Using LinkedIn to humanize lawyers, overcome stereotypes, and create opportunities for new business

Q: What Do Lawyers and Sperm Have in Common?
A: One in 3 Million Has a Chance of Becoming a Human Being.

I don’t know that there is a person on this planet who hasn’t heard — or told — a lawyer joke or two.

The legal profession has been around for hundreds of years, possibly longer. Charles Darwin, a lawyer himself, tried unsuccessfully to prove that lawyers existed more than two million years ago (Dewey, 2018). Although the practice of law has evolved over the years, it seems one thing has not changed: people have always loved to hate lawyers.

Likability is not a subject taught in law school. Many lawyers have no desire to be liked by clients, and they wear their unlikeable egos like a badge of honor. Lawyers have been taught to believe that the only thing that should matter to a client is the win. The dynamics between lawyers and clients has been a topic of conversation for decades. A report, issued by the American Bar Association in 1975, discusses the relationship. It explains that the “relationship between the lawyer and the client is typically, if not inevitably, a morally defective one in which the client is not treated with the respect and dignity that he or she deserves” (Wasserstrom, 1975). The client’s expectation of her counsel would be that he would achieve results.  The lawyer’s expectation of his client was that she would do as he said and pay her legal bills on time.

In recent years, the tables have turned. Today, buyers of legal services have the power. They have more options than ever before, and when lawyers or law firms aren’t meeting their needs, they find alternatives (Thomson Reuters, 2017). The win is no longer the most important factor in a lawyer/client relationship. Clients are demanding that their lawyers provide additional value. They expect their lawyers to anticipate needs, educate teams, listen, and be a true business partner. Clients are hiring lawyers and law firms that are aligned with and supportive of their personal beliefs and values. They want to hire and work with lawyers they like.

These significant changes have left some lawyers scratching their heads and struggling to find ways to adapt. Other lawyers have embraced the new relationship model and are using LinkedIn as a tool to help drive change, overcome stereotypes, build reputations, and attract new clients.

Word of Mouth Marketing, A Method Lawyers Understand.

LinkedIn is electronic word of mouth marketing, a process in which people and brands can share information about someone or something to a network of people (Lipshultz, 2018). Lawyers in the United States were prohibited from participating in any form of advertising until the late 1970’s and as a result, word of mouth was the only way by which new business was attained (Jacobowitz, 2018). Lawyers understand the power of word of mouth marketing.

LinkedIn provides a vehicle by which lawyers can simultaneously showcase expertise and likability. A lawyer can use LinkedIn to explain how new employment laws, for example, can impact a business, but the tone and style of the post (which should be much different from that used in briefs and contracts) can provide the reader with an idea of what it would be like to work with that lawyer.

There is a learning curve for many lawyers who engage on the social network. They must learn to write in a more conversational tone, in language that non-lawyers can understand. They must find their authentic voices and embrace the concepts of conversation and collaboration.

LinkedIn Is A Two-Way Street.

It is important for a lawyer to find balance when using LinkedIn. Sharing information is great, but time should also be spent “listening” to what others have to say on the social site.

Lawyers should dedicate time to reading, commenting and sharing the information provided by others. This information can help provide the lawyer with valuable insight into the issues clients and prospects are concerned about and interested in. It can help lawyers anticipate needs and identify trends. It can provide opportunities for lawyers to engage, ask questions, identify and anticipate opportunities that may benefit those in their network. It can also be used to help dispel some of the negative stereotypes of lawyers. LinkedIn can be used to showcase a lawyer’s ability to listen, engage and understand that others have information worth listening to and sharing (even if those others didn’t attend law school).

Likable Results.

When lawyers embrace social media to communicate with people in their networks, they receive information that will help them anticipate client needs. They will have the ability to show their willingness and ability to be a true partner to clients. They can promote their ability to collaborate. They can show their desire to protect a client or prospect’s business. They can strengthen existing relationships and build new connections. Lawyers can use LinkedIn to help overcome negative stereotypes in order to set themselves apart from the competition.

6 Amazing Stats That Prove LinkedIn is Important for Lawyers [Infographic]

Don’t Take My Word For It.

I have worked with many lawyers who were reluctant to embrace LinkedIn but quickly realized the error of their ways once they started using the program. This is not uncommon. As more lawyers accept this platform as a must-have tool in their tool kits, they are speaking out and introducing other lawyers to its benefits.

Allison Shields is an attorney turned consultant who trains lawyers on the benefits of using LinkedIn. She works with solo practitioners or small to mid-sized law firms looking to attract better, higher value clients. Allison was recently interviewed on ways lawyers can and have used LinkedIn to accomplish their goals:

Interview With Allison Shields: LinkedIn For Lawyers

Julie Tolek and Laurance Colletti recently participated in a contest run by Legal Talk Network. They were challenged to add a thousand new quality connections on LinkedIn in one month. The two discuss their results and observations made along the way in this podcast:

The 2018 LinkedIn Connection Competition Results

LinkedIn Has Been Proven To Work. So What Are You Waiting For?

There are dozens and dozens of articles written that outline the steps lawyers should take to realize the full value of LinkedIn. Here are links to a couple of my favorites:

LinkedIn For Lawyers: 5 Tips For Success

American Bar Association: How to Get The Most Out of LinkedIn


About the Author.

Jennifer O’Leary Cathell has worked in legal marketing and business development for more than two decades. She trains lawyers on ways they can use social media to help improve visibility and advance business development efforts.  Jennifer is a long-standing member of the Legal Marketing Association and has served as an editor of the Legal Marketing Association magazine, Strategies, since 2016. She can be reached at joc@psh.com.



Dewey, Hugh L. (2018). Some lawyers are people too. The Lectic Law Library. Retrieved from: https://www.lectlaw.com/files/fun04.htm

Jan L. Jacobowitz. (2018) Ending the Pursuit: Releasing Attorney Advertising Regulations at the Intersection of Technology and the First Amendment. The professional lawyer. Retrieved from: https://www.americanbar.org/publications/professional_lawyer/2016/volume-24-number-2/ending_pursuit_releasing_attorney_advertising_regulations_the_intersection.html

Lipschultz, J.H. (2018). Social media communication: Concepts, practices, data, law, and ethics. 2nd edition.  New York, NY: Routledge

N.A. (2017) Alternative Legal Service Providers. Thompson Reuters. Retrieved from: https://static.legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/static/pdf/Alternative-Legal-Service-Providers_Long.pdf?mboxSession=1531680617423-447542

Wasserstrom, Richard. (1975). Lawyers as professionals, some moral issues. American Bar Association. Retrieved from: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/38th_conf_session1_lawyers_as_professionals_some_moral_questions.authcheckdam.pdf

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