The following article appears in the August 2016 issue of the ABA’s Before The Bar Blog Link to the full article: http://abaforlawstudents.com/2016/01/25/building-your-online-presence/ By: Andrew Cabasso JANUARY 25, 2016 Becoming a lawyer today requires a handle of the Internet that previous generations of lawyers never had to deal with. LinkedIn, Avvo, websites, social media – lawyers need to be familiar with all of it. Whether you’re researching opposing parties on social media or looking to market your firm online, familiarity with the tools of the web is critical. For a new lawyer, mastering your online presence can build your profile and aid the progression of your legal career.
LinkedInIf you had a job before law school, you probably have a LinkedIn profile. If you don’t, that’s fine. Now’s the time to get one. LinkedIn will be your online resume and, if you manage it right, references page. Doing a cursory lookup of your name, your LinkedIn profile will probably show up on page 1 of Google results. What will people see? LinkedIn can be a great tool to connect with colleagues and acquaintances, and display your skills and experience. After any networking event, once all the business cards are collected and sorted through, people usually head to LinkedIn to stay in touch with the people they met earlier. For your LinkedIn profile, get skills endorsements from people familiar with your skillset. Connect with and stay in touch with the people you meet at events. If you’re ever looking to switch firms down the road, get referrals from colleagues, or give out a referral, LinkedIn is the perfect tool to help. If you are running a solo practice, you can create a company page for colleagues and clients to follow. They can stay abreast of what you’re currently working on and see any announcements or news you might have to share.
FacebookMost lawyers are on Facebook because most people are on Facebook. You may not want to friend work colleagues or clients because it seems too personal, but there are ways to use Facebook that can keep your circle of friends private. First, if you are running a solo practice, create a page for your firm. Then, invite colleagues and clients to like it. No need to friend them directly so long as they’re following your page. Second, if you want to add colleagues, clients, and acquaintances on Facebook, you can add them to a list, labeled “Clients” or whatever you choose. Once on this list, you can prevent them from seeing any private content. Instead of sharing posts with Friends, click the Custom button next to the Post button and choose to share with “Friends, excluding Clients.” Now clients won’t see those casual pictures you don’t want them to see.
EmailIf you’re launching a solo practice, one way to make your firm seem more professional is with a custom your-name@your-website-URL email address. Luckily, it’s very easy to get. First, buy your website URL. Go to Namecheap.com or GoDaddy. Find the right domain name for your firm. It should only cost around $10. Better yet, search for “GoDaddy/Namecheap coupon”. They always have discounts on purchasing new domains. Second, get an email service like Google Apps for Work or Office 365, which cost $5 per user. GoDaddy and Namecheap also have their own email services, but usually they cost a bit more. You can choose your own email address in whatever configuration you want – firstname@website, firstname.lastname@website, initials@website, etc. Third, if you’re using Office 365 or Google Apps, you’ll need to point your domain’s MX records to Office 365/Google Apps. This is a bit technical. Thankfully, Google Apps and Office 365 have very good instructions for how to take care of this. Once completed, you can also set up email on your phone. Lastly, get that new email address added to your business card and you’ll immediately have some credibility. Having a custom domain email looks a lot more professional than @AOL, @Hotmail or @Gmail.
Your WebsiteIf you are starting a solo practice, the Internet presents a huge opportunity. Starting a practice has never been easier – all you need is a website, a computer, and a phone. And just like that, potential clients can find you. You can create your own website cheaply using a template on Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. If you have the budget, you can hire a lawyer website designer who has experience making good-looking law firm websites. First impressions count, so make sure your website:
- Looks good on mobile devices (is “responsive”)
- Has good-quality images (e.g. headshots, background images, etc.)
- Is free of cheesy stock photos (stock photos make you look fake and put you in a negative light from a client perspective)
- Mentions what kind of law you actually practice
- Has your phone number and a contact form so potential clients can reach you