LinkedIn is a social media platform with a specific focus on careers. It was founded in 2003, is now operated by Microsoft, and now boasts over 900 million members across the world in a variety of industries. It primarily functions as a platform for professionals to maintain an online profile (akin to a digital CV) which employers can view, but also has an active social posting feature and a jobs board.
The legal industry is very active on LinkedIn. High-profile lawyers are widely appearing as influencers on the platform – to name a few varied examples, see Lewis Grimm, Partner at Jones Day, Joanna Hughes, advocate for solicitor apprenticeships, or Sophie Pender, spokesperson for social mobility in the legal profession. Employers themselves are also very active on the platform – for example Magic Circle law firms like Slaughter and May have 77,000 followers, and regularly post content from job listings to event invitations on the site. In short, LinkedIn is embedded into the legal industry, and those seeking to enter the industry are therefore often encouraged to join.
Your LinkedIn profile is, first and foremost, an online CV for the world to see. When applying to roles such as vacation schemes or pupillages, you will sometimes be asked directly to fill in the application form with a link to your page. Even if this is not the case, many applicants choose to add their LinkedIn profile page hyperlink to the top of their CV or cover letters anyway.
It is essential that your profile page on LinkedIn is as polished as possible. This section walks you through some of the most important sections of your profile, with clear tips on how to fill each one in.
Your profile opens with a header image and a profile photo. Your header image can be anything you want – many university students will choose a wide shot of their campus, while employed individuals might opt for a flattering photo of their office, for instance.
Your profile photo is very important. Ideally it will be a professional headshot, but it can equally be taken at home on a mobile phone if the former is not possible. It should be as high quality an image as possible, with simple, unobstructed lighting. Most users opt for a photo from around the chest upwards, and certainly close enough to make out facial details. Many will opt for their photo to include the kind of clothing appropriate for their line of work (e.g. a suit for lawyers), though this is not always necessary. It should be a photo that makes you feel comfortable (additions like makeup are completely fine) and best represents you.
In just a phrase or two, you need to summarise who you are in the context of LinkedIn. A common layout for an aspiring lawyer might include their current place of study and any relevant work experience or next steps, so may look something like this:
‘University of Cambridge Law Student | Incoming Vacation Scheme at Clifford Chance | Aspiring Commercial Lawyer’
In this section, outline the kind of roles you’re interested in. For example, you could list ‘Legal Intern’, and LinkedIn will then provide you with job alert notifications to your phone whenever an appropriate job comes up and hits those keywords.
Your ‘About’ section is essentially an expanded version of your profile headline. You may wish to design it via a short paragraph (or two), or via bullet points. Either way, avoid unnecessary waffle and list the key facts that an employer will want to know (essentially a quick overview of your experience and education sections to come).
Along with your education, this will likely form the most integral parts of your profile. List your employers and roles, write a short description for each piece of experience, and (if you want to develop your profile further) tag a few skills (more on that later) that you developed or utilised in the process.
The short description of each experience should be clear and concise. List a few key tasks that you completed, along with the tangible (quantifiable) impact that your work had.
Legal work experience (e.g. vacation schemes, pro bono volunteering, etc.) is obviously great. However, also be sure to list any other work you have done that might be transferable. Worked in Starbucks for a few months during sixth form? Add it – and mention in your short description how it built time management skills in a high-pressure environment (as will be transferable to law).
Your education section should list any all the formal qualifications you have achieved so far. If studying in the UK, that usually means GCSEs, A Levels/IB, and university study. For each listing, include the grades achieved (for older qualifications with many subjects like GCSEs, feel free to group them into something like ‘9 GCSEs at Grades A*-B’), what subjects you studied, and where you studied them. Any additional information can also be added – for example, you might want to point out a few modules you studied during your degree which might be particularly relevant to an employer (e.g. having studied History but with a module on the development of the British legislative system – which you achieved a good mark in).
Any particular certifications can be listed here. In a legal context, this is where any virtual work experiences (e.g. those from Forage) will go (an excellent way to develop legal work experience in a simple, non-competitive manner in your own time and from home). You can add a link for employers to view the verified certificates here too.
Treat this section in a similar way to your experience section in terms of structure. Volunteering is a great way to build additional work experience, and many firms now include it as an activity during their vacation schemes too.
If you have added them during your work experience section, then you might already have some skills automatically listed. Feel free to add a few more. Colleagues can ‘endorse’ you for the skills you have listed here too.
Again, a form of endorsement, but this time a personalised, written one. Essentially, this is the online version of a reference from a past employer. You could ask a supervisor to add a short one to your page after completing some legal work experience with them, for example.
Anything you have published which you want employers to be made aware of can be placed here. A good example might be any student journalism pieces you have written, or anything else of value.
You can also ‘post’ to LinkedIn in the same way that you can on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or other social media platforms. Many aspiring lawyers will post milestones of career development – for example stating that they attended a recent open day at a chambers, or announcing their final university results. This may well end up on the feed of a recruiter.
LinkedIn is an excellent way to network with other professionals in the legal industry. To find people to network with, try combining different keywords into the search field. For example, you could be interested in applying to opportunities at Linklaters, and also have a particular interest in IP. In that case, you might search for Linklaters IP Associates on LinkedIn, and find one who attended the same university as you (to form a conversation over something in common). You can then ‘connect’ (similar to adding someone as a friend on Facebook), and even message them directly in a chat function. This is an excellent way to build your professional network, and may well even lead to real-world opportunities such as setting up a quick call or carrying out a few days of shadowing experience.
Finally, LinkedIn is incredibly useful as a way of actually finding work in the legal sector. Once you have notifications for job alerts turned on (see the ‘Open to Work’ section above), you will be the first to hear when a new, relevant role comes up.
In short, LinkedIn is a hugely important tool for aspiring lawyers to utilise. If set up correctly, it can act as a clear, concise CV, and also provides unparalleled opportunities to connect with really useful people and discover really relevant work. In the legal industry in particular, LinkedIn is extremely popular, and aspiring lawyers are heavily encouraged to establish a presence on the site.
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