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Make the most of LinkedIn

Jun

12

Social media that works for you

transparent-Linkedin-logo-iconIt might be that you’ve just graduated or that the idea of approaching your final year is making you think about what’s going to come next.   Or maybe you’re considering graduate opportunities, summer internships and doing what you can to begin shaping your post-university career.  You might be well-versed with Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, but LinkedIn may just be hovering around in your peripheral vision. Perhaps you’ve set up a profile already, but it’s lying dormant and underused.  Because let’s face it, LinkedIn is many things, but it’s not much fun.  It’s not where you go to see a string of photos of friends embarrassing themselves and each other, or to pass round the latest and greatest viral video.

Looking through your homepage on LinkedIn, (if you’re not doing it right, that is) is like the worst staff meeting EVER.  It’s full of professional backpatting, and the most flagrant and obtuse display of credentials and achievements that you can hope to thumb through during a toilet break.  But used well, LinkedIn can really become a very useful and active partner in the shaping of your future career.  Now that most companies have a very active LinkedIn presence (it’s the third most visited social media network, after Facebook and Twitter) it’s a great place to focus on your interests in a way that could hook you up with future employers.

What’s it for?

For a moment let’s pretend you’ve not heard of LinkedIn at all yet.  It’s basically Facebook but it operates in a purely professional realm.  It puts the emphasis on the networking of the social network; it’s about making professional contacts and reinforcing those you’ve already made.  It’s to see who your existing contacts know and who they might be able to introduce you to, and slowly but surely, it’s becoming a really useful, and potentially quite exciting, tool for job hunting.  Many companies are advertising positions on LinkedIn and you can apply to these directly through your profile.  Not only that, but recruitment agencies and headhunters are on the prowl for people who fit their spec for vacancies.  If you use your LinkedIn profile well, the chances are your next job may just come to you.

Your Profile

Your profile isn’t just your profile; it’s your online CV.  Present it well, as you’d like to put yourself across to future employers.  This doesn’t mean be drab and serious – nobody wants to have dull colleagues – but it’s not the best place for wacky profile shots.  Like the picture, the tenor of your profile should be professional, for the most part, but also engaging.

One recently added feature called Resume Builder takes all the information from your profile and, using one of several available templates, turns it into a PDF version of a CV.  How good is that?!  I for one hate the constant CV updating, the writing in of dates and responsibilities and grades, and to have something which does it for me is a dream come true.  However, it’s not perfect yet. Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 13.34.08 I think it’s a shame that you can put things like interests, causes and volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile but these don’t (at the moment) show up on the CV.  Also, it’s very literal in the translation of your profile to a CV so make sure you check the formatting thoroughly.  I’m not sure that this tool is quite well developed enough to *completely* make CV-writing a thing of the past, but with a few tweaks it may well be.  Basically, what I’m saying is don’t rely on it 100% just yet, but keep checking back for updates.

Active profiles will attract the most attention, but remember to keep any posts you make relevant to your fields of interest.  With the feed becoming more similar to your standard Facebook view with our trusted friends “like,” “comment” and “share” accompanying each post, people are getting frowned upon for sharing more trivial posts, those that are more suitable for a Facebook feed and that detract from the professional focus of the site.  To post a cheesy and emotive career-centric motivational quote may just make the grade, but to post statuses on evening-time escapades and videos of babies giggling … well, it’s just not good LinkedIn etiquette.

Putting yourself out there

The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can really interact with and immerse yourself in the field of employment that you’d like to move into.  You want to work in TV?  Well, there are many ways on LinkedIn of connecting with people who already do.

Whilst some people may allow you to “connect” with them without , others you may be able to “follow” instead.  There is nothing stopping you – depending on their account settings – from directly contacting potential employers or people who you think might be a good connection for you – but be careful as LinkedIn doesn’t approve of people being too trigger-happy with the connect button.  You’ve only got a limited number (albeit 5000) of times you can connect with people, and you’re encouraged to only connect with people you actually know… but you can try circumnavigating this with a polite message about your interest and the reason for your connect request.

Another way to connect with people is to find and join groups that are relevant to your targeted area; again, using TV as an example, you can search in the Groups section for TV or Television, or be more specific such as TV editing, TV production and so on.  There will be a number of groups that are designated as only for established professionals, so if that’s not you yet, use the tools to refine the search to open groups only.  There’s no harm done by requesting to join the closed groups, though.  You’ll also find in most groups that there’s some sort of thread on which those who are happy to make new connections can say so, providing an arena for new, off-piste connections.

Finger on the pulse …

Influencers Q1_2014Yet another way to immerse yourself in the professional world of your potential future peers is to use the section of LinkedIn that’s called Pulse, which is currently nestled under the “Interests” tab.  Pulse is a publishing platform that’s a relatively new feature, and it acts simultaneously as a place to blog and get your own thoughts and ideas published as well as reading a vast array of articles written by other LinkedIn members in addition to articles from online news sites.  You can tailor your Pulse feed to your interests by choosing relevant topics to follow.  LinkedIn have their own selected board of “InFluencers” who used to be the only LinkedIn members who could contribute to this section of the site, but now it’s open to anyone and it’s a really great tool to get to grips with.  By posting thoughtful pieces of writing on Pulse, you exponentially increase your reach on LinkedIn; you can, again, really increase the attention you get from others in your field of interest.  And this works – a friend of mine has recently started publishing short articles and as a result, she’s actually getting more recruiters contacting her regarding potential employment opportunities.

Using LinkedIn well really is about being a go-getter – the contacts are out there and this network brings them all much, much closer.  It’s a great time to sign up as well, as LinkedIn is developing new features all the time and amongst the current 350 million members, you’re bound to make some great new links and you could find your life as a graduate gets off to a great start.

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A Review of 'Changes to the Legal Profession'

Mar

09

Now I have never wished to be a solicitor, I have never taken an interest in commercial awareness. For me, it has always been the Criminal Bar. However, I found myself with an hour free on Monday 26th February 2018 and decided to dip my toe in and see what all the buzz about ‘commercial awareness’ was so I attended ‘Changes to the Legal Profession’

Craig Sharpe of Darlingtons Solicitors was very keen to avoid using the term commercial awareness, so to pigeonhole the talk into that of commercial awareness does the talk a grave injustice. It went beyond commercial awareness into the practical and current issues the legal profession is facing and how it is combatting them. It offered a deep analysis of current practice, but most notably in contrast to what our beloved profession once was, which was refreshing to see. It was interesting however to see the inside view on the changes the legal profession has endured over the past 50 years. For me, I took away 3 key things. Firstly, the effect the internet has had; secondly, the effect the purse strings has and finally, the future of the profession.

Internet

Now, the internet, for good or bad, is now a key part of our everyday lives. Even by reading this on the internet that point is proven. However, perhaps as a law student who mainly has his head in Blackstone’s Criminal Practice, I overlook how the lay client views the law through the internet. There are a whole host of resources targeted for law students (the one most prominent in my mind would be elawresouces) however I hadn’t appreciated that if law students can find this, so can clients. Clients can then of course hold an initial understanding of their issue, or at least have read up on it. 

Additionally there is the rise in law clinics at schools and other pro-bono institutions than can give free legal advice before then going onto a solicitor. This culminates in the law no longer being the lawyers personal knowledge. The client now shares in our knowledge, which means our practice has to adapt to this. It is now about giving advice on the more technical aspects and not so much going through each issue as one previously would. I truly had overlooked this, but it rings true for the criminal bar. Clients can see the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance which is published extensively online, they can come to Criminal pro-bono clinics (which I am a part of at my university). And indeed, this has happened to me with a recent clinic client where they came with printouts of guidance from the CPS and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). To add my own view of this, I think it is a good thing for society that the law is more accessible and digestible for the lay client. If people understand their legal rights, hopefully less abuses of said rights ensue everyday in society. The legal profession is a cornerstone of society however, and as Craig pointed out, our profession must adapt to survive.

 

Financials

The second memorable aspect of the talk for me was the financial pressures. They conversely affect lawyers, firms and also clients. Clients previously wouldn’t have asked how hard their wallet would be hit to get that precious legal advice or contract drafted, now they are ever more requesting a very clear fee structure and want to know how much it will cost them before they instruct a solicitor to act on their behalf. In terms of a consumer, this is a good thing. Hardly any of us would be confident with going into a supermarket, picking a product from the shelf that had a price ticket of £1, getting to the till and then finding out it actually cost us £7. Everything is more expensive than it was 10-15 years ago. The demand on our bank accounts means we need to make every penny stretch as far as possible. 

However, this is true for the firm as much as the client. Insurance, wages, operating costs amongst a long list of other expenses do not come cheap. However, finances are a key thing of modern society, much like the internet now. We need to ensure that we are seen to be charging fair fees, and a set fee structure can of course bring surety to the client, but can we as lawyers accept that they are a good thing? It’s impossible to predict how much time and effort something will truly take, and when factoring in late disclosure and potentially new evidence, a rigid set fee may cause lawyers issues. 

The example Craig used was the negotiation of a contract, that could involve a fair amount of toing and froing between parties, and a set fixed fee may place the lawyer at a detriment. 

The business of law

The final thing I took away was the need to understand business demands. This to me, was something I naively deemed irrelevant to my career. I thought it would be comfortably outside of my remit as a criminal barrister, however yesterday was the first successful prosecution for failing to prevent bribery. This commercial context, I feel, will only continue to grow in the criminal law with white collar crime becoming an ever increasing trend in the criminal courts. The need to understand business practices informs the lawyering we will do in the future. 

Craig approached this with an example of large city firms who are now allocating floors to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and tech teams to impress large clients. However what fascinated me most, was the fact that the firm also has to consider its’ own business practices. What if you are able to get the employment issues from a large company, and they then wish to move their commercial practice to another colleague within your firm. It’s surely a good thing for the firm to increase revenue and become the sole legal service provider to a large company, however an individual lawyer is also a business. If you were to move firm, or set up your own practice, then could you potentially lose that large client you managed to convince to use you for their employment issues. However a collegiate approach in the current climate should be encouraged. We need to strive to improve each others practices, and work in the best interest of our firm/chambers. 

What struck me most about the talk was how narrow minded I had been to not consider that learning about the issues facing firms and how they have dealt with them is vital. I have done as much as I can to get to the bar, but i ought to have taken a greater interest in what the solicitors profession was doing to cope with new and ever increasing demands on the legal profession. I cannot thank Craig enough for opening my mind to that, and perhaps that was the biggest change to the legal profession I learnt myself, that there had been a change in my approach to the legal profession.

 

Liam Lane