by Charles Volkert, Esq.
In your search for the dream legal job, you’ve updated your resume, prepped for interviews and perfected your elevator pitch. But there’s one thing you may have forgotten to do: improve your online brand. In today’s digital age, a positive web presence is practically a requirement for getting noticed and hired. Here are seven legal career tips for how to improve your image with personal online branding.
- Know yourself
Before you update your profile on LinkedIn, arguably the most influential professional social network today, take a good look at yourself. Start by jotting down your strengths, weaknesses and legal career goals. Then get advice from trusted friends and colleagues about how your online profile comes across. Ask them to point out any questionable content or areas that look thin or incomplete, and work on those.
- Know your audience
If most of your legal resumes are going to traditional law firms, your online brand should have a buttoned-down appearance and tone. But if you’re targeting more cutting-edge legal practices, you can take a more innovative approach. Regardless of the type of position you seek, remember that the audience for your professional online profile is different from that of your personal social media page, so keep your photo and other content businesslike.
- Be complete
Just having an account is not enough. You have to populate it with good, relevant content. Go to your LinkedIn page and look at the top right-hand side: What is the strength of your profile? If you’re a serious job seeker, it should be at or close to 100 percent complete. In addition to the basics, include your specialties, college/law school groups and societies, samples of work (make sure they don’t contain privileged content), volunteer activities and awards. And of course replace that default silhouette (in LinkedIn) or the egg avatar (in Twitter) with a professional photo — not a selfie or family portrait with other people cropped out.
- Be consistent
Make sure the persona you present across the web is consistent from platform to platform. This can be as simple as making sure the name you use is the same on each site; in other words, don’t be “Catherine” in one place but “Kate” in another. Even more important, check to see that your summary (or About) sections, job histories and the tone are in line with each other. And when you add a publication, honor or job title, do so across all profiles.
LinkedIn is not the only social media outlet for professional networking and information sharing. Tap into Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and/or Pinterest. There are also a few platforms specific to the legal community, such as Martindale.com Connected and LawLink (for attorneys). To develop even more of an online presence, volunteer to speak at a webinar or contribute articles to industry publications.
- Check yourself out
Have you Googled yourself lately? If not, you should. What turns up when you search yourself online is what prospective employers or clients can find out about you. To keep on top of what others see, take a few minutes to set up a Google Alert for your name. If something unflattering shows up, there are a few ways you can go about scrubbing some of the negative content:
- Ask the person or organization that posted the article to take it down.
- Use a reputation management company like Reputation.com or BrandYourself.
- Push down damaging search results by increasing the amount of positive content you yourself put out there. This includes buying your own domain name and creating a personal website. Also sign up for and use as many social media sites as possible, and tweak the setting so that the content is public, i.e., searchable.
- Watch what you write
OK to post online: work history, career accomplishments, unique skills, personal values and specialized knowledge. Not OK to post: confidential information or legal advice — doing so could put you in hot water for the unauthorized practice of law. Also, if your present employer or state bar association has a social media policy, read it thoroughly. For example, your comments and posts may be construed as legal advertising (see California’s Formal Opinion No. 2012-186). The best legal career advice, when it comes to your digital presence, is to avoid posting anything online you wouldn’t want to see in a newspaper — with your name beside it.
In today’s digital world, you can’t escape the influence of the Internet on your personal brand. Don’t let your less-than-stellar online profile hinder your networking and job search efforts. Rather, make your online presence an authentic and appealing representation of who you are as a legal professional.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal®, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. The company also offers a full suite of legal staffing and consulting services. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and global markets.
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Question & Answer
I’m excited about the opportunity to increase the number of days I work remotely. But I don’t want a lack of structure or face-time to harm my career. How can I best manage my time and position myself for advancement while working from home?
You’re in good company. With better technology tools and greater openness to working remotely, more and more legal jobs are being performed beyond the walls of the traditional law office. In the latest Future Law Office report from Robert Half Legal, 39 percent of legal professionals polled said the number of telecommuters in their firm has risen in the past year.
When your daily commute involves going from the kitchen to your home office, it’s important to follow a few house rules. Here’s some career advice for how to get the most out of your workday as a home-based legal professional:
1. Keep a regular schedule
Begin your workday when everyone else at the firm clocks in. Having the same hours every day makes it easier for your colleagues to communicate and collaborate with you. It also conveys dependability. If you have to be away for a big chunk of the day (don’t make this a habit), inform your team and set up auto-replies so they’re not left wondering why you haven’t responded.
2. Use technology to maximize communication
Take advantage of all the ways you can stay connected with coworkers. Use instant messaging (IM), either your firm’s in-house system or a publicly available network, for real-time communication when calling is too intrusive. Since you’ll be involved in more conference calls, invest in equipment that facilitates remote meetings. For example, a landline often has better reception than a mobile, and a good-quality headset and microphone improve comprehension on both ends.
3. Make your presence known
One of the potential drawbacks of working from home is being out of sight, out of mind. So be proactive about letting your boss and colleagues know you’re present and working. Answer emails and IMs as soon as possible, and initiate communications to update others about project statuses. If an issue is too complex for a virtual message, pick up the phone. During conference calls, participate in the discussion and ask good questions. If your boss hasn’t set up a regular check-in meeting, be proactive and suggest the two of you touch base every week, either by phone or in person. And when you do go into the office, be sure to “see and be seen.”
4. Build camaraderie
When you work from home, you’re at a disadvantage socially, so strengthen the ties through a bit of casual conversation. Office small talk may seem trivial, but a little chitchat goes a long way in strengthening relationships and trust among coworkers.
5. Keep it balanced
Take regular breaks, which are not only good for your physical health, but can help you be more focused, productive and creative when you return. Also know when to call it a day. A major perk of telecommuting is the flexible schedule, but be careful of “work creep.” An important piece of career advice for remote workers is to not let the job intrude on your down time.
For many professionals in legal jobs, the ability to telecommute is a sought-after benefit. With discipline, tech savvy and a strong work ethic, you’ll be able to enjoy better work-life balance and get ahead in your career.
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Submit a career-related question to Charles A. Volkert, Esq., executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing
service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal
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