Whether or not LinkedIn seems like a good idea — and even if you don't know what you're supposed to be using it for — in-house lawyers seem to love it. According to a survey by research firm Acrita, 43 percent of female GCs and 33 percent of male GCs are on LinkedIn.
That's a large proportion of GCs — especially for women. So what's the deal with in-house counsel using LinkedIn so much? Has LinkedIn, as Acritas suggests, become the new "golf course" when it comes to making deals?
Probably so. Acritas' data seem to confirm the results of Inside Counsel's 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey, which found that 73 percent of in-house counsel use social media tools, "with particular emphasis on blogs, LinkedIn and Wikipedia." The digital marketing agency One North also conducted a survey last year, finding 60 percent of GCs use LinkedIn.
So at least we know this isn't a blip. It might seem surprising that GCs are the ones on LinkedIn the most (they already have jobs, after all), but GCs appear to be tweeting their little faces off. But why? Inside Counsel elaborated that many GCs use social media tools to vet outside firms, paying attention to "the quality of law firm blogs."
So there's one reason why GCs are so jazzed about LinkedIn: It allows them to easily cull the list of potential outside firms to associate with. This interaction actually explains why GCs are so interested in social media. Because they're limited only to the resources in their corporate legal departments, in-house counsel frequently have to reach out — usually to outside law firms — when a major project arises that exceeds the corporation's resources, or when a task requires a specialty the legal department doesn't have, like electronic discovery or an SEC filing. Oh, and don't forget contracting out work that could be done cheaper elsewhere.
Social media is a road, not a destination. The same can be said of golf courses: No one actually goes there to play golf. Lawyers go there to network, shake hands, get business cards, and make an appointment to talk later, after everyone's had too many martinis back at the clubhouse. LinkedIn facilitates most of that interaction (minus the golf).
So if you're on LinkedIn, but you're not sure what to do with it, the answer is: network! You don't have to respond to things, but you do have to look around at what other people are saying so you can size them up for the possibility of future associations.