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LinkedIn: The More The (Not-So) Merrier

By now, we’ve all received at least one phone call or email from a lawyer asking something along the lines of  “So, this LinkedIn thing I keep hearing about.  Is it worth it?  How do I use it?”  Although basic rules for marketing using LinkedIn were covered in a previous post, I recently got a completely new LinkedIn question from a lawyer:  should he accept his daughter’s request to connect on the site? While it seems perfectly harmless to connect with your own grown daughter, his question demonstrates what seems to be a common concern among lawyers about with whom they should network on LinkedIn.

Even the idle LinkedIn user is bound to receive an email request to connect with a friend, acquaintance, colleague or client. From a marketing and business development perspective, when is it a good or bad idea to accept such requests?  There are differing approaches to networking on LinkedIn. Some would say, when it comes to social networking, the more the merrier. Others– or more specifically—National Law Journal marketing columnist Adrian Dayton, would say, “The answer depends on how you use LinkedIn.”

In his article, “Who do you think LinkedIn-worthy?” Dayton recommends that you ask yourself the following questions before accepting or ignoring LinkedIn requests.

  • Is the person a high-quality contact? Quoting Dorsey & Whitney partner, Michael Droke, Dayton advises against connecting with anyone who you wouldn’t want to share a dinner with.
  • How could this connection help me or my clients? Is the person in your field? Could they refer business or serve as a resource? Would you want to work with this person someday?
  • Does this request seem like spam? Dayton writes, “If I feel the connection request seems too much like spam — and perhaps came from certain countries with reputations for financial scams — I click “I do not know this person.”
  • Does this person have too many contacts? If the person has thousands of contacts and is a stranger to you, chances are they’re just looking to add another name to their list. In this instance, Dayton recommends that you click “I do not know this person,” and their account will be blacklisted and barred from sending connection requests unless they have a person’s email address.
  • Should I connect with competitors? That depends. Again, if the competitor is an old friend, go ahead and connect. But Dayton’s general advice to lawyers is this: “If they are competitors in the same geographic area, don’t connect. If they are peers elsewhere, it probably doesn’t hurt and could potentially lead to referral-sharing.”

To add to Dayton’s list, we are frequently asked by lawyers whether it’s acceptable to connect with clients’ competitors. This can be handled on a case-by-case basis by asking the following questions: Would my client be uncomfortable with this connection? Would the conflict prevent me from ever working with this contact? If the answer is yes to either or both of these questions, kindly decline the request.


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