Originally posted in The National Law Journal on October 15, 2012
You may have noticed that Linkedin has created a new feature called “Endorsements.” Much as Netflix prompts you to rate movies and Amazon books, Linkedin is prompting you to endorse your peers. Because a lot of people have been asking me, “What the heck are endorsements?” I thought I would take a moment to explain what they are, how they work, and why you might want to pay attention.
Let me start with some background. A few months ago, Linkedin rolled out a new feature, called “Skill and Expertise,” that allowed users to tag their profile with a list of skills. This section remains active— just go to http://Linkedin.com/skills to search for specializations like intellectual property litigation, FTC compliance, or corporate law and add them to your profile with the click of a button. I recommend that lawyers go to this page and add up to a dozen skills that apply to them.
This is good for a couple of reasons. First, it helps lawyers brand themselves with some specificity. Second, it helps the names of lawyers who have added the appropriate skills to show up in searches performed for that subject matter.
Within the last few weeks, Linkedin has begun to prompt users to endorse their connections, asking the question: “Would you like to endorse John Smith for IP Litigation?” If you click “yes” then Linkedin will give you another four options of connections to endorse as well. Headshots of lawyers show up next to each particular practice area.
Is it good to have a lot of endorsements? I doubt it’s a bad thing, but I don’t suspect it will make much difference in the decision-making process of potential purchasers of legal services. It’s kind of like having a lot of followers on Twitter—which only proves you have a lot of followers on Twitter.
Now, endorsements could prove significant if you secure them from powerful people—if the governor of your state or the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company endorses you, that may pull more weight. Unfortunately, endorsements don’t provide very much information—all they really show is that someone took the time to click “yes” when asked if he or she would endorse your work.
Is it ethical to use endorsements? State bar associations enforce different rules with regard to testimonials. Because some states, including Indiana and Florida, take a pretty firm line against testimonials, many national firms prohibit the use of Linkedin recommendations altogether. We will have to wait to see how firms deal with endorsements because they differ from testimonials. Since they aren’t being solicited by the attorneys, and they don’t specifically designate lawyers as ”specialists,” they may be OK.
For now, endorsements just seem like noise to me, though. I wouldn’t worry too much about them, but if you have clients with whom you have a great relationship, it probably wouldn’t hurt to click “yes” when prompted to endorse them. Endorsements on Linkedin may wind up kind of like Facebook’s “Likes.” And as we all know, everybody likes to like.