LinkedIn: Maintaining Authenticity in Your Online Profile

Lawyers use LinkedIn for professional development and networking more often than any other social media platform.

Many lawyers maintain LinkedIn profiles and consider LinkedIn a natural and essential component of our online presence. With its reach, visibility and flexibility, it’s hard not to view a platform like LinkedIn that way.

Among LinkedIn’s most popular features is the ability to endorse connections and be endorsed. LinkedIn’s overview of skill endorsements states skill endorsements “let your connections validate the strengths found on your own profile. Skill endorsements are a simple and effective way of building your professional brand and engaging your network.”

The overview goes on to say “Accumulating a high number of endorsements for a skill adds credibility to your profile, and shows that your professional network recognizes you have that skill.”

While this can be helpful, endorsements don’t require a detailed analysis and can take you into uncharted waters if not handled properly.

For example, connections may be well-meaning but don’t fully understand what you do. Does your corporate/commercial practice include corporate governance? If you are a litigator, does you skillset extend to administrative law or arbitration?

To another lawyer, the answers to these questions may be obvious. For clients or connections not directly involved with the legal profession, less so.

When you accept and publish LinkedIn endorsements that are suspect, are you violating the Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct?

Marketing of Legal Services

The Code makes it clear that a lawyer “may offer legal services to a prospective client by any means.” Any means, however, doesn’t mean false or misleading marketing.

The Code also says that a lawyer cannot claim to be a specialist unless certified in a particular field by the Law Society of Alberta. At this time, the Law Society does not offer certification.

Nonetheless, a lawyer can advertise that they practice specific areas of practice, including preferred areas of practice. Advertisements can include a description of a lawyer’s proficiency or expertise in an area of law, but care must be taken to ensure that the representations don’t cross into forbidden territory.

Demonstrably True, Accurate and Verifiable

Under the Code, all marketing used to promote a lawyer’s practice must be:

a) Demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable.

b) Neither misleading, confusing or deceptive, nor likely to mislead, confuse or deceive.

c) In the best interests of the public and consistent with a high standard of professionalism.

Examples of marketing that may contravene these rules include “using testimonials or endorsements that contain emotional appeals.”

Professional Branding

Your LinkedIn profile can be an excellent tool in developing your professional branding but misplaced endorsements may actually detract from your reputation rather than enhance it. 

You control what appears on your profile and are responsible for the resulting content.

It is a simple process to remove inaccurate or marginal endorsements that detract from your real strengths:

  1. Under the “Profile” tab at the top of your profile, click “Edit Profile”
  2. Scroll down to the “Skills & Endorsements” section
  3. Click on any of the skills listed
  4. Click on the X next to the skill you want to remove
  5. Click Save

If you are still concerned and want to remove the Endorsement section altogether from your profile:

  1. Under the “Profile” tab at the top of your profile, click “Edit Profile”
  2. Scroll down to the “Skills & Endorsements” section
  3. Click on any of the skills listed
  4. Beside “I want to be endorsed”, click “No”
  5. Click Save

The Takeaway

While social media platforms such as LinkedIn hold tremendous potential for the legal profession and the marketing of other professional services, the law in this area continues to evolve.

What we do know is that the Code applies to lawyers’ activities both online and off-line.

As with all facets of professional marketing, your LinkedIn profile must be demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable. If it is not, some delinking may be in order.


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