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LinkedIn: Law Firms Fall Behind Their Corporate Customers

Back in March, we undertook some analysis on the extent to which professionals at top law firms in the UK and US were using LinkedIn. The report generated a high level of interest and debate with over 300 downloads to date. In the weeks after releasing that report I had the chance to speak to business development managers at some of these firms. The overwhelming view they expressed was that LinkedIn was the most appropriate social network for legal professionals, and that it was proving to be a useful tool in building and strengthening relationships with clients. Many commented that they were aware of clients looking up their lawyers' profiles on LinkedIn, and several firms commented that meetings had already been arranged directly as a result of activity on LinkedIn. Although anecdotal, this does fit with previous evidence that real business can be generated from social networking activity. Of course, it's a new medium and is very far from a silver bullet - success requires initiative, time, and creativity. But the evidence is growing that an effective presence on LinkedIn really can deliver a competitive advantage.

Also in March, LinkedIn announced that they had reached 100 million members worldwide with some great infographics, and some other analysis produced by Vincos showed that the legal profession appeared to be relatively poorly represented compared to other professions. This led several legal business development commentators including Tom Matte and Larry Bodine to remark that lawyers looking to engage with clients and prospects in social media should take this as a sign to "go fishing where the fish are" and start engaging actively with LinkedIn.

For our latest piece of analysis, we wanted to shed some additional light on this apparent disparity between the legal profession and their corporate customers. To do this, we compared the LinkedIn profile connections of fee-earners at top law firms in the UK and US with those of nearly 30,000 executives and legal staff from companies in the FTSE350 index (the 350 largest publically traded companies in the UK), and 16,000 executives and counsel at NASDAQ100 companies in the US.

Average LinkedIn Network Size UK & US

The results are illuminating, and clearly show that the legal profession is lagging behind their clients in engaging with fellow professionals through LinkedIn. In the UK, a particular highlight is that the average number of connections for corporate executives is very nearly twice that of legal professionals. In the US, the average number of connections for NASDAQ100 Counsel is double that for law firm professionals.

Group Networks with at least 25 connections Average number of connections
FTSE350 Directors and Managers 57% 66
FTSE350 Counsel and Lawyers 56% 53
UK Top 150 Law Firm Fee-Earners 42% 34
Group Networks with at least 25 connections Average number of connections
NASDAQ 100 Executives 76% 146
NASDAQ 100 Counsel 77% 100
US Top 100 Law Firm Fee-Earners 48% 47

Network Size Distribution UK & US

Later in the year we'll re-run our analysis to see how the picture has changed, but it's becoming clearer by the day that social networking in general - and LinkedIn in particular - will form an important part of how law firms will attract and maintain clients in the future, because their clients are already there.

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  1. Thanks for presenting these data.

    I find them very interesting. Maybe another angle that we should reflect upon is why UK executives’ networks on LinkedIn are that much smaller than those from US executives?

    Considering the issue of weak ties versus strong ties I am also wondering a bit if there are more issues we should reflect upon before taking these data t face value, such as:

    * Do larger companies’ CEOs have larger networks because they simply are more visible and more people want to connect (power and visibility issue)?

    * Size of network does not explain what we get out of the network and how much we invest (e.g., time) to be able to benefit from our network of ties and connections, does it? Hence, one explanation for the findings could be such that UK lawyers use their networks more effectively than their US counterparts. But maybe we have another explanation

    Accordingly, while some issues have been addressed with this study, many more are raised looking at your data.

    I am curious to get answers to the issues I raised above. Maybe you can help? Thanks for sharing.

  2. Urs, thanks for your comments.

    I agree network size by itself can’t be directly correlated with the benefits any one person might be getting from LinkedIn. What I believe it does provide is a way to measure different levels of engagement amongst different groups of people.

    As for the UK vs US difference, my guess is that’s just a matter of timing – LinkedIn started in the US and has expanded internationally from there. We’re in the process of updating our stats on lawyer profiles on LinkedIn since the initial set we created 3 months ago and are seeing a much faster rate of growth in the UK than in the US.

    • Simon thanks for the reply

      I am not sure I can agree that having a smaller network on LinkedIn in the UK is a thing dependent upon how long one has been a member.

      We have data from DK where we can see that whilst those people were amongst the first 100,000 that joined LinkedIn their networks are smaller than those of US folks that joined that early as well.

      Culture plays a factor I believe.