LinkedIn is expanding in Australia at a phenomenal rate. As of October 2013, there are over five million Australian users on LinkedIn. If you are a law student, graduate or young lawyer and do not have a vibrant, comprehensive, and frequently-updated profile on LinkedIn, you are missing an essential tool in your job hunting, professional networking, and personal branding toolbox.

How to set up LinkedIn as a law student

Make sure your profile is 100% complete. LinkedIn is a live resume that is updated with your career focused activity during law school. A professional profile picture and past employment information should always be included. Describe your education and employment history in detail. Every sentence on your LinkedIn profile is an opportunity for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Using common keywords, legal industry terms and active language makes LinkedIn and Google searchers more likely to find you. Make sure your profile is completely truthful and for legal confidentiality purposes, do not mention current or former clients without their consent.

Network. Connect with people. Connect with law lecturers and tutors, fellow law students, employers, and professionals you meet online and offline. What looks more impressive to a hiring law firm? A candidate with 6 connections at LinkedIn or a candidate with 300 connections, including lawyers, professors, and the like. Plus employers know those connections can be used by you for future networking. In addition, reach out and get to know lawyers and business people in areas you’d like to work. DO NOT use LinkedIn’s generic language in invitations to connect. Make the subject line and the message personal and remind the individual how you know them. NEVER say “I do not know you” to someone who asks you to connect with them. Awkward.

Recommendations. Little is more powerful to an employer than genuine recommendations from people you have worked for or leaders who know you well. Law lecturers, lawyers, or even employers unrelated to the law can be asked to provide a recommendation through LinkedIn’s simple request form. Throwing ‘references by request’ or a few names at the bottom of a resume doesn’t cut it anymore. We’re too busy. Give us a recommendation from someone we can click on and ping through LinkedIn.

Join groups. Undergrad alumni groups is a no brainer. Then join groups which you have an interest in. If there are niche areas of law you’re interested in going into, join relevant groups. If there’s interests you have outside the law, join those groups. Employers want to see you’re not afraid to get out and engage with folks with similar interests. Real go getter? Start a group – professional or law school related. We have linked in a few popular LinkedIn groups below:

Create a “Vanity URL” for your public profile. On the “edit profile” page, click “public profile,” and change the link from http://www.linkedin.com/in/1234abcd to http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourname. This will increase your profile’s Google ranking and will be easier to promote on business cards.

How to use LinkedIn effectively in finding a job as a law student

If you are looking for a job, once your profile is ready, go to the “Jobs” tab, and search by keyword, industry or location. LinkedIn tells you which employers are “in your network” because you are connected to people who work there either directly if they are already a connection or indirectly, if someone you know is connected to someone who works there. You can then send a note to the person you know requesting an introduction to the person at the job you are seeking.

Use LinkedIn to get the inside scoop on potential bosses, colleagues and interviewers by looking up their profiles. Do a “Company Search” to find out who formerly worked at the employer you are looking for and then contact that person via LinkedIn, either directly if they are already a connection, or indirectly through an introduction request if they are one degree removed from one of your connections.

Connect with Beyond Law on LinkedIn where we post legal career news.