Headlining on LinkedIn

Optimize Your LinkedIn Headline to Make Headlines


In last weeks episode I talked about where to position your online self, what to ask in order to determine your best online channels, and use it in a meaningful way to build your practice. Though it is impossible to make a blanket recommendation, I reviewed the most popular social media channels among lawyers and rated according to time commitment, so head  back to that episode if you aren’t quite sure where to position yourself to get the best return with your online effort.

This week we’re talking about how to optimize your online profile by way of LinkedIn, specifically focusing on optimizing your LinkedIn headline. Stick around for the end where I offer an essential handy dandy quick & easy to implement tip of this post, that is very unique to attorneys specifically…


Of all the social media platforms out there however, I will say that LinkedIn, is the “professional” social media network which is by far the most popular with lawyers and many other professionals. Because of its more serious and professional tone, lawyers have always been more comfortable participating on LinkedIn. That’s why, according to the 2016 ABA Legal Technology Survey report, more than 93% of lawyers surveyed now use LinkedIn, with large firm attorneys relying on it the most. Because there

For lawyers, LinkedIn can be a great tool, both for marketing and online networking. However, because there are many facets to LinkedIn, as is the case with any social media platform, the key to using it successfully is to identify your goals before diving in.  There are plenty of goals that lawyers can achieve through LinkedIn and here are a few ways…

  • Connect with potential referral sources (whether lawyers, other professionals, or clients)
  • Source reliable information to support their practice (such as legal updates relevant to their areas of practice)
  • To promote or direct traffic to your blog (and quick sidebar: your blog is NOT your closing argument, but rather story telling to reflect a unique human experience – something I employ heavily when creating content for my clients whether on blogs or any other social channel. Remember, people are looking to connect and you want to provide them with ways to know, like and trust YOU. If you don’t offer some insight to YOU and how you offer your services, you are risking commoditizing yourself and simply being compared price wise).
  • Position yourself as an industry thought leader. Many lawyers are very successfully building their reputation by sharing and commenting on the latest news in the field. Now, its not about simply sharing randomly, put some thought into it and ask “Why is this information important to my audience?” or “How do I add something of value to this existing discussion or topic?” One of the ways I help attorneys create the foundation for a successful blog is to gather and curate all the feedback from such comments. By using the content, questions, direction and even wording, we are positioning you to speak directly to your target audience! Because your using the language of your audience they’ll feel its familiar and therefore more connected to you.

Now because there are so many parts of a truly optimized LI profile, we’re going to start this week by talking about the Headline and continue with the Summary in the next, or I’d be spending well over my allotted time of about 15 minutes. So, in sticking with my schedule and hopefully your time frame, let’s bite off the the most visible part first – your headline.


Aside from your name and picture, your Professional Headline is the only part of your profile that’s instantly visible in LinkedIn search results. It also follows you everywhere on LinkedIn, when people find you in searches, when you comment, in companies and on your blogs. This is why you have to use these 120 characters to grab people’s interest, so they’ll want to click on your profile.

Your headline should sum up who you are and the key skills you can offer, but there’s no need for it to be bland. 95 percent of attorney headlines simply have their name and that of the law firm,  as this is what LinkedIn defaults to. However, you’ll stand out from the crowd by being a bit more by optimizing your LinkedIn headline by adding some creative positioning.

Here are a few that, well, really stood out….

  • From (possibly) a solo practitioner: “Quite possibly the only person on LinkedIn who isn’t a “results-orientated team player with excellent interpersonal skills.” hmmmm…
  • From a banker: “Livin the dream”
  • From a human resources executive: “Head honcho, head hunter, sometime head shrinker, and living proof that the only good recruiter is not a dead recruiter”

I’m not saying (or really advising) you need to get exactly that colorful, but there are ways to stand out and be professional at the same time!

Firstly, it’s important to think about keywords. Just like Google, LinkedIn uses keywords to determine how highly your profile will rank in search results, so you need to be thinking about the keywords that are most relevant to what you do to really up the game when optimizing your LinkedIn headline.

Try to put yourself in the mindset of your ideal prospective client – what search terms would they use if they were looking for the services you offer?

Once you’ve established the most relevant keywords to use, you can start thinking of more creative ways to put them together, such as giving yourself a catchy slogan. Think of yourself as a brand; how do you want to position yourself? You can also consider making your profile more visually appealing and memorable by separating your keywords with symbols rather than just writing them as a list.

You have 120 characters in your LinkedIn headline. (No, not 140. That’s Twitter.)

Important Update in 2017: Following Microsoft’s acquisition and restructuring of LinkedIn, many of the features have changed. For example, only a portion of your headline and the first few words of your summary are visible in many cases until someone clicks to see more. This makes it critical to have the essential information that reflects your value proposition – or otherwise draws people in – right at the top. You can check this out for yourself by accessing your own profile through various devices.

So what should it say?

Should you opt for something short, try to get in as much as possible or meet somewhere in the middle? How “out there” should you be with your job search?

I hear these questions from clients every week. One of the main goals is to help my clients see how they appear to a third party, especially a potential client. We are often so wrapped up in our own stories that we forget how we appear to the outside world.

In creating your headline here are 6 of the most essential considerations:

1.   First, consider your audience. Don’t try to straddle multiple roles or areas of expertise. Your headline should, in fact, support you and how this is a reflection of how you present yourself in daily life. Again, LinkedIn is not about self-actualization or gratification, it is about presenting yourself to the world in a professional and human context.

2.  Second, an incomplete headline (or one with errors) is probably the worst thing you can do. It reflects extremely poorly on you, because it implies that you will lack attention to detail in your daily work as well. In one case I saw the word Attorney spelled incorrectly! I would not trust you to draft a contract to purchase a popsicle stick, let alone a multi-million dollar transaction, if you can’t even spell your headline correctly. Though I catch typos more often in the Summary section, I’ve also seen it in the very visible headline!

3.  Third, if you have a temporary position, you are not a “temporary person.” You do not need to sum up your current employment. Instead, your headline should indicate who you are, not your present role. To that end, I would avoid a headline like “Contract Attorney” at all costs.

4.  Fourth, don’t sound desperate, and this one is more for attorneys who are in transition again. I see many headlines that announce an individual is “seeking employment,” even in some cases for individual who appear to be currently employed. While I cannot say that there is no case in which this could be appropriate, in most fields, including law, you should eliminate this from your headline. There is an old adage that it is easier to find a job when you have a job. The same applies here. As a hiring manager or partner, I would rather hire individuals who are self-confident in who they are and what value they add than those that appear they will take the next best “new opportunity” that presents itself. Among other reasons, I would not be convinced that, once hired, the person would stay.

5.  Always remember keywords. You want to offer a headline that describes what you do and will cause you to be located when a prospective client or other individual conducts a keyword search, if possible. Keywords by the way are searchable not only within LI, but also from the outside, ie. Google so make sure you are using the right client-facing keywords.

6.  Finally, lets talk about outdated profiles. Your Profile may have been complete when you first posted it, but is it complete now? Is the photograph updated and recognizable? Too often, lawyers forget to update their LinkedIn Profile when important changes occur. If you’ve updated your law firm bio recently, begun working in a new practice area, published an article, received an award, accepted a committee, board or other leadership position but haven’t updated your LinkedIn Profile, now is the time to do it. Not only will a more updated Profile better reflect your knowledge and experience, but you may be surprised at all of the new features and sections that LinkedIn has added to help make your Profile stand out and to showcase your skills. As an added bonus, those updates often bring additional traffic to your Profile. As your career changes, your LinkedIn Profile should change to better reflect your current experience, clients and goals. And while you’re updating, make sure you take care of any other mistakes you may be making with your Profile.

In summary, it is your headline, so you should be comfortable with it. There is no one right answer, blueprint or template. Inject your own creative flavor when optimizing your LinkedIn profile and you will stand out as one who cares about offering your audience of prospective clients some human and personality insight. 

After considering a few of the points I’ve addressed, also consider what your gut tells you. Would you be comfortable presenting your headline across the various audiences that will see it? Will it raise your confidence level and appropriately broadcast your professional self to the world? Take another good look at your headline with all of these hard and soft factors in mind to find the one that is right for you.


Optimizing Your LinkedIn HeadlineHere’s your handy dandy tip of this week: 

As a public platform, LI and other social media channels puts your activities and mistakes in public. Using the New York State Bar Association’s recent “Social Media Ethics Guidelines” for NY attorneys – and prudent for all attorneys, I’ve created  “Ethical, Safe & Sound Guide for Attorneys on LinkedIn”. Just click on following link…

Click on THIS LINK: “Lawyers Ethical, Safe & Sound Guide for Attorneys on LinkedIn” 



As mentioned, we’ll continue on this most used platform among professionals and I’ll give you pointers on how to create a client-facing summary that will set you apart while speaking to your target audience in a meaningful way.

Remember, if people GOOGLE your name to learn more about you, your LI profile is likely to show up in one of the top spots in search results. Since 62% of the Google clicks go to the top three search results, those who start at Google will end up in LI!

Thanks for taking the time to join me and talk to you next week!


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