Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Legal leaders must have an executive presence on LinkedIn

Leaders across all sectors are rigorously scrutinised for personal integrity, organisational diligence, DEI and ESG policies and values. And based on the recent findings of the Governance Institute of Australia’s Ethics Index 2023, the legal sector faces even greater scrutiny, writes Sue Parker.

user iconSue Parker 28 September 2023 Big Law
expand image

Trust is the currency of business and sustainability, and as reported in the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Report, 63 per cent of people will buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values.

Edelman’s report also found that 69 per cent of job candidates seek organisations that have a strong societal impact. The top three global issues chief executives are expected to act upon are employee treatment, climate and discrimination. These issues have direct and indirect pertinence to law.

The Ethics Index 2023 (a joint venture of the Governance Institute and Ipsos) found that lawyers were rated in the bottom 10 of all occupations. However, lawyers did see a slight increase in perceptions of ethical business behaviour from 2021 but are still not ranked as ethical.


Driven in large part by Millennials, the importance placed on ethics in all sectors has shot up to 84, up from 79 previously. The institute’s CEO, Megan Motto, said that while the index score has remained largely steady, the increase in importance placed on ethics shows expectations aren’t being met.

The conduit of social media

It’s imperative for leaders to address scrutiny and communicate on social media, specifically LinkedIn. LinkedIn has over 63 million registered companies, 950 million global and 14 million Australian members. All Google roads lead to LinkedIn, which cannot be underestimated.

Yet the majority of senior leaders, board members and chairs from public and private sectors have a lacklustre, minimal and/or ineffective LinkedIn profile and presence.

Legal leaders need more than just a place card on LinkedIn.

They need an executive presence and a profile of gravitas. Holding positions of leadership and partnerships comes with an inherent obligation to represent both individuals and firms at their best.

Why an executive presence is imperative

Global advisory firm Brunswick Group found in their 2022 Connected Leadership – The Social CEO Report that people trusted leaders who use social media more than those who don’t, by a ratio of six to one (86 per cent).

Further, 82 per cent of people expect leaders to use social media to communicate their mission, vision and values, with 82 per cent of job candidates researching leaders online while considering joining a new company.

Then, we see investor relevance from the research findings from Brunswick Group’s 2023 Digital Investor Survey. It was found that more than four out of five institutional investors (81 per cent) make investment decisions based on information they find on digital channels and that 90 per cent report it’s important for the equities they cover to maintain a presence online.

Significantly, the investor research found that over 50 per cent of investors also follow the equities C-suite and other relevant executives online.

The value of LinkedIn is tacit across marketing, talent acquisition, employer branding, employee advocacy, careers, board development, social proof, networking, learning, media and PR.

What is an executive presence?

In broad terms (on or offline), an executive presence coalesces a person’s appearance, communication and gravitas.

Gravitas encompasses demeanour, confidence, transparency, clarity of vision, authority, composure, charisma, integrity, care and trustworthiness.

At its nexus, servant leadership and steward leadership is demonstrated.

Finely tuned communication of the above should appeal to both the cognitive and emotional. Can people trust your capabilities? Your promise to deliver the brand promise consistently is part of the cognitive interweave. Judgement of character and how leaders make others feel is part of the emotional interweave.

These need to be genuinely and elegantly incorporated in LinkedIn profiles to edify and inspire.

How it translates on LinkedIn

The personal profile is the nucleus of a leader’s presence. Note, the company page has a very different purpose.

While engagement and content form part of executive presence, I will just focus here on bedding down the key elements of a personal profile. They are:

  • Branded banner
This is prime brand augmentation territory. Like a billboard, it can be changed to meet current campaigns and issues.

It’s perplexing why the vast majority of leaders of firms have a blank naked space here without their logos, taglines, images or relevant graphics to bring the profile and legal brand to life.

  • Current photograph
Professional, warm and inspiring. Rhetoric must meet reality.

  • Headline
Clear and descriptive. It can be more than just the default title and company.

  • About section
Detailed and engaging narrative, including career overview, education, volunteering, boards, awards, DEI and ESG values, and company and personal visions. Some may share a little under their personal hood.

The general consensus is that this section is best received when written in the first person. However, the third person is frequently used and occasionally appropriate at global leadership levels.

My recommendation is if the first person is not acceptable or appropriate, then write it in the neutral person. But having written many senior executive profiles, there is an erudite way to write in the first person with gravitas and not compromising presence.

  • Featured section
A terrific, highly visual section on a profile’s top card to display key media, articles and firm news.


It was disappointing to find that while many leaders across all tiers of firms delivered certain elements of their LinkedIn presence well, a large number were incomplete, uninspiring or dated.

In reviewing hundreds of profiles, it did appear that women had a stronger presence than men overall. Some male leaders were even totally MIA.

Two leaders whose profiles exude gravitas are Genevieve Collins, chief executive partner at Lander & Rogers, and Virginia Briggs, CEO at MinterEllison.

Risk and opportunity

As I have written previously, a poor industry image provides golden opportunities for lawyers and firms to redress perceptions and build trust and market share.

Legal leaders who embrace LinkedIn to champion their values, purpose and firm direction will reap significant value. Given the research, the negative ramifications of not doing so is a risk not worth taking as trust and reputations are at stake.

Sue Parker is a career strategist, communications and LinkedIn specialist at DARE Group Australia.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member for free today!