We’ve been keeping our eye on LinkedIn with the basic assessment that it
has great potential, but needs more tools. A network of valuable
contacts becomes truly valuable when you can actually do things with it.

Recently LinkedIn took another step in adding just these types of tools.
When I logged in I noticed some new items on the left-hand nav menu.
Near the top is “Company Groups” followed by the name of my firm.
Following the firm name link, I am greeted with a higher functioning
LinkedIn Group that is already populated with firm contacts. Tabs
across the top include: Overview, Q&A, News, Updates, Members and Settings. The
Q&A tool allows Fulbright contacts to ask and answer questions within
the group. This is a basic KM sharing tool, allowing information
requests to be posted and shared.

So LinkedIn has deployed a KM tool to our firm. Makes you go …
Hmmmmmm. My first reaction is positive at having a great tool available, but then reason takes over. From the LinkedIn User Agreement:

You do not have to submit anything to us, but if you choose to
submit something (including any user generated content, ideas, concepts,
techniques and data), you must grant, and you actually grant by
concluding the Agreement, a non-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide,
perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and
royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve,
distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, and use and commercialize, in
any way now known or in the future discovered, anything that you submit
to us, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or
any third parties.

Fitting for a Halloween theme. I know I’m scared after reading that.

So now I have a powerful KM tool sitting under the nose of 407 firm
employees. And if they use it, we risk giving a license to firm IP away
to LinkedIn. Now I’m conflicted.

Another possible red flag – when you select the “Members” tab you are greeted
with the following:

Security Reminder: Only current employees of (the Firm) should
appear below. If you see a person that does not belong to this company
group, click “Flag this person as…” to anonymously remove them from
the group.

Again, I start off with a positive thought. We can remove anyone
falsely claiming to be part of the firm, especially if they appear as an
attorney. But then reality comes back. This means the false contacts
can flag me for removal. Crap.

Which leads us to the bottom line. Even though these are great tools,
they are in full control of LinkedIn and not our firm. For lawyers,
with a duty to protect client information, this arrangement is

I have to do some more thinking about all of this since I hate to pass
on good (and free) technology. Maybe there are ways to resolve the issues I raised.
In any event, LinkedIn is charging ahead and taking steps to expand its
value to its true potential. We’ll keep watching with anticipation, but
also with a dose of common sense.

P.S. LinkedIn added an “Applications” option too. More on that later.