I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about friends of late, but Ed Scanlan, founder of Total Attorneys, a legal outsourcing company in Chicago, gave me a new perspective. He’s wondering if it makes sense to hire people with big networks of friends. Why so? They can bring in more recruits and ideas.

Scanlon employs 215 people in Chicago, and another 12 in India. Average age is 27. Many of them have more than 1,000 friends on Facebook. “Now look at the collective pool of talented people,” he says. They have tens of thousands of friends (including a good number that they know and trust). And Scanlon says that hires who come through referrals tend to fit into the culture better—and to stick around. “We never had a system in place to leverage our social graph.”

So Scanlon urged his employees to Jobvite, a recruiting platform tied into social networks. And last spring he offered $2,000 finders fee for those who brought in new hires. They’ve brought in about eight so far, he says.

This leads him to this question: “If we hire someone with 220 LinkedIn contacts, is that person as valuable as someone with 5,000? At some point, employers will start to value the strength power and reach of your social network.”

In case you’re wondering, Total Attorneys, with sales of $24 million last year, has about 23 jobs open.

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