When I was an in-house marketing director, I recall the New York partners being paranoid about listing the firm's associates on the firm Web site. They were afraid that a Web bio with contact information would make them easier targets for recruiters to poach. We published the information anyway, because we were publishing bios for associates in all the other offices. The partners were just being paranoid.
Buffalo Springfield got it right in "For what it's worth" in 1969: "Paranoia strikes deep, Into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid.You step out of line, the man come and take you away."
The paranoia is back. Associate bios on Baker & McKenzie's Web site are not live links. All you get is their name, city, practice and email address. Neither Schulte Roth & Zabel nor Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in New York list associate phone numbers. The list goes on.
The reason given, again, is that firms fear poachers will steal their associates, which I think is preposterous. Professional recruiters say it is easy to get all the information about all the associates regardless of what's omitted from the firm Web site. "Unless they put all their associates in the witness protection program, there's no sensible way to prevent recruiters from finding out who's practicing in a particular area," recruiter Jonathan Lindsey told the National Law Journal.
All that the firms accomplish by disappearing their associates online is:
- Damaging their Web site as a marketing vehicle.
- Insulting the associate lawyers by not giving them any visibility online. How can they market when it's hard for a prospect to get in touch with them?
- Showing their paranoia that they have hired lawyers with no loyalty who will skip out at the first scent of more money.
- Suggesting that their firms are sweatshops from which the associates are eager to flee.
The correct way to keep associates is to give them interesting assignments, let them have contact with clients, let them get into hearings and deal rooms, mentor them, show that the firm cares about them, and last of all, pay them the market rate for a salary. This makes them invulnerable to recruiters, particularly those who just look up phone numbers on Web sites.