It is quite easy to search law firm websites and find the attorneys, along with their sanitized biographies. Usually chalked full of such interesting tid-bits like "represented a major technology company in complex litigation matters." (yawn) Or, "won a $20 million settlement for a major pharmaceutical company against another major pharmaceutical company." (any way to make this more generic, or more boring??) The whole process of a public biography page for attorneys seems to be fixated on how the firm can make the attorney sound wonderful, without actually giving any specific details to why that is.
On the other hand, a LinkedIn bio can tell us a few things that you may not find on the firm's bio page. Even better, it could actually supplement the bio page by filling in some of the details. For example, if you notice that the person has a number of connections with XYZ Pharma Company, there may be a good chance that this is the Pharma Company that he or she won the $20 million settlement. This doesn't always happen, but when it does (and you happen to be looking for lateral hires), this is good information to know.
Perhaps the best details found on LinkedIn pages that you don't find on law firm bio pages is the work history of the person. You usually get a nice synopsis of the previous firms, dates and areas of expertise of the attorney's work history. This may help in isolating people within your own firm that may have worked with them in the past. Combined with certain InterAction reports, this might connect dots within your organization that you wouldn't find otherwise.
Outside the area of legal practice, many people leave interesting pieces of information about themselves that may come in handy if you have to go talk with them (or need an "in" with recruiting them to your firm.) Areas of interest, groups they belong to, or associations which they are members are all good pieces to know before approaching them. In some instances, it might be good information to know for NOT approaching them. It is all small pieces that help form a picture of what the attorney does, what they like or dislike, and where they've been.
Of course, not every attorney is a LinkedIn member, but I've had good success in finding many who are. So this got me thinking about what percentage of attorneys are on LinkedIn. Just for my own interest, I thought I'd take a small sample of three firms and look at their Silicon Valley offices to see just how many of their attorneys I could find on LinkedIn. The sample is completely unscientific, but I found it interesting in the fact that Partners (78%) were more likely to be on LinkedIn than their Associate (65%) counter-parts. Again, this is completely unscientific, but here are my results.
Total Attorneys: 8
Total Attorneys: 26
Total Attorneys: 119