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May 15, 2009

Redux: Martindale-Hubbell: Should we all "just say no"?

From an August 8, 2009 post. Martindale-Hubbell is still "no joke". We would all miss M-H--from the ratings process to the familiar look of staid old friends the books have in any library--if it disappeared. But has anything changed?

images martindael.jpg

Is a Martindale-Hubbell listing worth it anymore?

We're not unhappy with the M-H ratings process; generally speaking, if done responsibly and without in effect requiring the "purchase" of the rating, a credible if imperfect ratings process for the global legal community makes lots of sense. And M-H accomplished that decades ago.* But, in view of other and newer ways for law firms to have visibility and credibility, the price of listings at M-H is now officially a rip-off. Lots of fine lawyers seem to be complaining about it, at least in private, both in the U.S. and non-U.S. It's not that Martindale hasn't tried. See, for example, at Law.com the piece "Martindale-Hubbell Gets a Makeover" (mentioning Avvo, LawLink and Legal OnRamp, as new alternatives for marketing, networking and lawyer ratings).

Our humble take: as other ways to locate lawyers emerged, M-H never saw the light fast enough, and didn't successfully change or expand its other services to preempt a backlash. It continued to charge big listing fees that everyone complained about for years. More recently (say, the last 3 years), M-H expenses managed to stay in law firm budgets--but exceeded just about everyone's irritation levels. M-H listings now makes no business sense to anyone sane. Only the embarrassingly lame, gimmicky "Super Lawyer" concept could make Martindale look good these days.

Start the revolution?

*Martindale-Hubbell is no joke. It has a fine, time-honored and even classy reputation, and a history of good work and real utility in the profession. Our firm, Hull McGuire, has actively and earnestly participated in the M-H ratings processes for years; we are happy with the ratings our lawyers received. But, in good times or bad times, the current cost to list firm attorneys for any size firm, with or without multiple offices, is prohibitive and should be resisted on principle given other alternatives. It just isn't worth it. We predict that lawyers will bolt in droves in the next 2 years.

Posted by JD Hull at May 15, 2009 11:24 AM


Mr Hull raises a fair point, one that we definitely hear loud and clear at Martindale-Hubbell. But, the picture in this original post ironically helps me make a very important point - that Martindale-Hubbell is viewed by many lawyers as "just a listing" or "just a book". This could not be farther from the truth. Let me explain...

Martindale-Hubbell subscribers are paying for a "listing", yes, but that listing puts them in Martindale.com as well as Lawyers.com and also syndicates their profile/contact information to many alliance partners like Google, Yahoo, CitySearch, MSN, superpages, and many others. If you see a law firm listed in Google "Local" there is a fair chance that our syndication was involved. We believe that this syndication value online is worth a lot in reduced cost and complexity for the typical law firm. Also, between Lawyers.com and Martindale.com we have over 3 Million unique visitors each month with even more lawyer searches. Surveys have consistently put Lawyers.com and Martindale.com as a trusted source for ratings, content, and discussion - more of a decision support solution than a simple directory.

But, Martindale-Hubbell also represents many other solutions that help law firms establish their own Web Site/SEO presence on the internet, implement a pay per click program, manage leads for a complete ROI; develop market intelligence, relationship intelligence and business intelligence - a full range of marketing and client development services.

One of our most recent, and proudest, releases is Martindale-Hubbell Connected, our premier legal professional network. Thousands of corporate counsel and attorneys have joined this network since it's launch earlier this year. Members tell us that they want an opportunity to speak privately with other legal professionals, establish new connections to discuss legal issues, and even to create their own group and implement their own online seminar/discussion (we extend connections to LinkedIn as well)

So, while we appreciate and acknowledge the historic importance of our peer review ratings, we have changed quite a bit from the days of books but we still have a long way to go. We are establishing packages to reduce overall prices and to help law firms establish the best mix of solutions to fit their marketing needs. We even have a program that allows individual attorneys to create a low cost subscription when their law firm has chosen not to subscribe. We have an abbreviated listlisting for all attorneys we are aware of but we would prefer to establish the right memberships so that the full capabilities of the law firm can be presented for our large community of visitors to consider/review and so that all leads/opportunities can be automatically tracked.

But again, we must continue to improve. We are trying to make a concerted effort to listen to our proponents and our detractors so we can continue to grow our historic place in the market as the primary source for legal decisions and communication among consumers, attorneys, and corporate counsel.

I and my colleagues would appreciate hearing from all on ways that we can improve.

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to post.

Dave Danielson
Martindale-Hubbell/VP LexisNexis Client Devlopment

Posted by: Dave Danielson at May 18, 2009 07:41 PM

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