Marrindale-HubbellThat’s the question well respected lawyer, commentator, and blogger, Dan Hull asks about Martindale-Hubbell over at ‘What About Clients?’ Dan’s question follows a number of legal marketing professionals working with leading law firms asking the same question on law marketing listervs.

…[I]n 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.

Like me, Dan doesn’t really question that Martindale has value. Martindale is a time honored tradition. During 17 years of practice, my law firms always listed in Martindale. We took pride in our rating. Associates and legal assistants were always instructed to limit their search for out of town counsel to those with an AV rating.

It was truly an honor when in 1998, Martindale’s Executive VP and Publisher responded favorably to my idea of a virtual law community to connect lay people and lawyers on the net. When it came time to sell that company in 2001, as much as I would have liked to remain independent, knowing I built something a venerable and classy company like Martindale would buy and deploy was dam cool.

But it’s the cost of Martindale compared to its ROI which is sticking in law firms’ craws. One local Seattle lawyer lamented that his Martindale listing costs him as much as annual turnkey blog subscription with LexBlog. And that his blog has him ranked at the top of search engines and is enhancing his reputation as a leader in IP litigation, the result being regular prospective client contacts. The Martindale listing, though telling opposing counsel he’s AV rated is generating no new work.

I’m not fool enough to think LexBlog is the only cost effective marketing tool available to law firms. The Internet has opened up countless doors for law firms’ marketing dollars freed up from the high cost of traditional client development tools like Martindale.

Dan just may be, as says, starting a revolution with the following:

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.

From the likes of the first comment to Dan’s post, other firms are likely to follow. ‘I completely agree. Despite our AV rating, we stopped paying MH long ago. I still use it for helping to pick a lawyer in a really small town, but that is it.’

  • Though Martindale is a long standing tradition and still shows value, things such as blogs and growing communities have provided new ways of getting your name out there. Law firms and solo practitioners alike will have to weigh the value of each and determine how much and where to invest. Good timely post.

  • Companies like Findlaw and Lawywers.com were leaders in getting lawyers onto the web. They made it easy. Problem is, in my opinion is that they never were able to combine effective SEO with really good lawyer marketing. Now, far as I can tell, they fail miserably at SEO.
    A lawyer has tons of choices and the really cool thing about Internet marketing is that its easy to test….first, are you appearing on the first page of Google for search terms applicable to your practice? Easy to test.
    If you aren’t, somebody else with something interesting to say probably is…so now it doesn’t matter much how pretty your MH site is, its not being seen.
    Once you are on the first page of Google, you gotta be interesting… make an offer (not ‘free consultation”)…. again, as far as I could tell, none of the Findlaw or MH reps that I spoke to in my office or at meetings ever understood much about marketing at all, and certainly not to the level you really need to understand it in this very competetive biz.
    So Kevin’s Lexblog, Dale Tincher’s Consultwebs and Tom Foster’s Foster Web Marketing (and others, to be sure) are able to offer both great internet info (what is SEO, how to I improve my SEO) with really good thinking about marketing.
    MH and Findlaw will keep going, no doubt, because many lawyers tend to be lazy about marketing. They’d rather hand over their dollars and say “do it for me” than go the library or over to Amazon and read 10 non lawyer books on marketing and 10 internet marketing books.

  • Thanks for the comment Ben.
    Lawyers should not conclude that effective Internet marketing is all about search engine performance though. Sure, it’s nice to be at the top of search engines, but I was able to effectively market my plaintiff’s personal injury law firm on the Internet back in 1996, 97, & 98 before we ever heard of search engines.
    Effective Internet marketing allows good lawyers to establish themselves as a ‘lawyer’s lawyer,’ by doing those things that enhance one’s reputation as a reliable and trusted authority.
    Martindale (lawyers.com) and Thomson FindLaw are at a disadvantage in that they’ve never been lead by a lawyer who reresented consumers or small businesses as a practicing lawyer and had first hand Internet marketing experience. I’m not sure they really ever understood effective law firm Internet marketing and I’m not sure they do today.
    You’re right that lawyers willing to learn how Internet marketing really works will be far ahead of lawyers.com and FindLaw.

  • Gavin Stevens

    Through out the years I have pushed some of my friends to use Martindale because of their experience within the online advertising business. But over the recent months I have urged my associates to take listings with a new company with better goals. I found http://www.FindMoreAttorneys.com to be leader in it’s market and a leader in innovation. Currently they are an exclusive listing service that works with attorneys to provide them with pay per click campaigns and free website to go along with their package. One thing come to mind when I do urge someone to move from Martindale to FindMoreAttorneys.com is that Martindale has been around for a while but the price you pay and the quality you receive from FindMoreAttorneys.com has surpassed Martindale. Don’t take my word just give them a call. In best regards to Martindale, please cut your prices and try to use better advertising methods.

  • I work in the “Small Law” division at LexisNexis/Martindale Hubbell as the Western Regional Internet Marketing Specialist. As I mentioned in a previous post I give SEM seminars throughout the west for attorneys-depending on the market-many of the seminars are CLE certified.
    I have seen great marketing programs with Martindale.com, and I have seen not so great programs with Martindale.com. All of the sales reps I support as the SEM Specialist in the Western USA do their best to put together programs that will be successful for their attorneys.
    Martindale.com/Lawyers.com have changed significantly over the last 10 years, and even in the last 2. If you are a customer of LN/MH it is very important that you take the time to speak with your rep about how you can increase the Return on Your Investment with Martindale. I find that attorneys who have programs that truly are not providing maximum value have not adjusted their approach with how they are utilizing the service. They are still trying to use MH the way they did years ago.
    There are many free and low cost Internet Marketing services you can utilize on Martindale.com, Lawyers.com and our entire network. While a few years ago we were not offering SEM services that were as advanced as some of our competitors’, in my opinion we leapt ahead of our competitors this year offering some of the most advanced and successful SEM services available to attorneys.
    For a free consultation, please feel free to call me at 720-985-7945, or visit my blog: http://www.lawyermarketingexpert.com. I do not have time to update the site more than once or twice a month, and I spend very little time optimizing it, but it has a lot of good and free advice on SEO, PPC, and other Attorney Marketing strategies.
    Good luck to all of you in all of your Internet Marketing endeavors.