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.’