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Martindale Hubbell’s latest Internet service a disservice to legal profession

January 22, 2005

I have always viewed Martindale-Hubbell as a class operation and legacy product but if I understand their latest service correctly, it really leaves me wondering just how far LexisNexis is willing to go in leveraging the Martindale-Hubbell brand they own.

LexisNexis has introduced a ‘service’ called LNMH Direct(SM), by which Martindale-Hubbell will email its lawyers notice of “new products, special deals and other third party offers.” Rather than ask the permission of it’s lawyers to participate in this service, LexisNexis asks lawyers to opt out of the service by sending them an email that most lawyers probably never saw saying “If you would like to receive… offers from us, you do not have to respond to this email.”

In my opinion, by sending ‘junk mail’ to lawyers, unless they opt out, on behalf of companies that presumably pay a fee, LexisNexis comes awful close to facilitating the spamming of Martindale-Hubbell customers so that LexisNexis can make money off email addresses provided it for law firm client development reasons. LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell has betrayed the trust of the American lawyer.

LNMH Direct details

  • Informs subscribers by email of new products, special deals and other third party offers that Martindale believes lawyers will find helpful to their law firm or career.
  • Consumer credit cards or other consumer products are not given access to the program. The most common offers lawyers will receive are for business related seminars, software and services.
  • A limited number of emails will be sent each month
  • Other companies will never be given actual possession of lawyer email addresses
  • Lawyers are told in the fourth paragraph of the email introducing the service if they would like to receive business or career related offers from Martindale, they did not have to respond to the email. Lawyers could unsubscribe by scrolling to the bottom of the email for instructions. They can also unsubscribe at any time in the future when receiving the emails.

LNMH Direct in practice

  • Many, if not most, of the lawyers who were sent the email notice of the service probably never read the notice. Many were caught up in corporate firewalls and spam filters. In fact, the notice I received from a lawyer was fished out of a spam filter. Others were just deleted like all the other junk email we get.
  • LNMH is a breach of the trust lawyers placed in Martindale. Lawyers provided their emails to Martindale so that prospective clients and referring lawyers could contact the lawyers via the or Web sites, not to be sent junk emails.
  • Better practice would be to have lawyers sign up for the service rather than opt out. Martindale has very valuable customer list of probably 400,000 lawyers. The value of selling access to that list goes down if a lot of lawyers do not sign up for junk mail. Shame on LexisNexis for not taking the high road.

Impact of spam

The Pew Internet & American Life Project Report on Spam reported:

Spam, which by the middle of 2003 represented about half of all email messages, has made online life unpleasant or annoying to nearly three-quarters of email users. People feel that spam has undermined the reliability of email and its effectiveness as a tool for communicating. They are bothered by spam?s deceptive and often unsavory content, by the time it takes to deal with spam, and they are frustrated by their lack of control over the influx of spam. The volume of spam in personal email accounts far outscored the volume in work email accounts, due in part to costly measures that defend most workplaces against spam. People want to do the right thing to counteract spam, but very often they are not sure what that is.

Hard to believe LexisNexis would be so short-sighted that it could be viewed by people like me as perpetuating the problem of spam. And adding to the problems of its own customers.

Martindale has a noble history. The directory was started 1868 by a lawyer and businessman, James B. Martindale. Its purpose was “to furnish to lawyers, bankers, wholesale merchants, manufacturers, real estate agents, and all others?the address of one reliable law firm, one reliable bank, and one reliable real estate office in every city in the United States…” By 1896, the directory included the basic information that still appears in its practice profile listings, as well as ratings system.

Since then Martindale has been the gold standard for looking up another lawyer or law firm. It has a brand for being a trusted and reliable source for information when selecting a lawyer. The Martindale brand was taken to the net with, and online directories for other countries. That’s a noble a pursuit.

But this latest service, in my opinion, goes to far. Mr. Martindale would probably roll over in his grave if he knew the company he started could be viewed as breaching their customer’s trust and adding to what many people view as the biggest problem in business communications today.

LexisNexis, you have a heck of a product and service in Martindale-Hubbell. Traditionally, Martindale has been run by some of the finest people in the legal and publishing industry. Let’s keep it that way.

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