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Martindale-Hubbell new site : Mixed review from me, what do you think?

December 10, 2005

Though no formal announcement yet, Martindale-Hubbell has launched a new site. It has some plusses and minuses for law firm subscribers (90% plus of law firms subscribe). I welcome the comments of other bloggers here or on their blogs. The legal industry needs frank discussion on marketing technology so we can move forward like other industries.

Two big problems remain as I see it.

First, there is no full body text of the directory’s lawyers or law firm profiles. Full body text is standard in the industry. Martindale requires users to make selections by firm or lawyer name when you know the names. When you don’t, you must select a state or city and then an area of practice.

The search should be set up to allow users to search how ever they want just like at Google and the other search engines. A lawyer’s bio in Martindale will have very detailed information on the nature of the lawyer’s practice, titles of articles they have written, associations they belong to and much more. If I am looking for an international bankruptcy lawyer in Seattle that is a member of a particular association, let me search for it.

Heck, if I go to Google and search for Seattle international bankruptcy lawyer, number 3 is a lawyer at Preston Gates (via the firm’s site, not the Martindale directory) who is a bankruptcy and international law expert. Took me 10 seconds. Going the Martindale way I would need to search for Seattle lawyers doing bankruptcy or international work and then browse through what would be numerous bios (possibly hundreds).

Second, Martindle-Hubbell law firm firm profiles and lawyer bio’s cannot be found on Google and the other search engines. Martindale does not allow lawyer bio’s to be indexed by the search engines. Despite all subscriber bio’s being in digital form and easily retrievable by Google, Martindale-Hubbell says “no, we will not let you Google or the search engines inside the directory.”

The byproduct of all the work done by law firm marketing professionals to gather and edit lawyer bios, practice group info and firm profiles for Martindale can never be found where most people now go to look for information – the search engines. Crazier yet when you think that law firms pay huge dollars to Martindale-Hubbell to prevent the public from getting the information.

Tim Corcoron, Vice President, Business Development and Marketing Large Law/Corporate Segments provides this reasoning for Martindale-Hubbell not allowing indexing by search engines.

The reason MH hasn’t completely opened its doors to search engine crawling in the past is because several times a year for a decade we have to pursue people and organizations that try to steal our data. If the doors are opened to the search engines in certain ways, they are open to harvesters. Done right, we can both increase traffic and visibility and protect the asset (lawyer credentials) we have promised our clients that we will protect.

I understand Martindale does not want mass marketers to pick up lawyers and law firm names. However, Martindale-Hubbell clients do not want Martindale to protect their marketing copy. It’s information corporate executives, in-house counsel and other consumers of legal services use in selecting law firms. Most of the information could be bought on a CD. Even in its present form, companies would write script to obtain the biographical information.

Getting traffic on the net is dependent on ease of use and the value you deliver people. Making it tough for law firm’s prospects to get the information they want will result in a decline in Martindale-Hubbell traffic over time.

On the plus side of the redesign, Martindale-Hubbell has done some SEO work. It has added a browse feature to their directory, similar to what FindLaw has had for a long time. By browsing for a lawyer by state, city and area of practice, individual pages are generated at Martindale that are indexed at Google and the other search engines by city, state and type of lawyer. Because people search for lawyer by locale and area of practice, these pages should come up in the organic search results on Google and the other search engines.

The result could be mean more traffic to Martindale’s site for the time being. More traffic should mean more searches (still no full body text) of the directory.

Other changes include a side by side comparison of firms you check. Just displays firm name, their location, what year they were founded, how many lawyers they have, practice groups and AmLaw ranking. Suppose that could be of some value by I see it as window dressing.

What are your thoughts? Would you like to see a full body text of all firm profiles and lawyer bio’s when on the Martindale-Hubbell site? Would you like to see your law firm profiles and lawyer bio’s displayed when people do a relevant search at Google and the other search engines?

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