Martindale-Hubbell ConnectedLexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell has been working on a social networking community for lawyers for the last year or two. It’s called Marindale-Hubbell Connected.

Though still in Beta, LexisNexis is asking lawyers to join Connected at Connected’s home page. Lawyers and law firms are using Connected. Some practicing lawyers are even reviewing Connected.

I’m regularly asked what I think of Connected. At presentations at LMA (Legal Marketing Association) chapters around the country, by many of LexBlog’s clients (ranging from solo’s to the largest law firms in the world), and even by LexisNexis sales people and executives. I guess that should be expected as I write and speak on social media and social networking for lawyers as much as anyone.

The problem is I cannot get into Connected. I go through the registration process. The registration process recognizes that Martindale-Hubbell has me in their data-base as a lawyer. And when I complete the registration page I am told I will hear from Martindale. Then I hear nothing. I tried a few months ago and a I tried again last week. Both times no response.

I am not the only lawyer who gets the same ‘no response.’ I have heard from other lawyers they go through the registration process, sign up, are told by LexisNexis on the Connected site they’ll hear back, and then nothing.

I was told last year by a LexisNexis Exec I could get a demo from Martindale-Hubbell personnel, but others have told me the demo was pretty limited and did not give them ongoing use of Connected. And now that Connected is being used by other lawyers now registering, I’m not real excited about a limited demo.

I thought Connected may be a pay for play community, ie, you need to be a Martindale-Hubbell paying subscriber. However, upon asking that question on Twitter on Thursday, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell personnel replied ‘No fee to be a member of Martindale-Hubbell Connected.’

I then asked further on Twitter about how lawyers get in Connected and why some lawyers who register are told they will receive a response, and then hear nothing. Martindale-Hubbell personnel refused to respond. Crazy.

I am heading to Birmingham to speak to their LMA chapter this week on social media and social networking for law firms. I must have 3 or 4 outstanding invites to present at other LMA chapters between now and this summer. I’m also presenting at various bar associations and associations of law firms throughout the year.

At each presentation to date, I’ve listed Connected as a social networking site for law firms. I’ve said it may be a compelling offering, but that it’s taken LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell a long time to get Connected live while LinkedIn, and open web social networking (blogs, Twitter etc) are making significant advances. I also said I thought Connected was limited to paying Martindale-Hubbell subscribers.

Going forward I am going to say that Connected still in beta is open, accepting lawyers and that it’s free to use, but that Martindale is locking out some lawyers (even non Martindale critics) with out explanation, and that Martindale won’t respond why. That’s silly, but I am not sure what else to say.

And it leaves law firms wondering what’s up. Does Connected work from a tech standpoint? Has LexisNexis not yet developed a marketing strategy for Connected? Is Connected’s use to date limited to law firms who haven’t reduced their Martindale-Hubbell listings?

Smart and innovative companies want their products used and discussed by influencers, especially bloggers. It makes for a better product and service. Improvements and enhancements can be made based on wide ranging use and open discussion on the Internet.

It’s not like LexisNexis is not trying to influence public discussion and generate a positive buzz about Connected. Just look at the Twitter discussion about Connected. LexisNexis employees are discussing recent partnerships between Connected and law firm associations and hyping the number of lawyers now using Connected.

But LexisNexis’ approach of shutting out lawyers and bloggers on Connected while letting in their friends is antiquated and reflects poorly on the company. Companies today understand that controlling public perception through controlled PR while alienating those on the blogosphere is destined to backfire.

Connected may be a great service. Who nows? It’s time for LexisNexis to open up Connected to lawyers, especially the influencers, before the discussion turns south on Connected, not because it’s a poor product, but because the PR associated with its launch was handled so poorly.