LexisNexis’ social networking community for lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, is in trouble. Connected is late to the game, it’s not being well received by the lawyers now trying it, and worst of all is LexisNexis’ lack of understanding how to use the Internet and social networking/media to build a following for its social networking site.

The latest comes this morning when Martindale tells folks via Twitter they have been soliciting feedback on Connected from lawyers, including me, for the last 9 months. Total bunk.

Martindale-Hubbell Connected

Getting feedback on a web based service means giving people access to your website. I applied to get into Connected 8 months ago. Here’s the email I received in response. I didn’t hear back.

LexisNexis Martindale Connected

Upon further inquiry, I received this email from Pat Washburn, Community Manager, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, telling me I cannot get into Connected until Q1 of 2009.

Martindale Connected

Though I did exchange emails with John Lipsey, LexisNexis Vice President of Corporate Counsel Services, about a demo and I may have even canceled one scheduled call with him, I was told I would not be given access to Connected to test it. By that time, I already received PowerPoints Martindale was using to demo the product to law firms so I passed on what I thought would be a marketing story, as opposed to real testing.

I heard nothing from Martindale about getting into Connect until I brow beat them by blogging and twittering 10 days ago that I was being refused access to Connected at the same time law firms were asking me to comment on Connected during speaking engagements around the country. LexBlog’s clients and my blog readers were also regularly asking about Connected as they do with Legal OnRamp, and LinkedIn, two other social networking communities we are all given ready access to.

A week ago last Sunday LexisNexis employees told me all lawyers, including me, can get into Connected. ‘It just may take a few days after registration.’ Then another LexisNexis employee tells me the next day no, ’employees were told at a recent national sales meeting, that membership is still limited to corporate counsel.’

I finally got in Connected a week ago and shared my commentary and that of Doug Cornelius’ in a blog post about Connected on Saturday. A fair amount of negative commentary about Connected on blogs and Twitter followed – from lawyers, law firm marketing professionals, and law firm knowledge management people.

Social networking for professionals in this down economy has never been bigger. It’s well accepted that LinkedIn’s tremendous growth is in part driven by people looking for jobs and new clients. However, LexisNexis is late to the game and is only getting later.

For LexisNexis to pull Connected out of its tail spin they ought to get Connected open as fast they can and make sure its open to those people who will influence its acceptance.

  • Others like me who are commenting and speaking on the subject. Law firms are not only listening to us, they are seeking our advice. It may be shocking, but we as commentators and presenters are more trusted than your marketing and sales people.
  • Lawyers who are early adopters of technology who are having so much trouble registering to get into Connected. They blog and Twitter about their experiences. Their comical exchanges about the frustrations of getting in and then having trouble correcting profiles is not a laughing matter.
  • Legal Marketing professionals such as Heather Milligan, who reminded Martindale they may wish to open Connected to those who will be charged to train lawyers how to use Connected. Law firms are not going to have their lawyers using Connected unless professionals like Milligan believe it worthwhile. That’s not going to happen with a video and PowerPoint. Not letting professionals like Milligan in until later this year is not only treating her like a second class citizen, but a poor social networking strategy.
  • Law firm social networking and knowledge management experts such as Connie Crosby, who commented at my blog that by locking out non lawyer professionals LexisNexis was missing the boat on getting word the out and getting people using Connected.

The days of launching a web based product without seeking real feedback and ownership from users and early adopters are over. The days of closed communities locking out those who may speak frankly and openly about community experiences are over. The days of a controlled PR campaign without integrity and transparency are over.

LexisNexis, with all the financial resources it has and Martindale’s ready database of lawyers has a huge advantage in getting Connected to market and well received by its target users, but unless the ship is righted immediately we could all be watching a tremendous expense of capital – people and money, on a product that’s never going anywhere.