Martindale Hubbell has been considered the “bible” of the legal industry for decades. Attorneys historically vie vying for the elusive AV rating, a rating demonstrating the highest ethical and intellectual standards, a rating is deeply tied to the attorney’s skill, knowledge, and ego.

But, unlike many ratings, the AV rating is not one that can be won through “horse-trading” deals, deals promising if an attorney from one firm votes for another attorney in another firm, the favor will be reciprocated. Martindale’s rating system is conducted on names submitted by the attorney seeking a rating and by other attorneys Martindale picks to eliminate the possibility of a fix.

Ratings are taking a backseat to the cost of listing in Martindale Hubbell—Lawyers are asking what are they getting in return for one of the most expensive items their marketing budget. Legal marketers are asking each other the same question.

Years ago while attending a Legal Marketing Association convention I remember hearing that one of the larger firms had pulled its Martindale listing. The disbelief on the fellow marketing professional’s faces around me seemed to affirm my thought of how crazy this move was.
Each year the attorneys look at the cost, grumble a bit, try to gauge an ROI (return on investment), and then pay it. After all, they always have. Today additional metrics are available through informal surveys and almost clandestine sharing of information, a list of who has dropped or scaled back their listing is being kept. Reportedly more than 20 firms varying in size from 16 to 3600 attorneys have dropped out and almost 20 more have scaled back.

Articles about the quiet movement have been noted by ALM’s Legal Intelligencer and on the Legal Marketing Portal and various blog sites.

Some firms are able to track referrals from Martindale Hubbell but can’t rectify the significant cost with the value afforded to the firm by listing. This is one of —if not the—most expensive line in many marketing budgets.

As I said, Martindale Hubbell has been considered the “go-to” source of information for decades and carries a credibility few other listings do. But as attorneys begin to look more at law as a business and not a service, the cost has to be justified.

Perhaps the increase Web presence of law firms is making Martindale less significant. Can Martindale adapt to these market changes quickly enough? Roughly forty firms are scaling back or dropping listings. Is this a growing trend?