Blondie_-_Parallel_Lines Yesterday was Debbie Harry’s 70th birthday. I’m not sure if this made me feel really old (I had Parallel Lines on 8-track, you can now listen to the whole album on YouTube), or feeling young, as I am still 20 years younger than her. Either way, I was sitting at lunch yesterday chatting about Ms. Harry’s birthday, and I noticed that an associate (and a senior associate at that) had a blank look on his face and then he said: “I have no idea who Debbie Harry is.” GASP. Debbie Harry. Lead singer for Blondie. Former Playboy Playmate. Queen of CBGB and Studio 54. Debbie Harry, come on! What next? The Sex Pistols selling out to Visa?? To answer my question, “What do Debbie Harry and Martindale-Hubbell have in common?” easy peasy: People under a certain age have no idea who or what they are. And, if they do have a slight impression of who or what they are, they don’t understand or appreciate the relevance. Continue Reading What do Martindale-Hubbell, Debbie Harry and Legal Marketing have in common?

Oh, Martindale, what happened? Your brand was once the bomb diggity, as my teen would put it, but here you are now, just another product sold to Internet Brands, oh, I mean “in partnership with” Internet Brands.

Kevin O’Keefe wonders Does Martindale-Hubbell, as we knew it, still exist?

The Martindale-Hubbell and “brands” live on, but does Martindale-Hubbell still exist as lawyers have come to know the company.

I’ve written about the slow demise of the Martindale brand numerous times in this blog. A list of articles can be found here.

Personally, I find no value in the old brand today. The AV rating doesn’t mean anything any more. I have found that it is only being used to sell vanity ads in ALM publications (Step Away from the Vanity Ads), and a bygone reminder of a profession that has evolved into a very sophisticated business.

Other than a few RFPs asking to list your MH rating alongside the attorneys other stats, I really cannot see a MH rating being a determining factor in the hiring of a lawyer, especially any lawyer under 40 who just doesn’t care, or have an affinity for the brand.

Sadly, I think it is time for someone to pull the plug on the MH brand and allow it to die with the dignity it deserves.

Before I begin my take on the current incarnation of the Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings ™ system and its relationship to Martindale-Hubbell ® Connected, I’d like to make a few things clear:

  1. Anything I am about to say is nothing I haven’t said to Martindale-Hubbell and LexisNexis ® (the parent company) representatives directly, in private conversations, over the past several years.
  2. I have a lot of affection for the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings.
  3. I do not want to see this 140 year old brand die.
  4. These are my PERSONAL opinions and in no way shape or form reflect the opinions of my firm’s partnership and individual attorneys, or any guest bloggers of The Legal Watercooler.

In addition, it is NOT my intention, in this post, to address Martindale-Hubbell’s new Peer Review Ratings program, which I promise to address in a later post. Let’s just say that I think it’s a really, really, REALLY bad idea to start everyone off as an AV 5.0 and (potentially) re-review them DOWN over a 10-year period (according to Martindale-Hubbell’s Transformation Timetable).

For many years I have watched Martindale-Hubbell struggle with how to modernize and commoditize their 140-year old directory in a Web 1.0, and now a Web 2.0, world. The current incarnation seems to be based on the desire to have law firms subscribe to and fund Martindale-Hubbell Connected, a service whose end-users are in-house general counsel and private practice attorneys. Law firms will benefit as they will be part of Martindale-Hubbell’s Legal Network, which includes open directories such as and

From my vantage point, it is clear that Martindale-Hubbell is holding a lawyer’s AV Peer Review Rating hostage to drive “paid profiles in the Martindale-Hubbell directory,” which will give access to the “premium functions” within Martindale Connected, their answer to LinkedIn, Legal OnRamp, and other social networking sites. (Note: I cannot find a listing of what the “premium functions” are online. If someone has a link or a copy, please feel free to add to the comments section).

This is a pretty strong statement and here’s why I stand by it:

1. At the current time, more than half my firm’s partners are AV Peer Review Rated, with no input or effort by our firm.

2., the directory of lawyers we have known to trust for the past 140 years, has a listing of over one million attorneys. According to their Web site:

Free access to the world’s leading network of legal contacts The centerpiece of the site is the Lawyer Locator, which provides instant access to the entire Martindale-Hubbell Legal Network. Users can search over one million lawyers and law firms in more than 160 countries by a variety of criteria — including name, geographic location, practice area, firm size, languages and more.

3. My lawyers are automatically included in this “leading network of legal contacts” whether or not they are Peer Review Rated. However, if my lawyer is Peer Review Rated I MUST PAY for their rating to show.

I want to make this really clear:

  1. Martindale’s network of lawyers includes hundreds of thousands of lawyers who are not subscribers to their services. I do not have the ratios of who is in the system v. licensed lawyers, but, for the most part, it appears that most corporate/business lawyers are included.
  2. Martindale rates attorneys of their own volition. In fact, Martindale will rate any lawyer; you just have to submit their contact information.
  3. An attorney does not have to be a subscriber to Martindale’s services, or any of the services provided by their parent company, to be rated by Martindale.
  4. However, when it comes to posting the rating information in their free on-line directories, where they are freely including my attorney’s contact information (and where I do not have the option to opt-out) Martindale WILL NOT disclose an attorney’s rating unless a firm pays 1) a full subscription fee to which can cost tens of thousands of dollars for the smallest of firms; or 2) a $59 “administrative fee” to add the AV Peer Review Rating to an individual attorney’s profile.

Oh, by the way, the $59 administrative fee, which has been available for the past two years, will be phased out as of 2010. Their beta test of charging $599 for an individual attorney to personally subscribe (in case their firm chooses not to) is also gone. So, my only option will be to pay for a full subscription to if I want my attorneys’ ratings to show.

In my opinion, this is the equivalent of either 1) pay-to-play; or 2) a ransom demand where my attorneys’ Peer Review Ratings are concerned.

Currently, I can include in my firm’s marketing materials and Web site that my attorneys are AV Peer Review Rated. However, this is a trademark owned by Martindale. For many, many years we were expressly FORBIDDEN to post the AV Peer Review Rating in any printed marketing collateral without a very long disclaimer, and on our Web sites. The ban on posting to Web sites has been lifted, but for how long??

I have about nine more months before I need to make my decision – do I subscribe to Martindale or not? However, I am preparing my 2010 budget right now. I can assure you one thing is certain: I will NOT be increasing my Martindale-Hubbell spend from $2500 to what will most likely be 10 times that amount or more.

And I have a special note to General Counsels or anyone using or

If you utilize the AV Peer Review Rating as part of your vetting process when hiring outside counsel, please know that your search results are incomplete, and, worse yet, misleading.

Kevin O’Keefe has been an outspoken gadfly in regards to Martindale-Hubbell’s Connected, as have I.

Although Kevin is a non-practicing attorney, he has the ability to log into Connected.

I am an in-house director of marketing for a law firm, where I am the proponent for all things business development, yet I have no access.

If my firm ever chooses to subscribe to Martindale-Connected, it will come out of my budget.

If I have no ability to judge for myself the value of the product, if I cannot learn and then train my attorneys on best practices for the product, I will not endorse or pay for it.

So, while Martindale Connected is opening the doors to non-practicing attorneys, they might want to consider opening the doors to the keepers of the money.

I received an e-mail on Friday from a peer at LexisNexisMartindale division notifying me that not only was she let go, so was her entire department.

I want to let you know that I will be leaving Martindale-Hubbell at the end of the month. The Rating Specialist positions for Martindale-Hubbell have been eliminated, so that means that I will not be coming to visit you to review your firm’s ratings initiatives. I am told that some of the other people who visit your firm from Martindale or LexisNexis may add the ratings items to their meetings with you.

I don’t know if this is a case of chicken or the egg, but by eliminating the Rating Specialist positions, LexisNexis has shown what their commitment to the Martindale-Hubbell Ratings System product is. Or, was it our lack of support for the Ratings product what prompted LexisNexis to abandon it?

Either way, it appears that the Martindale-Hubbell AV Ratings System is officially dead, or, at the least, on “dissolution watch.”

Thanks to my friends at Martindale for allowing me to preview the beta site for Martindale Connected. I was asked to do this to provide candor and feedback.
Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t think it is appropriate for me to share the specifics of what I saw and what I said, right now. In the end, that would not benefit the legal marketing community. My intentions are not to scoop any other blog as to the features of the new product, because Martindale isn’t finished and who knows where they’ll end up.
I hope that the comments I shared with them will be taken in the spirit given; I just want the best products out there that will help my attorneys do the best job they can for their clients. Contrary to others’ opinions, I am anything but Pollyanish.
(Sidebar – I tried to find the blog comment that accused
me of being Pollyanish when it came to the MH brand.
If anyone can send me the link, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee).
PRODUCT: Martindale Connected combines the best of what LexisNexis has to offer, in what could be a very cool social networking environment. Let me make myself clear: COULD BE.
But we all know that marketing is about four Ps and not only one. Martindale has the product, now they need to work on the pricing and promotion and placement.
PRICING: Web 2.0 is about sharing information in an open environment. We are now accustomed to, and expect, social networking to be open to all and free to the users. I am all for everyone making a buck, and making lots of them, but as Profnet v. HARO shows, a corporate giant cannot survive on a pricing model originally developed in the 80s, 90s or pre-Web 2.0. It’s time to get creative.
Jaffe Associates just released a White Paper, Web 2.0 and PR 2.0—The Way Jaffe Looks At The Present, that sums it up well:

Web 2.0 is all about sharing content—and lawyers and law firms generate a lot of useful content in the course of doing business. It is an ideal medium. Some popular examples:

  • The founders of Wikipedia built a site on wiki software, primed it with information that was already in the public domain, and then opened it up to the entire world.
  • The founders of LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace put up social networking sites, and then opened them up to anyone who wants to post a profile and create a network.
  • YouTube did this for audio and video podcasts, and Flickr and Photobucket did it for photographs.
Martindale is in the position to do the same for lawyers. To quote Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come.”
I believe that the right pricing model has the potential to get most of us to take a second look at Martindale, and open the doors to new customers. After seeing what I have seen, I would be the first to line up (and you know I would). The flip side is, without the right pricing model you are susceptible to other Web 2.0 products happy to fill a need you are not fulfilling, which can then over overtake your market share in a matter of months.
PROMOTION: LexisNexis and Martindale will have to go a long way to woo back clients and legal marketers. I have a list of law firms, including many from the AmLaw 100, who have discontinued Martindale listings.
I look forward to seeing how Martindale will work with the legal marketing community to embrace their new product. Because, let’s face it, we’re the ones who will be promoting the product in our firms, the costs will come out of our budgets, and, in most cases, we’ll be the ones managing the use.
PLACEMENT: Web 2.0 has shaken up the placement of products. There was a time when the only authoritative guide to lawyers was Martindale’s AV rating. That is no longer so. In Web 2.0 anyone with an idea, and basic knowledge of how the Internet works, can take an old idea and turn it into a multi-billion dollar company. Facebook and Google come to mind.
Right now LinkedIn and Legal OnRamp are connecting lawyers and purchasers of legal services. The Association of Corporate Counsel has a mission to reconnect the value of legal services to the cost of legal services. They want to connect counsel to regional lawyers, minority owned firms and boutiques. Did I mention that they want to CONNECT these people. Can’t wait to hear how they plan to do that.

I just heard the wonderful news that Martindale-Hubbell & LinkedIn have hooked up. Not that kind of hooked up, the good kind that makes legal marketers like me scramble an e-mail out to all of her attorneys gushing about their products.

If you haven’t heard the good news, is now featuring LinkedIn social networking functionality.

Kevin O’Keefe broke the news here. And while Doug Cornelius finds it clunky, I just have to say Mazel Tov to the new couple.

I’m coming off an interesting couple weeks where the theme apparently was happiness. And before you start rolling your eyes, give me a moment (because I’m just as skeptical as you when people in legal start spouting off about happiness).

According to Psychology Today, happiness is

more than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.”

Let’s face it. THAT does not sound like the typical law firm, or overwrought executive, or the millennial lawyer, let alone look like anything that is happening within a legal marketing department.

This happiness theme really took hold with something Sanju Kripalani, who recently joined the Wicker Park Group said. It was based off of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s “The How of Happiness” formula,

50% of happiness is determined by your genes

10% of happiness is determined by the circumstances in which you live

40% of happiness is determined by your actions, your attitude or optimism, and the way you handle situations

Continue Reading If you’re happy and you know it … better yet, if you don’t

Linda HazeltonJust as we were getting ready to head out to the LMA Annual Conference, news broke that Chambers and Partners had been acquired by private equity house Inflexion. Today’s guest blogger, Linda Hazelton, Hazelton Marketing & Management, picked up the phone and spoke to Mark Wyatt, Chambers’ CEO.

Amongst the many services of Hazelton Marketing & Management is the writing of Chambers and other directory submissions on behalf of lawyers and law firms, so Linda’s insights to our community are very much welcomed, and I want to thank her for writing such a detailed post.

News recently broke regarding Inflexion’s acquisition of Chambers. Inflexion is a mid-market private equity firm “investing in high growth, entrepreneurial businesses.” In Inflexion’s news release, Simon Turner, Managing Partner, said:

The legal services market is a large and growing market which we have tracked for a number of years. Chambers benefits from a leading, global position and a reputation for providing the best rankings and research in the industry. There are multiple opportunities for the business to develop its market leading position internationally and through an enhanced digital offering. We look forward to working with the management team as Chambers embarks on this exciting growth strategy.”

Emphasis added

Mark Wyatt will re-join Chambers as CEO. Mark was previously the Managing Director of Chambers from October 2014 to September 2015. Mark’s quote in the news release referenced Chambers’ expansion plans and driving “[O]ur online presence forward.”

I spoke with Mark on April 9, 2018. He confirmed my supposition that Chambers’ methodology and the rigor with which they conduct research will not change. He is very enthusiastic about working with Inflexion, noting that they are terrific with technology. Since they are not publicly traded, there’s no need to focus on quarterly profits and they take the long view. Mark expects that the improvements in technology will allow them to manage the vast amount of information they have gathered in even more useful ways. Overall, the goal is to strengthen relationships with their clients and to improve at retaining their talented researchers and editors. I think we can anticipate an expanded on-line presence as well as new products such as forums, roundtables, client panels, and the like. Continue Reading Inflexion Acquired Chambers. Now What?

ReflectionsFor those of you wondering, “Who is Aric Press?”, he is the outgoing editor in chief for American Lawyer, and love it or hate it, through the AmLaw 100, and now 200, reports Aric placed a spotlight onto the business of law.

Aric announced his retirement from the American Lawyer late last year. Those of us who follow the business of law, especially in the LME Facebook group, released a collective gasp and wondered, “What does this mean moving forward?”

I can’t answer that question, but I have a perfect example of the questions I posed in the title of this post: “Why Aric Press matters?”

Aric Press matters because he gets us thinking about things differently. When I started out in the legal industry straight out of college, while studying for my LSATs, there were no conversations around the water cooler about the business of law, or legal as an industry, or clients, for that matter, or how to bring in new business.

Business came and went the way it always did: Referrals and the ol’ Martindale-Hubbell books on the shelf.

And then the world changed. The Internet opened up a whole new world of being able to research and find attorneys. The recessions changed the practice of law. Competition changed the pyramid business model. Partners started packing up their business and moving it across the street to a competitor. Somewhere along the line the profession of law became the business of law.

And Aric Press, and the American Lawyer, captured it all.

If you read only one article this month (subs, req), you need to read this one: Big Law and Me: Aric Press Reflects.

Understanding the business of the firms took longer. It’s not as complicated as many other lines of work. There are no complex supply chains, and few if any product launches to manage. It’s why, over the years, so many law firm heads compared their business to the character in the movie “Bull Durham” who described baseball as a simple game, one involving throwing, hitting and catching a ball.

But on the field, baseball isn’t quite that elegantly simple. And neither is the business of Big Law. As I look back on what I’ve learned over the past 16 years, a dozen principles or observations come to mind …

I’d start listing his dozen, but you just need to go and read the article.

While everyone is expendable, and the American Lawyer will go on, Aric Press, you will be missed. Happy trails to you.

Photo credit: Francisco Antunes
UPDATE: I received a very thoughtful note from Aric Press yesterday. While I am all for click-bait and utilizing blogs to gain the attention of prominent people within your community/industry, I truly did not expect to hear from him. I am touched.
I also need to note that the American Lawyer article is locked down and registration is required. Seriously. If you don’t have a subscription, and you are reading this blog, I’m just SMH. You need to read the industry pubs for your industry, and our industry is legal. Even if you are not a part of Big Law, the information is valuable. Subscribe. It’s $500/year or so. At the least, go in on a subscription with a friend.