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?

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 lawyers.com “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.

I just checked my calendar and, yup, it really is 2012.

Other than the earth coming to an end later this year, it’s about fricken time you got a website.

There just aren’t any good excuses out there.

Yeah, I’m talking to you solo and small firms out there.

And this is especially true for those of you who represent consumers – family law, divorces, child custody, employment matters, trusts & estates. I’d add personal injury, DUI and immigration to the list, but those folks are marketing machines.

Seriously. If you Google yourself or your firm, what do you find? If the answer is NOTHING, than you are LOSING business every day, and you don’t even know it.

Case in point:

Continue Reading Get a fricken website already

I just got off an interesting survey call with BTI. I was pretty candid with my answers, so I’ll either throw the bell-curve off, or make for some interesting “comments.” At the end of the call I was asked if there was a question that they hadn’t asked? I thought for a few moments and came up with one:

What am I not doing today that was standard/common practice a few years ago?

Very quickly I popped out my answer: Advertising. I have lots of friends and colleagues who sell advertising in leading publications, and I feel for them. Personally, I just don’t see the point anymore. I no longer place articles in publications … that’s what the firm’s blogs are for. So why would I place ads there?? Face it. The reading habits of Americans, and, better yet, decision makers in the legal industry, have changed. Google is now the #1 research tool. And, honestly, how often do you pick up a newspaper? I live in LA and don’t commute on a train where a newspaper would come in handy, so I read my news online. The individual articles are delivered to my Google Reader, my Twitter stream, my Facebook Wall, and now I can have the whole newspaper delivered directly to my nook when I so desire. And then I thought about how many magazine subscriptions I have let lapse over the past few years. And, for those magazines I still receive (for work it’s The American Lawyer and Business Insurance), the majority of the articles I have already read online before the magazine actually arrives in my in-box. And speaking of magazines, has anyone else noticed that they’re more like pamphlets these days? Save for the AmLaw 100 issue of The American Lawyer (which is akin to the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated, or the Fall Issue of any fashion magazine), we’re looking at about 100 pages … and the advertising is NOTHING like it was a decade ago. I used to flip through each issue of The American Lawyer, pulling out every law firm ad, and I had FILES. In the latest issue sitting on my desk, there are 10 full-page ads, and 4 half-page ads from law firms in the 110 pages. And, other than Perkins Coie and Winton & Strawn’s submissions, I’d have a hard time remembering any of the law firms … and I have a vested interest. I’m not saying I’ll never advertise … I just think the practice of advertising has changed. It’s no longer about full-page, 4-color placement, month-after-month. For me it’s about targeted and focused audiences, along with measurable statistics. I remember speaking with the Martindale-Connected folks a couple years ago as they were building out their social media/networking product. At the time they were still focused on the subscription model á la the MH Directory. I told them that social media/networking is free to the user; however, I’d be interested in banner ads that popped up when someone searched for a specific type of lawyer in a specific geographic area. That idea was originally rejected … but I am so grateful to see advertising on there not only from law firms, but I just saw an ad for the new Jaguar XJ. The same thing goes with companies like JD Supra, Mondaq and Lexology. The products are free to the end-user. I do pay a minimum fee to post articles (my entire budget is less than the cost of placing ONE ad in the local business journal). However, it’s the reporting that I receive which is so valuable. I can instantaneously see the views and click-throughs. I know the companies who are viewing our posts, along with the titles of the individuals (and, in the case of Mondaq, the actual names and contact information of the individuals). Via my blog and website stats, I can see the referrals and increased search result placement. The phone is ringing more. The recognition is increasing. The opportunities are getting better. Once again, those are the results I am looking for. And, especially with JD Supra and Lexology, on a daily basis my firm’s blog posts are right there, next to our AmLaw 100 competitors. Once again, my budget for all of this is less than the cost of ONE advertisement in the local business journal. Targeted, focused, immediate stats, the evening out of the playing field … that’s advertising that I can buy into. I’m sure that there are people out there who will jump to the defense of standard advertising, and that’s fine. If it works for you, great! Spend $10-20,0000 per ad (not including the pre-production costs). I just have a different approach that is working for my firm … today. So, Coolerites … what are you NOT doing today that used to be common practice??

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 www.martindale.com and www.lawyers.com.

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. Martindale.com, 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 Martindale.com 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 Martindale.com 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 Martindale.com or Lawyers.com:

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 am one of the 16,600 people on Peter Shankman’s HARO (Help a Reporter Out) e-mail distribution. I joined on April 30th when there were about 800 members. Peter has obviously touched a nerve and has met a need that wasn’t being met, or wasn’t being met to its potential. It is amazing that someone with an e-mail distribution list can take on an established industry leader like ProfNet (with 14,000 members), overtaking it in a matter of months. ProfNet’s business model, to say the least, will now have to be revamped. Did I mention that HARO is free?

From Peter’s morning query today:

As I’m sure you’ve seen this morning, the next round of shots have been fired in the (As Media Bistro is calling it) “Profnet vs. HARO” war. I never started HARO to take on Profnet, but that’s what happens when something becomes successful, I guess. I started it because I thought reporters and sources needed a better way to connect, one that didn’t require paying a ton of cash, or wading through hundreds of off-topic or SPAM emails. As we blow past 16,600 members this afternoon, it would seem that I was right.

Check out the Industry Standard article for more details:

When skydiving PR guy Peter Shankman started the “Help a Reporter” group on Facebook last November, he thought his project could connect a few reporters up with sources for their articles. He didn’t expect his idea would garner clients like The New York Times, and challenge a long standing industry giant’s spot on top.

Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short, is a mailing list with more than 16,000 members and dozens of source requests being sent out daily. It’s also a significant threat to the only other major source-finding game in town, PR Newswire’s ProfNet.

ProfNet, which reportedly costs upwards of $3,000 per year for potential sources, has a looming threat in HARO’s free model.

The threat began to materialize in March, when Shankman turned his project from a 684-person Facebook group into a full fledged three-times-per-day mailing list that was dead-simple to sign up for — and more importantly, free for both reporters and sources.

This brings me back to Martindale v. LinkedIn. I am excited that later today I get to see a sneak peek at Martindale Connected (scheduled to launch “in coming months”). But, is it too late? Has the “free” of LinkedIn replaced anything that Martindale can offer? I guess I’ll find out around 3:00 pm (Pacific) today.

But really, how come I never get these great ideas?