Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings: Pay-to-Play or a Ransom Demand??
- 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.
- I have a lot of affection for the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings.
- I do not want to see this 140 year old brand die.
- 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:
- 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.
- Martindale rates attorneys of their own volition. In fact, Martindale will rate any lawyer; you just have to submit their contact information.
- 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.
- 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.
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.