Are Martindale Hubbell’s Fees Really Worth It?

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In a recent discussion in a lawyer marketing LinkedIn Group that I moderate, an attorney posed the question of whether Martindale-Hubbell’s fees are worth it. The question drew responses from legal marketers including folks from FindLaw, Yodle, and even LexisNexis and Martindale.com. Unfortunately, many of the responses didn’t really get into the nuts and bolts of whether a program like the one laid out by Martindale would be likely to generate a return on investment for this attorney. And while the specific results of any program will vary greatly from one firm to another, I thought I would give my opinion on some of the strategies being offered up.


In the interests of disclosure, I have not worked with a firm that has subscribed to the specific program at issue. On the other hand, I have worked with firms that have used LexisNexis, Martindale.com, and Lawyers.com with greatly varying degrees of success and failure. My opinions are based on my experiences with these types of services generally and should not be construed as an endorsement or warning about this specific program.

Online Visibility, Credibility, and Personality

The first three bullet-points of the program stress:

VISIBILITY -If consumers cannot find you , they will not be able to hire you
CREDIBILITY – Consumers use research to find and validate attorneys before they will hire you
PERSONALITY – The more consumers learn and see about you, the more likely they are to hire you

Visibility is a critical component to effective web strategy. However, we need to be careful about what we mean by visibility. Visibility only matters if it’s visibility to people that may become new clients or can help you further develop your professional presence and reputation.

Being visible to audiences that aren’t looking for you or aren’t interested in what you’re publishing or offering won’t lead to very efficient return on investments. For example, if you’re a criminal attorney, listed in a legal directory that gets excellent visibility to audiences looking for bankruptcy information, your visibility within that directory is largely worthless.

Likewise, even if the directory has excellent visibility to your target audiences, if your visibility within the directory is poor (i.e. people need to search deep within the directory to find you), it’s unlikely that you’ll see a return on your investment.

You’ll want to ask specific questions of any web marketing service about how they plan to increase your visibility to your target audiences. What will they do? How will they do it? What kind of visibility goals and metrics will be in place to track success?

Credibility is also key to marketing yourself as a legal professional. Whether someone is researching legal issues that they are facing, or specifically checking out your credentials, how well you are able to demonstrate your credibility may make the difference between whether they contact you or look for another referral. However, demonstrating your credibility through a profile listing can be quite challenging. You’ll want to inquire about how you will be able to demonstrate your credibility. How will they help you demonstrate your credibility? If it’s a profile-based program, what are the features of the profile that will help you demonstrate credibility?

Personality is another difficult component to convey online. Especially through a profile. Let’s face it, not all of your prospective clients will respond the same to different personalities. Therefore, your best bet is to be yourself. Identify what aspects of your personality you have to resonate best with your clients and try to express those traits online. Again, demonstrating personality through an online profile is very challenging. Ask your web marketer how their product or service will help you develop and demonstrate your personality.

Some Specific Components

The program also lists some specific features. I’m not going to tackle each of these specifically, but will consider some of the features more generally.

Practice Information & Attorney Bios – Letting your audiences know who you are, what you do, and why they should consider hiring you to help them with their legal matter is critical to any marketing initiative. Instead of creating resume, create attorney bios that speak to your audiences.

Publishing ContentContent is still king and publishing and syndicating your web content on authoritative sites will help you get in front of larger audiences online. This is especially effective when the site you are publishing on is relevant and authoritative on legal matters, or better yet, your specific practice area(s).

Links – One of the major advantages of certain online profiles are your ability to link to additional profiles, as well as, your website and blog. This not only provides access to your audiences to more reading about you, these links can also increase your websites’ visibility within organic and local search engine results.

Reviews & Ratings – Peer and client reviews, ratings, and testimonials go a long way in demonstrating your credibility online. Of course, you need to make sure that any reviews and ratings that you publish online comply with your state’s rules of professional responsibility.

Worth It?

Deciding whether any marketing program is “worth it” can be a very complicated analysis. Marketing and advertising are only “worth it” if they generate some kind of return. That return may be new revenue, new professional relationships, or some form of professional reputation enhancement.

The key to determine whether something is worth it is to have a purpose, specific goals, and means by which you can measure whether or not you are achieving your stated purpose and goals.

In my experience, results can vary greatly from one program to another, as well as, one firm to another depending on a firm’s specific purposes and goals. In the end, the only way to know whether or not something works is to try it. However, it’s critical that you are measuring your marketing and holding it accountable for reaching your target goals. And if it’s not demonstrating its value to you, try something else.

What do you think? Is it worth it?

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anniferrr/4305013252/)

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  • Ken

    No. In fact, I have written repeatedly about how Martindale sucks. http://www.popehat.com/?s=martindale

    Here’s the thing: some lawyers and businesses out there still think that you need to be in Martindale to be credible. That attitude — a hold-over form when heavy paper tomes dominated — is dying out, thank God. A firm web site is vastly superior for showing a firm’s qualifications. All that Martindale has gotten us is (1) a Martindale listing necessary for impressing a dwindling number of dinosaurs, (2) lots of cold-calls from crazy people seeking help having implants removed from their heads, and (3) aggressive marketing of junk law products.

    • Your points and posts are well-taken. And no doubt a ton of lawyers have had the same experience as you.

      On the other hand, as you allude to, there are at least SOME people that give SOME weight to being Martindale-approved. Just like there are some that give some weight to things like US News Best Lawyers, SuperLawyers, etc, etc.

      Should they? Of course not. But they do.

      On the other hand, there might be other reasons to subscribe to a program like this. Again, it comes down purpose, goals, etc.

      Is signing up for this program going to “make it rain?” Nope. But does it have a place in the marketing plan for some lawyers? Probably.

    • I had to laugh when you mentioned “junk law products”. I totally agree— we get calls all the time from this category- they throw up a website and try to get you to buy a county or region on their site. I have spoken to many non-lawyers who say they are annoyed when they do a search for a lawyer or other professional service and get routed to one of those generic lawyer referral sites.

  • You forgot to tell us whether it’s worth it.

    I have never talked to a potential client who has any idea what Martindale is, or cares whether I am AV rated, whatever that means.

    • I thought I did:

      And while the specific results of any program will vary greatly from one firm to another, I thought I would give my opinion on some of the strategies being offered up.

      I have not worked with a firm that has subscribed to the specific program at issue.

      In my experience, results can vary greatly from one program to another, as well as, one firm to another depending on a firm’s specific purposes and goals.

      I was really looking for feedback from practicing lawyers who had subscribed to this specific program.

  • Wait, is Martindale basically just Avvo, but without any brand recognition or SEO value?

  • I just used martindale to try to find a lawyer licensed in another state to refer a fairly lucrative commerical case too potentially refer. It’s got good sorting features. I’m not sure it’d be good for consumer practices but it has a following with other lawyers.

  • anon

    i’m posting as anon b/c i used to work as an SEO for LNMH. these are useless. we see the traffic for these listings, and generally most of our clients recieved 5- 10 visits to thier website per year. any lawyers who were directly involved with thier marketing / ad busget spending cancelled these b/c there was NO ROI on these listings, nor SEO value.

    • @Anon – Thanks for feedback, but since you’re Anon, your feedback gets less weight from me. Are you a disgruntled former employee? Are you an LNMH competitor? Catch my drift?

    • I love that (a) he refused to link to your post, and (b) he completely misses the point.

      • I was wondering if he even read it…

        • Probably not. He wasn’t really responding, after all, just regurgitating talking points.

  • Mary

    My husband is the attorney – I’m the other person in the office who does the paperwork, and now the website. Our experience with LNMH has been an unmitigated disaster. What they sold us, and what they claimed to deliver, were two vastly different products. We contracted for the cheapest level website which was supposed to have us doing all the writing and posting of content, but each attempt at that was fruitless. Contacting LNMH for help was a gargantuan task – they keep East Coast bankers’ hours (i.e. close at 1 PM West Coast time) and when you try to leave a voice mail message, every mailbox is full (this happened on many occasions). When I finally got an answer after sending several e-mails, they told me I had to send them my proposed content and they would then put it up. This is NOT what I contracted for, and I don’t want that extra level of potential error. We are now in a contract dispute, over which they are holding our domain name hostage – they will not release it for me to use via another hosting service. I find this ludicrous, since it was obtained and billed separately. But that’s how they work – we are finding similar problems in the LexisNexis Matthew Bender arm of the firm, so it looks like we’ll be finding another brand of forms software too. I’d like to be able to focus on the practice instead of their incompetency for a change!

    We had initially gone with them because of high visibility TV advertising we were seeing for Lawyers.com – interestingly enough, that all disappeared a couple of months after we signed the contract.

    As the alleged former LNMH employee attests, there was no SEO done on anything, not even on the initial content that the sales rep and I worked out.

    A total waste of money, time and energy.

    • Mary,

      Thanks for this comment. Hopefully someone else will be able to benefit from your terrible experience.

      We’ve run into the “hostage domain” with other legal web marketing companies. If you’d like, I’d be happy to discuss some options/courses of action via email: gt@attorneysync.com

  • Jason

    In my experience there is zero ROI. The “leads” are comically bad. Ken’s comments are dead on. I don’t even know who my rep is any more. The customer service is non existent. Never can get hold of anyone. Can’t wait till my contract is up.