Seems that Client Relationship Management (CRM) expenses aren’t the only perceived wasteful expenditures on a law firm’s balance sheet. One other costly resource that firms seem to be taking another look at lately is their Martindale-Hubbell contracts. One librarian from a mid-sized Georgia firm decided to query her peers to see if they also thought that M-H was worth the investment. Although this isn’t a comprehensive or scientific survey, it seems to show that the return on investment for Martindale-Hubbell doesn’t seem to match up with the cost.

Hmm… anyone else notice that both the CRM and M-H products are touted as resources for the attorneys, but end up essentially as resources for the Marketing department??

Here are the comments from other librarians about the ROI of M-H:

One thought:  can the firm attorneys QUANTIFY how many referrals (how much business) they got in the past calendar year?  Versus where referrals and new business originated?  Was enough generated to offset the firm’s cost of listing?  You may have to piece this together depending on how your firm does things, but in-house data will carry far more weight than outside studies.

One reason we dropped was the lack of business M-H generated.

[from a corp. legal department] I don’t know if this will have any sway or not, but as a huge consumer of legal services from many, many law firms throughout the US, we do not use MH when making a decision on what outside counsel firm to use.  And we dropped our own listing last year.

Have you tried getting Marketing in on the “Drop M-H Bandwagon”.  It worked here but the change came from Marketing since they were paying for it. I just verified that no one ever used it (housed in the library). Then we showed them how to access this same information on online.

A couple of years ago after we decided not to participate in Martindale, we had to make the decision again because the publisher gave us a free year.

I had an intern and a case clerk go through Martindale online to see which of the AmLaw 100 and 200 firms had listings in M-H and at what level. Don’t “the powers” always ask what your competitors are doing?  You can see the results in the attached (now dated) spreadsheet.

We opted out and put the money into other marketing projects (like a refurbished website).

I have that MH in a budget too.  I think transferring it to marketing or some other department will go a long way to having the cost reviewed.  My attitude towards MH is completely indifferent when I don’t have to pay for it out of library funds.

This is a comment from our marketing director re canceling MH:

“I am happy to discuss with someone. It is a complicated discussion…but the evaluation we completed clearly indicated that the ROI on the dollars spent were no longer justifiable.”

I remember discussing this via email with the local law librarian group, and many had canceled MH. One reason is that many folks, both attorneys and the public use Google to find attorneys. Plus MH’s cost were too high.

I’m not sure whether your request has drawn much response.  If not, you just ask librarians to tell you whether their firm has dropped M&H.  I suspect that the resulting list would be a Who’s Who of American Law Firms.

  • This Corporate Counsel article supports what the survey respondents are saying. Legal directories are out and Google searches are in.

  • Having Martinale-Hubbell (MH) books in a library is waste of money. More up-to-date information is provided through MH's web site.

    Being listed in the MH directory has a marketing benefit that relates to being found with Google and most other search engines. Part of what determines whether a site shows up in search results–and how HIGH a site shows up–is determined by how many INCOMING links the searched-for site has. MH links from its directory to a firm's site provide incoming links, which thereby help the firm show up higher in any Google searches conducted.

    I am often tasked with finding out-of-state law firms for referral work. The MH listing is typically the first thing I go to because of the MH rating system. I can't imagine that a general counsel would make a hiring decision for a law firm without checking those ratings.

    Nevertheless, MH listings are overpriced, but the listing does provide value.

  • I can appreciate where the librarians and administrative directors are coming from when they look at excising costs like Martindale and CRM. And I will stipulate that law firms do a generally terrible job of quantifying where their business comes from. Therefore, law firms do not know if their investments are paying off. But let's not make the causality error of thinking that because business development is poorly understood that these investments are worthless.

    Yes, in most cases the benefits of Martindale and CRM are best understood by the Marketing staff. And, many Marketing staff under pressure to lower costs do sacrifice these investments because the firm does not have or want systems in place to determine what the cost-benefit ratios are for them.

    My personal experience in a number of firms is that the benefits are best realized when the firm is intentional about the use of the investments, whatever they are. With a comprehensive Martindale relationship, for example, one firm may portray the specific and deep experience of its lawyers, spread demonstration of their knowledge through publishing online and benefit from Martindale's long-standing relevance in search engines' results for legal topics. And the firm that uses this relationship as a lubricant for business development has a strong confirmation tool when prospects and clients go online to "prove" the question of intellect and experience. A less than intentional approach will, obviously, be a waste of resources. But that's the flaw of the law firm, not the tool.

  • Adam Severson

    I agree with some of the comments, but that's only if your seeing Martindale as a directory. I've personally done the analysis and have found several of their additional offerings to provide greater value than their name sake directory (like their counsel to counsel forums and connected/linkedin). This is balanced with them getting their pricing more in line with the market.