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Martindale Follows Avvo's Lead

Despite the class action lawsuit that's been filed against lawyer directory Avvo, alleging that Avvo's rating system is deceptive, Avvo must be doing something right.  How else to explain that Martindale-Hubbell, the great-grandaddy of lawyer directories, is following Avvo's lead, and allowing clients to post reviews of their attorneys -- a feature that Avvo also offers.  Larry Bodine of Law Marketing Blog has the scoop.

From Bodine's post (which in turn, quotes from an ad in PM Forum's Professional Marketing magazine), here's how the Martindale system will work:

Law firms can hand-pick five or more clients to participate in Client Reviews.  There's nothing barring a firm from lobbying its selected clients or even pre-writing the reviews for them. The questionnaire "comprises seven questions that seek recommendations regarding a law firm's quality of legal representation, client service, value for money, practice areas (up to 5), industries (up to 5), geography, and whether the client would engage the firm for future legal matters." If a firm gets a single bad review, it can choose to delete all the reviews from the firm's profile on martindale.com.  It's all-or-nothing: either all the reviews are published, or none.  If the firm decides to publish all the reviews, Martindale will issue a press release, mention it in their e-newsletter to 25,000 in-house counsel, send announcements to any 10 corporate counsel, and give it featured status in a Top 10 list of newly reviewed law firms on martindale.com.

Of course, Wired GC John Wallinbich called this trend back in June, when he wrote:

For some time, Martindale-Hubbell has attempted to move beyond an image of a large set of thick tan books that sit mouldering in the library. They are clearly asking for a stretch from account reps previously tasked with signing up firms for directory entries. Perhaps also a tacit admission that upstart Avvo is having an effect on LexisNexis strategy?

As for me, I'm wondering what's ahead.  Will we see lawsuits against Martindale for "deception" where a firm, rather than clients, writes its own review?  Allegations of damage to business by those firms which receive negative ratings and delete all their ratings (thus, leading clients to suspect that the firm couldn't find positive recommendations)?  Given the double standard in the profession between established companies like Martindale and upstarts like Avvo, I doubt that Martindale has anything to worry about.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 28, 2007 at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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