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Martindale-Hubbell Wants You to Get Connected

This week, venerable Martindale-Hubbell steps into the online social networking fray with Martindale-Hubbell Connected. M-H Connected joins an already saturated field, including big players like the ABA , with its site Legally Minded. My colleague Bob Ambrogi reviewed the ABA's offering, somewhat critically, back in December.

So what does the M-H Connected service offer and what sets it apart? According to the press release, M-H says it developed the network after lawyers expressed a need for a site to meet and interact with trusted colleagues. Site features include:

Smart Connections. Network connections are identified in search results so members not only see with whom, but specifically how or why they are connected. Network technology proactively suggests contacts from among 45 million potential connections by matching one’s career and educational background with the full set of lawyers from the martindale.com service. Additionally, the network also mines court documents to identify useful connections between a member and other lawyers he or she has teamed with or faced in court.

Exclusive Combination of LexisNexis Content. The network offers members access to an exclusive combination of authoritative information from LexisNexis and other sources such as data, statistics, research, news, competitor profiles, marketing trends, ratings, polls and client reviews.

User-Generated Content and Interactive Capabilities.
The network also delivers access to quality user-generated content such as blogs, podcasts, more than 27,000 pieces of counsel-created research, online events and other content contributed by peers. Additional features in subsequent updates to the network will include a legal wiki, forums, and expanded access to content from LexisNexis and other sources.

Integrated Access to 37 Million LinkedIn Users. Complementing the Martindale-Hubbell Connected legal network, an agreement with LinkedIn offers Martindale-Hubbell Connected users instant visibility between lawyers they are searching and integrated access to their personal LinkedIn profiles. This means Martindale-Hubbell Connected members can quickly and easily find non-lawyer connections or referrals in the broader LinkedIn business network.

Doug Cornelius offers some preliminary reviews at his Compliance Building blog. Cornelius was able to access the site pre-launch and noted that at that time, much of the promised content hadn't materialized. But Cornelius' main criticism is that:

Connected is targeting the majority of lawyers instead of a crowd of early adopters. They want to be the largest online community. That is a different strategy than Legal OnRamp, another professional networking site for lawyers. Legal OnRamp is focusing on people who will contribute to that community. There is a barrier to entry and you may get kicked out if you don’t contribute.

Are online communities so mainstream that you can get lots of lawyers onboard and can skip targeting early adopters? I am skeptical. I predict that there will be many lawyers who register (or try to register), see the lack of content, and never come back. Early adopters will see that Connected is merely a mediocre social network platform lacking many of the robust features of Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Cornelius also expresses some skepticism about lawyer-only networking sites in general.

In his oft-referenced book, "The End of Lawyers," Richard Susskind (who, incidentally, keynotes this week at the ABA Tech Show) predicts the importance of social networks for lawyers by referencing Sermo, an online community for the medical profession comprised of 50,000 doctors who share their experiences on topics such as patient care, reactions to drugs and recent research. Admission is free for doctors; the site is funded by pharmaceutical companies who pay to have access to doctors' discussions and who often pay for particularly insightful answers.

My thought is that if the medical profession can get 50,000 doctors to aggregate information at one site, why can't lawyers? M-H Connected or Legally Minded may or may not be the proper venue (though clearly, each certainly strives to be). What's your view on why social media sites for lawyers only haven't clicked yet?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 1, 2009 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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