Saturday, April 12, 2008

Martindale-Hubble, LinkedIn and Legal OnRamp

Over at the The Official Blog of Martindale-Hubbell, John Lipsey; VP Corporate Counsel Services, comments on Larry Bodine’s Crowded but Silent piece in Law Technology News: Corporate counsel and Online professional networking.

Larry is right to point out that the power of any social network site is derived from the number of people using it. That power to you is relative to the number of people you know that are using that social network site. That is Metcalfe's law.

In the last few months, I have seen lawyers poring into LinkedIn (Doug's profile in LinkedIn). As lawyers see more and more of their fellow attorneys joining LinkedIn, it becomes a more useful tool.

Lipsey misses the point of social networking sites. I do not expect anyone to contact me just because I have a listing on the site. That is not networking. That is just advertising. (Just like a listing in Martindale-Hubble.) The power of social networking sites is your ability to create a flow of information about yourself. Networking is about contributing useful information to the people you know and keeping your name in front of them.

I assume that Lipsey's post was to try to proclaim the value of Martindale-Hubble, but in the end his description of what corporate counsel are looking for sounds a lot like Legal OnRamp:
[Corporate counsel would] be willing to use a professional networking site to make it easier to get to those referrals. But that network must be trusted, limited to other legal professionals, and protected from relationship “spammers” who litter strangers with relationship requests. . . . . What they would find valuable is a trusted professional community of lawyers, and a “safe place” that enables corporate counsel to find each other, and outside counsel. They want the tools develop their own communities within these sites to exchange information and collaborate – away from the watchful eye of would be vendors, competitors or hostile counsel.

And sounds like LinkedIn:

"If a professional network can allow a corporate counsel to get the lawyer information as well as connections linking him or her to that lawyer – voila."
But does not sound like Martindale-Hubble.


  1. Doug,

    Great defense in your comments on why a professional (attorney or otherwise) should join LinkedIn.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Nice post, Doug. I am also a fan of the various networking sites. I especially like LinkedIn's (relatively) new Groups feature. So much so that I figured I would make a KM group. It's called Knowledge Management for Legal Professionals. It's an open group for all who are interested to join. Here's the link to the group.
    And thanks for your great coverage of KM conferences. I often feel like I was there.

  3. Our law firm is abandoning Martindale in favor of more efficient and cost-effective alternatives such as Legal OnRamp, LinkedIn and Avvo. It took a while for the most senior partners to get on board with that decision. Frankly, most of them thought Martindale would soon realize they were being left behind by Legal OnRamp and Avvo and offer something comparable, even if they charged for it. In the end, patience ran out. Oh yeah, and the bill arrived, which made the decision even easier. We also dropped our yellow pages listing earlier this year, which I know was long overdue decision.

    Lipsey understandably favors sites and/or service models that are "limited to other legal professionals." That is only half of the equation, however. The world of legal service buyers can justifiably be split into two broad categories, in-house counsel and everyone else. LegalOnRamp, in my judgment, gives in-house counsel everything they need for free. Every other buyer of legal services has a great, free service in the form of Avvo. I suspect a lot of GC's are checking out Avvo profiles as well as they vet prospective outside counsel. Just like a background check, evaluating prospective counsel benefits from multiple sources of information. How smart would it have been of Martindale to have moved quickly to create their own versions of LegalOnRamp and Avvo before those sites existed? Reading Lipsey's post, it's not hard to understand why Martindale is so late to the party. Lipsey says

    "If a professional network can allow a corporate counsel to get the lawyer information as well as connections linking him or her to that lawyer – voila. You’ve taken an existing business need, an existing business process, and with professional networking, added significant more business value to that process."

    While Martindale is still talking about theory, everyone else knows the solutions have already been built.

  4. Doug,

    This is right on target with much of what I am hearing. Great insight, thanks.

    Rachel Abbott, Business Development Reed Smith


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