A Look Ahead to Changes at Martindale.com

by 04g7F1nl02 on January 28, 2008 · 0 comments

in martindale.com

As my colleagues and I have noted over the past week here on our new blog, change is happening at Martindale-Hubbell.  This change is across the board, including our solutions aimed at helping small businesses and individuals as well as those targeted to large law firms and corporations.  But you might be wondering what more we can say about this change?  What are our plans?  These are reasonable questions.

I’d like to present a high level approach we are taking to revitalize that part of Martindale-Hubbell that serves large law firms and corporations – what you might call the Business to Business (B2B) market.  Then, I would like to present a few ideas we’re looking at to change our solution. Hopefully we’ll be able to hear from customers, users, and other stakeholders, and, yes, from critics too.  We want to be sure that what we’re doing provides value to law firms and lawyers, whether in private practice or in-house, so we will consider all comments in revising our offering.

Also, it’s important to note that my colleagues at lawyers.com and our other solutions focused on smaller law firms and individual consumers – the Business to Consumer (B2C) market if you will – are hard at work making changes in how we do business in that sector. I know they will also be talking about changes on this blog and other forums.

With that said, let me start our conversation on the topic of our efforts in the B2B market by outlining our vision for the future of Martindale-Hubbell:  Our goal is to become the global legal network that is an indispensable resource used by sophisticated buyers of legal services to identify and select lawyers and law firms.  Our legal network will help these buyers of legal services find the legal services that best meet their needs, manage their relationships with law firms, and ultimately get the most “bang for their buck.”  By facilitating connections between the right kinds of clients and prospective clients, the Martindale-Hubbell network will benefit both lawyers and law firms.

How do we plan to achieve this vision?  At the highest level, I believe we need to focus on four key areas:

1.  Content.  Leverage existing and acquire new content to make sure the right information is available to sophisticated buyers of legal services for selecting the ideal lawyers and law firms.

2.  Tools.  Enhance martindale.com as a tool that brings together critical information and content in ways that enable sophisticated buyers of legal services to identify, evaluate and select lawyers and law firms, and justify buying decisions.

3.  Corporate counsel services.  Partner with and provide services and training to corporate counsel to help them select outside counsel.

4.  Pricing.  Migrate our pricing model to one that makes more sense for an on-line solution, to provide users with more transparency, and to ensure it is aligned more closely with our value proposition.

We have plans in each of these four key areas.

On content, our plan is to bring in more information that doesn’t require law firms to enter anything, but rather provides third party, objective criteria.  For example, along the lines of the federal litigation and M&A transactional information we started to make available, I could see us extending this type of information to state jurisdictions, alternative dispute data, and additional types of transactions such as real estate deals.
We have also heard from our corporate counsel user group that they would prefer that martindale.com’s side-by-side comparison tool aggregate much more information, even if it’s free elsewhere or comes from (dare I say) a competitor.  Obviously, I’m not sure what exactly we will be able to do in this area, but that’s been the feedback, so it’s something to which we’re going to give further thought.

In the second area, our tools, we recently introduced the My Martindale Network.  This is just the beginning – not even baby steps yet – into using social networking technology to help transform Martindale-Hubbell into the global legal network we envision.  By the way, when applied to law firms, I much prefer the term “Professional Networking,” so I’m going to try to use that term going forward.  Sami Hero, our VP of open web marketing posted earlier on the impact of social networking on the legal profession.

Both our internal research as well as third party research consistently confirms that the absolute top thing corporate counsel do when hiring a lawyer or law firm is check referral sources.  And these users are already using martindale.com for this purpose.  But since we haven’t laser beamed into this need until now, there’s a lot lacking in us helping them do this more easily.  In other words, professional networking among corporate counsel is already happening without as much electronic help from us as we should be able to deliver.  I posted earlier on the importance of referrals.

On the subject of partnering with and providing services and training to corporate counsel, I’ll defer to my colleague John Lipsey, another relatively recent addition to the Martindale-Hubbell team who is focused on this area and, in fact, has the title of VP of Corporate Counsel Services.  Suffice it to say that we are investing in this area since the way we provide lawyers and law firms value is by connecting them with their clients and potential clients.

Finally, and I think obviously, our pricing model must move beyond the book legacy that has us charge per inch.  We are in the process of investing in our back-office systems to make this necessary change.  No one would disagree that Martindale-Hubbell has been extremely successful for over a hundred years in the publication of “the books.”  But it’s time to change with the times and put a pricing model in place that’s more appropriate to the digital age.  With all of the new features, enhancements and content we’re delivering (and the list will continue to grow in the coming months), it’s probably necessary to revisit this whole area anyway.

We’d like to continue here, on the web, the conversation we started with many of our customers and corporate counsel users.  As you can see, those conversations have already led to many changes at Martindale-Hubbell.  We welcome your ideas, suggestions, and comments and look forward to hearing from you!

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