If you watched the NCAA men’s or women’s basketball tournaments over the last couple weeks, you no doubt saw ads touting cars at virtually every timeout and break – sedans, trucks, minivans, SUVs, compacts, etc. Throw in some NASCAR promos and was a car-a-palooza. Eventually they all begin to blur together – “Look…cars…,” but of course they are not all the same.
For example, a NASCAR race car and a minivan are both motor vehicles. They both get you from point A to point B, they both run on fuel and they both have four wheels. But there are big differences because they are designed for different uses. You would not want to drive a minivan in a NASCAR race nor would you – despite temptation – want to pack your family into a race car for outings, errands or vacation.
This notion of differences between seemingly similar items struck me the other day when reading an online opinion that LinkedIn has surpassed Martindale-Hubbell as the source to get information about lawyers. While these services share similarities, they are actually quite different.
Each has its own function and value. Trying to ascribe the value and benefit to lawyers of one type of online resource, like a longstanding source of trusted information about lawyers, to another, such as a networking community, is a mistake that does neither format justice and ignores how they can work together for even greater benefit.
With that in mind, I thought some clarity would be gained by exploring the differences between networks, directories and profiles, and what corporate counsel want and use.
Professional networking sites are for just that – networking – and they are built to facilitate it. A recent post by Robert Ambrogi underscores this point as he urges lawyers to accept invitations on LinkedIn – even from people they may not know – and get to networking. We agree there are all kinds of connections a lawyer can make on a broad business network that can eventually be helpful.
Meanwhile, resources specifically built for lawyers are a different animal. These resources are used for purposes other than networking. They verify credentials and expertise, including through peer and client reviews, and deliver details about lawyers and firms.
What Corporate Counsel Want
Moreover, lawyers want to showcase themselves in an environment targeted at lawyers because they know corporate counsel are coming to look. How do we know? Because corporate counsel say so. For example, recent research by BTI has found that corporate legal decision makers value and use sources of information about lawyers that are: trusted and established, seen as the go-to provider, comprehensive and familiar. Additionally, the research shows that corporate legal department professionals are going to these types of resources for more than networking or to get cursory information, but rather to find details that help them make important decisions:
- The great majority of in-house legal professionals (8 of 10) use online lawyer profiles or directories to identify outside counsel in an unfamiliar jurisdiction when a referral is unavailable.
- More than three-quarters (77%) use profiles and directories to validate referrals, and nearly three-quarters (73%) use them to evaluate outside counsel qualifications.
- 7 of 10 use profiles and directories to identify outside counsel in an unfamiliar legal subject matter when a referral is unavailable.
Where Corporate Counsel Go
So where are corporate counsel going to get this type of information about lawyers and firms? According to the BTI research, they are primarily seeking information from the most relied on and recommended source – Martindale-Hubbell® (MH):
- 81.3% of corporate respondents turn to MH for at least one of 6 key activities tied to the selection and hiring of law firms.
- More than half of corporate legal decision makers turn to Martindale‐Hubbell specifically to:
- Identify outside counsel in an unfamiliar jurisdiction when a personal referral is unavailable (66.4%)
- Validate the credentials of a referral (62.2%).
- Evaluate outside counsel qualifications (54.2%).
- If in-house legal professionals could recommend only one directory a law firm should appear in, 71.2% of them said that resource would be MH.
Other providers such as Chambers, SuperLawyers, Avvo, LinkedIn, ACC Value Index Legal 500 and BestLawyers/US News & World Report were also cited by respondents as resources they go to or would recommend, but none of them approached the responses for MH.
Interestingly, the same dynamic holds true for consumers – they go to specific resources about lawyers to get details rather than rely on high-level info from a general networking community. For example, see this blog post to get a run down on where consumers are going.
In the end, networks and directories offer different benefits and resources, and lawyers use them for different reasons. And in the case of Martindale-Hubbell, corporate counsel are primarily relying on this information for detailed decision-making information about lawyers and firms.
However, let’s not get too binary. Far from one type of online resource trumping another, the reality is that the combination of a networking community and a trusted source of information on lawyers delivers substantial benefit. This is why LexisNexis has done two things to marry together these powerful tools:
- First, we teamed with LinkedIn to enable martindale.com® Connected members to identify and leverage their LinkedIn relationships from within martindale.com Connected—a community created to meet the desire by legal professionals for a community of their own.
- Further, we introduced the “Lawyer Ratings” application on LinkedIn, enabling lawyers subscribing to MH services to highlight their Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ and Client Review Ratings within their LinkedIn profiles. Additionally, all LinkedIn members can use the application to complete Client Reviews of lawyers they’ve worked with in the past.
These steps bring together the benefits of access to the extended business community on a broad, open network and the ability to get a set of trusted information about a lawyer or firm from a reliable source.
Back to the Main Point—in Summary
In the same way that you wouldn’t make a snap judgment that a sub-compact is now the car of choice for NASCAR racing, surface comparisons and assessments of different types of online resources for lawyers is not advisable. This is because while online legal information resources and broad online networks are similar in some ways, they are actually quite different. They each have a specific benefit for users and each delivers them well.
In the case of Martindale-Hubbell, we see that it is serving lawyers for its custom-built purpose in a way that dwarfs other similar resources and doing so in ways online networking sites do not – for example, Martindale-Hubbell information is embedded into the Lexis for Microsoft Office product for easy access directly in Word or Outlook.
And finally, we know that the strength of networks and directory resources can be effectively combined for even greater benefits to the legal community.