Ratings are Transforming

by Ralph Calistri on September 10, 2009 · 7 comments

in Martindale-Hubbell News,Ratings

The legendary UCLA coach John Wooden said “past success does not equate future success. We can only learn from the past, apply it to the present and plan for the future.” Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ have long been the gold standard in the industry and with good reason – the ratings methodology is objective and fair, the selection process is random and in order to receive a rating, a lawyer is not required to be with a large law firm or a small law firm. The legal community respects the accuracy of Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™  because it knows that its peers – the people best suited to assess legal ability – are directly involved in the process.

Ratings have been facilitated by us for so long because we know how powerful ratings are to people, to both those who are rated and those who use ratings. Throughout the years holders of Martindale Hubbell’s AV® Peer Review rating include Martha Barnett, David Boies, Former Gov. Brendan T. Byrne, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, Sandra Day O’Connor and David Wilentz, just to name a few.

The needs of people, both lawyers and consumers, who evaluate legal services, have evolved, and the demand for more comprehensive and detailed lawyer ratings has emerged. Formal and informal conversations as well as research from the legal community and consumers came back to us consistently asking that we provide greater depth and specificity to our ratings. Earlier this year we launched Martindale-Hubbell Client Review Ratings a complement to our Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings. This week I am happy to share that Martindale-Hubbell will take its second step towards transforming its lawyer ratings with the rollout of transformed Peer Review Ratings, affirming our goal of delivering a complete ‘360 degree’ view of more than one million lawyers.

It is important to me that you understand that Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ will continue to reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the Bar and the Judiciary and attest to a lawyer’s legal ability and professional ethics.

  • The General Ethical Standards Rating still denotes adherence to professional standards of conduct and ethics, reliability, diligence and other criteria relevant to the discharge of professional responsibilities.
  • Legal Ability Ratings will now be based on performance in five key areas, rated on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest). These key areas are Legal Knowledge, Analytical Capabilities, Judgment, Communication Ability and Legal Experience.

You still need a combination of the Very High General Ethical Standards Rating and a Legal Ability Rating, but the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating will now include an average numeric rating, a rating term and may include a certification mark:

  • AV® Preeminent™ (4.5 – 5.0)
  • BV® Distinguished™ (3.0 – 4.4)
  • Rated (1.0 – 2.9)

Our changed Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™  methodology also provides three key additions:

  • Basic demographics of reviewers – to showcase the lawyer’s sphere of influence
  • A narrative feedback to add depth to the review – creating a opportunity to bring personality and conversation to the ratings
  • Area of practice specific – validating the lawyer’s specific experience.
Copyright 2009 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2009 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Another aspect of change for Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™  is the retirement of the CV® certification mark.  Over the years we have engaged in a lot of dialogue with the legal community about this and we listened. We learned that this change would simplify the overall ratings system. Lawyers who currently are CV rated will no longer be listed as CV but instead as “Rated 2.9” until they are re-reviewed using the changed methodology.

Martindale-Hubbell has also relaxed the tenure restriction on achievement of the higher ratings, so younger lawyers are now eligible to achieve an AV or BV Peer Review Rating.

In the coming weeks, lawyers will be contacted notifying them of how these changes will affect their ratings. So far, the feedback is positive, and we want to continue our discussions with you to keep learning and improving this valuable program. Over the next 10 years, we plan to complete a re-review of every rated lawyer using the changed methodology but lawyers may request an expedited re-review so that they can take advantage of the benefits of the changed methodology—including area of practice specificity and peer feedback.

Of course, there is a lot to learn here and share with you. I encourage you to visit our main Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ s page where you can learn more. What do you think? We would love to hear back from you.

These steps show that we are not relying on our past success, but instead we are learning from the past and gaining new knowledge from you now, as we transform our service for the future. Ratings continue to be an integral part of Martindale-Hubbell and most importantly, we know that Ratings are integral to your decision-making.  As we transform our ratings, rest assured that we will apply what we have learned and not forget what’s important to you.

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New Martindale Ratings – Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery - Avvo Blog
September 14, 2009 at 2:04 am

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Shuvona wrote onJuly 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm

@ Mr. Tannebaum, why not just pay the $50? You get notoriety and associated that way. I am not an attorney, but I have access to the AV rated attorneys across the US and 4 Provinces in Canada and as a consumer I would like to not have to sift through and FIND the accredited attorneys but have them stand out. If you are an AV rated attorney and I am in your city or state I would love to call on you FIRST because you were listed that way.


brian tannebaum wrote onSeptember 19, 2009 at 8:00 pm

“Each lawyer may choose whether he or she values the rating enough to pay the $50 annual fee, thereby helping us to defray the costs associated with providing this service.”

The “costs?” to place a rating next to a name? First of all, I never said lawyers had to pay to be rated, I think that’s clear. My point is also clear – you are lying to your consumers. It’s not whether I value the rating, it’s whether YOU value your credibility. If a consumer goes to my profile, they are led to believe that I am not AV rated. That is simply not true. What it should say is “lawyer is AV rated but chose not to pay $50 and therefore we’re not telling you this.”


Kathleen Delaney Kathleen Delaney wrote onSeptember 16, 2009 at 10:58 am

Heather, sorry you did not get the information we sent out about the changes. I’m checking into why you didn’t now. As a Marketer, I’m sure you can appreciate that lists and databases have their challenges and LN has a very strict adherence to its opt-out/canned spam policy. We did send emails and good ole snail mail to all CMOs and rated lawyers in our database. We also blogged and tweeted about the change – could we have done more? It’s always a judgment call and we didn’t want to abuse the followers on twitters with MH product updates. The product team and I are happy to discuss the changes and any questions you might have. I will actually be in LA in a couple of weeks and would be happy to chat in person.


Heather Milligan wrote onSeptember 15, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Actually, I just got my invoice and its going up to $59 per year.

Personally, I was never informed, nor did I see anything on Twitter, via The Legal Marketing Association, via ABA Journal, etc. about the changes in the program. It’s taking many people in the industry by shock, and marketers are scrambling to explain to our attorneys what’s going on.


Carlton Dyce Carlton Dyce wrote onSeptember 14, 2009 at 11:47 am


Thanks for your comment. Just to clarify, lawyers do not pay to receive a Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell. Never have – ratings are calculated and awarded, and this effort does not require an attorney to subscribe or pay anything. But let’s face it, there are significant costs associated with maintaining and providing Peer Review Ratings services and we do charge a nominal fee to rated lawyers who wish to display that rating on our online site, martindale.com. Each lawyer may choose whether he or she values the rating enough to pay the $50 annual fee, thereby helping us to defray the costs associated with providing this service. At the end of the day, it’s the individual lawyers’ choice, but not paying the fee does not un-rate that lawyer. They can still continue to use their rating in their own marketing purposes and communicate this recognition to their consumers. As I have noted on other responses to the very sensitive issue of what is displayed to the users of martindale.com, we make it very clear that we do not undertake to develop ratings for every lawyer, so the fact that a lawyer is not rated should not be considered as unfavorable.

Hope this helps to clarify


brian tannebaum wrote onSeptember 10, 2009 at 11:05 pm

How do you continue to reconcile that you will only display the AV/ Peer Review Rating on lawyers.com for those lawyers who pay $50? Is that not a form of deceptive advertising? I see you do not tell the consumer that the lawyers listed as AV are only the AV lawyers who paid the $50. So a consumer is led to believe that a lawyer who is not listed as AV, is not AV rated. Wouldn’t it be a more honest practice to do away with the $50 fee or have a disclaimer that reads “the lawyers listed with martindale’s highest rating (AV) are those who paid to have their rating displayed. There are other lawyers with an AV rating, but because they didn’t pay $50, you as the consumer will not know that they are AV rated.


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