Why Introduce a Peer Review Ratings Admin Fee?

by Carlton Dyce on February 4, 2008 · 5 comments

in Ratings

My morning starts off like most people; at the office around 8 AM with a cup of coffee and a review of my e-mail. I try to get an early start before the phone starts to ring, which it has been doing a lot of lately.

One reason for this is an issue regarding Martindale-Hubbell that’s out there right now. Specifically, the institution of a $50 annual fee so that an attorney’s Peer Review Rating (PRR) can be displayed in the LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the online listings on martindale.com and lawyers.com, within the lexis.com service and on CD-ROM.

Given the situation, I thought I’d take a moment to give a little background and clarify some misconceptions.

To date, hundreds of thousands of lawyers have been rated through the Martindale-Hubbell process. The number continues to grow, and along with it the resources required to maintain this important resource – hence the fee. While $50 is a nominal amount to ask for the services delivered by Martindale-Hubbell, it is a change. As such, we expected questions and even anger about this…and we were not wrong.

A number of bloggers and list serv members have commented on the fee, and we have received calls and emails from clients – often with a lot of passion and many times with incorrect information. I have personally spoken to many of these attorneys, and while we have different positions, I can honestly say I understand their frustration. While we cannot control people’s reactions, I can address some misconceptions created by the institution of the new fee.

In particular:
• Martindale-Hubbell will not “un-rate an attorney” if the admin fee is not paid.
• Martindale Hubbell still includes an attorney’s listing in Martindale Hubbell – but the rating will not display unless the PRR fee is paid.
• The process of using an attorney’s peer to evaluate will not change and therefore the objective historical process has not been compromised.
• Our intent is not to label by inference that an attorney is not entitled to a rating.

In the end, the PRR fee issue comes down to two issues:

1) Martindale-Hubbell’s need to cover the rising costs required to maintain its growing and diversifying PRR services, and…

2) A personal choice by each attorney whether they value the rating enough to pay the $50 annual fee to help us continue providing services.

PRR are an objective indicator of a lawyer’s ethics and professional abilities—as seen through the eyes of their peers, and we value all attorneys who contribute to the PRR process. That’s why we want to encourage all attorneys to continue to provide us with feedback on the steps we are taking and we look forward to working with them in the future.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom wrote onMarch 30, 2010 at 12:16 pm

“To date, hundreds of thousands of lawyers have been rated through the Martindale-Hubbell process. The number continues to grow” So, at $50 per attorney, you’re raking in at least $10 million a year on this scheme? And the number “continues to grow”? So much for objectivity — there’s clearly more of a cash incentive now to rate every attorney out there.

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Carlton Dyce Carlton Dyce wrote onApril 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm

First of all thanks for the comments and for taking the time to respond – I’d like to clarify a few things: 1) There is no fee and has never been a fee for conducting a ratings review 2) Not paying the admin fee which has been in existence since 2007 does not “un-rate” an attorney. Once you receive your rating it is yours and to date many of our attorneys continue to promote and display their ratings on their business cards, letterheads and their websites 3) Introduction of an admin fee was not in any way an impetus for us to start rating more people nor will it be a reason to increase the number of attorneys that we randomly select to review 4) The objectivity used in the ratings process for an attorney is the same whether the outcome is that the attorney elects to pay the admin fee or not. At the end of the day, this is not an elaborate scheme and payment of the admin fee is a personal choice that some attorneys have elected to do and some have not. Once again we do appreciate the response and as with many of our other programs, look forward to receiving feedback from lawyers and other users of our services and data.

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Jeff Talley wrote onNovember 5, 2009 at 11:50 am

Once upon a time Martindale-Hubbell was a service company that made a good profit. It is no longer a service company, but rather part of a trend toward raw corporate greed. When we need to find a competent lawyer in a remote jurisdiction, we no longer get the whole truth from Martindale.com.

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Carlton Dyce Carlton Dyce wrote onFebruary 22, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Attorney Dorsi, I’m glad you raised this. As we’ve communicated since last year, the decision not to pay the admin fee does not “un-rate” an attorney. An attorney that elects not to pay the fee still maintains their CV, BV or AV rating. The attorney may use his or her rating on their business card, and in their letterhead. Therefore this change does not create a “pay for a rating” practice. The decision not to pay the fee only impacts the specific rating from displaying in the Martindale Hubbell products. One other point of clarification – the attorney is still listed in the Martindale Hubbell products. His or her complimentary line listing still displays, unless the specific attorney requests that his or her name be removed. Let me also add that you should be proud of your AV rating. It is a testament to you that your “peers” recognize you as a preeminent attorney and very ethical. This decision however is an individual one as to whether or not you want your Peer Review Ratings to display in Martindale Hubbell. Finally, I’d like to address your concern about the absence of a rating – we have a number of attorneys for one reason or another that upon receipt of a rating, elect not to display that rating. We have CV attorneys that indicate to us that they don’t want their rating to display until they are BV. We have BV attorneys that indicate to us that they don’t want their rating to display until they are AV and we have AV attorneys that indicate to us that they don’t want their rating to display at all. Over the last few decades, this has led us to include in our publications the following: “The absence of a rating should not be construed as unfavorable since some lawyers have requested their Peer Review Ratings not be published while in other instances definitive information has not yet been completely developed.” I hope this helps and I look forward to talking with you in the future..

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Stephen Dorsi wrote onFebruary 20, 2008 at 12:01 pm

I have been practicing law since 1974. I prize my av Martindale rating. I have never paid for a rating or advertizing. I was shocked to receive your letter and bill for $50. Does this mean that if I do not pay the $50, Martindale will no longer list my name with my rating? If that is true, then a Martindale rating is no better than an ad in the yellow pages saying that I am qualified to provide a specific service. I am profoundly disappointed in Martindale. Martindale’s logic escapes me. If someone checked my Martindale listing last year and saw that I attained an AV rating, and then checked my Martindale listing after the implementation of the “pay for rating” policy, the implication is clearly that I must have done something egregious to have lost my AV rating. Unless Martindale wants to assume liability for defamation of my attained legal recognition, Martindale should state as part of my listing: “Mr. D’s listing does not include his previously published AV rating only because he refuses to pay for a rating.” If Martindale will not do that, Martindale is clearly not worthy of being considered an objective directory.

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