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Martindale-Hubbell gets LinkedIn

originally published in Lawyers Weekly

“I’ve been listed in Martindale-Hubbell as an attorney for as long as I’ve been an attorney – 21 years,” said Mark J. Neuberger, of counsel with Foley & Lardner LLP at their Miami office. “Martindale is regarded as the Cadillac of attorney listings.”

“Before the Internet, it was probably the only comprehensive way to find a lawyer outside of your market,” he continued. “With the Internet and law firm websites, Martindale’s importance and influence declined.”

Similar to the way consumers shy away from Encyclopaedia Britannica in favour of “free” information like Wikipedia, certain law firms balk at pricey Martindale listings, choosing instead to maintain their own web presence.

“The world is changing,” agreed John Lipsey, Martindale’s vice president of corporate counsel services. “The way people want to access information and interact has changed.”

“We have to provide our customers with better tools and services in order to stay strategic.”

An upcoming addition to the stable is Martindale-Hubbell Connected, a “LinkedIn for Lawyers Only” meant to help time-starved attorneys network over the Net. Meanwhile, Martindale has hooked up its directory to the real LinkedIn.com via an application programming interface (API) provided by LinkedIn.

Data from LinkedIn helps Martindale users find lawyers more quickly. For instance, click the “in” icon above an attorney’s name in Martindale.com and a LinkedIn popup shows how many degrees of separation there are between yourself and that attorney. Do the same over a firm name to find out whom you know at that firm.

These “relationship views” presuppose that both the seeker and the sought-after lawyer are members of LinkedIn, whose 26 million members include hundreds of thousands of legal professionals.

Other organizations, such as Business Week and the New York Times, use the LinkedIn API as well, one of a number of initiatives the networking site is using to promote itself in the business networking arena.

These organizations are betting that this link makes their value exceed the sum of the parts. For its part, LinkedIn anticipates more page views. “LinkedIn strives to be the network for all professionals,” said Scott Roberts, Senior Director of Business Development for LinkedIn Corporation. “If you’re in the legal industry but you’re also a small business owner because you have a small firm, you want to interact with other small firms as well as lawyers as well as different industries where your clients may come from. LinkedIn lets people from all those industries converse with one another.”

Are you contemplating the marketing possibilities? The good news: you can improve the odds of attracting prospective clients. The bad news: even if you don’t fancy online networking, you still need to manage your image online.

Professional profiles must be equally high quality wherever they are – Martindale.com, LinkedIn.com, LegalOnRamp.com, Avvo.com, your firm’s website or elsewhere. “That’s your brand that you’re managing,” Roberts said. “People will search for you, they will do research about you, they will try to determine if you are the best person to hire.”

Networking is about giving first, so online networks let members add content and answer questions. By adding value to the network, contributors improve their visibility via tools like web-wide search engines and network-specific “people search” tools.

To figure out if a site works for you, try it. For instance, Neuberger boosted his numerical ranking on legal listing site Avvo.com by contributing content from accumulated speeches and articles of his. Another successful tactic: “I solicited positive comments from colleagues and clients to see if it would influence my ranking,” he said. “And it did.”

Neuberger experiments with multiple online tools despite the onerous time commitment. “I don’t want to have six different profiles on six different websites to update,” he said. He assumes that, over time, “effective networks will prevail and the others will drop off.”

No time to sit at your computer and tap into LinkedIn? Point your mobile device browser to m.LinkedIn.com, and if you have an iPhone, download the free LinkedIn client from the App Store.

For the time being, Neuberger will continue face-to-face networking and cultivating referrals, since that is how he finds work representing businesses in labour disputes.

“I get calls from people looking to sue employers,” he said. “I don’t take those cases. But these calls seem to be generated by my Internet presence.”

“The question for me: where do in-house counsel and senior level executives look for my services?”

Niche legal networks may not have passed Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” yet, the way LinkedIn has. But for coming generations of lawyers, with their comfort level around technology, their perennial lack of time for traditional networking and increasing transnational legal service needs of their clients, mashups such as the LinkedIn/Martindale.com connection should help to keep the 140-year-old directory vital to the legal service industry.

(Full disclosure: Both Martindale-Hubbell and the Lawyers Weekly are owned by LexisNexis.)

To download a PDF of the published article, click LinkedIn_LW.

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