When I graduated from law school, the Martindale Hubbell ratings were considered by many attorneys to be some sort of gold standard. The Martindale Hubbell books were in almost every law firm library, and in every federal judge’s library.
Whenever the judge I clerked for didn’t know a lawyer in one of his cases, we’d consult those books to see where he or she graduated from law school. The ratings were interesting, but not very helpful (as I explained once before).
Most attorneys paid to be listed in the Martindale Hubbell. It was a good way to make yourself known to attorneys in other jurisdictions who were looking to hire counsel outside their state.
But then one day someone invented the World Wide Web, and soon websites started sprouting up like weeds. These days almost every attorney has a website; it costs almost nothing to put one up.
If I want to know what law school an attorney went to I can look that up on their website. Odds are I’m more interested in what kind of law they practice. But, again, that’s going to be on their website.
Martindale Hubbell has a website too. And if you pay the exorbitant fee to be listed in their books you get added to the website for free.
Some attorneys are pleased when they get an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell, and so they list that rating on their website.
This used to be prohibited under the terms of Martindale’s service. The only place it could be displayed was on Martindale’s website, but that website was not indexed by Google so you’d have to go there and do a special search.
So basically your online Martindale rating had an only slightly better chance of being found than a message in a bottle at sea.
I realize that it takes a lot of work for Martindale Hubbell to collect the lawyer ratings.
Sure, there are a lot of lawyers who rely on them. A lot of lawyers follow the herd, and are reluctant to exercise critical thought or search the internet to find information.
So should I pay $59 for the right to tout my Martindale Hubbell rating (which I can’t reveal to you unless I pay)?
No, I think not.
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In my culture I would be among the highet rated lawyers. But when I was doing the yuppie path to partner 30 years ago in respected firm I learned that the ratings were a good old boy system. I have since learned that MH hasn’t rated me in 25 years and that if I want to be rated av instead of my 25 or more year old bv I can send them a dozen name and they will do the rating. Get that? Send them the names of my friends. The rating system is fundamentally flawed which is why I haven’t bothered with them.
I saw a post on Martindale that they’ve rated “hundreds of thousands” of attorneys. At $59/year/attorney that’s at least about $12 million/year they’re raking in from this scheme (if everyone pays). I understand the rising costs of rating and maintaining a database, but $12 mil/year makes it sound like a money-making scheme, pure and simple
You sounded so jaded I had to read the entire article. Relax, the Martindale-Hubbell is an historical reference system. I happen to be very proud of my 2000 Martindale-Hubbell collection I packed into the back of my car … (the set that had my name in it). It was the last year that paralegals were allowed in the attorney editions. What made is sweeter was my buddy, the current County Attorney, was offered the set four years prior to my criminal act. Now I have my name in the Kentucky Edition for my children and grandchildren. And the books are gold on the outer pages. I am going to tell my kids I have stashed money in them so they have to go through the whole darn set to find the cash!!!!!
Perhaps if you asked them about Lawyers.com they would have known what you are talking about. Martindale-Hubbell is the brand that is used for Lawyers while Lawyers.com is the brand for consumers. Even if they use Google, they are likely to come to Lawyers.com in order to choose and compare lawyers.
I did a quick, non-scientific survey of non-lawyers that I know (I asked five people). It consisted of two questions:
1. How would you go about finding an attorney to represent you in a divorce/injury/etc. type of case.
2. Would you use Martindale-Hubbell?
Universally the answers to #1 were “Word of Mouth” followed by “Google”.
The answers to #2 were also universal: “What is Martindale Hubbell”.
*I* had never heard of it, either, until I became a lawyer. Perhaps, M-H should spend less time coming up with ways to nickel and dime attorneys and work on promoting themselves to clients as a valid resource. Maybe then there *would* be a reason to pay for a “peer rating”. Although, I still have doubts about that, even then.
Interesting blog Ernie. Just thought I would clarify a few things: Yes, Martindale Hubbell has introduced a Peer Review Rating display fee. In fact this fee has been around since 2007. To date, hundreds of thousands of lawyers have been rated through the Martindale-Hubbell process and that number continues to grow, and along with it the resources required to maintain this important resource – hence the fee. While $59 is a nominal amount to ask for the services delivered by Martindale-Hubbell, it was a change.
It’s important to note, however, that Martindale-Hubbell will not “un-rate an attorney” if the fee is not paid; Martindale Hubbell still includes an attorney’s listing in the Martindale Hubbell database – but the rating will not display unless the PRR fee is paid. Further, a lawyer who is rated and has not paid the admin fee can still mention their rating on their own Web site and in other marketing materials as long as they follow our guidelines. All we ask is that they adhere to the trademark specifics as spelled out in our ratings guidelines at http://www.martindale.com/ratings
The process of using an attorney’s peer to evaluate will not change and therefore the objective historical process has not been compromised. In the end this becomes a personal choice by each attorney whether he or she values the rating enough to pay the $59 annual fee to help us continue providing services. Peer Review Ratings are an objective indicator of a lawyer’s ethics and professional abilities—as seen through the eyes of their peers. That being said, we value all feedback from all attorneys as we work to make our products better, and we appreciate yours.
Ernie,Just a quick note to say I enjoy reading this blog. Although I have been in practice only a few years, I have come to the realization that the rating has been watered down. I am aware of sanctioned attorneys with AV ratings and 30 year veterans with undeserved BV ratings.
The latest trend to be gaining momentum seems to be AVVO where attorneys are rated from 1-10. Years of practice are listed as well as any sanctions against the attorney.
I am waiting for a lawyer’s version of American Idol where clients can call in to rate attorneys.
Keep up the good work.
Thoughtful post. Just a reminder that your Avvo Rating is still free. You can put your perfect 10 Avvo Rating badge on your blog if you choose – and that is also free!
Sorry but, in my opinion, AVVO is garbage. I’m a legal marketer, and we’ve NEVER received a viable client from them. Folks they send are always wanting free legal advice and nobody wants to pay. They waste our attorneys’ time and don’t “pull the trigger.”
I wasn’t sure where you were headed when I began reading your post; but, I enjoyed the journey. I’ve practiced law for 33 years. In my early years the AV rating was coveted by my peers.
I’m sorry to learn how much it’s been watered down. You make some great points about how to learn about a colleague. Many different sources of info out there.
I’m a little saddened by MH’s pay to play scheme. I earned my rating, as you earned yours. $59 kind of cheapens the honor. $199 for an icon is silly. We can make our own now.
Oh well, I guess Google #1 has replaced AV.