Survey says directory listings hold more weight than Web sites

According to an announcement issued today by Martindale-Hubbell, a survey conducted by an independent research firm concluded that lawyer use of the Martindale.com Web legal directory more than doubled since 2000. The survey of more than 2,500 U.S. lawyers in both corporate and private practice found that 88 percent of law firm partners and 86 percent of corporate counsel use the directory when they are conducting research for the selection of a lawyer or law firm.

For corporate counsel and law firm partners wanting to evaluate the credentials of other lawyers and make a decision about which outside counsel to retain, 84 percent said that Martindale-Hubbell and either important or very important to the decision.

Here is what I find most interesting, and I quote the announcement: “The study found that Martindale-Hubbell is more than twice as important in the stages of final selection of outside counsel as law firm Web sites.”

And then this: “Three out of four legal professionals would be either unlikely or not sure whether they would hire a lawyer or law firm that is not included in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.”

I find this troubling. To my mind, anyone who is relying too heavily on a single legal directory to make a hiring decision simply is not performing adequate due diligence. I mean this as no slight to Martindale. But by exploring the candidate’s own Web site and by searching elsewhere on the Web for other background information, you can find out so much more than any one directory will tell you. If so many lawyers are relying so heavily on a single legal directory, they have yet to learn how to harness the power of the Web.