Do corporate counsel still use the Martindale-Hubbell legal directory? Or are they now more likely to turn to LinkedIn or any of a number of other online directories?

A new survey of corporate legal departments concludes that Martindale-Hubbell is still the most prominent legal directory among corporate counsel in terms of awareness, usage and perceived helpfulness. Even so, LinkedIn is now the second most commonly used directory among corporate counsel, far outweighing Chambers, the ACC Value Index, Super Lawyers and the like.

It needs to be noted right here that this survey was sponsored by LexisNexis, which happens to own Martindale-Hubbell. That should give pause to anyone reading the results. However, the survey was conducted by The BTI Consulting Group, an established legal-industry research firm with a solid reputation. The survey was branded under BTI’s name and no one taking it knew about the LexisNexis sponsorship.

It should also be noted — and the survey emphasizes this — that direct referrals and recommendations remain the leading way corporate counsel find outside lawyers. They turn to online directories to look for lawyers when they do not have a direct referral and they also use these directories to validate the credentials of a referral and to evaluate a referral’s qualifications.

The survey polled various people within corporate legal departments, from general counsel to staff attorneys to paralegals. Out of some 570 responses, 96.5% said that they’d used an online legal directory at least once in the past year. Of those who said they’d used a directory at least once, 90.4% said they’d used Martindale-Hubbell and 67.7% said they’d used LinkedIn. Of those who said they’d used an online director at least monthly, 41.4 said they’d used LinkedIn while 32.3% said Martindale-Hubbell.

The preceding question pertained to use of an online directory for any purpose. When the question was narrowed to use of a directory for a purpose tied to the selection and hiring of a law firm, then the survey found that 81.3% of corporate counsel used Martindale-Hubbell and 37.9% used LinkedIn. Others they used were Super Lawyers (26.4%), Chambers (19.8%), ACC Value Index (19.6%), Legal 500 (7.5%) and Avvo (6.5%).

Another question asked corporate counsel about their level of familiarity with various online directories. Here, Martindale-Hubbell and LinkedIn came in the clear winners, at 99.5% and 97.9%. Only two other directories were ranked as well known by more than half of respondents: Best Lawyers (84.3%) and Super Lawyers (82.2%). “Martindale-Hubbell and LinkedIn are the most well-known resources among all in-house counsel, from GCs to Staff Attorneys,” the survey reports. “Virtually all members of corporate legal departments are familiar with these tools.”

Given all this, the responses to one question on the survey jump out as an anomaly. The question was: “If a law firm could only appear in ONE directory, which ONE would you recommend?” Here, 71.2% recommend Martindale-Hubbell, but only 2.6% recommend LinkedIn. By every other measure in this survey, LinkedIn ranks a fairly close second to Martindale-Hubbell. But not here. My only explanation for this is that, although corporate counsel use LinkedIn regularly and more than every other directory but one, they do not yet associate it with the prestige of directories such as Chambers.

The full, 34-page report is available for free from BTI. You will have to fill out a request form and the PDF will be sent to you by email. You can find the report at either the “What’s New” or the “Publications” pages linked from the main BTI page.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.