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.


  • The questions I would have like them to ask:

    How often do you use legal directories?

    Do you still find legal directories to be useful?

    Great article article though, the statistics are especially surprising for LinkedIN considering the fact that it hasn’t been around for very long.

  • I believe that the most significant factor above is that this survey’s results pertain exclusively to corporate counsel, not to the general public. What of lawyers and firms that do not sustain themselves off this very narrow niche market? I suspect that the result is likely significantly different. But Martindale sure doesn’t want to talk about that, do they?

  • Clearly, this survey demonstrates that there is a viable alternative to Martindale-Hubbell. What Martindale has going for itself is a well respect name that most practicing attorneys feel is the place to display there expertise. Unfortunately, those running the ship at Martindale are more interested in there balance sheet than protecting the value of the service to its constituents.

  • Thanks for this article, Bob.

    As an ACC staffer and one of the people responsible for developing the ACC Value Index, I have to admit that I’m thrilled that we’ve made the list of organizations that BTI/LEXIS chose to ask folks about. But I, too, think that the survey, as suggested by you and others in the comments above, may not be asking the right questions.

    Having spent a really long time looking at how in-house counsel refer or recommend outside counsel and where/when they ask for referrals, the question isn’t so much about the places that in-house counsel look for data, but that they don’t make decisions about whom to hire from looking at anything in print – they make it when they connect with a in-house colleague who recommends a firm they use, or based on the recommendation of their trusted outside counsel who is telling them “I can’t do this for you, but I would suggest you call …”.

    ACC’s members “credential” and ask for referrals directly of each other, and not so frequently off of any list – we see tons of traffic on our listservs and e-communities, you can watch them chatting about “who do you use?” in the hallway at meetings, and so on. So while corporate counsel may look at all of these sites for general info, including the ACC Value Index, it’s not the real game – the real game is when one corporate counsel reaches out to another or a group of corporate counsel and asks: tell me more about whom you use. And how do we measure that on a survey?

  • According to Quantcast and, Martindale has flat to declining web traffic over the past 12-18 months at ~200k visitors per month. Per Quantcast (using LinkedIn’s direct website analytics tags), LinkedIn traffic has doubled during that same time period, from 50 million visitors worldwide per month (20M U.S.) to almost 100 million visitors (40M U.S.).

    In addition, Quantcast shows that Martindale only has about 14% of its visitors (~30,000) who are “regular” visitors per month (which includes consumers, lawyers, researchers, etc), whereas LinkedIn has 32% who are regulars (32 Million or >1,000 times more regular visitors!).

    Realize these traffic numbers are somewhat apples and oranges, but have to believe that the trend and the mix of regulars is fairly representative across corporate counsel visitors.

    Combine these fastors with the advertising models offered on Martindale vs. LinkedIn (inexpesive vs. expensive, pay for performance vs. pay for placement, pay as you go vs. long term contracts, etc) and I still wonder why Lawyers advertise there?

  • There is no question that direct referrals and recommendations are the primary way corporate counsel find outside lawyers, whether on a listserv, at a convention, by phone or however. And you’re right — that is not easily measured on any survey.

  • Will Hornsby

    Bob, I am surprised you are not more critical of the methodology used for this survey, as you have been with other research in the past. If I understand it correctly, the survey was emailed to over 46,000 individuals from selected and unidentified databases. Respondents received a small compensation and still only 12% participated. Without a non-response varification, the results of such a small sample seem tenuous.