A large firm that merely lists its lawyers’ names and educational credentials can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on its Martindale-Hubbell profile. And, of course, some partners insist on going a lot further, listing everything from decades-old law review articles to memberships in Mensa, the “genius” society.
The long-running bonanza for Martindale-Hubbell, which is a part of the Lexis Nexis division of Dutch conglomerate Reed Elsevier, has given rise to a growing host of competitors.
London’s Chambers and Partners, which has long published a guide to British lawyers and firms, recently inaugurated its first U.S. guide with a launch party at one of New York’s swank W Hotels. Thomson’s West Group and American Lawyer Media, the parent company of the New York Law Journal and law.com, are also angling for a piece of the action.
But even as legal directories proliferate, many major law firms are beginning to take a hard line on directory spending, questioning the value of sinking so much money into listings some believe serve no greater purpose than decorating shelves or flattering partners’ egos.
Large firms such as Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and Greenberg Traurig have experimented with foregoing a Martindale-Hubbell profile, and others have greeted newer directories with a skeptical eye.
In an April 25 e-mail sent to all Shearman & Sterling partners after some had been asked to pay between $1,100 and $4,000 to have their biographies included in “Who’s Who Legal 2003”, firm marketing head Edward Burke wrote that “paid listings and biographies of lawyers, practice groups, offices and firms have become a rapidly growing cottage industry.”
Not all listings are paid. Martindale-Hubbell and the online West Legal Directory both have a section where lawyers’ basic information can be listed for free. In Martindale-Hubbell, the blue pages at the front of each volume present that information in abbreviated form, listing attorneys’ degrees but not colleges or law schools attended. A number of companies, including American Lawyer Media, publish advertising-supported directories geared to local jurisdictions or practice specialties.