LexisNexis Group's Martindale-Hubbell has no plans to abandon its lawyer ratings, the company insisted in response to blog postings about its layoff of attorney rating specialists.
However, the company will change the way it gathers the information underpinning the ratings, LexisNexis spokesman John Michaels said on Tuesday.
Michaels confirmed that the company has laid off three ratings specialists but insisted there are no plans to end its Peer Review rating system, which is based on lawyers' and judges' reviews of other attorneys.
Instead, the company is reconsidering the way it staffs ratings reporting, Michaels said.
In a written statement, the company said that it has made a "change in the role and responsibilities of the ratings specialists." The company will increase the number of "specialists dedicated to educating law firms about all of the new and evolving offerings from Martindale-Hubbell" and will use teams for client services work.
Heather M. Milligan, director of marketing at Los Angeles-based Barger & Wolen, sent out an Internet alert upon receipt of a Dec. 19 e-mail message from a Martindale-Hubbell employee informing her that the ratings specialist positions were being eliminated. On Dec. 22, Milligan followed up by posting the e-mail, with the sender's name redacted, on her blog, The Legal Watercooler. A number of blogs read by attorneys took note.
"The people laid off were long-term lifers with Martindale-Hubbell, which had been purchased by Lexis[Nexis]," Milligan said in a telephone interview with the NLJ.
In its statement, Martindale-Hubbell touted recent and pending changes intended to add information to it attorney ratings. The planned improvements to the Peer Review Ratings system will take effect in the new year. The company said that the changes would address client demand for more complete and interactive information.
Martindale-Hubbell ratings have been highly regarded in the past. An AV rating means that an attorney has been admitted to the bar for at least a decade and is seen by his or her peers as possessing very high legal skills and ethics. Securing this ranking "used to be everything," said Milligan, who has been in the legal marketing field for 11 years.
These days, though, general counsel can check out attorneys a lot more easily than in the past via Google, the Internet and blogs. "That AV rating doesn't have the importance that it had in the past," Milligan said.