Martindale-Hubbell: Now Sending Comment Spam? (How Does That Rate?) — Updated


Once upon a time Martindale-Hubbell was a leader in the legal field. They had big impressive looking books with the names of lots of lawyers in them that BigLaw firms paid lots of money for so that they could put them on their shelves. They gave fancy ratings to lawyers that people in corporate law departments actually thought was important.

Wikipedia’s entry on M-H, which I suspect M-H checks religiously to guard against defacing, starts this way:

Martindale-Hubbell is a venerable brand in the legal community, known for being the defacto source for finding and connecting lawyers with other lawyers around the world since 1868.

And several days ago, this “venerable brand in the legal community” apparently left comment spam on one of my posts. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

The comment, at first blush, didn’t look like spam. It didn’t have a dozen links in it and talk about gold or cheap drugs you can buy on the web. The writer actually strung words together into sentences.

The sentences, however, had nothing to do with the post. Nothing. Nada. Zip. And it was on a post that was two years old. And the exact same sentences appear elsewhere in comments on other blogs and link back to the same M-H site.

The writer left the message on a popular post of mine from October 9,2007, entitled Don’t Post This Letter On The Internet! That post was a classic that had the Dozier Law Firm trying to copyright its cease and desist letter to prevent it from appearing on the web. Dozier threatened to sue anyone that posted it. Public Citizen called his bluff, posted it, invited Dozier to sue them, and Dozier, to the extent I could tell, ran away from the challenge with his tail between his legs. There’s a gazillion posts on the subject.

So what did M-H write last week in response to that old subject? Here it is in its entirety:

Being a representative of a law firm, reading an article and blogging and commenting on legal issues has always proved to be useful. To some extent, information given on such blogs and the comments and articles has benefited the victims facing complexities in term of legal issues and helps us also update our knowledge of what is happening around and what all complexities we should expect from our future cases.. It provides a great platform to discuss experiences and share knowledge.

In other words, M-H posted gibberish that was discernible as gibberish if you read the actual post or cared about the posting of nastygrams.

How do I know it was M-H that dropped the comment spam in my post? Because they added a link that brings you to the M-H “International Directory” at this url: http://www.martindale-hubbell.co.uk/. This is one of the many Find-A-Lawyer sites on the web.

Could this have been someone impersonating M-H? Potentially. I did, after all, write about a local defense lawyer that sued someone just last week for impersonating him and writing outrageous things. And one commenter did warn me of the potential for impersonation by rivals when I announced my policy of outing comment spammers.

But if this was a rival of M-H impersonating it, hoping I would write a post flaming the hell out of M-H, s/he would expect M-H to subpoena Google to get the information on their identity. In other words, that individual would have to have rocks in his or her head. And as between an impersonator on one hand, and a falling legal legend using spam to desperately claw its way back to relevancy on the other hand, my guess is the more obvious and logical choice: Spam. It fits with the theory of Occam’s Razor, in that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

And here is the spam as it appeared elsewhere when I Googled the first sentence: /Martindale-HubbellSpamSearch.pdf). But but when I checked one of the links, to Legal Practice Pro, I found yet a different piece of pablum [ed: subsequently removed] that also brings you to the same M-H site:

I love to read such informative articles. It is good to know what went wrong in which part of the world .. even in distant places, where we do not ever plan to physically visit, we visit there virtually and analyse the complete scene. Thanks for this piece of information to add to my experience! To share my other experiences too, recently, I have come across an article on how efficiently law firms get you the justice, which otherwise, sometimes, gets next to impossible. While reading, I realized how important it is to contact a lawyer whenever you get stuck with any legal related issues. And a family lawyer does not in any way decreases the importance of keeping an international law firms directory handy.

More gibberish. And do you know what happens when you Google one of those sentences? Do I really have to tell you it turns up yet more comment spam? Here is my search result: /Martindale-HubbellSpamSearch2.pdf. How many different pieces of spam M-H uses to camouflage its conduct is not something I know, but I think it’s safe to guess that it doesn’t stop here.

Martindale-Hubbell has been swirling down the bowl for some time now. The Internet basically destroyed their business model. Their ratings system is toast. The company’s death announced by bloggers.

Despite these problems, M-H boasted last week on its blog (what, you didn’t know they had a blog?) that it had received an award for “Excellence in New Communications.” The award was given for “innovative organizations that are pioneering the use of social media…” which gave me a good laugh, but I suppose some might consider spammers to be pioneers.

Is it possible to go lower than a spammer on the web? Probably, but I haven’t seen them use pornography to market the law firms that have hired them.

So what does this mean? It means that the most “venerable brand in the legal community” is now using one of the lowest forms of Internet “marketing” that exists: This is the cyber-equivalent of trespassing on someone’s land (their blog) for the sole purpose of plastering its advertisements. Nice.

I’ve written befefore about attorneys that outsource their marketing also outsourcing their ethics. This happens when one of the bazillion attorney search search sites that have popped up are hired to do promotion for lawyers. The lack of care when it comes to ethical violations or other abhorrent conduct can happen regardless of whether the search site is large or small. (See also, FindLaw’s scandal with respect to selling links.)

When it comes to protecting your reputation, this is one simple rule for lawyers to follow: No one cares as much about your reputation as you do. So when you entrust others to do your work, you are virtually guaranteed a lower standard of care.

Now here some questions for lawyers that use Martindale-Hubbell and give the company some of their hard-earned money:

1. How would you rate M-H?

2. How do your clients feel about spammers?

3. Since you’ve hired M-H as an agent to market for your law firm, how do you feel about your agent being a spammer?

Update: In the comments, David Gilroy, the Sales and Marketing Director of a British marketing outfit called Conscious Solutions takes responsibility for spamming on behalf of Martindale-Hubbell. This, of course, leaves us with more questions than answers, including the question of why M-H is outsourcing its marketing if it claims to be a leader in the field.  And yes, the link I provided is coded as NoFollow to insure that no Google juice goes to this company.

I assume that the response came in from Gilroy because someone at M-H was alerted to my post and forced this guy to throw himself under the bus. As of 8:25 pm when I write this update, however, I haven’t heard anything from M-H as to why they hired this company that has been spamming law blogs.

Links to this post:

Blogging: It’s a Matter of Trust
Call me old fashioned, but I believe that my word is my bond, something that you can trust. My blog is comprised of many, many words, all of which form a trusted bond that I’ve established with my audience and other bloggers.

posted by loce@his.com (Carolyn Elefant) @ December 14, 2009 5:49 PM

Social Media Brings Lawyers Back to the Future
H/T Amy Campbell’s Weblog (I threw in this video because it’s somewhat related to my post but more so for marketing to a company. My post relates to consumer marketing. Read on and you’ll see what I mean). When it comes to social media,

posted by loce@his.com (Carolyn Elefant) @ December 06, 2009 6:19 PM

Engagement versus vanity
Yesterday, I had the honor of being included in the 100 best law blogs as judged by the ABA Journal. The top 100 blogs and their authors were the subject of a feature story on the ABA Journal online. Each of the blogs were linkedin to

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 5:00 PM

Engagement versus vanity
Yesterday, I had the honor of being included in the 100 best law blogs as judged by the ABA Journal. The top 100 blogs and their authors were the subject of a feature story on the ABA Journal online. Each of the blogs were linked to in

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 5:00 PM

Martindale-Hubbell now spamming lawyers’ blogs? Are lawyers to blame?
A marketing company doing work on behalf of the legal directory Martindale-Hubbell has acknowledged spamming the comment field on New York Attorney Eric Turkewitz’ blog. Turkewitz blogged about the Martindale spamming.

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 11:24 AM

Martindale-Hubbell now spamming lawyers’ blogs? Are lawyers to blame?
A marketing company doing work on behalf of the legal directory Martindale-Hubbell has acknowledged spamming the comment field on New York Attorney Eric Turkewitz’ blog. Turkewitz blogged about the Martindale spamming.

posted by kevin@lexblog.com (Kevin) @ December 01, 2009 11:24 AM

Incredible
I was reading this post about Martindale Hubble making strange comments on lawyers’ blogs, and what most caught my attention though was this: When it comes to protecting your reputation, this is one simple rule for lawyers to follow: No
posted by Thorne @ November 30, 2009 2:04 PM

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15 Responses Leave a comment

  • David Gilroy 2009.11.30 at 12:57 | Quote

    Eric,

    First of all my apologies to you and your readers. This was an inexcusable lapse in our search engine marketing work that my team were carrying out on behalf of Martindale Hubbell. I’m not going to weedle out of responsibility or make any excuses, it was a mistake and should never have happened, pure and simple.

    Yes, we do look for opportunities to comment on blogs, but the comment you identified should NEVER have been posted on ANY blog, let alone one with such a great post as yours. It does not bear any relevance to the blog post in question or add any value.

    I completely understand your recent policy implementation (http://bit.ly/3qM82s) regarding posts of this kind and we should have a) spotted that and b) respected it. Again no excuse and let me once again apologise on behalf of my client (or indeed, possibly my ex-client).

    Your policy may well have had the desired outcome you were hoping for!

    Regs….David.

    David Gilroy
    Sales & Marketing Director
    http://www.conscious.co.uk
    +44 117 325 0202

  • Eric Turkewitz 2009.11.30 at 13:34 | Quote

    David:

    I didn’t identify just one comment. It is clear that there are more. This doesn’t have the appearance of an isolated incident.

    If you want to come clean, you should identify all the different blogs that were spammed, the different comments that were used and who you were doing the spamming for.

    I also don’t understand what you mean by “we do look for opportunities to comment on blogs”? Are you saying that spam is a way of life for your company?

  • Jay S. Fleischman 2009.11.30 at 13:38 | Quote

    Eric, thanks for pointing out the spam on LPP. I go through my comments daily, and I must have missed this one.

    Best,
    @JayFleischman

  • Eric Turkewitz 2009.11.30 at 13:55 | Quote

    Jay:

    It’s easy to miss, and I bet I have some elsewhere on my blog. All too often I get crap that something that looks like a comment, but something is off. The “off” is that it doesn’t contribute to the conversation in any actual way.

    And when the comment is copied and pasted into Google, 9 times out of 10 I will see the exact language used elsewhere.

  • Thorne 2009.11.30 at 14:24 | Quote

    Eric:

    I’ve got to question a most reasonable assertion you make in your article.

    See: http://misterthorne.org/set_in_style/2009/11/30/incredible/

  • Alin Wagner-Lahmy 2009.11.30 at 23:02 | Quote

    Hey Eric,

    I read your post and comments, and while I don’t have explanations or excuses to the above described, I do have one angle I’d like to offer you to try with MH, viewing things from a different perspective.

    There is no doubt that Martindale Hubbell needs to, and is going through, a change. A transformation. As someone working in Martindale, one of the things that I personally find challenging, is when reading reviews about Martindale, sometimes no matter what we do, it will ‘give you a good laugh’.

    You referred to our blog with surprise, dismissing its purpose and use. The Martindale blog has been extremely active for more than a year, not as PR platform or a ‘lip service’ mechanism, but as a true vehicle for dialogue with our community. While there may be a few things that Martindale does which could be criticized or argued about, I’m inviting you, whenever you have time, to see ‘beyond the borg’ as Shel Isreal refers to: If you visited our blog and read it thoroughly, you will see the people behind the ‘borg’, People like Laxmi Wordham, Jon Lin, Mike Mintz, Rory Webber, and myself, out there to ensure Martindale members make the most out of the it by listening to members and providing a better service (I recommend you do a search for ‘registration’ and read all posts about it). Our blog, as our comments on other blogs, and as our community activity, all come from a place of dialoguing with the community online to offer a better service. Is there still room for improvement? Yes of course. Are we actively making changes based on community discussion and feedback (i.e. registration process) — absolutely! And it’s not just our blog — check our twitter presence @mhtweets @mrrx @alinwagnerlahmy to start with.

    Again, this by no means is an explanation or an excuse to the above described – just an offer of a different angle of ‘MH’ that you can choose to examine, and who knows, maybe you’ll be surprised at what you find.

  • Ron Stack 2009.12.1 at 01:21 | Quote

    Hi Eric –

    I recently started a blog for our company. A couple of weeks ago I saw that we had our first comment. I was thrilled!

    Then I took a look. That’s right: spam. In Russian. Oy.

    Best,
    Ron

  • China Law 2009.12.1 at 01:26 | Quote

    Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable.
    Somebody (actually a bunch of somebodies) really screwed up. Wow.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2009.12.1 at 06:51 | Quote

    You referred to our blog with surprise, dismissing its purpose and use.

    That’s true.I was dismissive. I found spam from MH on my blog. And the first thing I saw on your blog was a boast for “pioneering the use of social media…”

    And another post on 11/20 entitled: Social Media: what every legal professional needs to know

    This was like shooting fish in a barrel.

    So that was my first impression of the MH blog. And I didn’t go any further than the first page, which appears to be the November postings.

    But I will add this, that I read/scan some 150+ blogs and have done 3 Blawg Reviews. And I was unaware that MH even had a blog. Do you interact with the legal community in any way, other than with the “community” that pays MH a fee? It doesn’t appear that way from your comments or the November posts.

    That, of course is your right. If MH thinks that being an island unto itself is the key to financial success, then you should pursue it. ‘Tis the nature of capitalism.

    But it also makes it unlikely that those that are off your island will hear you. Except, of course, when an MH person steps off the island to spam others. Then we hear you.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2009.12.1 at 06:55 | Quote

    I recently started a blog for our company. A couple of weeks ago I saw that we had our first comment. I was thrilled!

    Then I took a look. That’s right: spam. In Russian. Oy.

    Ron:

    I remember seeing my stats after my first posts went up. I had 6 readers from Bulgaria! I was international!

    Then my web guru told me that these were likely spammers looking to use bots to spam.

    To this day, I don’t think anyone really has a firm grip on exactly how many real readers they have.

  • Mark Bennett 2009.12.1 at 08:41 | Quote

    It’s the nature of the internet that Mr. Gilroy throwing himself under the bus doesn’t –shouldn’t–help M-H.

    If that’s what happened, it casts greater discredit on Martindale-Hubbell for failing to understand the nature of the medium in which it is trying to work.

    Disclaiming responsibility for marketing missteps made on one’s behalf is so easy that it is meaningless.

    M-H is responsible for the comment spam posted on its behalf, as are the lawyers who outsourced their marketing to M-H, as is Conscious Solutions (to whom M-H outsourced its marketing), and as are the Ahmedabad (or wherever) computer jockeys to whom Conscious Solutions outsourced the actual scutwork.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2009.12.1 at 10:22 | Quote

    If that’s what happened, it casts greater discredit on Martindale-Hubbell for failing to understand the nature of the medium in which it is trying to work.

    The irony is that MH boasts of its expertise in social media, even having a blog post from 10 days ago entitled Social Media: what every legal professional needs to know

    I would go a lot easier on a neophyte blogger that doesn’t know any better and gets suckered in by a marketing team. But not a mega-corp that proclaims its expertise.

    The only stop to blog spam that I see is for bloggers to identify the firms/companies that do it. Unlike online pharmacies and gold sites, lawyers have a need to protect their reputations.

    After enough spammers get fired, the spam will slow down because they will lose their clients.

    As of this moment (10:20 on 12/1/09 I have no word from MH as to whether the spammer has been terminated, nor have they stepped forward to acknowledge their responsibility, nor have they identified the sites that were hit, nor have they sent out any apologies.

  • Anonymous 2009.12.1 at 13:23 | Quote

    First off, apologies. It is not Martindale Hubbell’s policy to spam blogs, nor has it ever been: it would be entirely counter productive for us to do so: we’re here for the long haul, and absolutely not interested in a quick fix. In this instance though, as you can see from David’s comment above, it appears that a vendor acting on our behalf may have done so. We’re in the process of getting to the bottom of what happened so that we can do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In the meantime the vendor has been instructed to stop all activity on our behalf.

    I’d be more than happy to address any other questions you might have, either here or via email at derek dot benton at martindale dot com

    Derek Benton
    Director — International Operations
    Martindale Hubbell International (UK)
    +44 207 347 3716

  • Eric Turkewitz 2009.12.1 at 14:52 | Quote

    Derek:

    I think the conversation is better done in public, since my blog was clearly not the only one defaced.

    I’ve followed up here:
    Martindale Hubbell Apologizes For Blog Spam; Suspends Spammer; Promises to Answer Questions

Comments are closed.


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