Social networking platforms are on the hunt to grab a slice of the lucrative, yet fairly quiet, legal market, and Martindale-Hubbell's platform, Connected, has found that in-house lawyers are jumping aboard first.
The platform is still in beta version, but after opening up for users four months ago, almost 3000 lawyers are already signed-up - half of whom are in-house counsel.
Initial numbers and interest levels of in-house lawyers may suggest that this group is more inclined to take up social networking opportunities than other lawyers. According to Derek Benton, director - International Operations Lexis Nexis Martindale-Hubbell, it's a matter of in-house lawyers being more isolated than their private practice counterparts.
"They are often the people who are working with maybe only one or two people in a large corporation where they are not meeting lawyers or their peers on a regular basis," said Benton. "They are using this technology because they find it a very effective way, and a very time-efficient way, to make contact with their peers and get feedback."
Last year, the Networks for Counsel Survey of 600 lawyers globally commissioned by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell found that almost half of all lawyers are members of online social networks, but that the lawyers working in-house were three times more likely to participate in such forums than external counsel.
Martindale-Hubbell developed the Connected platform to evolve its directory offerings, and adapt to the changing habits of lawyers in networking. "This is swimming in a different sea, in a different medium," Benton said. "We're taking the same information, and we're looking at the business issue about how people want to use the business information now."
Benton calls it online professional networking. In the Martindale form, that means offering a space for outside counsel selection and management, referral generation, decisions support, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.
In recognising the need to connect further than the legal sector, Martindale-Hubbell has formed a relationship with LinkedIn, offering access to more general business professionals.
Martindale already has competitors, with Avvo, LawLink and Legal OnRamp all offering networking platforms that are quickly gaining momentum in the legal space. But competition may not necessarily be a bad thing: it could be indicative of the fact that lawyers are ready to network online.
Martindale-Hubbell is part of the LexisNexis Group - also publisher of Lawyers Weekly.
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