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Top Lawyer...Top Scam!

When it comes time to choose a lawyer, choose one that provides a service worth talking about. Today, there are so many fake awards and so much false advertising it makes it hard to know which attorney to choose. Don't believe me? Look at these examples. Here is an email I recently received.

"dsm Magazine is proud to annually present Top Lawyers, profiling the outstanding members of our legal community who represent the people and the institutions of Des Moines with mastery and drive. . . Our readers are educated, affluent, [and] engaged. . . “

Top Lawyer profiles are published in the September-October edition. All I have to do to be awarded a write up for being a “Top Lawyer” is pay them $1,125 - $4,840 depending on the size of the write up I want.

What a joke! What a scam! People read this and think that these are the top lawyers in the metro because of their performance, their knowledge, their skill? Nope. It’s just because of the check they wrote to dsm Magazine.

Want more examples? National companies are into misleading the public for their own benefit too. The following companies send emails and letters to attorneys around the country claiming that the attorney has been selected as a “super lawyer”, a “rising star”, the “10 Best”, or a “lawyer of distinction”. Nope. It’s all a lie. See for yourself…

American Institute Group. This company uses several names including American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys, American Institute of Family Law Attorneys, American Institute of Bankruptcy Attorneys, American Institute of Elder Law Attorneys, American Institute of DUI/DWI Attorneys, and American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys!

The American Institute Group even breaks these categories down further: 10 Best Firms, 10 Best Under 40, 10 Best Female, 10 Best By State, and 10 Best for Client Satisfaction. This group touts attorneys as the best of the best. But, check out their disclaimer:

“The contact information on this website may not be used for commercial, promotional or advertising purposes. This organization and any and all of its subsidiaries are NOT a referral service but a directory. A directory is simply a list of professionals or businesses, and no recommendation or guarantees are made regarding the quality of services you might expect from any of the professionals or businesses listed. Regarding the information listed on this site, to the fullest extent permitted by law, this organization and any/all of its subsidiaries, suppliers, and distributors make no warranties, either express or implied, about the services of any professional that may be hired. This organization and any and all of its subsidiaries also disclaims any warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purposes, title and non-infringement.” Emphasis added.

Can you believe that? They literally tell you that the awards they are giving out are not worth the piece of paper they are printed on. Fortunately for attorneys, this one only costs $295 per year to receive their award.

If that isn’t enough to anger you, here are more organizations who shamelessly tout their selection process when all they really do is take advantage of attorneys’ vanity and arrogance (well played if I do say so myself).

Lawyers of Distinction. Another straight up lie. I received a Lawyers of Distinction a few months into my career. That is when I knew these were bullshit. How the hell does a new attorney with a few cases under his belt receive such a prestigious national award? Easy, I pay them $775 a year. Here is the footer on the front page of their website:

“Lawyers of Distinction Members have been selected based upon a review and vetting process by our Selection Committee utilizing U.S. Provisional Patent # 62/743,254. The platform generates a numerical score of 1 to 5 for each of the 12 enumerated factors which are meant to recognize the applicant’s achievements and peer recognition. Members are then subject to a final review for ethical violations within the past ten years before confirmation of Membership. Nomination does not guarantee membership and attorneys may not pay a fee to be nominated. Attorneys may nominate their peers whom they feel warrant consideration. The determination of whether an attorney qualifies for Membership is based upon the aforementioned proprietary analysis discussed above. Membership is not meant to infer any endorsement of Lawyers of Distinction by any of the 50 United States Bar Associations or The District of Columbia Bar Association. Any references to “excellent,” “excellence,” or “distinguished” are meant to refer to the Lawyers of Distinction organization only and not to any named member individually.”

Unbelievable! I’m willing to bet a dollar to your dime that the above statement might be an, how should I say, an exaggeration?

The following is a platform not based on buying your way in but rather friending your way in.

SuperLawyers. All attorneys in a geographic area (such as Iowa) are eligible to submit a ballot listing ten in-firm attorneys who are “SuperLawyers,” ten out-of-firm attorneys who are “SuperLawyers,” and ten young “Rising Stars.” If you’re a shameless campaigner, it’s not too difficult to have friends vouch for you.

Give me a break!

Finally, there is AVVO. This isn’t so much a scam as it is a platform for the owners to make money from the suppliers. Avvo is the Zillow of the legal world!

Clients can leave reviews for attorneys on Avvo for free. I admit, I have several reviews and I do appreciate them. Avvo then “rates” each attorney. The problem is, the rating has nothing to do with the reviews. At least not from the client reviews. Avvo ratings have everything to do with endorsements from other attorneys (along with some leverage for things such as Bar leadership positions, publications on known websites or print media, and speaking engagements). The problem with Avvo is that although their rating system is semi-legit, when the public wants to connect with the lawyer they just researched, guess what? Yep, the lawyer can only be contacted if they have paid their monthly dues ranging from $49 - $100. In reality, a majority of these people only want free advice. I do have to admit, I have received awards from Avvo based on my reviews and I proudly display them on my website. At least I didn’t have to pay for them.

If you want to know whether a lawyer will be the right fit for you, your best bet is to call them and talk to them. Use Google Reviews to narrow down the choices. I am very proud to show off my five-star reviews!

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