I saw the picture on Facebook. The Huntsville lawyer stands smiling next to his desk. On the desk sits a large glass (or plastic) trophy. I cannot remember the name of the award. It was probably “Best Lawyer Across From The Courthouse In Downtown Huntsville!” I’m sure it was the best of something. I also know this — The same company sent an email to lawyers across Alabama promising to award them “the best of….” for only a small price. For a couple hundred dollars they could also stand next to the trophy and market themselves to unsuspecting clients. It’s a scam.
I’ll give you another example. Last week, some website published a list of its 20 best personal injury lawyers in Huntsville. I only heard of this list because another lawyer was laughing about it. Why was he laughing? This lawyer tried multiple car accident cases in Madison County last year. Our firm tried some as well. He was laughing because he hadn’t seen the listed lawyers at the courthouse.
The list was quite interesting. It contained 3 or 4 criminal lawyers who don’t even handle personal injury cases. It included a firm that advertises for car accident cases but secretly has a deal to refer the cases to an outside lawyer for a fee. That advertising firm even put a real small print disclaimer on one of its website pages. The reality — They don’t try accident and injury cases. I think that type of misleading advertising is horrible. The list also had a semi-retired local lawyer on it. These firms contributed in exchange for a fake “vanity” listing and internet link they could market.
The truth is simple. Lawyers can buy any number of awards. Almost all are completely fake. The sham organization makes a lot of money. In return, the lawyer gets a shiny trophy or plaque to advertise. Are there any legitimate attorney awards or designations? Yes, a small few. A very small few. Martindale and SuperLawyers are based on peer reviews and cannot be purchased. And, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum requires proof the lawyer has actually handled injury cases worth over a million dollars. An attorney cannot simply purchase those awards. Other than these, most of the other awards are simply shams where the lawyer pays for his own trophy.
You know the rise of fake lawyer awards is pretty bad when The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issues a statement. That’s precisely what the FTC did in December last year. In fact, the FTC statement refers to these as “vanity” or “ego” awards that can simply be purchased. They are. The FTC then warns consumers to ask questions or do research beyond these awards. You can read the FTC statement HERE. After the FTC issued its statement, news agency Reuters followed with an extensive article titled, It’s Official: Lawyer Awards (At Least Some Of Them) Are Scams. The Reuters article even discusses one person who submitted fake applications on behalf of his pet chicken. Yes, his chicken received the lawyer award! Congratulations, that chicken is now the “best of” some type of lawyer!
How should you select a personal injury lawyer? Don’t believe the self-purchased awards. I would take it a step beyond. If you see a lawyer hawking a bunch of so-called awards, you should get suspicious.
If you are hurt in an accident, your case is serious. Your case is too important for you to trust a snake oil salesman. Do some independent research. If you know a lawyer (even outside the personal injury field), talk to him or her. Talk to people you trust in your community. Read real reviews online. Read information written or published by local lawyers. By all means, meet with the actual lawyer and ask questions.
You can read more of my articles on this blog. I’ve previously written a series of articles discussing why you should avoid advertising (settlement mill) law firms. I’ve also written several articles about the importance of truth and authenticity in attorney advertising. From fake awards to false claims to ghost written content, authenticity is a real problem in our profession. I’ve also written a couple generic articles providing tips about choosing a lawyer. You can read one of my earlier ones at, Seven Tips For Choosing A Personal Injury Lawyer.
We are fortunate in northern Alabama to have a number of really good trial lawyers. Experience and ability matter. Authenticity and dedication matter. In a world of mass advertising and big claims, look for an attorney who will actually work hard on your injury case.