A Best Lawyers list chases another Best Lawyers list

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In a country with more than a million licensed lawyers, it is not easy to single out the best among them. There is no golden Oscar statuette or Olympic medal awarded to lawyers. Instead, validation often takes the form of small wooden plaques, which are pasted on the walls of offices and the websites of the legal profession.

The demand for these plates is considerable, at least judging by the range of companies offering them. Among them are “America’s Top Lawyers”, “America’s Top 50 Lawyers”, “America’s Top 100 Lawyers” and “America’s Top Lawyers”.

The industry of professional superlatives in the legal industry is so passionate that even the phrase “best lawyers” is entangled in litigation.

The Washingtonian magazine found itself in federal court this spring after publishing a directory of “Best Lawyers” practicing in the nation’s capital. A Georgia-based company called Best Lawyers, which rates attorneys based on peer reviews, sued the magazine for trademark infringement.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trademark Trial and Appeals Board is currently arbitrating a trademark dispute between two criminal defense attorneys in Texas – who both handle marijuana-related cases – over who can call it “the most dope lawyer”.

Some believe the avocado price market has gotten out of control. “It can be hard to tell if an award is deserved or just a marketing ploy,” a Federal Trade Commission consumer alert recently advised. “Try searching online for the name of the person giving the award as well as words like ‘vanity’, ‘ego’, ‘marketing’ and ‘scam’ to find out.

Steve Fischer, an elected trustee of the Texas State Bar, tested the legitimacy of an Orlando, Florida-based group called “Lawyers of Distinction” with the help of his dog, a 10-year-old dog named Shasharoosticus, whom Mr. Fischer nominated for an award.

“My dog ​​has been in more courthouses than a lot of lawyers,” Mr. Fischer said.

As a dog, Shasharoosticus — or S. Roosticus Fischer, as Mr. Fischer called the dog in his application — didn’t have a law degree or license. This did not prevent Lawyers of Distinction from accepting Mr. Fischer’s nomination.

Steve Fischer and Shasharoosticus at the 2019 Texas State Bar Annual Meeting in Austin.


Photo:

Texas State Bar

Her dog received a congratulatory email from the company with an invitation “to join the top 10% of attorneys in the United States.” He charged several hundred dollars for the honor, which Mr. Fischer refused to pay.

“We have to eliminate this stuff. That’s really wrong,” said Fischer, who has spoken with state bar officers about tightening bar rules about advertising attorney awards.

Lawyers of Distinction, which has also accepted nominations from a chicken and a teacup poodle named Lucy, says these were isolated cases in the past and it now honors lawyers “on the based on a review and verification process by our selection committee using U.S. Provisional Patent No. 62/743,254.”

“We have grown and learned from those mistakes and have matured a great deal as an organization as a result,” said Robert B. Baker, the company’s chief executive.

“People have realized that lawyers tend to be very vain people. It’s a very logical type of business to operate,” said Igor Ilyinsky, who runs a web design agency for law firms. His company set up a crowdsourced spreadsheet to keep track of all of the lawyers’ vanity awards. The list grew to over 100.

Within the legal profession, attorney prices are mocked and embraced. The most skeptical are law firm marketing managers who say they are inundated with solicitations from tacklers.

“Anyone trying to sell you a plate, to me, that’s absolutely a red flag,” said Amanda Loesch, marketing specialist at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman PC, a New Jersey law firm. “Some people don’t particularly care. They say all publicity is good publicity.

Last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court-appointed Committee on Attorney Advertising circulated a notice to the state bar saying it had “received numerous grievances regarding attorney advertising for awards, honors and distinctions”.

He cautioned New Jersey attorneys against dubious distinctions. Although state attorneys may promote their inclusion in attorney directories such as “Super Lawyers” or “Best Lawyers”, they may not present themselves as a “super attorney” or the “best attorney”. A lawyer can still sip coffee from a “World’s Greatest Lawyer” mug like Saul Goodman’s character in “Better Call Saul,” according to the publicity committee chairman.

Michael S. Lamonsoff, a Manhattan personal injury attorney, has an awards section on his firm’s website. He has received honors from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, the American Association of Attorneys Advocates and the American Institute of Trial Lawyers.

Mr. Lamonsoff, whose company says it has won half a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements, says he thinks he has earned the accolades. “I just assume they’re real because I’ve accomplished so much,” he said.

So what makes a good lawyer?

A great attorney is “someone who is dedicated to their craft and understands that the best interests of the client are what you must defend,” said San Francisco criminal defense attorney Jeffrey L. Mendelman.

Mr. Mendelman said that in April he declined to purchase a custom, heritage-framed mahogany plaque from a company that recognizes some of the best lawyers in the country.

“Congratulations again – you truly are one of America’s finest lawyers!” read the email he received.

Mr. Mendelman says he didn’t need recognition. He considers himself the “Best Lawyer Alive”, a brand he has officially registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

“I thought it would be extremely arrogant and pure hubris to say ‘greatest of all time,'” he said. ” It’s forbidden. Gandhi was a lawyer, so I can’t compete with that.

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