Lawyers of Distinction – Scam Or Not? An In-Depth Look
Have you ever heard of the Lawyers of Distinction concept? If you are reading this, you probably did – and you are probably wondering about the potential Lawyers of Distinction scam. You are in for a treat. We dissect all the details about this ‘group’, so you don’t have to worry anymore about joining in or not. The cards are on the table – let’s dive in.
Having a law degree and becoming a lawyer are astounding accomplishments – it takes dedication, commitment, and a strong work ethic to work through higher education rigors to reach a lofty goal.
When you made that initial decision to apply to law school, did you think about what happens next? Did you map out a course for where you wanted to work, who you wanted to work for, or better yet, work with? Did you anticipate having to grow a practice, find cases, or develop a plan for marketing yourself, ensuring that the world knew that you are a lawyer with integrity and distinction?
The Dream of Playing With The Big Boys
Most of us that go into law just want to finish school and get going with our careers – we forge ahead looking at the end goal, sometimes not realizing that the end of school and passing the Bar are not the end of anything. These steps are really only the beginning. Unless you are lucky enough to be dropped into a firm with a pre-written plan to elevate you above all others, you need to start that climb up the mountain to distinguish yourself from all the other new or growing lawyers in your way.
Exposing yourself to opportunities and creating a name for yourself should be the best way to get your name out there and develop your own legacy.
But what if this plan of yours isn’t working – what if your career and name are not being recognized as much as you had hoped, and marketing yourself seems like a huge hassle. Is there a different way to increase your professional exposure? How do you market to specific groups, individuals, or areas to create that workflow and growth? What is the best way to partner, connect, and build relationships with other attorneys?
That’s where the ‘dream team’ comes in.
Enter Lawyers of Distinction ‘League’
As promised, let’s take a look at the Lawyers of Distinction. Now, this sounds like an option to promote yourself while joining a league of others that have been awarded this title. A team of fellow professionals that analyze your career, the work you have done, professional awards, and reviews from clients, and if you meet the standard, you can “earn” a spot in the Lawyers of Distinction annuls, opening doors and creating tremendous opportunities for you! Could this be true, or is it a scam?
Suppose someone offers you a chance to be part of an “exclusive” team that only gives to specific lawyers that meet an established criterion – would you want to be part of this exclusive club? Well sure! Of course, you would! Any thoughtful professional would jump at the chance to efficiently market themselves, and claim allegiance with other top lawyers in the field.
We all know those lawyers around us that are well-known that get named dropped in court, in conversation, and at happy hour. We want to be THAT lawyer, that person that is known for being a top-notch litigator. You want to be that person. Just from the name, Lawyers of Distinction sounds like an opportunity to elevate yourself above your peers. So, is this opportunity the real deal, or is this just an organization that claims to elevate your profession but is just taking your money?
The Jury Decides Your Faith
Lawyers of Distinction claims that becoming part of their organization, you will have been reviewed by their platform that “analyzes work, experience, and abilities based upon the[ir] twelve-part independent criteria.”
This specialized board of honorable and knowledgeable professionals references their scoring “assessment” of each application that reviews the following: case results, honors/awards, Google reviews, AVVO reviews, Legal Experience, Educational Background, Verdicts/Settlements, Special Certifications, Representative clients, Professional activities, Pro Bono/Community Services, and Lectures/writings/publications. Each area is reviewed, scored, and then presented to their board for review.
To further add to their proposal’s legitimacy, there is an” Ethics Review and Background check” performed to ensure that only the best of the best are given this honor. A full review of your professional accomplishments, a review of cases and work, and the professional activities you are part of seeming like the golden ticket to enhancing your reputation and elevating your status within your field.
How The Lawyers of Distinction Lures You In
When this acclaimed team recognizes excellence, there is a substantial list of benefits that can be gained by applying for membership to this group – custom plaques and statues to display in your office, new brochures with your new distinction, and a press release.
These “trademarked materials” can be used during the membership term anywhere you choose to put them – they can be added to your letterhead, internal and external office stationery, email signatures, and on company websites.
You can essentially shout from the mountaintop that you have been recognized as a “Lawyer of Distinction” to anyone that cares, and as a bonus, you can also nominate your peers, friends, and, as seen later, your dog.
It is easy to be pulled to apply when the additional benefits include networking and education opportunities. Now, who does not like to add networking opportunities into their world? Included are opportunities for all social media platforms and access to a “private” group that only allows members to network with one another.
Marketing yourself or your firm is part of the job, and having available avenues to promote your work and your team seems to be an added “bonus” to the membership process.
At this point, there does not seem to be any downside to the claims set by Lawyers of Distinction – elevating your person or firm, gaining awards and recognition, and expanding your ability to connect with their “leading” professions and claim distinction among your peers. So why would someone NOT want to apply to this organization?
But Wait, Here Is More
A review of the educational opportunities begins to build the case for legitimacy or scam. In 2019, Lawyers of Distinction launched their first webinar – a marketing seminar titled “Generating Positive Reviews for your Firm.” Okay, not a bad idea, since any good attorney wants to have positive reviews of their work.
They claim that this educational opportunity was a raving success, so they shortly launched another webinar titled “Marketing to Millennials.” Another topic important to the growth and flow of clients – but marketing is the target of this education, which inherently can advance your practice and income development pathway. But does this educational opportunity advance your career or does it make this a marketing team?
Lawyers of Distinction Scholarship
Additional exposure can also be garnered through their membership directory, where all levels of distinction are listed. A personalized review of yourself and/or your firm can be developed and customized that lists all vital contact information for you, including social media outlets, connections through Google Maps, along with “favorable” reviews.
Reading carefully into these benefits, the Lawyers of Distinction team apparently has individuals that can assist in modifying your membership profile – and another feature is that an individual will get to review any modifications or additions for approval to ensure that they meet expectations. So, reviews that are positive and favorable can be added, while weeding out anything that could tarnish your reputation or unhappy clients can be removed at request.
If you have started to question the value or ethics of membership, another pull from this group is the opportunity for future lawyers at the educational level of their career can garner a scholarship from Lawyers of Distinction.
Pay To Play Lawyers of Distinction
The application criteria are minimal, starting with being a current college or graduate student or a high school senior. The guidelines require an applicant to write a 600-word essay answering the question, “Describe a time when you made a significant contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Please discuss the challenges and rewards involved in your contribution.”
Along with the essay is a required application form, which allows the organization to use this information for marketing purposes. Although this appears to be another highlight of the organization, a review of the process and the opportunity reveal that there is an only one-year scholarship awarded and the amount is $1,000.00.
Although any amount of money to support a college student is admirable, considering that the lowest application level for membership to Lawyers of Distinction is $475.00, it only takes three applicants to cover this scholarship’s cost. If Lawyers of Distinction is to be believed and they have significant applicants to their organization, then this seems a paltry amount to offer to future lawyers in the process of completing their education.
Not Recognized by the Bar
Although an impressive list of criteria, it may interest you to know that there is a long, CRITICAL disclaimer of fine print that should be reviewed before submitting your credentials for review for your distinguished award. That statement, detailed and telling, clearly states that “Membership is not meant to infer any endorsement of Lawyers of Distinction by any of the 50 Unites States Bar Association or The District of Columbia Bar Association.”
So if membership to Lawyers of Distinction does not catapult your career into higher endorsement, is not recognized by the Bar, and to conclude their statement “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.”
Any good lawyer can tell you that belonging to a membership that is not recognized by the legal authority of the said organization, no endorsement or actual advancement of those with this endorsement, is not an endorsement at all. Instead, it is a very fancy way to purchase a plaque and some brochures with your hard-earned money.
Similar Examples For Questionable Scholarships
Take for example the Who’s Who Among American High School Student awards from the ’80s and 90’s – this “honor” was free, but to have the endorsement and be included in some of the publications, receive honors and merit, there was a cost. Although touted as being a way to recognize outstanding students, it was truly a glorified achievement list that had no basis in truth – students could even concoct school activities and honors and be included in the program.
Like Lawyers of Distinction, there were “scholarships” available, but they were limited and for marginal sums of money. Most college and university admissions offices were aware of the scam and saw it as having little or no impact on who was admitted or not admitted to a program.
Truth be told, the Lawyers of Distinction scam or a glorified marketing campaign, it is up to you to decide the impact of donating your money to an organization that means nothing; recognition by Lawyers of Distinction is not hard to garner, and when researched, exposed significant issues with “who” was given the distinction. It is not hard to research a general inquiry on the Internet to find multiple firms and attorneys that have applied and received this recognition for their dogs. ‘
Essentially what we found is that Lawyers of Distinction is a glorified marketing firm that encourages you to pay for the privilege of being on their website, to pay for a plaque or statue, to buy some brochures, use a logo icon and get some discounts on hotels and rental cars.
How about instead that you join the American Bar Association, as most lawyers do, and garner ACTUAL benefits that improve your work quality, connect you with other attorneys, provide educational resources, discounts with multiple companies, networking, join section and division groups, and connect to actual law schools and opportunities.
Lawyers of Distinction is no different than driving to a local trophy store, buying a plaque, and adding the logo “I am great” to show off in your office.
You can do better.
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