Friday, December 11, 2015

Jimmy Davis nominated as one of "10 best" Attorneys in Florida - and why this does not matter.

Imagine my surprise, and the amount of ego inflating pride I felt when I got this letter in the mail that states "Congratulations! We are pleased to announce that you have been nominated as one of the '10 Best' Attorneys for Florida. This came from an organization called the "American Institute of Family Law Attorneys".

I blushed with pride, and smiled ear to ear. I said to everybody near my P.O. Box, "Look, I'm the best attorney ever!" (I did not really do that, but you know...)

Here is the instantaneous problem with this reward. I have barely dabbled in family law. My results have been good by all accounts, but one of the 10 best? I think not. This, my curious readers, is what one calls a "vanity award". Should I pay for this award, I will instantly go from nominated to winner. Congratulations me!
Oh Vanity Award, your name is Narcissus
As a consumer of legal services, or an attorney, it should be pretty clear why these pseudo awards should not be utilized by attorneys to promote their skills. Similar to paying for a noble title, paying for an award is not only a hollow victory, but it may very well show how unethical attorney marketing may be. Consider in Florida

Rules 4-7.13(a)(2), (b)(2), (b)(3) and Rules 4-7.14(a)(2)

If an attorney were to use this on advertising material, these rules require that attorney to determine whether the advertisement contains any reference to past results that cannot be objectively verifiable; whether it omits material information; or if "literally accurate" would it have the potential to mislead a would-be client regarding a material fact.

In this case, the answer is yes, yes, and yes. Sure my past results are good, but they are normal outcomes to normal cases. I have had children returned from other states, successfully defended clients from false accusations, and resolved other more "cookie cutter" cases. There is information material to any selection of the top ten, including how much experience and the complexity of the cases undertaken and won. Finally, it is "literally accurate" that I was "nominated" as one of the top 10, but in light of everything else... would it not be reasonable that a person seeing that "award" get misled as to my abilities and reputation in the courts? Of course.

I shredded the award

What what?!? But... no, if I ever become one of the "top 10" in Florida I would rather earn it, not pay for it. In fact, I have earned

  • The Guardian of Justice from Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.; 
  • The President's Volunteer Service Award from President Obama;
  • The Volunteer of the Year Award from United Way;
  • The Pro Bono Service Award by the Florida Bar President;
  • The Volusia County Pro Bono Attorney of the Year from Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.; and
  • The One Pro Bono Award from The Florida Supreme Court, Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, and the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association.
How much did I pay for these? Exactly $0.00, exactly as it should be.

Great, so how do I know whether my attorney's awards are earned or paid?

Look them up. Others are writing about these "vanity awards". My nomination came from American Institute of Family Law Attorneys. I believe they are simply in the business of making money from my Profession, and that those in my profession using their "award" to market themselves are misleading consumers of legal services.

I use my real awards to market myself to be sure. But if you are in the market for an attorney, beware the hype. Find out which awards are real and which are purchased filler for websites.