Fake Attorney Credentials Are Scamming Potential Clients

Finding a qualified attorney for your situation is hard enough. The stress and anxiety about your situation and future is justified. The last thing you want is to be deceived by an attorney you are reaching out to for help. Unfortunately some lawyers list phony awards and paid-for credentials to lure unsuspecting clients away from more qualified attorneys.

The problem is bogus awards, credentials, certifications, and badges confuse consumers and cause clients to hire the wrong attorney for their case. These phony awards are sprouting up on less-ethical attorney websites and marketing. These awards are offered to all attorneys on a “pay for it” basis.

Federal Trade Commission Warning

These fake awards has become so widespread that the Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning to consumers to “look beyond their awards.” When seeking out a lawyer for your case, the following may look very impressive, but these are the exact kind of examples the FTC warns about.

Examples of Suspicious Award and Credentials

For example, we annually received a letter from The National Academy of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Inc. stating:

“you have been chosen to receive this year’s prestigious TOP 10 Attorney Award for the state of Colorado. Through a multi-phase selection process, the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys (NACDA) has chosen you to receive our organization’s highest honor because of the hard work and dedication you have shown in representing your Criminal Defense clients…. To accept your award…to be listed as one of Colorado’s Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys, you must complete the enclosed Award Acceptance Form and return it.”

This award acceptance form includes an “award administration fee” of $350 and an order form requesting a credit card payment.

Another letter from a similar sham organization called Best of the Best Attorneys invites us to accept an award with a badge for our website promoting “Top 10 DUI Defense Law Attorney list for Colorado.” All this for an annual payment of $295. If you visit this website, a “Top 10” award and plaque can be purchased for every area of law possible, from bankruptcy, personal injury, and criminal defense to estate planning, immigration, and elder law.

The National Trial Lawyers will allow an attorney to be part of the Top 100 Attorneys list, for an annual fee of $350. “Dues are eligible to increase with or without notice.” What if an attorney is invited but doesn’t pay the annual fee? Then, apparently the attorney is no longer considered a “Top 100 Attorney.”

The American Institute of Legal Counsel has a Top 10 DUI/DWI Attorneys list that anyone can be nominated for, and this recognition costs $395 annually. For the cost, an attorney receives a plaque stating he or she is one of the ten best attorneys for an area of practice, and an official badge to place prominently on a website.

How to Find a Qualified Attorney for Your Case

Instead, look beyond the awards on websites and ask for recommendations from past clients and people who have been in the same situation. Call your local bar association or the Colorado Bar Association and ask about the lawyers  who have a good reputation and experience in the type of issue you have. Online reviews can also help, but be aware many are fake and written by the attorney themselves, family and friends, or are paid for through reputation management companies. A lawyer who has been in business for two years will not likely have 300 or more legitimate, five-star reviews. You can also check the Colorado Supreme Court’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel to see if a lawyer has been disciplined, suspended, or disbarred. Also, visit to the court where your case is pending and view attorneys in action. While there, ask around the courthouse for the names of the best attorneys that practice the type of law you seek.

While the attorneys that use these fake, paid-for credentials may lure more clients by doing so, it hurts them in the long-run. A lawyer’s reputation in the legal community is his or her greatest asset, and gimmicky marketing and sham awards soil their reputation with other attorneys, prosecutors, and judges.

If you want the best attorney for your type of case, do your due diligence. The decision you make hiring a lawyer can have lasting effect on your case outcome and your future.