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Matthew C. Casey
Matthew C. Casey
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The Value of Lawyer Vanity Awards


If you need the services of an attorney, your search might go something like this…

First, depending on the type of legal counsel you require and how much direction you need, you might ask trusted friends or family members if they have any personal referrals. Your next step may likely be a Google search followed by surfing through various attorney websites.

If you’ve browsed even a few attorney websites, then you’ve seen all kinds of references to awards, accolades, memberships, and ratings splashed on many of their web pages.  These awards and ratings are given by organizations such as, the American Academy of Trial Attorneys, the National Association of Distinguished Counsel, the American Institute Group, and AVVO.

But, what do these awards, memberships and ratings actually mean?

Many of these awards and honors don’t mean anything to the general public. They simply sound important and impressive. The graphic logos or “badges” splashed on the web pages look cool. The lawyer may even have a pretty plaque hanging on the wall in their office. But the reality is many of these “distinctions” are actually bought and paid for by the firm or the attorney.   The companies who issue these awards don’t have an unbiased panel of judges selecting recipients based on their legal standing or professional ability to practice law. Instead, they hand out these awards based on one set of criteria – money.

Recently, the Better Business Bureau in St. Louis issued a warning to legal consumers advising them to consider the validity of these so-called “top lawyer awards” when selecting an attorney.

So what should a consumer focus on when selecting an attorney?

You should focus on what matters to you. Legal matters are extremely personal and, therefore, one size doesn’t fit all. When researching and selecting an attorney, consumers should request a consultation meeting with the potential attorney. During this meeting, consumers should ask questions about the attorney, the firm, the support staff, their communication style, and their experience handling your type of case. And, if you are so inclined, ask about any awards, distinctions or honors that are advertised on their website. In the end, the personality of the attorney and the rapport you establish during the meeting will be a good gauge in knowing if this attorney and this firm is the right fit for you and your case, regardless of the amount of awards and honors they highlight on their website.

Matthew C. Casey is a Partner at Casey & Devoti, a St. Louis-based personal injury law firm.  This post originally appeared in October 2015 on The Legal Examiner blog.

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