Update (November 2, 2013): Recently I received a junk email informing me: “It is my pleasure to inform you that your 2013-2014 membership has been approved in the Exclusive Top 100, the largest network of professionals in the World.” I got it the same day Martindale Hubbell tried to sell me a plaque for $179 saying that I am AV-rated, “preeminent,” and part of “a select group of top-rated lawyers…”
As with all con jobs, these slimy promos prey on hard-to-control human appetites. Most of us want validation and recognition badly. At the same time, our longing, with its deep-buried roots in pride, ego, and insecurity, is shameful for most of us. So, with these store-bought accolades, as with many things sold to consumers, there is the surface purpose (in this case, attract clients) and the deep-seated need (receive some external proof of one’s having worth or value). I confess I felt a wave of temptation for the plaque.
Original post (October 22, 2013): Regular readers of this blog will recall that I have expressed grave doubts about Avvo in the past. With a hat-tip to SG for the tip, check out the blog post of Mark Bennett, a Texas lawyer: “Avvo, Endorsement, Fraud.”
I understand that “The Law” is not a solemn, genteel, and distinguished guild anymore, luxuriously insulated from the rough and tumble free market teeming with shifty hucksters, nutty schemes, self-dealing, and double-dealing. Lawyers and law firms more than ever before must advertise and self-promote. We must compete. Against one another. I know. Extremely distasteful in the highest measure, to be sure. Sharing your passion for truth and justice, I can predict we share this strong predisposition, Beloved Brethren and Sisters of the Bar. This competition thing is as brutal and bitter a tincture as there ever could be.)
But, fellow lawyers, have we been so insulated from market forces for so long that we’re a bunch of clueless suckers who will pay good money for personalized plaques and worthless endorsements (or the websites that traffic this crap “for free,” pretending to offer services for you but actually marketing services (of no value) to you)?
What next? Epaulets, plumes, gold chains with medallions? How stupid are we?
What next? Probably not shiny pins, or flashy badges, but something more 21st century, like client testimonials on YouTube.
Actually, assuming they are genuine, client video testimonials could convey actual and, possibly, highly valuable information about the advertising lawyers unlike fake honors promoted by craven flim-flammers.
Questions though: Do the advertising lawyers pay actual clients or former clients to be in these productions? Are the advertising lawyers in a tight spot ethically/morally whether that first question is answered “yes” or “no”? How would we react to patient testimonials about our doctors (“My annual prostate exam is the highlight of my day, time and again year after year! Doc Jones just has the touch!”)? Do client testimonials exploit the clients on some level? Presumably they do not serve the client’s best interests, right?
On the other hand, it is extremely difficult for legal services consumers to get reliable information about lawyers, particularly unsophisticated consumers whose contact with lawyers may be very infrequent and sporadic.
Make no mistake: the endorsements and lawyer advertising will persist for a long time to come. Let’s just hope that Avvo and other hucksters like Avvo find themselves the casualties of market forces as quickly as possible and more legitimate, if still distasteful, sources of information (rather than nonsense) persist.