By Robert Meisner

In reviewing a recent issue of a statewide legal publication, I noted that a former associate of our firm, who now heads his own firm, had submitted an announcement that he received an award from the “American Institute of Legal Counsel” (AIOLC). Unfortunately, he may have been duped by an unethical “vanity award” business. As you can see from the AIOLC website, all you need to do is pay money, and you get an award. We refrain from linking directly to the site here, as doing so would give it legitimacy in the eyes of Google. However, if you follow this google search link, you can find their site and also find a number of resources written by lawyers which expose the organization as a scam.

Vanity awards such as the ones propagated by the AIOLC are an increasing problem in the legal industry (I encourage you to review the google search “vanity lawyer award” as well). They prey on attorneys’ egos with official-sounding awards, and some unethical attorneys don’t even care that they are scams because they can fool potential clients into thinking the award means something.

We at The Meisner Law Group are continually solicited by companies similar to the AIOLC who want to give us awards and titles, or put us on their online “top attorneys” lists (for a fee).  Eventually, state bar associations may be forced to put a stop to these unethical practices.

The takeaway here is that when searching for legal services, a board of directors needs to research the organizations listed under the “honors” section of the attorney’s resume. And ask if the attorney belongs to the College of Community Association Lawyers (and for how long). Also, examine other qualifications such as books/articles published, teaching experience, and length of practice.