Fake Law Firms Now that we have the concept of fake news why not fake law firms and fake law awards.

Recently two separate English publishers gave law awards to a law firm in a hoax that was intended to highlight the glut of legal awards given out in the UK. The problem was that the law firm that received the awards was fake.

There is a satirical blog for solicitors in the UK called Roll on Friday and they created  a website for a law firm called FLF Abiola & Co. which used a photo of actor Danny Glover as its managing partner. Just to be clear the law firm was fake it never existed. - FLF = Flake Law Firm.

Various “colleagues” nominated the law firm in a category devised by the fake law firm itself “film financing law firm of the year in Nigeria” and after receiving an accolade from Finance Monthly was approached then by Corporate INTL.

After bestowing the awards both Finance Monthly and Corporate INTL attempted to sell FLF Abiola & Co., the fake law firm, advertising space in their magazine.

A representative from the Roll on Friday blog said “lawyers do not have to win an award but they are strongly encouraged to buy space in the award winners magazine. Some lawyers go along with it to burnish ego. Others want to look successful to clients

The problem is that anyone seeing the award might think it reflects a genuine excellence when that may not be the case.

As an award winning lawyer myself (ahem) I am always interested in law awards.

Law Awards (and ranking and directories) tend to play to the worst elements of confirmation bias from the public.

Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to interpret information in a way that confirms ones pre-existing beliefs or hypothesis. For example, you are sitting on a jet airline waiting to take off on holidays, a man gets on the airplane wearing a pilot’s cap and coat and carrying a large pilot’s case, he appears to be confident and walks into the cockpit and closes the door, you automatically are happy and secure that there is a pilot on board. One does not know if it is a pilot and even if it is a pilot how good that pilot is, he may be the worst pilot in the world. But your confirmation bias has been fulfilled.

Awards for professionals in particular law awards tend to pay into that confirmation bias.

Law awards (also rankings and directories for example, Chambers and Best Lawyers) do have an influence on clients when they are deciding whether or not to retain a solicitor.

A recent poll showed that 96% of clients indicated that recommendations from sources that they trust is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to pick a law firm.  However 67% of clients said that rankings and awards were a factor when picking a law firm.

Lawyers are not stupid and/or slow to spend money (well most lawyers) so the fact that lawyers invest in these awards and rankings services shows they are value for money especially when clients refer to these ranking and awards when deciding to retain a Solicitor..

Recently the Better Business Bureau (an American service incorporated to fostering a responsible relationship between businesses and consumers) recently issued a memo advising consumers to question the value of so called “top lawyer awards” when selecting a lawyer. The Better Business Bureau believes that many of these honours often used by lawyers in advertising on their websites are no more than vanity awards and may have little to do with the lawyers standing or professional ability.

In other words, these awards are often used to play into a confirmation buyout.

Most of these awards are genuine and valid and most lawyers and law firms genuinely deserve the law awards they win. The next time someone is selecting a law firm based on  the awards they win they should make sure that the neither the awards nor the law firm are fake!!

By Simon Carty of Crowley Millar Solicitors.