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Don’t Fall for Spammy Lawyer Awards and Rankings Submissions

Do this instead …

By Laura Ernde

For lawyers who have seen a drop-off in legal work due to COVID-19, here’s some good news. You now have an opportunity to attend to marketing and business development activities that too often have been pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. But a few words of caution.

  • No 1: Focus on helping people and not making sales. Remember, we are still in the middle of a pandemic that has upended people’s lives.
  • No. 2: Don’t be tempted to shortcut your efforts by signing up for one of the many unreputable lawyer awards and rankings services.

Pay-to-Play Lawyer Awards and Ranking Schemes Have Mushroomed

It’s been well documented that hundreds of lawyer awards and rankings services have sprouted up like weeds in recent years. Of course, many are run by venerable legal publishers like ALM and trustworthy research companies like Chambers and Partners.

But for every respectable award or ranking, there are dozens more that are strictly pay-to-play scams. A law firm website design company, FirmWise, keeps a running tab of them on this Google spreadsheet.

These pitches usually arrive in the attorney’s inbox with a note congratulating the attorney for winning the award or being selected for a particular honor. Scratch the surface and you’ll find it costs hundreds of dollars or more to claim the “prize.” Usually, there’s little to no information about the selection criteria or the people affiliated with the website.

Scammers seem to be getting more sophisticated, invoking the names of reputable people and organizations to gain credibility. Some title their awards to sound strikingly similar to a reputable legal publication. Others will hijack the names of well-known lawyers in a particular field in an attempt to prove legitimacy. In fact, I talked to one marketing director who confirmed that she never gave a certain website permission to use the attorney’s name. Worse, the website refused to remove the lawyer’s profile when asked.

And once you sign up for one of these spammy awards, be prepared for your email inbox to overflow with similar offers. This can happen once you are on their “radar.”

Ideas That Don’t Involve Lawyer Awards and Rankings

When it comes to marketing your practice or law firm, there’s no “magic bullet” that will earn you business. It takes time, effort and consistency to reach your goals. Here are a few quick ideas, given the current climate:

  • Reach out to contacts. Email or phone contacts you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Check in to see how they are coping and how you can help. Again, this is not a sales call, so don’t treat it as such.
  • Start a blog or newsletter. The demand for digital content is higher than ever now. Stick to topics that are designed to provide helpful information to potential clients. A good example? The Google spreadsheet of spammy lawyer awards I mentioned earlier, which has become a go-to source for small firm marketers.   
  • Update your LinkedIn profile. The social media company recently rolled out a new element that allows you to showcase key achievements in a “Featured” section near the top of your profile. You could also ask someone to write you a recommendation. And don’t forget to share content that’s useful to your clients. 

Be careful, my friends. Make sure you not only stay safe in terms of your health but also your reputation. In a profession where trustworthiness means everything, there’s no reason to risk getting involved with one of these scammy websites.

For another perspective, read Ross Fishman’s take on lawyer awards and lists: “Stop Squandering Marketing Dollars on Stupid Superlative Lawyer Lists!

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Laura Ernde Laura Ernde

Laura Ernde is a communications and media relations consultant based in San Francisco. Previously, she was communications director at the State Bar of California and covered the California Supreme Court for the state’s largest legal newspaper. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter @LauraErnde.

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