There it was again – – an advertisement in the Sunday New York Times congratulating “Lawyers of Distinction.”
The Feb. 20, 2022 ad, like others in previous years, welcomed the newest honorees. This time there was one from Oregon,Natalie Hedman Esq., a family and divorce lawyer in Gresham. According to the Lawyers of Distinction’s website, Hedman is one of 25 Oregon member lawyers recognized for excellence in the practice of law.*
Sounds impressive, until you dig deeper.
About all that’s required to be named a “Lawyer of Distinction” is to apply yourself or be nominated, fill out some online forms and pay a fee. It’s like diploma mills that claim to be higher education institutions, but only provide illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee.
“There’s a sucker born every minute,” is a phrase often attributed to P. T. Barnum, an American showman. It’s apparently true with respect to the attorneys who buy “Lawyers of Distinction” memberships as well as members of the public who are misled by them.
The Lawyers of Distinction website makes the application and review process sound complex.
According to the website, it includes a review and vetting process by a Selection Committee. That involves an analysis of a candidate’s work, experience and abilities based upon 12 independent criteria using a platform spelled out under U.S. Provisional Patent #62/743,254. Once a final score is generated, an applicant is subjected a final background check and Ethics Review. Applicants who achieve a minimum passing score and have no disqualifying ethical violations within a 10-year period prior to completion of the application are then eligible for acceptance to Lawyers of Distinction.
Sounds tough and thorough.
Don’t believe it.
Essentially, it’s just pay-for-play. It’s selling badges. It’s paying for meaningless accolades. Apply, pay the annual membership fee and you’re in.
According to the Florida Division of Corporations, “Lawyers of Distinction Inc.” is a private for-profit company with a principal address of 4700 Millenia Boulevard, Suite 175, Orlando, FL 32839.
Robert (Robbie) Brian Baker at the same address is listed as the President in the company’s 2020 Annual Report. But don’t go there expecting to be ushered into an office with a clean, modern aesthetic that communicates success. The address is identified online as nothing more than an “Orlando Virtual Business Address & Live Receptionist Answering Service.”
Lawyers of Distinction is a sign of the overabundance of lawyers, leading some to try to elevate themselves with impressive, but meaningless, awards. The ads the organization places in multiple publications are fake news at its most blatant and deceptive.
Some lawyers may want the Lawyers of Distinction plaque on their wall to bolster their self-esteem, even though in their heart they know the plaque is meaningless piece of junk. Maybe they want to add a plaque to their office brag wall. Maybe the “honor” adds glamour to what some lawyers describe as mind-numbing work.
Whatever their reasons for signing up, Hedman and the other 24 Oregon lawyers, including one on the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors, who are lauded as Lawyers of Distinction shouldn’t be proud; they should be embarrassed.
*Lawyers listed as “Top Rated Lawyers in Oregon” and “Charter Members” on Distinquished Lawyers website
GREGORY ABEL, Medford
LYLE BOSKET, Salem
BONNIE CAFFERKY CARTER, Portland
B. NICHOEL CASEY, Tualatin
BRYAN DONAHUE, Bend
KEVIN EIKE, Portland
JULIA FOLLANSBEE, Bend
ANDY GREEN, Portland
EDWIN HARNDEN, Portland
RANDY HARVEY, Sherwood
NATALIE HEDMAN, Gresham
JUSTIN JOHNSON, Hillsboro
MYAH KEHOE, Portland
SUSAN LAIN, Lake Oswego
GEORGE MCCOY, Portland
TARA MILLAN, White City
MARISA MONEYHUN, Portland
USMAN MUGHAL, Lake Oswego
ILENE M. MUNK, Portland
JOHN PARSONS, Portland
RONNIE SAYER, Salem
JASON SHORT, Salem
COREY SMITH, Salem
JASON THOMPSON, Salem
TIM WILLIAMS, Bend