Lawyers of Distinction Scam Resurfaces In 2022

Why’d you fall for it, Rex?

Lawyers of distinction is back with its advertisements congratulating its newest 2022 members. One of them is Rex White, Esq., a criminal defense and family law attorney in Salem, OR.

An Oct. 1, 2022 ad in the Sunday New York Times, “Congratulations to the Newest 2022 Lawyers of Distinction”, featured White and lawyers from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, France, Puerto Rico, Switzerland and even one from Vietnam. Another ad in the same issue congratulated 39 “2022 Power Lawyers”. 

Impressed? Don’t be. 

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. 

According to the Orlando, FL-based organization’s website, a Charter Membership, for $475 a year, comes with a “Customized 14″ x 11″ genuine rosewood plaque”. A Featured Membership, for $575 a year, brings the plaque and inclusion in a membership roster published in USA Today, The New York Times, The American Lawyer and the National Law Journal.

Then there’s the super-duper Distinguished Membership, for $775 per year (described on the organization’s website as “Most Popular”), which brings the rosewood plaque, the membership roster ads and an 11″ tall translucent personalized crystal statue.

All of it is for attorneys, including 24 in Oregon, who apparently want to embellish their credentials by deceiving the public.

It’s like diploma mills, companies or organizations that claim to be a higher education institution, 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 pay for “Lawyers of Distinction” memberships as well as members of the public who are misled by them. 

The Lawyers of Distinction website describes the application review process: 

“Lawyers of Distinction Members have been selected based upon a review and vetting process by our Selection Committee utilizing U.S. Provisional Patent # 62/743,254. The platform qenerates a numerical score of 1 to 5 for each of the 12 enumerated factors which are meant to recognize the applicant’s achievements and peer recognition. Members are then subject to a final review for ethical violations within the past ten years before confirmation of Membership. Nomination does not guarantee membership and attorneys may not pay a fee to be nominated. Attorneys may nominate their peers whom they feel warrant consideration. The determination of whether an attorney qualifies for Membership is based upon the aforementioned proprietary analysis discussed above.”

Phew! Sounds complex and rigorous. 

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.

Conrad Saam, president of Mockingbird Marketing in Seattle, tested the membership vetting process by applying for membership as his child’s pet chicken, Zippy. “Surely their ‘rigorous review process’ would disqualify a 3 1/2 month old Golden Wyandotte,” he theorized.  

Saam started by getting an email address for Zippy through Yahoo. Then he used an alias to nominate Zippy DeShickeen. He quickly received notification that Zippy had been nominated, but he chose not to send in the membership fee.  

“Surely they wanted to know more information about Zippy.  What about the background checks?  Independent Research? and Zippys scholarly writings?  Verdicts… Settlements…. Bar Certifications?  Surely that would follow in the next phase of the process; at a minimum, LOD would want to know what state Zippy was licensed in? a bar number? or a release to perform the background check?  Some of her awards?  Some bio information? But alas, the application required nothing more than a name, address and a domain.”

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 B. Baker, at the same address, is listed as the President in the company’s 2020 Annual Report. 

Robert Baker

But don’t go to the office address expecting to be ushered into a space with a clean, modern aesthetic that communicates success. The address is only a virtual office.

“These Orlando virtual offices are perfectly located on Millennia Blvd., offering a fantastic office location and recognisable (sic) business address without the cost of renting a full-time office space.,” its website says. “Virtual office users benefit from a local phone number, receptionist call answering services, and a mail handling facility, and can even visit the premises for meeting room rental or day office usage whenever the need arises.”

Robert “Robbie” Brian Baker, a member of the Florida Bar (Bar #992460), is also the founder and owner of Baker Legal Team at 2255 Glades Rd., Ste 330-W, Boca Raton, FL 33431. According to the Baker Legal Team website, he has a degree from Boston University School of Law in 1989 and a B.A. from Ithaca College. 

As an aside, the firm’s website has the chutzpah to highlight that it’s a member of Lawyers of Distinction. 

Lawyers of Distinction’s website says it currently has over 5000 members. If 5000 lawyers sign up for the Distinguished category at $775 this year, the organization will rake in $3.9 million. Quite a haul.

Lawyers of Distinction tries to quell doubts about its legitimacy by including on its website a section headed, “Is Lawyers of Distinction A Scam? With Over 5000 Members, See What Lawyers Have To Say.” But all the section contains are a few member comments and ratings, such as, “Andre L. Pennington – June 20, 2022, I love the opportunities that this honor provides. I highly recommend!”

It’s likely that few attorneys have been duped by Lawyers of Distinction, lured into believing they’ve been selected for a rare honor based on their legal work. They must figure that impressing potential clients is worth the chronic mendacity and deception.

But the widespread use of Lawyers of Distinction by American attorneys really just represents the decay of honest professional representation. If the American Bar Association  and state bar associations really cared about lawyers’ clients they would be cracking down on such misleading marketing ploys.

And if an attorney ballyhoos their selection as a Lawyer of Distinction to you, beware. They are living in a world of unearned praise.

Lawyers of Distinction: the Scam Continues

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. 

4700 Millenia Blvd., Orlando, FL

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

Deed fraud alert: don’t be a sucker

sucker

There’s a sucker born every minute, said  P. T. Barnum. That’s what the folks behind Records Recovery Services must figure.

A letter came today that looked kind of official. From “Records Recovery Services”, it boldly announced it was “IMPORTANT PROPERTY INFORMATION TO BE OPENED BY ADDRESSEE ONLY”.

deedletter

Sorry, I ripped it up.

It looks legitimate. You’d probably open it. But if you get one of these, just rip it up and put it in your recycling bin. It’s a scam.

Often sent to new homeowners, the letter inside asks that you send a check for $87 to Records Recovery Services at a Portland address for a copy of the deed to your home. “Respond by —“ the letter urges.

The problem is you if you want another copy of your deed, you can get it through your county clerk’s office for just a few dollars. In Clackamas County, for example, they will send it to you for $4 plus 25 cents a page or you can go to the County Clerk’s office and make a copy yourself for 25 cents total.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s Corporation Division lists Records Recovery Services LLC’s principal place of business as 5305 River Rd N., Suite B, Keizer, OR and the company’s manager, registered agent and owner as Vanesa Guerrero at 6312 S.W. Capitol Highway, #1021.

deedaddress

The Portland “office” of Records Recovery Services, a UPS mailbox on Capitol Hwy.

By the way, the Better Business Bureau has given Records Recovery Services an F rating because of complaints filed against it.

So don’t be a sucker.

 

 

 

Scam alert! Want to win an award? Buy one.

You know how kids today get awards for just showing up?

awardsforeveryone

Now everybody can get an award for their business or non-profit, too…for a price.

The congratulatory e-mail received by the Hillsboro non-profit where I work was completely unexpected. “You’ve been selected for the 2014 Best of Hillsboro Awards,” it said. “For details and more information please view our website…”

The website said the non-profit could celebrate its success by choosing an award plaque, an aluminum plaque for $149.99, a crystal award for $199.99, or, if the non-profit really wanted to go all out, both for $229.98.

The e-mail even came with a pre-written press release we could use to announce the award.

But the award notices are little more than extortion. They’re from an awards mill that blankets the country with similar pitches.

It’s hard to figure out exactly who’s profiting from the scam. In the message from the company there’s reference to the “Hillsboro Award Program”, which is defined as “an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Hillsboro area…(that) exemplify the best of small business…”

But the “Hillsboro Award Program” is a fiction.

I tried their Contact Us link, which offered me an e-mail form. I sent an e-mail asking for more information on the parent company, but got no response.

What is clear is that an awful lot of folks who crave praise have been duped into participating in the “Best of” awards program, or have promoted their award to dupe their customers.

Companies across the U.S. trumpet their “Best of” awards, including: Generations Family Practice in Reston, VA; Newman IT Solutions of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Christopher Styles Barber Spa of Los Angeles; Karma Dog Training of Austin, TX; and Scotty’s Transmissions of Sparks, NV.

 

PlaqueBlue_png_lg_cc_DDY-7Q92-MWDD (2)

A quick Google search found almost 10,000 announcements by companies that they had won one of these self congratulatory “Best of” awards, each company likely picked at random from a phone book or business directory. In each case, the notification came from the “ (name of town) Award Program”. No parent company that runs the national program is identified.

The company’s website says it is “D&B Rated”, but doesn’t give any information that would allow a curious person to secure a Dun & Bradstreet report on it, such as its business name and location. The website also says the company is an active member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but without a business name that can’t be verified. Repeated inquiries to the company asking for information that would allow verification of its D&B and Chamber connections were not answered.

This particular award scam is similar to ones carried out by the U.S. Commerce Association, US Local Business Association, the United States Trade and Commerce Institute (USTCI), and US Institute for Excellence in Commerce. In fact, the suggested press release, website content and other elements of the “Best of” awards are just about identical with what these organizations have put out.

So if your business or non-profit gets one of these award scams, chuck it in the trash. All that glitters is not gold.