Trial of Off-Duty NYPD Officer

Don’t Be Fooled by Phony Awards for Legal Excellence

June 6, 2018

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

Have you visited a lawyer’s website and thought, “Look at all of the awards he has earned! He must be a great lawyer!” He or she has badges from the American Academy of Trial Attorneys, the National Academy of DUI Attorneys, National Trial Lawyers, the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys, or other similarly-named organizations.

So this lawyer must be good, right?

Not always. While there are some great attorneys out there who have earned such accolades, often times attorneys pay to put badges on their websites to attract potential clients like you., a popular legal blog, calls it “the Lawyer Ego Industry.”


A recent email received by John D. Pappalardo about how he could be a “Top-Rated Lawyer.”


Each day, most attorneys receive emails from companies who give out “awards” for a fee. There’s usually an extra charge for the badge the lawyer can put on his or her website, and often times there’s an expensive plaque or trophy that can be ordered that the attorney can put in his or her office. One blog posted about how a dog named Lucy Davis earned her place in a listing called Lawyers of Distinction.


Are Any Legal Awards Legitimate?

One company, Super Lawyers, publishes an attorney directory on its website and in magazines it mails out to the masses. While an attorney must be nominated by another person in the legal field for inclusion on the list and Super Lawyers doesn’t charge a fee to be listed, it is worth noting that Super Lawyers is a for-profit company owned by Thomson Reuters. For example, the company charges fees for attorneys to promote themselves on the Super Lawyers directory.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of companies selling badges, plaques, and trophies in order to make lawyers look good to potential clients. When you see such “awards,” you’d be advised to check into what it takes to qualify for it. A quick Google search may give you the information you need.

Would you be fooled by this Certificate of Achievement? (This is not a real certificate and was created for illustrative purposes only)


What the Better Business Bureau Has to Say

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has warned consumers about the use of such legal awards. “BBB believes many of these honors – often used by attorneys in advertising or on their websites – are no more than vanity awards, and may have little to do with a lawyer’s standing or professional ability.  In several cases, the organizations making the awards require that the honoree purchase a plaque, trophy or membership package.” BBB lists several such companies who refused to answer questions about their award practices. You can read their article here:


What Should I Look For In Terms of Legal Accolades?

One of the best indicators of a well-respected attorney in his or her community are awards and honors given by state and local bar associations or other legal groups. For example, the New York State Bar Association gives out a professionalism award, an award for outstanding lawyer in a given field, diversity awards, and many others. The Westchester County Bar Association has a Foundation which gives an award for excellence, and the New York City Bar Association also gives out several awards each year.

On June 8, 2018, John J. Pappalardo – senior and founding partner of Pappalardo & Pappalardo, LLP – will receive the Honorable Richard J. Daronco Distinguished Service Award from the Columbian Lawyers Association of Westchester. The award is presented to a man or woman of Italian heritage who has made a significant contribution to the bench or bar and who has been an outstanding example and asset to the Italian-American community at large. Past recipients of this honor include Governor Andrew Cuomo, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, and many other judges and attorneys in the Westchester legal community.