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Taking a Closer Look at Attorney Awards and Evaluations

Judge's gavel and trophy on white background. Symbol for jurisdiction. Law concept a wooden judges gavel on table in a courtroom or law enforcement office

When you’re in the market for an attorney to represent you in a Texas divorce or custody dispute, it can be difficult to know where to begin or who to trust. If you start by simply sifting through the websites of attorneys in your area, you might notice that many attorneys include a list of accolades and awards they’ve earned over the years. While these distinctions may seem impressive at first, it’s important to remain somewhat skeptical and investigate the origin of each of those awards. Some are not as meaningful as they initially appear. Learn more below about how some of these awards work and how to tell whether an award is something more than a marketing tactic.

How to find out whether an award is more than just an advertisement

Figuring out whether an attorney award is an indication of skill or success isn’t always simple, but by doing a bit of googling and looking for a few important factors, you can get a sense of its legitimacy. Specifically, ask:

  • Does the attorney have to pay to acquire the award? Certain organizations exist solely to send out notices that attorneys have won “awards” that they can only get if they join that association (and pay membership dues). These groups often send out hundreds of letters, hoping for a bite. If only members of a given association can be award winners, this is a bad sign. Note that some associations, such as Avvo or Super Lawyers, offer free positive ratings and awards to attorneys while also offering opportunities for the attorneys to purchase ads with the groups.
  • Can the lawyer nominate themselves? Many lawyer distinction groups, such as Super Lawyers or Best Lawyers, allow for attorneys to nominate others in their field for an award, and while some ban attorneys from nominating themselves, others allow it.
  • Who votes on the award? Look for information on who votes on the nominees, such as former winners of the award. If there is no information on who chooses the winners, then it may simply be the organization handing out the awards to nominees who paid to join.
  • What does a legitimate award look like?

What does a legitimate award look like?

Despite the potential for scams and pay-to-play arrangements, there are attorney awards that do indicate a meaningful distinction. One of the most important features of a meaningful attorney award is that it has been provided through client or peer nomination, rather than simply an ambiguous third party. For example, the annual list of top lawyers published in Houstonia magazine is based on nominations from attorneys in the community. Attorneys who have practiced alongside (or in opposition to) a potential awardee are well-equipped to provide feedback on that attorney’s capability, legal knowledge, and ethics. Another example is Avvo, which uses peer reviews, publications, speaking engagements, and Bar association membership or leadership roles to compose the ratings they assign to attorneys. Avvo also provides a forum for clients to review their attorneys, as well, so you can compare actual client experiences with the lawyer’s reputation in the community.

Contact Houston Attorney Maria S. Lowry with your Family Law Needs

For trustworthy and experienced help with family law matters in Texas, contact the Houston Law Offices of Maria S. Lowry at 713-850-8859.

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