Premier 100 Trial Attorney - No Thanks By Andrew Mishlove on July 17, 2015

I just received a letter on very fancy stationary, congratulating me for being selected as one of the Premier 100 trial attorneys in Wisconsin, by the American Academy of Trial Attorneys, an organization located in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was signed by a fellow named Steven Clouse. I do not know for sure who he is since he provides no further information about himself; but, a fellow by that name was an administrative employee of a law firm in Arizona until last year. That fellow calls himself an "administrator and entrepreneur" in an online profile.

“Entrepreneur” indeed! He is selling dubious legal credentials.

I wasn’t flattered; I was annoyed. Here is my response to Mr. Clouse:

"Thanks, but no thanks. I appreciate the honor, but I will not pay you a red cent. I believe that what you did was simply surf the internet to find leading DUI lawyers, and then solicit them for your pay-for-play scheme. I have real credentials that I will not demean by using your pay-for-play scheme!"

The first tip that this is phony-baloney: the request that I join the American Academy of Trial Attorneys, for the bargain price of $350.00, plus $50.00 if I want a plaque. No legitimate credentialing organization would ask for a fee in order to get the credential.


It gets worse. I was also invited to do something really shady under Wisconsin law – and that is to spend an extra $150.00 to purchase a membership in a "Specialty Association." Wisconsin has very strict rules about claiming specialization. In Wisconsin, only an attorney board-certified by a board accredited by the American Bar Association may claim to be a "specialist" or use any derivative of the word "specialty" in marketing material. Any attorney who violates this rule is subject to discipline. So, the American Academy of Trial Attorneys invited me to violate my state’s ethics rules -- for a fee of $150.00.

dui-credentialsI did a little checking. A visit to the website of this so-called organization contains little or no information on any person involved in it. All of the photos are stock photos of models. Of course, there are many solicitations on the website to "pay your dues."

I googled the address: 6424 E. Greenway Pkwy, Suite 100, Scottsdale, Arizona. This is an office building that provides month-to-month desk space for various businesses. More concerning, however, is that it also lists to a business that markets "virtual office space." In other words, this may be nothing more than a mail-drop.

I have previously blogged about the proliferation of dubious legal credential mills. There are now many of them. Some of the lawyers who use them have real credentials and should know better. These organizations exist in order to do a couple of things: first, to provide money to the "entrepreneurs" who run them; and second, to allow lawyers to appear to have better credentials than they actually possess.

If you are a member of the public and are looking for a lawyer, I suggest being very, very skeptical of these type of credentials. See my previous blog post Real Credentials, Baloney Credentials, and Those In-Between for a guide on how to wade through this stuff.

If you are an attorney, especially an attorney practicing DUI defense, please do not demean our great profession by paying for these credentials. Take the time, spend the money, and obtain real credentials from legitimate, accredited organizations like the National College for DUI Defense.

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