Awards are catnip for lawyers. We like praise. And unless you’re a prosecutor or civil defense attorney, you do not often get it from judges or appellate courts. And, even when you win the case, you can be hard pressed to receive it from clients. And yet we lawyers hold ourselves in very high regard.
So, there is an industry out there that exploits the lawyer mindset. We shall call it the Lawyer Award Industrial Complex. We must be careful in discussing the Lawyer Award Industrial Complex to our fellow lawyers, particularly after they have been named as a recipient of a lawyer award. We are often blissfully unaware of the workings of the lawyer award industry, and our egos are fragile. Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. And, yes, R. Rex Smith, III, you are, indeed, the most distinguished practitioner of real estate closings in the entire Southeast for this decade. The award proves it.
If you do not yet know what I am talking about, there are whole companies out there that exist to award lawyers. I could not possibly name them all. The industry leader is Super Lawyers. There is also Best Lawyers. Every year or so, I receive a letter in the mail notifying me that I have been named to some sort of list. I cannot remember the name of it, but it is out of Dothan, Alabama, which I was unaware served as any sort of headquarters of a lawyer hall of fame. For a Georgian, “having arrived” in Dothan has generally meant that you are getting closer to Panama City.
Once you are the recipient of a lawyer award, you wait for the other shoe to drop. Sometimes, the shoe is that you must pay the award company to have your name included in their directory. Or the shoe is that your name will go on the directory/magazine/brochure, but in tiny letters you can only see with an electron microscope. But you can pay to have your name printed bigger in that publication, all the way to a full-page ad or the cover. And there are other things you can purchase. They will sell you certificates and lacquered plaques for your waiting room or the “love me” wall of your office just behind the high backed leather chair.
I was recently in court where a judge was hearing habeas matters. And a trial lawyer was on the stand being questioned by the habeas lawyer on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The Assistant Attorney General then had the lawyer on cross. And the AAG’s first question to rehabilitate the lawyer on cross was “Isn’t it true that you’re a Super Lawyer?” I almost spit the water I was drinking out in a South Georgia courtroom as I thought “is that all you got?”
Now to my story. Yesterday I learned of a more subtle entrant to the Lawyer Award Industrial Complex. A publication that I read and respect notified me that I had received an award and would be honored at an upcoming dinner at a downtown Atlanta hotel. If you know me and have read what I regularly write here, you will know that I am often skeptical and always deeply neurotic (in a charming way). I emailed a reporter at the publication to ask if this was all legit. Some lawyers I respect were also named, but then there were mainly big Atlanta law firm names I recognized. Though I did not know the names of the individual recipients who were going to receive awards. I was re-assured in response that this was an honor for my outstanding leadership and results from 2016. I ran a marathon in 2016. But otherwise 2016 feels to me in retrospect like a fairly ordinary year. But this newspaper says that it was an extraordinary year. So, I declared it also to be so.
Then today I received an email. While my ticket to attend the event where I am to be honored is free, it will cost $650 ($650!) for any guest I would like to bring with me. I thought that a $650 plate of food also included the purchase of a political candidate.Or for a cool few thousand bucks I can purchase a whole table. And virtually everything else about the event is for sale. I can pay to give introductory remarks, to have my name on the napkins, or anything else one might imagine.
The other shoe dropped. Congratulations to me.