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RollOnFriday's fake firm scoops legal awards
23 February 2018
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A fake Nigerian law firm invented by RollOnFriday has won two legal awards.

RollOnFriday has a proud history of baiting legal awards companies. At the end of last year RoF's Jamie Hamilton was honoured with a 'Game Changers' award by Finance Monthly after he nominated himself as a Cypriot water taxi entrepreneur. Finance Monthly maintained that he had actually been nominated by other parties for his sterling journalism. So RollOnFriday created a website, www.abiolalaw.com, for a fictional firm called FLF Abiola & Co. It claimed to specialise in film financing law and gave a false address on a real street in Enugu, where Nigeria's 'Nollywood' film industry is based. 'FLF' stood for Fake Law Firm.

 



"That logo looks like a..."

Yes. Yes it does. 

FLF Abiola & Co's
imaginary Managing Partner, Dennis Abiola, nominated it for 'Film Financing Law Firm of the Year in Nigeria' in contests which permitted nominees to invent their own category. To support his entry, Dennis submitted a list of genuine Nigerian films for which he claimed FLF Abiola & Co had structured funding.

Two legal awards companies, Corporate INTL and Finance Monthly, responded. Corporate INTL's awards secretary emailed Dennis in December to confirm that FLF Abiola & Co had been shortlisted in the Corporate INTL 2018 Global Awards. He claimed that its "research department"  had "conducted extensive reviews" and had produced "a shortlist of candidates for your award category".

Finance Monthly's Award Manager sent a similar email informing Dennis that his firm was in the running for the Finance Monthly Law Awards 2018. He said that "only categories with a sufficient number of votes" were considered for shortlisting, which he claimed "involves examining and verifying all documentation and supporting text provided". However, he warned, "although the shortlist has been finalised" the winners "have not yet been decided". 

Despite the fierce competition and rigorous checks, in January FLF Abiola & Co was crowned 'Film Financing Law Firm of the Year in Nigeria - 2018' by both Finance Monthly and Corporate INTL, even though it did not exist.

 
Victory

At the same time as they congratulated Dennis, the companies attempted to sell him advertising space in their awards magazines. When Dennis asked Finance Monthly if they would include him for free the company stopped replying to his emails. However, when he expressed interest in Corporate INTL's cheapest package, it requested the firm's logo and his picture for publication. He was happy to provide them:

  Is that Danny Glover, no it's Dennis Abiola.

His submission was accepted and, smelling desperation, 'Dennis' haggled Corporate INTL down from £300 to £100 for the featured profile. Then his fake brother Joseph Abiola intervened and asked to pay in cash. When Corporate INTL agreed and told him to send the envelope to an address in Birmingham, he withdrew, expressing fears that Corporate INTL was not a legitimate operation."I am deeply ashamed", he emailed Corporate INTL. "One of our backers has forbidden the firm from paying for this service due to fears of illegitimacy...Sadly the UK has a reputation here in Nigeria for perpetrating sophisticated frauds on our citizens. Yours in Christ". Corporate INTL's awards manager replied, "I would ask you to simply Google ‘Corporate INTL Awards’ and you will literally see hundreds of professional advisory firms from around the world commemorating their success in our Awards. Your Managing Partner can surely distinguish our brand and legitimacy by simply doing a few minutes research on our business?"


When RollOnFriday disclosed the investigation to Corporate INTL this week, a spokesman said, 
"It’s disappointing that your organisation would go to this trouble to undermine confidence in our brand and to damage the integrity of the legal profession". He said, "We will concede that there has been a breakdown in the due diligence/judging phase of our awards programme, however there are clearly mitigating circumstances and ultimately the award will have never been published. Even if FLF Abiola & Co did exist there would be no record anywhere of their winning this award".

"Certain locations and practice areas are very difficult to source extensive information on, such as ‘Film Finance in Nigeria’...If a law firm puts themselves forward for an award and has what looks like a legitimate website, then they will be considered, why wouldn’t they be?" He said, "I’d advise you spend some of your time entrapping the real problem publishers and not companies like our own".

Andrew Palmer, the director of Finance Monthly, did not respond to requests for comment. A
fter the water taxi episode he told RollOnFriday, "Please refrain from ever contacting me, or any other person at Universal Media ever again".
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Comments

Feel free to enter your comments on the news story below, subject to our terms and conditions. Please note that comments are subject to moderation and so will not appear immediately.

Please keep it nice. Thanks.

anonymous user
23/02/2018 08:27
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Loving your work here
anonymous user
23/02/2018 08:49
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Heh, careful though buddy.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 08:53
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'Nigerian Chef Kiss'
anonymous user
23/02/2018 09:19
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This is the funniest thing I have read so far this year.

I am endlessly approached by these sorts organisations claiming that I've been nominated for awards in sectors in which I don't even work. Well done on shining a light on this.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 09:27
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At least RoF is doing something about these charlatans, unlike our illustrious Law Soc and SRA (who are no doubt busy creaming in these fake awards).

Yours in Christ
(and my word must be good because I've been shortlisted as a Lawyer Monthly Women in Law finalist for which the sole criteria is being a woman in law)
anonymous user
23/02/2018 09:52
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This is great. Well done, ROF, for taking the trouble to show what a load of self-inflating cock-and-bull so many of these fake awards are.

What does it say about the SRA and Law Society that they have never thought to pick up on these 'awards', many of which are used to tout services to unsuspecting clients? The whole thing gives the profession a bad (worse?) name.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 10:09
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What were the "mitigating circumstances"? And what does he mean by "the award will have never been published"?
anonymous user
23/02/2018 10:16
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Absolutely sensational work. My favourite part of the entire piece is the manufactured outrage produced when they were called on their own bullsh*t.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 10:17
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Brilliant.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 11:06
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Awesome work, Roll On Friday. I can see why you were nominated for your sterling journalism.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 11:20
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If you Google "Corporate INTL" and the name of almost any law firm you can think of, you'll find at least one hit. Normally it's some shameless individual lawyer or departmental head who presumably managed to scooch the proposal past inattentive marketing bods.

I giggled to see my last firm, which is actually a decent outfit, proudly bruiting that their Life Sciences team has won the Corporate INTL Award five years running! FIVE YEARS RUNNING. They must be awesome.
Lydia
23/02/2018 12:50
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This was the best line

"One of our backers has forbidden the firm from paying for this service due to fears of illegitimacy...Sadly the UK has a reputation here in Nigeria for perpetrating sophisticated frauds on our citizens. Yours in Christ".

I stopped even bothering with the legitmate directories over 15 years ago even though genuinely nominated. I just can't be bothered. I give input if a barrister wants me to who is being researched by a legit one
Bentines
23/02/2018 13:09
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very heh-worthy. nice work.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 13:46
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This made my day. Absolutely top drawer.
anonymous user
23/02/2018 18:47
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In Manchester they have loads of these “your turn, no your turn” nonsense awards sponsored by.......this year’s winner. It is beyond pathetic.
anonymous user
26/02/2018 07:56
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"I’d advise you spend some of your time entrapping the real problem publishers and not companies like our own"

These companies produce "awards". Those seeking legal services spend their hard-earned cash on hiring what they perceive to be the right law firm for them. For non-sophisticated users (and for sophisticated users, to be fair), seeing that a firm has won ANY award is going to be a big influence on their perception of that firm.

As these people literally sell awards to the highest bidder and promote firms who may well not be the best in their field (or may not even exist???), how is it not a "real problem" if this influences which law firms people go to? The whole awards business and chummy back-slapping in the legal profession stinks.

From an associate at an award winning firm.
anonymous user
26/02/2018 10:29
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Is Womble Bond Dickinson a made up law firm?
anonymous user
02/03/2018 15:26
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Great work guys, but you are not the only ones. The jokes department at FLF Harneys are deep "fun-dercover", and their thought-leadership is clearly closely aligned with your own: http://www.harneys.com/news/press-releases/offshore-litigation-lawyer-of-the-year-in-england---phillip-kite
anonymous user
07/03/2018 18:45
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And now in the national press: https://www.theguardian.com/law/shortcuts/2018/mar/02/flf-abiola-the-award-winning-law-firm-that-doesnt-exist
  

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