award retired

ROF recommends checking on elderly relatives who may have been targeted by companies offering legal awards.

A business which gives out awards of questionable value to lawyers has outdone itself by selecting a winner who retired 15 years ago. 

Sally Walters received an email from Lawyer Monthly last week informing her that she had been “confirmed as the outright winner of a 2020 Lawyer Monthly Legal Award”. 

Walters was a lawyer working for local government in the US until she retired in 2005.

“I disability retired from the State of Ohio after serving as an Assistant Attorney General“, Walters told RollOnFriday. “Since then, I have only handled matters for my immediate family and close no cost to them”.

Lawyer Monthly told Walters that her victory was the result of a rigorous selection process. It said her nomination had been put forward by its editorial panel, then voted on by the Lawyer Monthly readership. Next, Walters was allegedly selected for a shortlist based on factors including her recent “Impact” (zero, she retired in 2005), “Client recommendations“ (see above), “Innovation” (n/a) and “Evidence of going above and beyond their call of duty” (none). Finally, a judging panel apparently gave her a score based on her achievements in her role “during the past 12-18 months”. 

Walters' achievements in her role during the last 12-18 months, and the preceding 13 and a half years, have been limited. Nonetheless, Lawyer Monthly gave her an award allegedly developed to celebrate "rising stars within law”. 

But don’t call the judges’ credibility (or existence) into question. In its email, Lawyer Monthly reassured a skeptical Walters that, “As experts in their industries with vast experience in their own careers, the esteemed judges are well-equipped to effectively critique the work of their peers”.

Strangely, Lawyer Monthly doesn’t publish the identities of its judges, and declined to disclose them to RollOnFriday.

“Of course, they are seeking money”, added Walters, who said that the Lawyer Monthly type of operation (she used a more perjorative term) “really needs to be brought to a halt”. 

The company offered her packages to celebrate her victory which ranged from half a page in a digital magazine for $775, to a four page biography with her name on the cover for a wallet-busting $3,250. Naturally, she could also order a trophy for $375, and a framed certificate for $390, should her ego wall demand it.

Certain corners of the awards industry have been criticised for a business model which involves being paid by professionals to supply evidence of prizes of questionable legitimacy, which can then be used to convince potential clients of the lawyer’s expertise.

Lawyer Monthly is owned by Universal Media, a company registered in Tamworth and owned and run by a pair of brothers, Andrew and Mark Palmer. 

It is not the first time the Palmers’ vetting process has been called into question. Finance Monthly, another awards magazine in their stable, made the national news in 2018 when it named FLF Abiola & Co, a fake entity created by RollOnFriday, as 'Nigerian Film Financing Law Firm of the Year', despite the firm's Managing Partner bearing an uncanny resemblance to Danny Glover. Even after the hoax was revealed, Mr Abiola kept getting invited to buy a trophy.

The Palmers may need all the cash they can get. When Parity Media, the last company they used to run their awards empire, collapsed into administration in 2016 owing £499,000 to unsecured creditors, the Palmers walked away from its debts by purchasing the assets for £50,000 in a pre-pack administration deal.

However, Parity Media's administration was extended multiple times, and the administrators’ most recent report filed at Companies House reveals they are looking into a "possible tax avoidance scheme", and are waiting for Counsel's opinion on the merits of the claims against the Palmers. 

The prize-giving siblings did not respond to a request for comment.

Abiola said, "I welcome Sarah to this exclusive winner's club, only accessible to anyone with an email address".

Tip Off ROF


TeeBow 30 October 20 08:45

Like the Legal 500 this year...citing David Roylance ...who retired 3 years ago...

Emma 30 October 20 09:30

They told me I won an award in 2017 and kept the game going when I called to say I worked at The Lawyer and was not actually a lawyer....Was rather tempted to buy the trophy for giggles though.

Dear Emma,

I am delighted to inform you that you have been selected for a Lawyer Monthly – Women in Law 2017 Award in recognition of your outstanding legal expertise and contribution within the practice area of Media . 

Lawyer Monthly offer you our warmest congratulations on your achievement and kindly ask for your immediate assistance as we are now in the process of formulating the Women in Law Awards 2017 publication and producing bespoke trophies to commemorate the winners.

All nominations have now been validated and our research team can verify that you have been identified and honoured for a Women in Law 2017 Award. The research team have highlighted a number of your achievements over the last 18 months.

Dearie 30 October 20 09:39

Let’s not forget the now annual smug-fest of lawyers preening on LinkedIn with their oh-so humble brags at a mention in Legal500 or LawSoc awards. Literally everyone is in it now. Should we just have one massive prize day like at school and get it done with?

Anonymous 30 October 20 09:54

We have a consultant who retired two years ago and is doing one small case as a "hobby" but is still in the Legal 500 "Hall of Fame". It's compiled by 16-year olds.

Previous employee of Chambers & Partners 30 October 20 10:16

Previously worked at Chambers & Partners as a researcher, before they were purchased from Mr Chambers by  PE company so perhaps things have slid a little. It wasn't perfect but it was streets ahead of even Legal500 in terms of the time, effort and integrity that goes into the process.  

Cue, probably valid, criticisms of Chambers. 

Previous researcher 30 October 20 10:41

The directories are by no means perfect, but in defence of the researchers, they're inundated with reams of information and submissions from the law firms. Mistakes happen and names will slip through the net. When these are pointed out, they're quickly dealt with. It's a far cry from the borderline fraudulent activities mentioned in the main story.

Anon 30 October 20 11:15

These directories and the legal awards are utter horseshit. Everyone knows that. Utter horseshit. 

Anonymous 30 October 20 12:00

I’m gutted. I’ve had one of these emails before. I thought I’d made it. I mean, I’m not a lawyer so it came as something of a surprise but even so. 
RoF has ruined my Friday. A shattering blow to my self-esteem.

Thanks RoF! 

Tom 30 October 20 13:58

@ Emma 30 October 20 09:30

I got the same "Lawyer Monthly – Women in Law 2017 Award" email. I am a lawyer, however not a woman.

But I'll take what I can get. 



Anonymous 30 October 20 15:47

@Tom haha that's brilliant. I asked my MD if he'd buy me the trophy at the time and he said no. Gutted!

Big Law 30 October 20 17:36

There are a number of pay-to-play awards. What is really fun is checking their websites for mediocre lawyers (even at good firms) touting such prizes on their firm CV. 

One would hope that the marketing teams would weed them out...(“No Mr/Ms Unsuccessful per our policy we don’t put that on our website.”)



Anon 31 October 20 07:56

There are partners at my firm who happily publicise these pay-to-play awards but everyone knows they are meaningless. And as for the directories! There are partners at my shop who have no practice to speak of and who haven’t done a deal in a decade yet are ranked higher in the directories than some of their fellow partners who have great practices and are doing notable deals; they just engage in shameless self-promotion. Associates see through the fiction of the directories and know which partners are credible and who they want to work for. Clients also know which partners are the go to lawyers.

Amused 31 October 20 09:10

I work for a firm now that has ceased to make any submission to the Directories. Their argument is that we win no business through them so why bother? The reality is there is no integrity to the process. I was ranked for years and now no longer exist! Has anyone ever won business through being ranked?

NeverGotAnAward 31 October 20 17:35

@Amused - I think the problem is that laterals use them to judge if they are jumping ship to a better outfit and they do get used (officially or otherwise) in scoring for procurement processes. You may never know that, and until you do, it's better to play the tiresome game....


Anonymous 31 October 20 17:44

If you ever needed an illustration of how meaningless these awards are - erstwhile golden turd holder Shoosmiths won National Firm of the Year in 2019. Yes: *Shoosmiths*, which isn't even a national firm anyway - it's a provincial firm with about 10 lawyers in its London nameplate office (and when I last visited, they didn't even have the nameplate...)

Anonymous 31 October 20 17:55

Irwin Mitchell proudly announce: "2nd Highest UK Litigation Turnover 2020 (Ranked)The Lawyer". 

Funny though, when I read this, I heard in my head: "We are a bulk PI outfit with school-leavers running hundreds of cases each plugged into a case management system. We aren't really lawyers any more and the processes control the human beings, rather than the other way round. The human beings in an uncomfortable, overlit open-plan, hot-desking environment are a cost with which we will ultimately dispense. We are the dystopic future of law. Look and weep".

IM are truly the Millwall of law firms - "no-one like us, we don't care".

Anonymous 31 October 20 21:46

Heh. "No-one likes us, we don't care" sung to the tune of Rod Stewart's Sailing. Could be the anthem for SPB's partners as well.

King Arthur 01 November 20 17:28

Both directories are a complete and utter joke whose so called “researchers” are clearly clueless about the practice areas, market and lawyers they are producing write ups on. There is a so called leading construction lawyer in the Midlands who literally no one has a good word to say about for years as the man is a clown yet year after year he is listed as a leading individual even though he is now semi retired and has been intellectually since he started practicing the law. The rankings never change and don’t provide an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground. When you challenge the pre-pubescent researchers about this they trot out the same lame excuse that there is a lag between what is happening in the market and how it is reported in the directories yet year after year the rankings remain the same regardless. The inaccuracy of both directories is farcical and their credibility is shot. Why law firms haven’t woken up to the fact that the time and effort in writing up submissions is more often than not a complete and utter waste of time is a mystery to me. Both directories are now so discredited that firms should stop pandering to them. 

Waste of time 02 November 20 09:00

More and more firms are shunning Chambers and Legal 500.  The business model is dying. 

Anonymous 02 November 20 10:21

Anonymous 31 October 20 17:55 - at least Millwall have SOME fans, from what I can see, IM's own staff hate the firm most of all. 

Fake Partner in Boston 02 November 20 14:15

For the past three months I've had to put up with the incessant posts on LinkedIn and other platforms from lawyers celebrating their "achievement" in being called a SuperLawyer, Lawyer of Distinction, Best Lawyers in America etc...It usually follows the same format: "I am delighted to have been named a (fill in name of BS paid-for lawyer award) for the third year in a row, along with seven of my colleagues." etc etc. I would be embarrassed to post this drivel when everyone knows they are bought and paid for "awards" and mean absolutely nothing. 

Fake Partner in Boston 02 November 20 14:16

I echo the comments of prior posters who are beginning to wonder if there any any lawyers who haven't won these "prestigious" awards. Everyone and their dog seems to be a winner. 

Ex S&G 03 November 20 22:39

Many S&G lawyers mention in the latest edition of the legal 500 have already moved on to new firms.

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