The Nigerian lawyers FLF Abiola & Co should have been beaming with pride after receiving awards from two British publishers.
Dennis Abiola, the managing partner, would probably have had to clear space in the company’s reception for the trophies marking the practice’s status as “film financing law firm of the year in Nigeria”. It had, after all, worked on “Nollywood” classics such as Tempting Fate, Yes I Don’t and Hunting 4 Hubbies.
There was only one problem; Dennis Abiola did not exist. FLF Abiola & Co was a fake law firm, hence the acronym at the start of its name.
The Times reports that the publishers that made the awards, Finance Monthly, a website based in Staffordshire, and Corporate INTL, a group in Birmingham, were the victims of a hoax designed to demonstrate the present glut of legal awards. Last year Jamie Hamilton, a writer for Roll on Friday, a legal gossip website, created the fake firm, complete with a logo modelled on male genitalia. His colleagues nominated him and he invented his own category, “film financing law firm of the year in Nigeria”. To support the nominations, Mr Hamilton, posing as Mr Abiola, submitted a list of real Nigerian films for which he claimed his firm had structured finances.
Finance Monthly’s award manager then assured the bogus Nigerian managing partner that the awards process involved “examining and verifying all documentation and supporting text provided”.
FLF Abiola & Co was crowned winner of the category by Finance Monthly and Corporate INTL. The companies then attempted to sell the invented Nigerian lawyer advertising space in their awards magazines.
Roll on Friday, which was founded by Matthew Rhodes, a former City of London lawyer, 18 years ago, claims to have “a proud history of baiting legal awards companies”.
Mr Hamilton said: “Lawyers don’t have to pay to win an award, but they are strongly encouraged to buy space in the award winners’ magazines. Some lawyers go along with it to burnish their ego. Others want to look successful to clients. The problem is that anyone seeing the award might think it reflected genuine excellence, when my experience suggests that may not be the case.”
The UK legal profession is awash with awards because established trade publications run annual – and in some cases, multiple – award ceremonies at upmarket London venues, which involve judging panels and published criteria.
Other publications, however, are more vulnerable to hoaxes and mistakes. One awards company recently awarded a male lawyer with a unisex name a “woman in law” award.
“I was surprised that lawyers from prestigious firms feature in these awards magazines,” Mr Hamilton said.
Andrew Palmer, director of Finance Monthly, said that “we have not met our usual high standards and have taken immediate necessary steps to ensure this never happens again”.
Corporate INTL did not respond to The Times requests for comment.
Culled from Thetimes.co.uk