Memo to Oregon State Bar: police your members

By William MacKenzie,

Are personal injury attorney J. William Savage and patent attorney Usman Mughal exceptional Portland-area lawyers? They’d like you to think so.

Both trumpet that they’ve been selected as Lawyers of Distinction based upon a rigorous review and vetting process. An advertisement in the Oct. 8, 2023 edition of the New York Times even congratulated them for being among 223 of “The Newest 2023 Lawyers of Distinction”.

Nine more Oregon attorneys were celebrated in another Lawyers of Distinction advertisement in the April 2023 edition of the National Law Journal and the August 6, 2023 edition of The New York Times:

  • Pamela Blackwell, Portland
  • Joshua Callahan, Milwaukie
  • Alice Cuprill-Comas, Portland
  • Thomas Howe, Portland
  • Nicole Lemieux, Portland
  • Gregory Oliveros, Clackamas
  • Maryanne Pitcher, Medford
  • Phillip Williams, Eugene
  • Kali Yost, Portland

All-in-all, Lawyers of Distinction currently has 35 Oregon lawyers listed as members on its website.


Don’t be.

About all that’s required to be named a “Lawyer of Distinction” is to apply yourself or be nominated, fill out some online forms and pay a fee.

According to the Orlando, FL-based organization’s website, a Charter Membership, for $475 a year, comes with a Customized 14″ x 11″ genuine rosewood plaque. A Featured Membership, for $575 a year, brings the plaque and inclusion in a membership roster published in USA Today, The New York Times, The American Lawyer and the National Law Journal.

Then there’s the Distinguished Membership, for $775 per year, the most expensive choice (described on the organization’s website as “Most Popular”), which brings the rosewood plaque, the membership roster ads and an 11″ tall translucent personalized crystal statue.

Lawyers of Distinction,  incorporated in 2014, is like diploma mills, outfits that claim to be higher education institutions, but only provide illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee.

The Lawyers of Distinction website describes the application review process as complex and rigorous.[1]

Don’t believe it.

It’s just pay-for-play. It’s selling badges.  It’s paying for meaningless accolades. Apply, pay the annual membership fee and you’re in.

According to the Florida Division of Corporations, “Lawyers of Distinction Inc.” is a private for-profit company with a principal address of 4700 Millenia Boulevard, Suite 175, Orlando, FL 32839.

Robert B. Baker, at the same address, is listed as the President in the company’s 2023 Annual Report.

Robert Baker, President, Lawyers of Distinction

But don’t go to the office address expecting to be ushered into a space with a clean, modern aesthetic that communicates success. The address is only a virtual office. The site offers a “Platinum Plan” for $69 a month and a “Platinum Plan with live receptionist” for $194 a month.

Robert “Robbie” Brian Baker, a member of the Florida Bar (Bar #992460), is also the founder and owner of Baker Legal Team at 2255 Glades Rd., Ste 330-W, Boca Raton, FL 33431. According to the Baker Legal Team website, he has a degree from Boston University School of Law in 1989 and a B.A. from Ithaca College.  He began his career, the website says, as a prosecutor working as an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, New York.

As an aside, the firm’s website has the chutzpah to highlight that it’s a member of Lawyers of Distinction.

Lawyers of Distinction’s website says it currently has over 5000 members. If 5000 lawyers sign up for the Distinguished category at $775 this year, the organization will rake in $3.9 million. Quite a haul.

In an attempt to fend off bad publicity, Lawyers of Distinction includes on its website a section headed, “Is Lawyers of Distinction A Scam?” But it answers its own question with nothing more than brief testimonials by selected members.

It’s unlikely that any attorneys have been duped by Lawyers of Distinction, lured into believing they’ve been selected for a rare honor based on their legal work, when all they did was send in a check. They must figure that impressing potential clients is worth the deception.

But that doesn’t leave state bar associations blameless for this decay of honest professional representation.

If the Oregon State Bar Association and its 14,000 members are honestly committed to accountability, excellence, fairness, and leadership in the legal profession, as they claim, they should insist that Oregon attorneys halt falsely advertising themselves as Lawyers of Distinction or holders of other unearned accolades.

Responsible lawyers should maintain the integrity of the legal profession. To do otherwise diminishes the law.

On Oct. 9, 2023, I submitted an ethics complaint to the Oregon State Bar against all 33 Oregon attorneys listed as members of Lawyers of Distinction. My complaint is that these Oregon attorneys are acting in an unethical manner by misrepresenting to potential and current clients that their selection as “Lawyers of Distinction” is evidence of their legal skills and achievements.

[1] “Lawyers of Distinction Members have been selected based upon a review and vetting process by our Selection Committee utilizing U.S. Provisional Patent # 62/743,254. The platform generates a numerical score of 1 to 5 for each of the 12 enumerated factors which are meant to recognize the applicant’s achievements and peer recognition. Members are then subiect to a final review for ethical violations within the past ten years before confirmation of Membership. Nomination does not guarantee membership and attorneys may not pay a fee to be nominated. Attorneys may nominate their peers whom they feel warrant consideration. The determination of whether an attorney qualifies for Membership is based upon the aforementioned proprietary analysis discussed above. Membership is not meant to infer any endorsement of Lawyers of Distinction by any of the 50 United States Bar Associations or The District of Columbia Bar Association. Any references to “excellent,” “excellence,” or “distinguished” are meant to refer to the Lawyers of Distinction organization only and not to any named member individually.”