A Winning Awards Strategy

Legal and Industry Awards programs are prolific. And there is a reason for that – they work. From local Awards to international ones, they provide intrinsic value in a number of ways:


Authority & trust. If you win an Award, people know you must have undergone a selection process where evidence was analysed, specialist opinions sought, and entries judged. Even being shortlisted for an Award can help boost your reputation and provide an indication of quality. Like Legal Directory rankings, your Awards achievements provide third party endorsement, credibility and industry recognition.


Increased awareness. Organisers of Awards need to gain awareness and visibility so if you get shortlisted you get the benefit of that promotion to a target audience. This often comes in the form of direct e-marketing and online web promotion as well as the Awards events themselves. Even if you don’t get past the shortlist stage your brand has been repeatedly presented as leading firm/lawyer to potential clients and referrers who you might otherwise not have access to.


Networking. Attending the Awards events provides you with the opportunity to expand your network with other leaders in your industry or jurisdiction. People will know your name and it gives you a perfect opportunity to make contacts which you can develop in the future.


Value all round. Whether you are finalist or winner, being shortlisted for an Award is a great message to project to the market. Not only does it engender continued trust from existing clients, but it also helps promote you to prospects, is a great morale boost to staff internally and makes you more attractive when recruiting.


So, how to do it?


Tie Awards in with your business development strategy. There are many moving parts when it comes to business development and they need to work in harmony so that you go in the right direction rather than one step forward and two back. With so many Awards out there you need to make sure you pick the right one(s) to enter. When choosing the Awards, look at your over all strategy and pick the one that helps meet those objectives. There are lots of Awards types but they can be loosely categorised as follows:


  • Cross border and international legal Awards. See: ILFS resources/list-of-international-legal-awards

  • Single country specific awards, e.g. China Law & Practice Awards

  • Lawyer Awards, e.g. Young Lawyers (40 under 40), Women in Business Awards

  • Practice area Awards, e.g. Asia Tax Awards. Many other Awards have categories for different practice areas.


What are your strategic business development priorities? To raise your profile internationally? To highlight your knowledge of a particular industry sector or showcase a niche practice area? A combination? Pick the Awards that you can weave into your business development strategy so all your activities are harmonised and sending the same message.


Look inside and out. Examine requirements carefully and honestly evaluate the criteria against your firm. As well as looking at your own strengths and weaknesses, look at the target audience of the Award and how it is promoted – will it offer the value you need after all that investment? If you don’t, you are wasting both your time and effort and you may hinder your chances of winning an Award at a later date when you do feel you have the right credentials to outshine competitors. 


Easy doesn’t mean good. Whilst there is no point in entering Awards you are not qualified for, conversely there is no point in entering Awards which are either bogus or where there is a too low threshold to winning. Some Awards are not based on merit but on the Awarding organisation trying to obtain money from you for advertising or a plaque. Whilst they might provide you with a logo you can add to your website, they hold no industry recognition and can actually harm your reputation if you appear to take them too seriously.


There’s a method to it. Like anything of value, Awards are a process and how and what you present in a submission will demine if you make the shortlist. You need to do your research beforehand (look at previous winners, who is on the judging panel), give yourself enough time to prepare and proofread your submission, find supporting evidence and present facts in the most persuasive and manner, and finally make sure you submit everything in the correct format and on time.


Be memorable. Ultimately Awards submissions are about providing information in a clear and concise way but they are also about standing out. Judges need to read through lots of entries so make sure you convey your strengths easily (don’t bury them in long essays), provide context and background, and convey your firm/ lawyer’s unique personality and values.


Try and try again. If you’ve entered an Award and don’t get anywhere on your first try it tempting to decide that Awards are not for you. However, many firms don’t win Awards on their first attempt. Their firm and people are unknown quantities to the judges but in a similar way to Legal Directories, Awards committees often review previous entries to assess a law firm’s growth and development. If a firm can illustrate positive growth and development, this will sit favourably in the committee’s eyes and increase their chances of making it to the shortlist next time round.


For further information about growing your firm, please contact:


Alex Kaminsky - ak@ilfs.net

Alex Holtum - ajh@ilfs.net