Awards season. It should be viewed as a time of joy and anticipation, when law firms clamour to showcase their finest achievements of the last year, whether that’s an especially standout deal or matter, or an extraordinary individual moving the dial for the profession.
Amusingly, one of my colleagues forwarded this message onto me in Teams from a law firm comms person (apparently intent on gaming the system) who will, to save their blushes, remain nameless: ‘Can you ask Nathalie what is an easy category to apply for in the LB Awards?’
While I admire the chutzpah in a way, I want to stress (in case anyone else was wondering similar) that the answer to this question is a hard ‘no’. There is no ‘easy’ awards category, and that is why winning an LB gong is so prestigious.
As firms scramble to complete their submissions by the 15 March deadline, perhaps some timely pointers are in order beyond these top tips.
Anyone who has worked in this industry for any length of time will have an awards submission horror story – from the 132-page magnum opus (TL;DR), to the deal that later got blocked on competition grounds, to the matter that was so completely confidential it could only be named ‘on pain of death’ (calm down, this isn’t MI5!).
On the most fundamental of levels, submission success comes down to one thing – knowing your audience. It could be argued that the reason certain firms fail to get shortlisted is the same as why they lose out at pitches – they fail to consider the GC’s love of clarity, brevity and snappiness and think that including everything plus the kitchen sink will win the day. It won’t.
With this in mind, I asked several GC judges: ‘What appeals to you most about how awards submissions are written, and what puts you right off?’ Here are the best responses (in bullet points, because I listened):
- Show that you care about the importance of the deal to society or the law
- Keep it structured – bullet points, sub-heads. If you’re confident you shouldn’t need pages and pages
- Data points are best on things like diversity and inclusion. Show that you’re measuring the impact of your measures, not just describing them
- Some are clearly written by a marketing team that didn’t understand the deal
- Data, data, data. But what are the numbers, or geographies, or people or statistics?
- The evidence and addendums are good but don’t rely on a judge getting into them. If it’s important, include it in the main summary
- If what they’re doing goes beyond the legal, include that – it’s interesting
- I love testimonials
On the final point, it is surprising how many submissions we get without a single client testimonial. Think of it this way. If you were buying something online, would you go for the thing with five-star reviews, or the one with none at all? Finally, GCs can always tell whether the submission is written by the partner whose labour of love the deal was for weeks or months, or a person who has never closed a deal in their life. Happy submitting, everyone. And good luck.
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