Like your local comprehensive school and its shiny neighbouring academy, lawyers and law firms are obsessed with ranking themselves. Whether by necessity or design, lawyers and barristers are more than a little pre-occupied with tiers, or the concept of ‘leading’.
But for law firm marketers this presents a significant challenge. With so few means of comparison available (winningest, quickest, cheapest, nicest?) where should law firm marketers turn for a bit of differentiation?
For many firms, awards provide the answer. In any given year, a firm has at least half a dozen opportunities from the legal sector’s own round of gongs and that is before considering the ever increasing number of categories which pop up in associated industries, where the not insignificant carrot of receiving praise in front of one’s target customers can be very attractive.
Awards are, for relatively little investment an excellent means of profile raising and keeping up appearances, and for that reason have become one of the most competitive areas in which a law firm marketer could operate.
By way of example, I moonlight as a judge on the insurance industry’s annual UK Broker Awards, in which the typical volume of entrants per category regularly tops 40 companies or individuals. Given that this ceremony is directed at a sector (brokers) within a sector (general insurance), it’s easy to see why the clamour for recognition has become so fierce.
That being said, here’s a few tips from someone who’s written and judged his fair share of entries:
Tips for entering awards
1) Understand the rules – how strong is your case?
One of a solicitors’ jobs is to understand the rules to the extent that he or she can predict whether a case will or won’t be successful. One of the law firm marketers’ jobs is to understand the rules of an award category to the extent that he or she can predict whether a case will or won’t be successful.
So far so simple, but the law firm marketer has to manage expectations both of their partnership/management and attempt to build a story that fits with the criteria they’ve been given.
2) Get your evidence together
There was a time when reams of supporting material could be submitted and in certain cases this is still possible, but for obvious reasons (time, losing the will to live) judges cannot be expected to digest a lever-arch filed dissertation 40 times for every category they are assessing.
Your supporting evidence should tell a story succinctly; perhaps your customer satisfaction survey can be summed up in a single percentage, or your case management cycle time improvements could be described in the simplest possible terms?
3) Are you really exceptional?
Think about what you are being asked to describe. Truly exceptional performance or service has to be demonstrably the case; anything less will be overlooked so stay honest and make sure the evidence supports your claims.
4) Demonstrate how it’s part of the strategy
Few organisations have a strategic objective to win awards, but a great many have the intention to be the best in their field. Law firm marketers should be aware of the business’ strategic direction and be able to show that when entering awards, the submission represents the culmination of a collective goal.