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Categories and criteria

Categories for the 2017 Law Society Excellence Awards

Awards for team/firms

Excellence in Business Development 

The business environment and client expectations are constantly evolving. Law firms are finding new and innovative ways to secure new business and deliver legal services. Our judges are looking for examples of business development initiatives that challenge convention and create greater added value.

Judges: Larry Cattle, consultant at CattleConsulting and David Yeoward, consultant at Never Second Services LLP

Excellence in Client Service

Sponsored by Moneypenny

This award celebrates commitment and service in client care. Your entry should describe your client service model, including how and when it was implemented, how performance is measured and how successes and lessons learned are communicated. Your application must be accompanied by evidence of the quality and consistency of your approach.

If you place a strong emphasis on client care and want to demonstrate your commitment to continued excellence in client service then this is your opportunity to receive the recognition you deserve.

Entry requirement: Your firm must be regulated by the SRA

Judges: Dr Jane Martin, chair at Legal Services Consumer Panel and Kathryn Stone OBE, chief ombudsman at Legal Ombudsman

Excellence in Conveyancing Practice

Sponsored by First Title

The award will be made to the practice which best demonstrates its commitment to the values of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme, including how they have used it to enhance the reputation of the practice and to raise standards of client care and service. Entrants should show how they have used the CQS brand and values to develop their business, and how they have embedded the CQS processes and managed any necessary changes in their business model or department.

Entry requirement: Open to CQS-accredited practices only

Judges: Sarah Dwight, owner and manager at Sarah Dwight Solicitor and Alistair McKinlay, director and head of conveyancing at Emsleys Solicitors

Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion

Open to firms that have embraced the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, this award is designed to showcase successful and innovative examples of best practice in the promotion of diversity, inclusion and social mobility. We are looking for evidence of organisational commitment to diversity and inclusion policies which are being put into action for employees or clients with measurable results. These might include innovative approaches to the recruitment, retention and promotion of a diverse and flexible workforce, or the creation and delivery of value-added services to meet the needs of diverse clients.

Entry requirement: Open to signatories of the Law Society's Diversity and Inclusion Charter only

Judges: Funke Abimbola, general counsel at Roche UK and Tan Ikram, deputy senior district judge

Excellence In-house

This category celebrates excellence and outstanding achievement by an in-house team. Teams are required to exhibit a unique blend of legal and other skills such as leadership or innovation. We are looking for a team which can provide evidence of how they have applied these skills to the benefit of both the legal function and the overall organisation.

Entry requirement: Open to all in-house legal departments

Judges: Donna Harris, general counsel - real estate at Aviva Legal Services and Joss Saunders, general counsel and company secretary at Oxfam

Excellence in International Legal Services

This category will recognise law firms with an innovative approach to the delivery of legal services in today’s international marketplace. Whether exploring emerging markets or developing international networks to build your business, we want to hear how you are embracing the opportunities globalisation offers your firm and clients. This category is open to SRA-regulated law firms and foreign law firms who are members of our International Division.

Entry requirement: Your firm must be regulated by the SRA or be a member of the Law Society’s International Division. Membership of the International Division is open to foreign law firms

Judges: Catherine McGuinness, deputy chair at City of London Corporation Policy and Resources Committee and Edward Sparrow, chair at City of London Law Society; partner at Ashurst

Excellence in Law Management

This category will celebrate an innovation or change management initiative which has produced a significant improvement to performance. The project could focus on any of the following activities:

  • finance
  • business processes
  • management operations

Law firms operate in a highly competitive and volatile business environment, which creates risks and threats but also opportunities to thrive and develop. Competent and professional management practice is indispensable for any business. Show us how you are driving new strategies to enhance your performance and generate continuous improvement.

Judges: Robert Banner, executive director at Banner Jones Solicitors and Ann Harrison, chairwoman at Stephensons Solicitors LLP

Excellence in Learning and Development

Following the removal of mandatory CPD hours by the SRA, it is more important than ever that firms to continue to invest in learning and development. Our judges are looking for a clear link between your learning and development initiative and how this has enhanced your business, either through improved service, increased efficiency or higher profitability. Your entry will need to describe the development needs that the training addressed, the rationale underpinning the development and delivery of the learning programme and the measurements that show your approach was effective.

Judges: Suzanne Fine, director of professional development at Lex Mundi and Joanne Gubbay, head of learning and development at Slaughter and May

Excellence in Marketing and Communications

Solicitors are becoming adept marketers, finding innovative ways to communicate with clients, staff and stakeholders. This award celebrates the very best in marketing and communications. The judges will examine your campaign’s objectives, messages, channels, audience and, crucially, the quantifiable results. This is your opportunity to showcase how your marketing and communications are making a real difference to your organisation.

Judges: Chris Daly, chief executive at Chartered Institute of Marketing, and David Gilroy, director of stuff & things at Conscious Solutions

Excellence in Private Client Practice

Sponsored by PIB Unoccupied Property Insurance

We're looking for exceptional teams or firms (including sole practitioner firms) who excel and set themselves apart in the world of wills, probate and trusts. This is your chance to showcase your significant contributions to private client work. The judges will be looking for entries which demonstrate innovative ideas and new techniques, show evidence of the positive impact the action has had on both a firm and its clients and demonstrate an inventive use of qualifications, knowledge and skills.

Judges: Julia Abrey, partner at Withers Worldwide and Gill Steel, director at LawSkills Ltd

Excellence in Pro Bono

Whether your pro bono work is for clients in your local community or NGOs through a global partnership, we are looking for examples of innovation and best practice by solicitors providing pro bono legal work. Please focus on one particular project which your solicitors have engaged in over the previous twelve months, that you feel demonstrates excellence in pro bono. The judges will give particular credit to work having a strategic impact in a community and/or the overall engagement of the organisation providing the pro bono work. Please note the judges will give particular credit to those who are a Pro Bono Charter signatory. From 2018, this award category will only be open to signatories of the charter.

Judges: Sir Robin Knowles CBE, high court judge at Royal Courts of Justice and Jon Robins, editor at The Justice Gap

Excellence in Technology

Sponsored by Eclipse

Law firms are increasingly using technology to improve their efficiency and deliver legal services in new ways. This category celebrates the innovative marriage of technology and law in the provision of services for clients. The judges will be looking for law firms that have changed how they work and/or how they provide services to clients.

Judges: Tony Fisher, senior partner at Fisher Jones Greenwood and Peter Wright, managing director at DigitalLawUK

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Awards for individuals

Gazette Legal Personality of the Year

Sponsored by Wesleyan

Visit the Gazette website to make your nomination for this category.

Human Rights Lawyer of the Year

This category celebrates excellence and outstanding achievement in human rights. We are looking for a solicitor whose sheer determination and dedication has made an exceptional contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of human rights. This can be either through long-term activity or from a single outstanding case.

Entry requirement: Open to all solicitors

Judges: David Anderson QC at Brick Court Chambers and John Wadham at Doughty Street Chambers

Junior Lawyer of the Year

We're looking for demonstrable evidence of an individual who has an exceptional standard of work as well as great dedication in their role as a junior lawyer. They will be excelling in their role rather than just doing a good job, or will be making a significant contribution to voluntary or pro-bono schemes rather than simply assisting. The winner will be raising their own profile or their team's/firm's and bring insight, flair, imagination and hard work to everything they do.

Entry requirement: Open to LPC students, LPC graduates (for example, those working as a paralegal), trainee solicitors and solicitors up to five years' qualified. If the nominee is a solicitor they will be eligible to enter this category if they are qualified five years or less as of 1 March 2017 (the month nominations open). LPC students and LPC graduates who are shortlisted may be asked to provide confirmation of their LPC attainment.

Judges: Kat Gibson at DLA Piper and Bryan Scant, chair at Junior Lawyers Division

Solicitor Advocate of the Year

Sponsored by Kidatu

This category celebrates excellence and outstanding achievement in advocacy that individual solicitor advocates make to their practice, client work and the wider community. We’re looking for exceptional solicitors who can demonstrate a significant contribution in their advocacy work, a positive impact on the image of solicitor advocacy, and strong practical advocacy skills.

Entry requirement: Open to all practicing solicitors undertaking advocacy

Judges: HHJ Potter, resident judge at Manchester Crown Court and June Venters QC

Solicitor of the Year - In-house

Sponsored by Hiscox

This category celebrates excellence and outstanding achievement by an individual solicitor working in an in-house role. In-house solicitors are required to exhibit a unique blend of skills and we are looking for someone who can provide evidence of how they have applied these skills innovatively to the benefit of both the legal function and the overall organisation.

Entry requirement: Open to all solicitors working in-house

Judges: Richard Somerville, head of legal at Electricity North West and Natasha Taylor, head of advocacy at Essex Legal Services

Solicitor of the Year - Private Practice

This award recognises an outstanding contribution made by a solicitor in private practice. The winner is someone in a legal practice who is seen by colleagues as going ‘that extra mile’. This maybe in the context of work they are doing in a particular subject area or case; or they may have proposed and implemented business solutions which have proved beneficial in securing outstanding results for their firm and clients. Whether working in the corporate world or with private clients the winner of this award brings professionalism and commitment to all that they do.

Entry requirement: Open to all solicitors working in private practice

Judges: Tony Cherry, partner at DAC Beachcroft and John Westwell, managing partner at Foot Anstey

Woman Lawyer of the Year

Women solicitors form approximately half the profession. However, fewer are represented proportionately in senior level positions. In addition to achieving professional excellence in her field, we’re looking to recognise a female solicitor who has achieved significant results at a senior level, either in business or for the benefit of society, through a specific practice or segment of the legal profession. She will have opened doors historically closed to women and will be inspiring and influencing other female solicitors to pursue a career in law.

Entry requirement: Open to female solicitors only

Judges: Sarah Austin, sole practitioner at Austins Solicitors and Leah Glover, solicitor at DWF LLP

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