One of the UK's youngest managing partners, Vidisha Joshi of Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, shares her experience of the Excellence Awards and offers insider tips on how to make your entry stand out.
Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors receiving the 2018 ‘Highly Commended’ in the Excellence in Practice Management category
In 2017 I became partner. In my first year I drove through initiatives based on Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors founding aim of 'using the law to improve people's lives'.
The success of these initiatives was the basis of our 2018 Excellence Award entry, which saw us achieve 'Highly Commended' in the Excellence in Practice Management category. While the award was one of the Excellence Awards presented to individuals, it was a celebration of the great work my team has done too.
Receiving a Highly Commended Excellence Award
Receiving the award was not only great for staff morale, it gave us important third-party recognition as well as positive feedback for our reputation in the market, including potential referrers, clients and recruits. For me and my firm being highly commended was a great honour, I also received a number of congratulatory messages from connections which I had not spoken to for a while too, which was a great way to reconnect.
Why we won Highly Commended
Developing a business-oriented mindset
We recognised that while lawyers are trained to practise the law they are rarely educated in the commercial realties of running a firm. To tackle this, I created a partner training programme and led one-on-one coaching on the commercial realities of running a successful, modern law firm, instilling commercial awareness across our ten departments. This has helped our partners view us as more than a law firm renowned for "David v Goliath battles" but as a business. With clear business objectives we are able to continue serving some of the most vulnerable in society.
Additionally, I brought forward production of the monthly accounts from the last week of the month to the fifth working day, allowing for real time review and decision-making based on current rather than previous performance.
Teams, recruitment and supporting remote working
As part of an internal efficiency drive we were able to review our working practices, streamline processes and create automation. In some cases this has allowed us not to have to replace leavers.
In addition, while the firm has always offered agile working, I implemented a nationwide recruitment programme, allowing the firm to access a wider pool of talent. For example a recent recruit is based out of Bristol, working remotely for most of the week, and comes into the office for necessary client and internal meetings. Using conference calls to facilitate meetings remotely and investing in robust IT infrastructure the firm was able to support remote working. Changing the way we work and altering the way we recruit has positively benefitted our teams, who are able to work with the best candidates from across the country, and also our culture.
Becoming paper-lite was inevitable but the process can be especially difficult for a law firm. We hold large amounts of paper documentation and while some of it, for example original wills, we must keep, we have been able to review our paper archives and destroy all the unnecessary information. Initially piloted with our housing team, after successful completion I ensured we invested in training and software, including updating our case management system, to enable our teams to scan and file documents electronically, which became a key part of the overall success of the initiative. To continue the process, we worked with other organisations including the LAA to receive electronic files rather than large paper files. The reduction in on-site storage alone has amounted in a fairly significant saving this year and increased efficiency tremendously.
My tips for a successful entry
In 2018 I sat on the judging panel for the Junior Lawyer of the Year award, and during this time there were a few things I noticed that helped turn a good nomination into a great one. In the category that I judged there was an individual who had achieved great things without having a massive powerhouse to support her. If you have a real stand-out story to tell, I highly recommend going for it. There are categories to suit different sized firms, practice areas, and individuals and there is no charge to enter. If you are lucky enough to be successful, a nomination or a win can be a great way to showcase your business and the talents of your lawyers and teams.
Passion and individuality are essential
For me, an award winner needs to be an organisation or individual who wants to challenge and change the status quo. A successful submission should convey a real passion for the profession – these awards aren't just about individual lawyers and firms, they are about celebrating the legal profession as a whole.
Provide compelling evidence
It's important to humanise your submission and highlight the tangible things that make your work stand out from the crowd. If you have a submission that reads like a management consultant report with lots of clichés and jargon it detracts from the achievement. What is really important is the individual or team who are being put forward.
Supporting evidence is hugely important, and I would recommend including a range to impress judges. Good examples include impressive press coverage, highlighting demonstrable results such as meeting financial targets or proving you have effected a change in the law.
Third-party endorsement will help judges trust your nomination, so include testimonials that detail successful outcomes for your clients.
A second pair of eyes
Sometimes making a big deal out of our successes doesn't always come naturally, so consider getting someone else to write your submission for you or at least look over what you have put together - they may spot things you have missed or not emphasised enough.
3 things judges do and don't want to see in a submission
- Don't write an academic essay or management or legal report. It's about the individuals and teams so it should reflect that.
- Don't underplay your achievement. It doesn't matter if it is a multi-million-pound deal or something as part of a smaller firm it is about the result in the context.
- Do give plenty of evidence. This can make the difference between winning and not. Data can be compelling so if there are facts and figures put these in.
Go for it
The deadline for nominations to the Excellence Awards is midnight on Friday 3 May 2019. Find a full list of categories, guidance and inspiration on the Law Society website
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
Hurry, get your free entries in by midnight Friday May 3 2019
With 22 categories available - 8 individual awards and 14 team categories - from Sole Practitioner of the Year to Solicitor of the Year – In-house and promoting, protecting or advancing human rights, we're celebrating the impact of individuals across the profession
Know a legal aid hero? Nominate them for our new Excellence in Access to Justice Award. Shortlisted entries will be gifted with an invite to attend the awards
Has your firm been working hard on improving diversity? Enter our Excellence category for diversity and inclusion
Hear from the 2018 winners, watch some mythbusters, and hear what the judges have to say all in our YouTube playlist