The Law Society Excellence Awards 2018, where we celebrate the best and brightest in the profession, are nearly here. We caught up with last year’s winner of the Solicitor Advocate of the Year award, Vicky Preece of IBB Solicitors, to find out how her success has impacted on her working life and practice.
How has winning the Solicitor Advocate of the Year 2017 Excellence Award affected your career?
Unfortunately, the day before the awards ceremony I broke my leg, which required surgery and a long period of rehabilitation. Sadly, I was not able to attend the ceremony, and whilst there is never a good time to break your leg, to do so on the eve of receiving recognition for your work from your industry and peers was particularly bad timing!
Now that I am fully back to work, I am as busy as ever, and winning the award has definitely raised my profile. I received new instructions from CAFCASS Guardians who I had not previously worked with, who had been told about my win. I have been receiving new referrals from charities and have been asked to speak at events. I have even been listed as a recommended lawyer in the Legal 500.
How did you go about promoting your win to your firm and clients?
Fortunately, we have a proactive marketing team who were able to help me with this whilst I was in hospital. A press release went out very quickly, followed by a social media campaign and a feature on the firm’s website. My firm was clear that the award reflected well on the whole business and wanted to publicise the win.
We also have an internal publication which spread news of the award, so I received many emails of congratulations from my colleagues - and have kept all of them!
I viewed my win as an opportunity to promote the work that all childcare lawyers do on behalf of the children and families involved with social services. There are many talented solicitor advocates in the family courts, who are working hard every day to achieve positive outcomes for children in very difficult circumstances.
Do you have any top tips for writing an Excellence Award nomination?
If you have achieved something you are proud of, take the time to prepare a nomination that reflects all aspects of why you think it is worth celebrating. If you have received correspondence praising your work, then submit this in support of your nomination. Read the information about winners from previous years, and why the judges were impressed with their nomination, to help you focus on drafting your own.
What advice would you give to shortlisted candidates ahead of this year’s ceremony?
Enjoy your moment, and don’t break your leg!
What are you working on over the next couple of months?
I will continue to represent children and families in court. I have a particular interest in representing young people and teenagers who are able to give instructions directly. They often have complex needs and have experience of many different professionals coming into their lives. Obtaining a positive outcome for them is rewarding.
I am also scheduled to receive media training, and plan to be involved in a campaign to raise the profile of the role of grandparents in caring for children where social services are involved, and what support they should receive and how to access it.
What is your advice to solicitor advocates wanting to survive and thrive today?
Good preparation is the key to good advocacy. As a solicitor you may well know the case better than a barrister instructed on the matter, who will have read and digested all the papers in a short period of time. Have confidence in your ability to identify the salient issues and convey them to the judge.
Also, take as many opportunities as you can to attend court; the more advocacy that you undertake, the more your confidence and ability will grow. If you admire other advocates, think about what it is that makes them impressive to you, and try and learn from them.
For further information on this year’s short-listed nominees and details on the awards ceremony, please visit our Excellence Awards page.