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Categories and criteria

Team awards

Individual awards

Team awards

Excellence in Access to Justice

Access to justice is a fundamental right and legal aid performs a crucial role in providing fair and equal access to those most at risk of being excluded from our legal system.

Many people are finding it more difficult to access legal representation because of the growing gaps in the provision of services, so this award celebrates the teams and firms who go above and beyond to combat this issue.

Examples could include:

  • using technology to improve access to justice
  • innovative approaches to casework and service delivery
  • bringing test cases
  • delivering new services in advice deserts
  • developing business models to provide effective and affordable services to those who need but cannot afford legal advice and representation
  • finding novel ways of promoting access to justice in your community
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • a proactive approach to tackling access to justice issues
  • identifiable needs and can demonstrate benefits to clients
  • a sustainable service model

*Your firm must be regulated by the SRA


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 for your business.

Initiatives could include:

  • developing new processes to deliver legal services
  • unique use of technology and other platforms to improve/simplify complex issues for clients
  • driving collaboration with external partners to create new ways to support access to justice
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • market need/driver
  • value to client
  • innovation
  • measurable results

Excellence in Client Service*

Now more than ever, excellent client service is vital for law firm success. Firms are developing new service models to keep up with clients’ ever-growing expectations.

Therefore, the judges are looking for entries which demonstrate how your organisation places a strong emphasis on client care and a commitment to continued excellence.

Initiatives could include:

  • ensuring transparency of costs and having in place systems to update this information at the point at which it is important for the client
  • offering out-of-hours appointments as your clients work zero-hour contracts, allowing them the flexibility to meet with you when convenient for them
  • working collaboratively with the client and competitors and using technology to deliver an innovative solution which allows the client to gain better information on their cases
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • description of service model
  • demonstration of organisation’s emphasis on client care
  • demonstration of organisation’s commitment to continued excellence

*Your firm must be regulated by the SRA.


Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion

This award is designed to showcase successful and innovative examples of the promotion of diversity, inclusion and social mobility.

The judges are looking for evidence of organisational commitment to policies which have been put into action for partners, employees or clients, and which demonstrate measurable results.

Initiatives could include:

  • recruitment, retention and promotion of a diverse and flexible workforce
  • creation and delivery of value-added services to meet the needs of diverse clients
  • inclusive leadership at all levels
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • innovative examples of best practice
  • demonstrated organisational commitment to inclusion and diversity policies and practices
  • measurable results

Excellence In-house

In-house teams are required to exhibit a unique blend of legal and other skills such as leadership or innovation. These skills benefit both the legal function and the overall organisation.

The judges are looking for an excellent in-house team or an outstanding achievement by an in-house team.

Initiatives could include:

  • restructuring departmental work streams and client interface to achieve better outcomes
  • performing complex legal transactions and designing innovative internal training
  • improving efficiency and innovative partnering with external legal providers or the business itself
  • creating or assisting in innovations to give the organisation a competitive advantage such as helping them reach new customers or new markets faster and at lower cost
  • managing risk across the organisation and assisting in developing new products and strategic thinking
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • initiatives that have had a positive impact on both the legal function and the wider business or objectives of the organisation
  • an innovative solution to dealing with a specific issue
  • demonstrating and contributing to the impact of the organisation

Excellence in International Legal Services*

In today’s international marketplace, many firms are delivering legal services across the world. This award recognises law firms with an innovative approach to the delivery of legal services.

Our judges want to hear how you are embracing the opportunities globalisation offers to your firm and clients.

Initiatives could include:

  • exploring emerging markets
  • developing international networks to build business
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • innovative approach to the delivery of legal services globally
  • measurable results

*Your firm must be regulated by the SRA.


Excellence in Learning and Development

Following the removal of mandatory CPD hours, it’s more important than ever that firms continue to invest in their employees' learning and development.

Our judges are looking for a clear link between your learning and development initiative and how this has enhanced your business, including the rationale and measurements.

Initiatives could include:

  • bespoke personal development aligned with the business strategy, in order to boost attraction and retention
  • team coaching to improve cross-functional team working and collaboration, in order to better support the changing needs of clients
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • outline of initiative, including rationale
  • the effectiveness of the learning programme in meeting the needs of the business objective identified
  • measurable results

Excellence in Marketing and Communications

Many solicitors are becoming adept marketers, finding innovative ways to communicate with clients, staff and stakeholders.

The judges are looking for creative campaigns with clear objectives, messaging, channels, execution, audience understanding and, crucially, the quantifiable results.

Initiatives could include:

  • building digital presence to drive new business opportunities and retain existing clients
  • having a strategic approach to sponsorship to positively impact clients, reputation, business and staff
  • using existing channels and opportunities to maximise client and prospect engagement and sales opportunities
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • creative and inspiring campaign overall
  • identifies clear and, preferably, SMART campaign objectives
  • outlines campaign elements of key messages, how they were conveyed, through what channels and to whom
  • quantifies measurable results – e.g. return on investment (ROI), response rates, etc.

Excellence in Private Client Practice*

Sponsored by Tavistock Law

Covering a broad spectrum of work, this category recognises those working in wills, probate, trusts, tax planning, charity, Court of Protection and mental capacity issues.

The judges are looking for exceptional teams or firms, including sole practitioners, who have gone above and beyond to impact their firm and clients.

Examples could include:

  • promoting the take up of wills and LPAs by working with local organisations to raise awareness of the benefits of estate planning
  • providing excellent customer service by identifying and meeting the additional needs of clients, for example by providing fixed fees to review legal documents
  • furthering the public’s knowledge and understanding about the law relating to private client matters or inspiring the next generation of private client solicitors
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • significant contribution to private client work
  • technical expertise, knowledge and skills
  • dedication to achieving complete client satisfaction

*Your firm must be regulated by the SRA.


Excellence in Pro Bono*

Whether your pro bono work is for clients in your local community or NGOs through a global partnership, the judges are looking for examples of innovation and best practice.

Credit will be given to work having a strategic impact in a community and/or the overall engagement of the organisation.

Initiatives could include:

  • improving access to justice for vulnerable parts of the community
  • responding with efficiency and agility to deliver services in urgent or unforeseen circumstances
  • providing support to an NGO that allows it to achieve its goals, domestically or internationally
  • partnering with community organisations to provide targeted legal assistance where it is needed
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • need:
    • response to a genuine need
    • developing business and people
     
  • impact:
    • on the business
    • on the client/community
    • on the profession
     
  • innovation:
    • creative solutions
    • new partnerships
     
  • sustainability
    • how long is the pro bono project expected to last?
     

*Open to signatories of the Law Society Pro Bono Charter only. Collaborations are welcome, but the lead contact must be from a Charter Signatory firm or in-house team. Firms can join the Pro Bono Charter. Find out more.


Excellence in Technology and Innovation

Law firms and in-house teams use information technology to cut costs, improve services, enhance the working environment, and improve access to justice for vulnerable groups.

The judges are looking for legal innovations that can demonstrate convincingly that they have benefited staff, improved efficiency or helped clients.

Initiatives could include:

  • introduction of IT to support flexible working that is improving diversity and inclusion
  • a new website or technological innovation, designed with input from staff and clients, to improve client onboarding, and/or attracting more traffic and more work
  • a major IT transformation project completed ahead of schedule and within budget
  • innovations to improve access to legal advice and services for those who have traditionally found engagement with the law challenging

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • innovative linking of technology and law
  • effective changes to law firm operations, with particular attention to staff training and ongoing development
  • improvement in services to client or for previously under-represented users of legal services

Small Law Firm of the Year*

This award celebrates your success over the last year, whether from stand-out events or overall performance.

The judges are looking for what sets you apart from other small firms. They want to see the progress and improvement of your firm together with details of your exceptional impact.

Initiatives could include:

  • professional excellence
  • staff engagement and development
  • business improvement
  • client acquisition
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • how the firm differs positively from other small size firms
  • examples of excellent initiatives and/or work and/or performance that demonstrate professional excellence
  • improvement over the last year and its exceptional impact

*Open to firms with two to four partners. 'Partners' covers equity and non-equity – anyone classed as a partner within the firm. Your firm must be regulated by the SRA.


Medium Law Firm of the Year*

Sponsored by Wesleyan Bank

This award celebrates your success over the last year, whether from highlight events or overall performance.

The judges are looking for what sets you apart from other medium sized firms. They want to see the progress and improvement of your firm together with details of your exceptional impact.

Initiatives could include:

  • professional excellence
  • staff engagement and development
  • business improvement
  • client acquisition
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • what sets the firm apart from other medium size firms
  • firm’s progress and improvement
  • firm’s exceptional impact

*Open to firms with five to 29 partners. 'Partners' covers equity and non-equity – anyone classed as a partner within the firm. Your firm must be regulated by the SRA.


Large Law Firm of the Year*

This award celebrates your success over the last year, whether from highlight events or overall performance.

The judges are looking for what sets you apart from other large firms. They want to see the progress and improvement of your firm together with details of your exceptional impact.

Initiatives could include:

  • professional excellence
  • staff engagement and development
  • innovation
  • client acquisition
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • how the firm differs positively from other large law firms
  • examples of excellent initiatives and/or work and/or performance
  • improvement and its exceptional impact

*Open to firms with 30+ partners. 'Partners' covers equity and non-equity – anyone classed as a partner within the firm. Your firm must be regulated by the SRA.


Individual awards

Human Rights Solicitor of the Year

This award celebrates excellence and outstanding achievement in human rights.

We’re 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 through long-term activity or from a single outstanding case.

Initiatives could include:

  • championing the rights of minorities, vulnerable and marginalised people and communities, and successfully litigating on their behalf
  • representing endangered journalists or human rights activists
  • bringing landmark cases to court and successfully seeing a change in the law as a result
  • successfully challenging decisions by public authorities to secure the rights of vulnerable individuals or communities
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • initiatives that have had a positive impact on the legal profession and significant contribution to promotion of human rights
  • dedication and tenacity against the complexity, risk or challenge of the case/work
  • impact achieved on people and society e.g. lives changed positively as a result of the work carried out

Entries can be submitted for yourself or for your colleagues.


Junior Lawyer of the Year*

This award celebrates an exceptional standard of work as well as great dedication to the role of a junior lawyer. The judges are looking for a junior lawyer who is excelling in their role or making a significant contribution to voluntary or pro-bono schemes.

The winner will be going beyond what is expected of a junior lawyer and bringing insight, flair, imagination and hard work to everything they do.

Initiatives could include:

  • setting up a new and profitable income stream for the firm or organisation
  • leading in a ground-breaking area of practice
  • leading on a case which has led to a change in the law
  • being considered an expert in your area of practice by fellow professionals
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • significant contribution to legal services through their work as junior lawyer
  • positive social or commercial impact through their actions
  • creativity and hard work consistently demonstrated

Entries can be submitted for yourself or for your colleagues.

*Open to LPC students, LPC graduates (for example those working as a paralegal), registered solicitor apprentices, trainee solicitors and solicitors with up to five years and 364 days post qualification experience as of 1 February 2020 (the month nominations open). LPC students and LPC graduates who are shortlisted may be asked to provide confirmation of their LPC attainment.


Practice Manager of the Year

Law firms often operate in a highly competitive and volatile business environment, which creates risks but also huge opportunities to thrive and develop.

We’re looking for individuals who help their firm to:

  • drive excellence in business management
  • focus on continuous improvement
  • demonstrate sound financial planning and risk management principles
  • encourage technological innovation around data and cyber challenges
  • develop innovative learning and development strategies
  • future proof and work collaboratively to reduce the regulatory burden
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • innovative solutions to dealing with a specific issue
  • practice excellence in systems and procedures
  • continuous improvement in performance

Entries can be submitted for yourself or for your colleagues.


Solicitor of the Year - In-house

This award celebrates excellence and outstanding achievement by a solicitor working in an in-house role.

In-house solicitors are required to exhibit a unique blend of skills and we’re looking for someone who has applied these skills innovatively to the benefit of both the legal function and the overall organisation.

Initiatives could include:

  • identifying efficient and effective processes to manage your legal team or function
  • delivering initiatives that add value to your organisation
  • leading your team by promoting personal growth, development and wellbeing
  • using your legal knowledge and time, to contribute to your sector or community
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • initiatives that have had a positive impact on both the legal function and the wider activities of the organisation
  • an innovative solution to dealing with a specific issue
  • demonstrating value to the wider organisation

Entries can be submitted for yourself or for your colleagues.


Solicitor of the Year - Private Practice*

This award recognises an outstanding contribution made by a solicitor in private practice. The judges will look for someone in a legal practice who goes 'that extra mile'.

Whether working in the corporate world or with private clients, the winner of this award brings professionalism and commitment to all that they do.

Initiatives could include:

  • work on a particular subject area or case
  • proposing and implementing business solutions to secure outstanding results for their firm and clients
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • positive social or commercial impact through their actions
  • significant contribution to legal services through positive impact of their work in private practice
  • tenacity and creativity in their approach to tackling challenges

Entries can be submitted for yourself or for your colleagues.

* Open to solicitors regulated by the SRA.


Sole Practitioner of the Year*

This award celebrates excellence and outstanding achievement for sole practitioners.

With regulatory, legislative and financial management challenges, we’re looking for creative, innovative sole practitioners who stay on top of the ever-changing industry.

We're looking for exceptional solicitors who can demonstrate:

  • creative approaches to running a successful business
  • innovative responses to cybersecurity and data protection issues
  • excellence in client care
  • future-focused thinking and collaboration to reduce the regulatory burden
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • sound business and financial planning
  • innovative business practice
  • building a strong reputational brand
  • a passion for the practice of law

Entries can be submitted for yourself or for your colleagues.

* Open to solicitors regulated by the SRA.


Woman Solicitor of the Year

This award celebrates a solicitor achieving professional excellence in her field.

We're looking to recognise a woman solicitor who has achieved significant results in her business or for the benefit of society. The winner will be opening doors historically closed to women and inspiring and influencing others to pursue a career in law.

Initiatives could include:

  • setting up networks to support women in the profession
  • championing sponsorship, mentoring and other programmes promoting progression of women in their careers
  • volunteering for charities and other community groups for the benefit of wider society
  • and more…

The judges want to see evidence of:

  • initiatives that have had a positive impact on both the legal function and the contribution of women in law
  • achieving senior level results either in business or for the benefit of society
  • inspiring and influencing female solicitors to pursue a career in law

Entries can be submitted for yourself or for your colleagues.

*Open to solicitors who identify as a woman.


Lifetime Achievement Award*

This special award recognises a solicitor who has made an effective contribution towards the work of the profession and/or the Law Society.

To be entered for the award, the solicitor must:

  • be a member of the profession and be of impeccable reputation
  • have been in practice for at least two decades
  • have made an effective contribution towards the work of the profession and/or the Law Society
  • have helped to advance the profession
  • have achieved and/or promoted practice excellence

*Open to solicitors regulated by the SRA. No self-nominations are allowed for this category.


Gazette Legal Personality of the Year

Entries to this category will be selected by the senior editorial team of the Law Society Gazette. Entries are sent directly to the Gazette.