Winning an Excellence Award – how to do it and the difference it makes

Ranjit Uppal won the Law Society’s Excellence Award for Solicitor Advocate of the Year 2016. He shares six tips on how to put together a winning submission.

The family law department of my work asked me if I would like to put my name forward for the 2016 Solicitor Advocate of the Year award. The team recognised, as one of the senior advocates, that I do my own advocacy, often against senior and Queen’s Counsel. I undertake complex and lengthy trials of three weeks or more and lecture in the UK and abroad on advocacy and child protection issues. 

We felt that my nomination would be a good opportunity for Switalskis and the work of our family team to be recognised at a national level. (We have 13 offices across Yorkshire and are well-known locally.)

My top tips for an effective Excellence Awards application

1. Evidence is everything

It’s very easy to make bold or sweeping statements on the form, but you must back them up with evidence. If you say ‘I am an experienced advocate’, for example, you have to prove how you are experienced. You will need to give scenarios and explain how you’ve dealt with each of them to give weight to  your claims.

2. Be unique

The secret to a successful application is explaining why you are unique at this present stage in your career. It’s wrong to assume that the more years’ experience you have under your belt, the more chance you have of winning. Explain why you stand out from your peers.

3. Be unusual

For each category of award, there will be many applications that will be quite similar.. Mentioning any unusual work you’ve done in your career will make you stand out. In my case, I work with charities and I lecture in family law which I am passionate about. I think that is unique for a solicitor advocate on the care circuit.

4. Keep it recent

Remember that you are applying for this year’s award, so keep your evidence relevant and current. I picked my recent cases as evidence, just because they were most familiar to me and easier to draw on. I didn’t go back more than 18 months.

5. Give yourself time

Start thinking about your application early. You will need to get testimonials or references to support your application. Some people may have prior commitments that could prevent them preparing something straight away. Give them as much time as possible.

6. Pick your top arguments

Don’t dilute the strength of your application by including a dozen points that don’t carry as much weight as your top five. Keep it focused on why you think you are unique. Let the strengths of your top points come through.

Benefits of winning

After my win in October 2016, I received emails from people from around the UK, many of whom I didn’t even know! Views of my LinkedIn profile went up by 3,000%. Local press got behind me, and Switalskis issued a series of social media posts and a press release promoting my win

The Excellence Award has been helpful in my lecturing work, showing that I am well-qualified and recognised by my peers. If I were to apply for a position on a regional or national committee, I think the award would assist in demonstrating my national profile and ability to contribute. And, if prospective clients are doing some research on me, the award may weigh in my favour if they are deciding between a number of solicitors to instruct.

To win the award was a delight. I was certainly very surprised. You don't often see a legal aid care lawyer picking up these kind of awards, and someone based so far from London, too. To think back to the ceremony still brings a smile to my face. It’s a fine balance, however, between winning the award and recognising that there are many thousands of solicitors doing similar work to me, who don’t even nominate themselves for awards. I’m just one cog in a big machine.

The Law Society Excellence Awards celebrate the best and brightest among English and Welsh solicitors. Nominate now for 12 categories for firms and seven categories for individual solicitors. Nominations close Friday 26 May. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 19 October.

Find out more about the Excellence Awards

Read Ranjit’s other article: How to prepare for a care trial

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