Monday 25 March 2013

Why Should Lawyers Enter Awards? - Part 3

In this, the third instalment in the Why Should Lawyers Enter Awards? series, we're providing some handy tips on writing winning award entries.

By now, you should have found an award you want to enter, as a team, individually or as a firm. You've analysed the criteria, looked up the previous winners and you're feeling pretty confident about your prospects.

So, first things first; read the application pack thoroughly and ensure that you have all the information you need to hand. You may be asked to supply basics such as turnover, profit, employee numbers - as well as an email address and telephone number for the lead contact. Don't fall at the first hurdle by failing to provide these basics or getting them wrong.

Next up - the nitty gritty - also know as demonstrating how you, your team or your firm meet the award criteria. At this point, you should check that you do meet these. If you don't, think seriously about your prospects of success and if necessary, dump the entry.

Now everybody writes differently, but a little strategic thinking can go a long way. Consider writing an 'award plan' or 'road map' to ensure that you properly deal with each of the criteria. Back up each point with facts and figures where possible.

Be excited about the entry - invite the reader to take a metaphorical ride with you, illustrating your successes, and the reasons you deserve to win. If you have a great writer in your team - utilise their skills. If you struggle with this sort of thing, and (being honest with yourself) just don't have the ability to write creatively - outsource. There are plenty of PR firms and freelance writers who will help you out and you don't have to blow the budget. In fact, you are likely to spend less getting an award drafted than you would lose in fee-earning time if you were to struggle on alone.

Once you're happy that your entry meets all of the criteria, carry out some further basic checks:

  1. Word count: don't exceed this. The judges will have enough work to do already so don't make it harder for them - they'll hate you, and they may disqualify your entry
  2. Spelling and grammar: it's obvious but check, check and check again. 
  3. Style: Print the entry and read it out loud - this may sound like bonkers advice but it enables you to gain a different perspective and is likely to throw up a few areas requiring attention
Once you're happy with the entry - submit it - making sure you follow the submission guidelines: if they say email, don't post it. If they don't ask for supporting evidence, don't send it.

And - last but by no means least - don't miss the deadline...

Good luck!

By Victoria Moffatt

Monday 18 March 2013

Why Should Lawyers Enter Awards? - Part 2

So - why should lawyers enter awards? Well, last week we covered that basic point and this week, we've written about finding good awards for lawyers to enter.

First up, sounds (and is) obvious - but do a Google search to see whether there are any local business awards you can enter. Once you've ascertained whether there are - check out the categories. Typical categories include:

1. Business of the Year and potentially Small, Medium, Large and Family Business of the Year
2. Employer of the Year
3. Start-up of the Year
4. Most Innovative Business
5. Rising Star

There may also be more specific categories such as:

1. Legal Services Provider of the Year
2. Advisor of the Year
3. Deal of the Year

Or individual categories such as:

1. Entrepreneur of the Year
2. Lifetime Contribution
3. Young Achiever

Your next step should be to think about which categories you could enter. At this stage, take a step back from the obvious pride you have for your business, and sense check your prospects of winning.

Of course - winning isn't everything. Well, actually - when it comes to awards - you want to at least be shortlisted, and ideally you want to win. Nothing wrong with that.

If possible, find a neutral third party to consider your prospects. Work through each of the criteria and be completely honest with yourself as to whether or not your business meets them. If it doesn't meet the majority of them - dump the category. Many awards entries come with a fee to enter, and they can be very time consuming to draft. Apply common sense here or face disappointment in the long run.

Now you know which awards to enter - congratulations! Next week - writing winning awards entries.

By Victoria Moffatt

Monday 11 March 2013

Why Should Lawyers Enter Awards? – Part 1

This week's post is the first in a series of three about awards for lawyers, and the part they play in promoting lawyers and law firms.

The Manchester Legal Awards, which took place on Thursday 7th March 2013 – and which we were lucky enough to attend, made us think about the importance of awards, and how they can be used to help promote law firms.

These days there are any number of awards evenings, and most towns and cities have at least one set for local businesses. In Manchester, we have The Insider Dealmakers Awards, The North West Business Masters, The Salford Business Awards, The Downtown Manchester Business Awards – the list goes on.

Business awards are important as they provide independent recognition for a whole range of different things – most successful, newest, most innovative, lifetime achievement, biggest deal, most inspirational. Chosen well, and in conjunction with other PR activities, awards can help law firms to raise awareness of their existence, but also to promote specific elements of their brand. For example, a law firm that has decided to really focus upon its customer service is likely to be able to find an award which recognises exceptional service. A firm that specialises in legal aid, and which has handled a number of challenging cases is likely to be able to find an award for that too.

Awards are great because they provide multiple opportunities for publicity. Most awards events have a media partner to write about the awards in the run up to submission deadlines, on announcement of the short list and following the event.

There are at least 5 potential opportunities to raise your firm's profile if you enter and win an award:

1. On short listing – the media partner will announce the list

2. On winning – your representative may be invited to make a brief speech to the audience. If   
    you've chosen a suitable award, this should be full of potential clients

3. On winning – your representative will be photographed and may be asked for a quote.  
    The image (and potentially the quote) will appear in the media partner's coverage of the    
    awards, on the website and probably on the website for the awards the following year

4. After winning – you can cross-reference the coverage, or even better, write your own blog 
    post about the experience

5. After winning – you can use the award logo in your emails, on letterhead and on your 


If you've decided to enter awards, the first step is working out which ones are most relevant for your firm, and which you stand the best chance of winning. We'll cover this next week.

By Victoria Moffatt

Monday 4 March 2013

Legal Bloggers: Avoiding Writers Block

Ahhh, blogging. One of life's joys – right? But what do you do when writer's block strikes? Avoiding writer's block may sound like an impossible trick but there are things the frustrated writer can do to ease the pain.

First up, keep a list of potential blog topics. Not exactly rocket science this one but inspiration truly strikes at the strangest times. For us, it's often in meetings – embarrassing no? When it does, whip out your Iphone (other models do exist) and stick it on a list. Alternatively, go 'old skool' and scribble it down somewhere. Having a stack of titles or ideas is great when you're short of time or inspiration but want to write.

Create a plan – when you were at school and had to write essays in exams, weren't you always told to write an essay plan? Although your blog won't be marked, it's still sensible advice. A plan helps you to think through your content, and outline what you want to include and leave out. It should also help with flow. Here at LexRex we like plans.

Use the news agenda as a springboard. There is very rarely a lack of news, and none of us lives in a vacuum. So keep track of what's going on – and not just legal news – lifestyle and culture pages are also great for ideas, themes and trends.

Allow yourself to get distracted. Obsessing about your lack of ideas, content or ability to write sensibly will not help. So do the washing, dig out the iron or mop the floor. In other words – take a break. On a similar note, get a change of scenery. Physically stepping away from your desk can really help.

Try cheating... or in other words, build a collection of guest posts from your favourite bloggers. It is a real compliment to be asked to write as a guest, and common to swap content. So if you are struggling, ask for help and give yourself a rest – it's not cheating really!

So what did you think of our tips for avoiding writer's block? Did we miss any? Let us know – opinions always welcome.

By Victoria Moffatt