1999: the fifth annual Lawyer awards

THE LEGAL equivalent of the Oscars, The Lawyer Awards continue to be the benchmark awards for the legal profession.

Now in their fifth year, they are unique in being the only awards to highlight and recognise initiative and achievement across the whole legal profession, and in all areas of practice.

Last year, 1,200 legal luminaries gathered at the impressive Grosvenor House Hotel for the awards. This year, more than 1,500 are expected to attend.

The categories for the 21 awards range from those for partners and barristers to those who will influence the future of the profession – the assistant solicitors and in-house lawyers in both the private and public sectors.

In one of the most hotly-contested award categories – as well as often the most underrated in terms of confounding the media stereotype of "fat cat" lawyers – there is the award for Best Pro Bono Activity.

More importantly, in a profession that is often criticised more than it is praised for its contribution to society and the economy, The Lawyer Awards attract well-deserved national press and TV coverage for the winners.

With awards for innovation and information technology, the awards – sponsored this year by NatWest – are also instrumental in spotlighting the trends of the future. This year sees the introduction of a new award for Litigation Team of the Year.

Last year's winner of the overall award for Law Firm of the Year was Olswang, a firm which had distinguished itself with its high profile clients and case list, including The Guardian (in the cases involving Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton), and Chris Evans in his acquisition of Virgin Radio Holdings.

The other winners in this category were Cameron McKenna and niche intellectual property firm Briffa & Co. This award in particular demonstrates the wide range of practice recognised by the awards – it is not just the major players who are acknowledged, but also the innovators and mouldbreakers.

The winners of previous years have shown that the awards are an accurate barometer of who the movers and shakers in the legal profession are. A previous winner of the Personality of the Year award is Cherie Booth QC, who is part of this year's distinguished judging panel.

All the judges on the panel are well-placed to pick out the best from the high quality field of entries which, over the past four years, have consistently impressed with their standard and quality.

Entries for all of this year's 21 awards are predicted to be even bigger than before.

Editor of The Lawyer Sean Brierley says: "This year's Lawyer Awards have the most prodigious line-up of judges in its history, reflecting the authority and popularity of the most coveted awards in the profession."

For more details and an entry pack call Alexandra Knapman on 0171 970 4772,