Claire Smith looks at who won the awards for client care, multimedia and legal team of the year last year, and what made them stand out from the rest.
Client Care Award
Last year's winners…
Gold Shoesmiths & Harrisons
Silver Irwin Mitchell
Bronze AA Legal Services
A commitment to client care is crucial to the survival of any business.
This award recognises firms that set new standards in client care and meet those standards on an ongoing basis.
Last year's winner was Shoosmiths & Harrison's Property Direct, a direct conveyancing service developed specifically to make up for previous shortcomings in client care.
Designed to address four areas of concern – lack of financial clarity, poor levels of accessibility, lack of speed and an impersonal approach – the initiative focused on each conveyancer going "the extra mile" for their customers. Clear cost guidance and accessibility were also key components of the service.
Judges highlighted the "thoroughness and rigour" with which the firm had analysed client needs. One judge commented: "This initiative is aimed at Mr and Mrs Average Client and their domestic conveyancing needs. The entry demonstrates well the aspects of each of the criteria that the award is to be assessed against."
This year's award is sponsored by Lawtel. Judges will be looking for entries that demonstrate responsiveness, accountability, innovation, monitoring and communication before and after the event. If possible, firms should include details of client charters or their methods of measuring client satisfaction.
Best Use of the Multimedia
Last year's winners…
Gold The College of Law
Silver Kaye Tesler & Co
A growing number of firms, chambers and in-house departments are embracing multimedia as a means of improving efficiency and attracting new business.
This award, sponsored by Perfect Information, recognises those in the legal profession who make good use of new technology.
Last year's winner was The College of Law, for its CD-Rom on employment law. This computer-based learning package makes use of text, graphics, sound and video. It replicates lectures by means of audio tracks, and includes video clips of practitioners and reconstructions of real-life situations.
One judge said: "It was truly multimedia in all ways. It used sound, video and graphics and, surprisingly, there was no over-usage of any of the media. If this is indicative of the sort of training lawyers will be getting in the future, it bodes well for the computer literacy of the next generation."
Kaye Tesler & Co took the silver award for its interactive internet system, which allows firms to promote their services and receive instructions from prospective clients through a website. Linklaters' Blue Flag financial product, which offers legal advice through an easy-to-use site, carried off the bronze award.
Judges will be looking for innovative use of multimedia that assists in the efficient delivery of legal services. Entries should demonstrate what their product does, how it differs from others and what it has achieved or is expected to achieve.
Public Sector Keagal Team of the Year
Last year's winners…
Gold London Borough of Newham
Silver London Borough of Camden Legal Services
Bronze Suffolk County Council
Lawyers in the public sector have to be masters of multi-tasking; delivering a wide range of services on a limited budget to a large client base.
Last year's award went to the London Borough of Newham, which was commended for its annual business plan. The 49-strong team deals with housing, litigation, social services, conveyancing and planning, and was heavily involved in the de-designation of the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1998.
One judge commended the way the team worked with external advisers: "It was a diverse range, including briefing a QC to chair a major public inquiry into a murder in one of the council's day-care centres, and another who investigated a high-profile employment case."
Judges also noted that the team successfully assisted the council in managing its u600m annual budget and contributed to the council's reputation as one of the fastest improving in the capital.
The award is sponsored by Spicers Centre for Europe. The judges will be looking for a team with exemplary ongoing development. They will be considering internal relationships, innovative use of external legal advisers, diversity of work undertaken and adaptability. The winners will show initiative and an exceptional contribution to the public sector.,