This week we unveil the grand shortlist for The Lawyer Awards 2013. As usual, we were swamped with entries – this year we had more than 450 – and as usual, we read every single one and were stunned at the high standard.
What is clear from the submissions is that in-house lawyers are clearly doing more with less, and nowhere is that more acute than the public sector, which is under immense pressure.
Their private sector cousins are no slouches either. Transactions may be fewer and lower value, but then we’ve always been less impressed with the big noughts attached to the deals and more with technical excellence.
We have to rely heavily on the published criteria. This means that if an organisation has not demonstrated measurable outcomes, say, or submitted financial data, they simply didn’t make the cut to the shortlist even if we knew them.
We have the criteria for a reason; it’s hard enough comparing apples with pears, but if the apples wilfully – and in some cases arrogantly – ignore the rules of the game, then meaningful comparisons are even harder for the judges to make. The two most difficult categories to judge were law firm of the year and ethical initiative of the year, where there were hordes of outstanding entries. Truly, in each we could easily have run a shortlist of 15. We even considered splitting them up to take account of the strong standard; ethical initiative could have easily divided into law firm CSR, law firm pro bono and not-for-profit organisations – and with the restrictions in legal aid it is clear that private practice has an ever more important role to play in pro bono.
The law firm of the year category was so strong that it could have been split several ways, whether by geography, turnover or specialism. However, we decided against creating new sub-categories or the ceremony would go on all night – and we know that The Lawyer Awards is as much about networking with contacts as it is applauding the deserving winners. So as you’ll see on page 12, there are organisations of all shapes and sizes.
And that’s as it should be: the Awards shortlist highlights outstanding performance whether you’re in a multi-million pound legal machine or a tiny not-for-profit team. Congratulations to all shortlisted, and we’ll see you on 25 June.