The Lawyer Awards judges: here’s how to win

Creativity, novelty and – crucially – hard evidence, were just a few of the ways candidates caught the eye of this year’s The Lawyer Awards’ judges, as revealed at last Tuesday’s inaugural Best in Class event. 

Three of the 20-strong judging panel were interviewed live on stage by The Lawyer editor Catrin Griffiths and held the delegates’ attention with their critiques of the 400-plus entries to The Lawyer Awards. Jeffrey Eneberi, general counsel at Just Eat and Tim Jones, general counsel at England Rugby 2015, highlighted the importance of concise and innovative entries along with Lloyds Banking Group’s corporate counsel Lesley Wan. 

“One of our skills as lawyers is to be concise, while still getting the message across,” said Eneberi. “A word limit is to test that, but it can be ignored.”

The main message a submission should convey is what makes it different from other entries, so that it stands out for its creativity and novelty. Eneberi said his team, for instance, sometimes wear “super-hero” capes around the office so people know who the lawyers are in the businesses and that they are approachable.  

Jones, formerly of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, agreed that submissions have to show what you did differently.

“You have to pick the most exciting aspect of the entry that is going to grab the judges’ attention,” he added. “Some submissions are tantalising in that they hint at a deal which is interesting. However, not enough then comes through to convey the full excellence of what’s been going on.”

To do this, applicants need to produce hard evidence to prove it is the lawyers doing the work. Without fudging or elaborating the facts, entrants should then show how the lawyers have been the “thought leaders” in the transaction, coming up with solutions to difficult problems.

“Once you have written the submission, you should look back to see if you have answered the question,” said Wan. “We can see when things are put together as a rushed job and you should be careful who you ask to be your referee. Sometimes referees only put in a few paragraphs on the submission, which I think adds a disservice to the candidate.”

Meanwhile, Lloyds’ Lesley Wan made an impassioned case for seeing candidates in the round and assessing their wider contribution to leadership. How else were they contributing to their organisations, and how much were they nurturing and developing their teams, she asked. 

The Best in Class event saw delegates from a large number of in-house teams gather at Fishmongers’ Hall in London to network and to discuss issues pertinent to their sector. Organisations represented included UK Power Networks, PayPal, Hitachi Data Systems, Welsh Rugby Union Group Talk Talk Telecom Group, Siemens, RSA, and Royal Mail. Private practice was also represented by firms including last year’s Law Firm of the Year RPC, Ashurst, DWF, Jones Day, Macfarlanes, Watson Farley & Williams, Stewarts and Shearman & Sterling plus a number of boutique firm finalists. 

For full details on the event, see our report (22 June 2015).

The Lawyer Awards, in association with Travelers, takes place tonight (23 June) at the Grosvenor House Hotel. The ceremony will be hosted by former Conservative Party leader William Hague (5 May 2015). Check out the shortlist here to see which firms and in-house teams are in the running.