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Love it or hate it, legal award season is right around the corner. Whether you’re part of a large team or a solo practitioner, award submissions are a necessary—if time consuming—component of business development. In fact, the work that goes into preparing submissions, contacting references, and developing strategies to climb the table can feel worthy of recognition in and of itself.

While legal awards are sometimes dismissed as superfluous to the actual practice of law, the more established rankings hold significant cachet within the industry as well as for potential clients who look to them to inform their legal choices. A choice listing in one of the top directories can bestow a number of benefits upon a recipient: it can offer a noticeable reputational boost for a firm, anoint rising legal talent as future superstars, and solidify a firm’s practice group as the de facto authority in the field. For this reason, engaged firms make strategic choices to strengthen their submissions and set themselves apart from the pack.

What makes a strong awards submission? Although, you should always follow the guidelines on a specific award to ensure a thorough and complete submission, there are a few things that can help your submission stand out with reviewers. Good lawyering, of course, always matters, but highlighting exceptional work—such as high value deals, ground-breaking casework, and high-profile cases—can distinguish your firm from the rest and position your team for success during award season.

High Value Deals

Money talks, and this is no less true than with award submissions. High value deals with large dollar amounts—whether that be a merger, a settlement, or other object at dispute—demonstrate that your firm can deftly navigate risk and get results in high stakes situations. When selecting cases, showing the money, so to speak, acts as a shorthand for a firm that nets big clients, big cases, and (ideally) big wins.

Ground-breaking Casework

The law is not static and breaking new ground is one way to set your firm apart from the rest. If your team has overturned a historic ruling or represented on a case that defines protocol on emerging issues, list it. Make clear the implications of the case, how it affects judicial proceedings going forward, and your role representing on a landmark matter. Being the first to solve historic problems is not only noteworthy, it’s the sort of thing that catches researchers’ attention when evaluating submissions.

Media Appeal

High-profile mergers and controversial court cases often spend time in the public eye. If your case was covered in the media—any media—make sure to mention it. As we discussed previously, media recognition confers a unique legitimacy that verifies your firm’s value. That sentiment is equally true with awards and media coverage can be a trusted endorsement that lets evaluators know your case is important. For this reason, include any media mentions—whether mainstream media, local media, or industry mention—either in the body of your submission or in a separate section for media links.

Conclusion

Taking a strategic approach to your submissions that highlights exceptional work can make the task of award submissions more manageable while increasing their overall impact. Being listed in the top directories not only demonstrates your firm’s value, it can help raise the profile of emerging practice areas and bolster new legal talent. By focusing on the impact of your firm’s work through high value deals, landmark matters, and media-friendly cases, you can make a compelling case for directory inclusion, thereby raising your firm’s reputation while achieving its business development goals.