Are Award Submissions Worth the Effort?

September 14, 2020

Attorneys react to the subject of awards submissions in a few different ways.

At one end of the spectrum is an enthusiastic cohort of lawyers who are happy to throw their hats in the ring (and don’t mind doing the work on the nomination to get there). At the other end are the attorneys who would rather let their practices and reputations do the talking.

But there is a third group of attorneys somewhere in the middle who feel ambivalent. While they would be thrilled to win an award that might help them develop new business, they may feel less than sanguine about the possibility of losing or the amount of time and effort involved in writing the nomination. Ultimately, they may decide not to participate.

(Within that third group, we’ve noticed, are women attorneys who report another obstacle: they doubt whether their skills and experience truly set them apart from their peers. While most lawyers suffer from imposter syndrome at some point, it seems to strike women more frequently than men, and the results of that syndrome are highly visible in the awards ecosystem. Food for thought!)

Are awards worth the effort? We say yes, and here’s why:

Awards submissions are a key part of the marketing and communications long game: an important way to gain visibility with current and potential clients. That has always been true, but Covid has underscored just how crucial these opportunities are. Because as far as earned media placements in the present moment, continued lay-offs and furloughs at reputable news outlets are making attorney contact with reporters more challenging than ever.

With these restrictions poised to continue as long as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the bottom line of media outlets, submitting attorneys for awards can become an excellent way to keep the names of both the lawyer and the firm in the public eye.

While it is true that the awards are competitive and that no attorney is guaranteed a “win,” simply putting forth a nomination and participating has its advantages. Here are a few pluses of taking part in an awards program.

1. It’s free. Yes, some publications and groups do charge a fee to submit an award nomination. But plenty of awards, like the Chicago Lawyer/Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s “Forty Under 40” and Crain’s Chicago Business’ “Notable Women Lawyers” do not cost anything to enter. If the attorney wins, they get into highly respected publications such as the Law Bulletin and Crain’s for free.

2. The deadlines are forgiving. Another advantage to submitting a nomination is the deadlines are on average four to six weeks out from the initial announcement. That’s a lot more favorable than having to work with a reporter on deadline who may only have a window of an hour to talk with your attorney for a story. Plus, if the law firm is partnering with a third-party PR professional, the firm can let the PR partner write the nomination — and be strategic in framing the attorney and the firm.

3. It’s a great way to gather content and repurpose it for later. Whether the attorney wins the award or not, the exercise of writing the nomination on its own is an excellent way of compiling stories of big wins and other accomplishments for the attorney. Even if the attorney doesn’t end up making the list, fear not: all of the information that has been gathered about the attorney and their practice can be repurposed for the blog on the firm’s website.

Winning an award creates opportunities to develop new business. But, as Wayne Gretzky (or was it Michael Scott?) said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.