How to win a STEP Private Client Award

George Hodgson
George Hodgson

The Judges’ Panels met last week to whittle down the entries for this year’s STEP Private Client Awards to a shortlist for final consideration. Given that we had a record number of entries (240) from a record number of jurisdictions (21), their task was not easy. Many entrants will, inevitably, be disappointed. For those that are disappointed, however, I have drafted some simple notes on how you can improve your chances of winning an Award next year.

  1.   Apply for the right Award

It was a constant surprise to the judges how many people seemed to be making submissions for the wrong category. One submission for Firm of the Year even began with the bold statement that ‘We are a leading (another category all together) firm…’.  Read the category criteria carefully, and if you think the judges might have difficulty understanding why you are applying for a particular category, help them by explaining your business better.

  1. Answer the questions

Probably the most common reason for submissions going by the wayside was that the judges felt that the questions and criterion laid down in the Awards application pack had not been answered. It is standard advice to every student sitting an exam to read the questions carefully and make sure you answer them. The same holds true for anyone drafting a submission for a Private Client Award. Even with the most upbeat story, simply cutting and pasting your latest PR pack will seldom impress the judges relative to an entry that gives clear responses to the questions asked.

  1. Give examples and evidence

Solid evidence and real examples demonstrating why you think your firm deserves an Award always go down well with the judges. To illustrate, most entrants in most categories claimed to be ‘client focused’, but some gave real-life examples of how they achieve this and what they have done to go that extra mile for their clients. They tend to attract the judges attention far more than simple assertions of client focus.

  1. Be consistent

The judges are both curious and cynical in equal measure. They will check what you say in your submission against what you say on your website and other sources of information. Glaring inconsistencies tend to result in applications receiving relatively short shrift.

  1. Use your 1,000 words

Brevity is a strength, but several submissions fell by the wayside because there was little clear detail on key issues and yet the submission was significantly below the 1,000-word maximum. Wasted opportunities?

  1. Remember we are choosing ‘Firm of the Year’

Your firm may well be successful and very good at what it does, but the Awards are intended to highlight those that have achieved particular success over the past year. General statements about your historic successes are therefore far less relevant than what you have actually achieved over the past 12 months.

From the above it is probably clear this year’s STEP Private Client Awards is proving very competitive. Submissions across the board were often of a very high standard. Congratulations, therefore, to those who have made it to the shortlist for final consideration, and commiserations to those who haven’t.

STEP PCA 2014/15 Logo

George Hodgson is STEP’s Deputy Chief Executive.  

2 thoughts on “How to win a STEP Private Client Award

  1. With regard to your comments about entering the right category, may I respectfully observe that this year’s classes were very broad. For example the “Law Firm of the Year (Midsize)” category captured any firms with 50 fee earners or fewer across the firm, and to qualify for Boutique, one had to have fewer than 6 fee earners, meaning a large number of moderately sized law firms were forced to apply for the Large Law Firm Category, irrespective of the relative size of their private client teams within the firm. Perhaps an idea for next year is to define categories by reference to the number of private client fee earners within firms (to be defined) rather than the size of all fee earners employed to ensure that private client practices are judged in proper peer groups?

    1. Thank you for this comment. We do an exercise every year after the awards of assessing where we can improve the process and we value this kind of feedback as part of that process.

      – George Hodgson, Deputy Chief Executive

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