LEGAL AWARDS: HOW TO COME SECOND: A PRACTITIONER’S GUIDE: 10 KEY POINTS

If you play the mandolin then, by law, you have to learn a tune known as O sole mio.  This is a tune made famous, to a certain generation, as “Just one Cornetto“. It was even a hit for Elvis Presley, as Its Now or Never. The interesting, and important, thing about this song is that it is rumoured that it was written for a song contest, and came second.  It is significant that no-one has a clue what came first.  The same principle appears to apply to other contests. Those who come second in the X factor often end up doing better than the winner.

It may well be that similar principles apply to legal awards. Indeed sometimes entrants make their wish to come second fairly blatant.  Here are some handy tips on ensuring that you get the coveted second place. (Strangely, and after I wrote this, I realised these principles may have wider application as well).

MAKE SURE YOUR “PR PEOPLE” TURN UP THE DIAL TO 11

You need to make the most of the dissonance.  Most of those who write the entries for competitions are PR people. Most of those who judge them are lawyers.  Different languages are being spoken.  Make sure the PR people use every one of their favourite “buzzwords”.   The judges need to know that  the management speak twitter feed is not a satire. Leave the judges googling for a translation, and wondering whether what they have read actually means anything (there is a bull in that photo for a reason).

TOTALLY IGNORE THE AWARD CRITERIA

This is very important. Those who come first are going to address the criteria directly. Most probably using sub-headings, with succinct and factual outlines explaining how they meet the criteria. You need to stay well away from that.  Make sure that your entry ignores the criteria and you write about what you (or your PR people) want to write about.  That’s what good lawyers do anyway isn’t it? Ignore the criteria and say what they want to say.

IGNORE THE WORD LIMIT

Depending on the competition the judges could have 100 – 150 entrants. They will, of course, welcome with open arms a verbose and over-lengthy entry, bending over backwards to make sure you get your coveted second place.

FORGET THE JUDGES ARE HUMAN

Look at the judging panel. There is probably not a bot among them.  For the most part they are  experienced lawyers (some panels draw from related fields). If you can make their life difficult. Make the application difficult to read or view.  The judges will be attempting to be fair by judging the applications against the award criteria. The will spend hours, and hours, of their own time looking at the entries even before the judging panel meets.  Some judges will never of heard of you, or your firm (which is a criminal offence I know). All they have to go on is the application. To come second made it verbose.

(It is often surprising how unanimous a judge’s panel is in relation to entries. When arriving with score-sheets at the outset of a panel meeting most people will have broadly the same preferences for first and second place. The standard and style of the entry is fairly determinative, which shows how hard you have to work to ensure you come second).

MAKE A VIDEO

You have to be careful here.  Some awards allow videos to be made, some videos have won.  The secret here is ensure  that presentation takes total priority over content.  High production values, oblique filming, well-presented staff are all excellent.  The best videos (from the important point of coming second) will make sure that the judges will be scratching their heads, looking at the award criteria, and not having a clue about what they have just seen.

ENTER YOURSELF FOR THE WRONG CATEGORY

You may have a very specialist department specialising in commercial transactions in San Marino.  The best thing to do, therefore, is enter the  department for the “Niche Firm” category.  The judges will be confused and you can be certain you won’t get first place.

ENTER YOURSELF FOR EVERY CATEGORY

Nothing warms the cockles of a judge’s heart more than reading the same entry, time after time, in every single category, whether relevant or not.  There are few better ways of ensuring that you are awarded the coveted second place.

JUST CUT AND PASTE YOUR LINKED IN ENTRY

Judges love to see those last minute entries with clear signs of cutting and pasting.  Care and attention to detail of this kind can guarantee you second place.

TELL THE JUDGES HOW MANY AWARDS YOU HAVE WON ALREADY

Judges of these type of awards tend to be independently minded.  Telling them how many awards you have already won will make them think “they don’t need another one then” or “well we are judging this one, not the other panel”.  This is another good way of staying away from first place.

THINK: WELL WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE ARE TO JUDGE US ANYWAY

Actually I think this is a good point.  You don’t have to apply for an award and leave this to the vagaries of a judging panel.  By far the most meaningful use of your time is to set up your own awards ceremony – and award yourself second place.