Nearly everyone enjoys receiving acknowledgment of a job well done and excellence in their work, and certainly lawyers are no exception. The number of companies offering awards and recognitions to attorneys and law firms is growing every day, and they are often money-making endeavors. My lawyer clients are solicited regularly with suggestions they are a “Top,” “Best,” “Most,” “Leading,” or “Super” attorney in their area of practice—but greatness often comes with a price. To be listed, one is encouraged to take out congratulatory advertising, or purchase a plaque or badge that can be posted to the attorney’s website profile or included in one’s email signature. For most attorneys, it can be challenging to know which of these opportunities matter and are legitimate, and which are spam.
Do Recognitions Even Matter?
If you can basically buy yourself endless awards, do they have any value? It really depends on your objective. If you are growing a practice, then you need to think about the professionals that matter to you and what matters to them. Some considerations for pursuing awards include:
Tipping the scales: When a client or prospect is considering hiring you versus a competitor who appears equal in all areas (pedigree, experience, education), and you have a long list of awards and recognitions from organizations the client or prospect has heard of, or think they have heard of, and your competition doesn’t, that could be the thing that pushes them to hire you. This is also relevant when you are being considered by future employers. Note that non-lawyers typically do not have as many opportunities for public recognition and awards as lawyers do, so when people outside of the legal profession see your accolades, they may be more likely to be impressed.
Building credibility: Having industry honors and awards can build your perceived credibility. Most audiences understand these types of recognitions as a form of social proof, especially when the award is specific in highlighting a nuance, niche, or differentiator about you and your practice (e.g., a securities litigator recognized for working in cryptocurrency and blockchain). The people referring your work and those responsible for hiring you could feel validated when seeing you receive consistent recognitions. Attorneys you want to work with (whether senior or junior to you) may see honors and recognitions as an affirmation of expertise in your field, which may help persuade them to work with you.
Staying top of mind: Regularly reminding your network of your expertise is key to growing your reputation and leads to new opportunities. For law firms, publicly acknowledging a recognition received by one of their attorneys is a nice way to improve their visibility as well as highlight practice areas and expertise within a firm. Lawyers can use the opportunity to share an award won with their network to highlight the type of work that led to the honor.
Which Awards/Lists Should You Submit To?
Certainly not all awards and honors are equal. There are plenty of recognitions for lawyers that do not require a fee, so I generally advise attorney clients to avoid those that are purely pay-to-play. To make the biggest impact on your practice, focus on awards and recognitions given by organizations that your target contacts might have heard of. Also look for awards that help you build the professional reputation you are interested in. It may sound obvious, but if you are pivoting your bankruptcy practice to focus on finance work with venture capital firms, do not pursue awards for bankruptcy attorneys.