Awards/Rankings, Writing Advice

Essential Guide to Successful Editorial Nominations

When I started working for law firms in 2001, I never imagined that my typical day would be focused on anything other than media relations. But times have changed and so have the publications. Today, much of our work week can be devoted to responding to awards and rankings — thanks to the increasing number of requests from news editorial (legitimate lists) and pay-for-play lists and what I will call pop-up publications (not legitimate) that send out requests for submissions.

We can all agree developing an editorial nomination takes time, skill and some finesse, from navigating the politics of which submissions to make to compiling the details and facts of each matter that tell a compelling story. This was highlighted throughout the Legal Marketing Association’s recent Los Angeles panel program that featured Greg Mitchell, editor-in-chief of The Recorder; Julie Fei, global communications manager at O’Melveny & Myers; and Kristy Werness, public relations manager at Irell & Minellaomm. Cat Fredenburgh, editor at Law360, was not in attendance but contributed to the conversation via email notes that I read as I moderated the discussion.www.

Here some highlights from Greg and Cat:

Take Stock: While most firms think they should win every award, Cat recommended taking stock of the work the firm and its attorneys have done, looking at previous years’ submissions and submitting only for those categories where you feel the firm has a chance of winning.

Tell A Story: Greg encouraged the group to tell a story by providing the essential facts that make the nomination compelling. He said law firms should provide a narrative describing the matters that would justify his editorial team’s decision to give your firm or attorney an award.

Be Comprehensive: Greg and Cat want all the information possible to understand the importance of a particular matter. Cat described one instance when she reviewed a submission that included a long and daunting list of case titles, numbers and venues. No details about the cases or their importance were given. The person that put this submission together imagined the editors would look up the cases and research their importance and the role that the firm played. “Editors will not do the work for you. It’s your job to convince us,” said Cat.

Will the Real Leader People Stand Up?: When editors read that someone played a “leading role” in a matter or “was an integral member of a team” without any further detail, they assume that the person did not play a leading role and was not integral. Greg and Cat advised to be specific about the role that your firm or an individual attorney played in a matter and provide dates for all the developments in your submission.

Don’t Submit Your Bio: Cat said while it’s great to get some background information on the candidates – general background information, previous posts, interests, charitable work, etc. – most Law360 series (Rising Stars, MVPs, Practice Groups of the Year) are focused on specific legal matters that the firm handled. If you can’t include any matters or client details then it’s probably best to sit the series out. The Recorder uses Survey Monkey for its rankings and limits the word count, which requires law firms to have excellent editing skills.

Confidential Matters: Confidential matters can help round out a submission, but Cat warned if most of your big matters are confidential, it’s probably best to sit the series out. The reason? She said if we to choose someone whose important matters were all confidential, the story would sound something like “Hey, just take our word for it.” Greg agreed and added that while he understands why many attorneys can’t discuss private settlements or litigation results, you have to be able to describe the work and the significance of the result.

Creative Liberties: Both Cat and Greg advised that overstating or exaggerating the role your firm or one of its attorneys played in a matter could hurt your credibility and can, in the worst case scenario, be extremely embarrassing. Cat said that one year, Law360 chose a firm that greatly overstated its role in a high-profile patent matter. When we ran the firm’s profile, the editors heard about it from several other firms that worked on the case. It was such a serious error that they had to remove the profile from the Law360 site and the firm from the list of winners.

The next blog post will offer highlights from Julie and Kristy on how they manage the nomination process in-house.