As both my readers know, over the last 13 months I have been writing about the different ways in which professionals conspire not to win business, and how they can avoid the traps. I thought I had covered most of the main issues. But in his Opinion piece for the February Journal, Campbell Read opened a new front.
Sniffing from an Olympian height at the vulgarity, as he sees it, of legal awards, he questions the achievements of those who win them, accuses them of “prostrating themselves” for “baubles” and generally laments their descent from the Corinthian values he ascribes to himself. In his Utopia, all shall shun prizes.
I do not doubt that Campbell is a fine and principled solicitor. If he feels competing for awards is not for him, so be it. But his opposition to them in principle, and his equation of promoting one’s firm with shamelessness, are wrong on so many levels it is difficult to know where to start.
Running a law firm is about service, skill and ethics, but it is also about winning – convincing clients to instruct you, not your competitors, because your proposition is the best for their needs. Campbell speaks of unsolicited gestures of appreciation by clients as the awards that really matter. He must know, therefore, that independent endorsement of a firm’s quality is one of the most influential drivers of buyer behaviour. Why else do so many of us seek accreditation as experts? No one accuses accredited specialists of “prostrating” themselves before the panel, nor should they. I have seen many times the link between winning awards, winning work and being able to charge a premium for it, both during my time in practice and since then working with award-winning firms. “Baubles” rarely win clients on their own, but there is no doubting how effectively they boost market credibility and staff morale.
“I am simply not convinced,” Campbell tells us, “that there is any inherent merit in receiving an award that you have to ask for.” This is especially so if one has entered a competition for “pecuniary” motives (“earning a living”, it’s sometimes called). Campbell seems to be suggesting that the act of competing for a prize diminishes the achievement of winning it. Only an unsolicited prize, apparently, is worth having. Imagine suggesting to another Olympian, Mo Farah for example, that his achievements lack “inherent merit” because he had the temerity to thrust himself forward as a competitor; or criticising him because, while he was training, he kept in mind the pecuniary advantages victory would bring. Before putting these points to him, it would be prudent to develop a similar turn of foot.
Do awards ceremonies succumb sometimes to hype and incongruity? Of course they do. My favourite is the bronze award given to a firm in a category where there were only two contenders. But it is remarkable how consistently the cream comes to the top. Despite Campbell’s complaint that the field self-selects, the major prizes are usually won by firms who would be regarded as outstanding in any circumstances.
The novelist Fawn Weaver once wrote: “You can either feed negative thoughts, or you can starve the suckers.” Perhaps the next awards dinner would be a good place for Campbell to start that starving, give rein to his competitive side, and give a long-overdue airing to that tuxedo.
In this issue
- The role of "attachment" in child custody and contact cases
- No protocol – what expenses?
- Ecocide: a worthy "fifth crime against peace"?
- Mandatory mediation: better for children
- Reservoir safety regulation: a changing landscape
- Reading for pleasure
- Opinion: Mark Hordern
- Book reviews
- President's column
- Digital deeds move closer
- Fair access - a fair way to go
- No protocol – what expenses? (1)
- Hedges: not all bad news
- Daring to be different
- Financial planning or wealth management – is there a difference?
- Success in the balance
- Wealth management for business leaders and owners
- Purpose of the protocol
- Actionable data wrongs?
- Land Court: business as usual
- Penalty points
- Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
- Fever pitch
- Heritage regained
- All grist to the mill
- Wills: is it OK to act?
- Gongs, dinners and just deserts
- Perils of the home
- Ask Ash
- Scots lawyers debate Union in London
- Public Guardian news roundup
- Law reform roundup
- Personal Injury User Group at your service
- Diary of an innocent in-houser