All shapes and sizes on legal awards shortlist

THE shortlist for the Scott + Co Scottish Legal Awards 2012 is announced today, with almost 30 finalists battling it out for the top prizes.

A wide range of individuals, teams and firms have made the shortlist for the awards, which will be presented at a black-tie dinner at the EICC on 29 March.

Harper Macleod, a regular individual and team winner, is shortlisted in three categories – the DX Firm of the Year (which it won in 2010), Public Sector Team of the Year and Employment Team of the Year.

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For Firm of the Year, it faces strong competition from last year’s winner Thompsons, fresh from its key role in the UK Supreme Court’s ruling on pleural plaques late in 2011. Thompsons is also challenging for Employment Team and Litigation Team, while partner Laura Blane is shortlisted for Specialist Lawyer.

Also shortlisted in the Specialist category is one of Scotland’s best-known licensing lawyers, John Batters of Lindsays. His colleague Stephen McGowan is shortlisted in the Rising Star category, while Lindsays has team finalists in the Family Law and Residential Property categories.

Robert Pirrie, chief executive of the WS Society, who chaired the judging day in the absence of Margo MacDonald MSP, said: “We had a very full range of entries – some were terrific and there were difficult decisions to make in some categories.

“While there are challenges in a number of sectors, equally there are some real success stories and some firms have achieved remarkable growth. Others methodically continue to build on steady focus and progress over the last few years.”

Joy Glass, partner of Scott + Co, headline sponsor of the awards, said: “The popularity of the Scottish Legal Awards continues. The submissions came from a wide spectrum of firms, with all sizes of company represented. I am delighted to see 27 different firms shortlisted, and look forward to celebrating with them at the awards ceremony in March.”

Litigation is again a hotly contested category with five finalists: Thompsons are joined by Digby Brown, Halliday Campbell, Irwin Mitchell Scotland and Morton Fraser.

Litigation is one of four categories where Morton Fraser is shortlisted, along with Employment, Family Law and Public Sector. There are also multiple shortlistings for Mackinnons, with three.

In the Firm of the Year category, niche firm MBM Commercial is pitched against Biggart Baillie, Lindsays, Harper Macleod and Thompsons.

The shortlist is not composed entirely of legal firms; the 27 finalists also include The Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Young Lawyers Association, ESPC, Millar & Bryce and Central Law Training.

Pirrie warned that some entrants would not be walking away with awards because they had failed to read the conditions of entry carefully – or had just been plain sloppy in their use of language and choice of content.

“There were some surprises – it is illuminating what some individuals and firms think will impress the judges and how wrong they can be,” he said.

The entries gave “a snapshot of the market and sentiment out there” and changes in the legal landscape had clearly had an impact on the nature and content of entries, he added.

“It is interesting to see firms moving away from an indiscriminate ‘all the graphs go up’ presentation of their businesses – this just isn’t credible in the current climate,” said Pirrie. “The result is perhaps a maturer presentation giving a better, more realistic insight.”

The judges assessed each submission and scored them against a number of criteria including content, relevance and presentation. Experts from business, law and politics on the panel included: Sir Andrew Cubie; Owen Kelly, chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise; Sheenagh Adams, Keeper of the Registers of Scotland; and Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland.

More than 450 members of the profession will hear the results of their deliberations on 29 March – and learn who has won the one accolade not open for nomination, The Scotsman Lifetime Achievement Award.

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