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Content Under Pressure

Awards Season: Building a Body of Work for “Best of” Lists

By Susan Kostal

When awards season and Chambers nominations roll around, some firms find themselves scrambling to cobble together nomination applications. It’s understandable. I’ve been on both sides: crafting nominations, judging entries and writing copy about the winners.

Initially, I thought crafting great narrative in a nomination would clinch the deal. There was gold there, and I just needed to weave it together properly. But I’ve become convinced that a Man Booker winner could draft your nomination and it wouldn’t guarantee a win. Why? Because it’s not just about the big case or big deal that put you in the running, and how you position that. Like most of life, it’s about everything that led up to it.

What Do Judges Look For?

It’s true — the nomination is just the start. Evaluators look at what has been written about you, and what you’ve written. You can’t always control the former, but you are definitely in control of the latter. Here’s where you can legitimately put your thumb on the scale.

But for too many lawyers, there is either no evidence of content leadership in the profession, or the showing of the individual, practice group or firm is a mile wide and an inch deep. Evaluators want to see passion, a long-term professional commitment, and an intense interest and leadership in a specific area of law.

The best way to show this is by developing a body of content.

Writing Is a Winning Strategy

Writing is perfect for busy lawyers because it can be done according to your schedule. Even if you have publishing deadlines to meet, you have tremendous flexibility as to when you write and what you cover. While I love speaking, attending conferences, and the fabulous personal interactions and opportunities those foster, I can’t always devote the time, attention and cost of attending or presenting. Writing, on the other hand, is far more time- and cost-efficient. Unlike many speaking engagements, which often involve a panel presentation, you can choose the topic and focus. You can choose when you write, tailoring it to your work schedule, responsibilities and specific business development goals.

In sum, by writing, you can create a record of thought leadership over which you have complete control. You decide both the topic and the manner in which the content is produced and how it is promoted.

For those who are stretched thin, writing is often the most efficient form of business development. And it is vital to building a case for a “top lawyers” win.

Why am I stressing this? Regardless of whether you have your sights on a “best of” award listing, your content strategy has a huge impact on your professional CV and how you fare in such evaluations. No, you don’t sit down to write a post with the idea of landing on a “best of” list. But building a body of work — of focused writing that helps advance one’s field and promotes intellectual development — is a key element of rising to the top.

Writing for business development — to attract specific clients — is always No. 1. A close No. 2 needs to be creating a body of content that you can use in a variety of ways, including for award nominations, RFPs and the like.

There are so many reasons to carve out time to write. Prepping for a possible moment of glory is just one of them.

More on Building Your Content Strategy From Susan Kostal

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Susan Kostal Susan Kostal

Trends at Work columnist Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and content strategy consultant. She is a former contributing editor for Attorney at Work and previously wrote a monthly column, Content Under Pressure. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at

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