A firm has stood by its boasts about winning a pair of legal awards after RollOnFriday raised questions about their value.

Recently Bridge Law Solicitors issued a press release declaring, "we are delighted to announce we have won the SME News legal awards for Excellence in Contentious Trust and Probate Law and Equine Litigation Specialists of the Year 2019!" 

The Manchester-based firm called its victory a "huge achievement", and said that without its staff's hard work "this wouldn't have been possible".

On LinkedIn, one of its lawyers gave a moving acceptance speech. "I have been a horse rider since I was 18 months old", she wrote. "As my legal career progressed I was lucky enough to incorporate my passion of horses and animals with my love of the law. I am now "Equine Litigation Specialist of the Year 2019" at this year’s SME Legal Awards. Thank you to everybody who has made this dream a reality for me."


AWA

All the other Equine Litigation Specialists who were nominated must be sad.


The company which makes dreams come true, SME News, claims on its website that "To ensure these awards are a true representation of the very best that the SME landscape has to offer, we leave nothing to chance". Its screening process apparently involves "carefully scrutinising everything from a nominee's region to their performance over the past 12 months, their commitment to innovation, their methods and even their competition". This means "that only the most deserving names walk away with one of our prestigious awards".

Despite its high standards, SME News managed to hand out 3,023 prestigious awards, or 58 a week, in 2018. The victors occupy a vast array of markets, from hospitality to DNA testing to dog walking. Here's a small sample of awards given out by SME News. Please note: none have been invented by RollOnFriday.

  • YorkTest Laboratories Food Intolerance Testing Company of the Year 2018
  • Proflush Best for Central Heating Power Flushing Products 2018 - Lancashire 
  • TW Fuggle & Son Most Caring Funeral Directors 2018 - Kent 
  • Leasowe Castle Most Historical Hotel in the UK 2018
  • Zebedee Castles Best for Bouncy Castle & Slide Hire 2018 - Suffolk 
  • The Superlicks Party Band Most Exciting Party Cover Band 2018
  • Bridge Law Equine Litigation Specialists 2019

RollOnFriday asked SME News how it managed to undertake its rigorous selection process across so many sectors when such volumes were involved, but it refused to answer.

Critics suggest that there is a cottage industry of awards companies which invent huge numbers of prizes on flimsy pretexts and without much scrutiny of the winners, in the hope that some of the recipients will purchase a promotional package to capitalise on the positive PR. The potential issue is that consumers are given an impression of a business's pedigree which may not be entirely warranted. Last year Shepherd & Wedderburn pulled its press release announcing an awards win after RollOnFriday raised questions about the awards company behind it, Finance Monthly.

Kaven Cooper, an SME News Awards Executive, said, "We wholeheartedly disagree with your ‘factory’ description and your understanding of the process".  

"We do indeed allow any organisation the chance to self-nominate and we encourage it, we also nominate candidates ourselves. Many organisations who self-nominate do not go on to be successful and there is an in-house vetting procedure where our research team review documents (as submitted by the nominee) and other publicly available information.

There is absolutely no link between a customer’s opportunity to win an award and their ability to pay for it.  We do offer marketing materials for our winners as we realise there is significant value in promoting the news but there is no obligation." 

SME News claims on its website that its awards are judged by a "highly-experienced panel" comprising of "an international, multi-lingual collective of individuals, with backgrounds from a myriad of fields, such as business, media, journalism, history and European languages". Which could also describe a group of unemployed arts graduates. The panel is led by "a veteran academic leader with international pedagogic and coaching experience who is well versed in research, fact-checking and mediation". Strangely, SME News does not state who these acclaimed, and fast-working, titans of judging are, and the company refused to tell RollOnFriday.

Bridge Law stood by its gongs. Claire Stewart, a director, said, "The winners of the awards were announced without this firm making or agreeing to make any payment to SME news. We pride ourselves on customer service and as a small firm we are happy to be recognised as winners of the SME awards".

She probably won't get on the cover of one of its awards magazines, however, and not just because the firm hasn't paid anything:

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Comments

Darth Play-doh 22 February 19 07:41

Love when ROF prods these sorts of weasels. 

Does anyone have any sense of how legitimate Who's Who Legal are? I've just seen that they've identified as an "Elite Thought Leader" someone...unlikely.

Their website's landing page states: "Since 1996 Who's Who Legal has identified the foremost legal practitioners and consulting experts in business law based upon comprehensive, independent research. It is impossible to buy entry into this publication" which reads to me a little bit doth-protest-too-much-methinks.

Anonymous 22 February 19 09:22

"an international, multi-lingual collective of individuals, with backgrounds from a myriad of fields, such as business, media, journalism, history and European languages".      But not one person able to tell them that it is 'myriad fields', and not 'myriad of fields'.  

Rupert Wilson 22 February 19 09:45

@Darth Play-doh - I'm the editor of Who's Who Legal. All of our selections are based on an extensive research process based on the recommendations of peers, competitors and clients and we have a long track record of listing leading practitioners in the legal sector. You can find more information on our website (www.whoswholegal.com).

We're always happy to receive feedback on our listings, whether positive or negative. You can contact me directly on rupert.wilson@whoswholegal.com if you'd like to discuss further.

Gobblepig 22 February 19 09:49

@anonymous 22 Feb

""an international, multi-lingual collective of individuals, with backgrounds from a myriad of fields, such as business, media, journalism, history and European languages".      But not one person able to tell them that it is 'myriad fields', and not 'myriad of fields'."

That's because it can be either - it can be a noun or an adjective. Perhaps you should go and work there.

 

Anonymous 22 February 19 09:50

A quick google reveals the somewhat ironic motto "Bridge Law: An Honest and Open Approach".

Their initial failure to question the legitimacy of these "awards" might have be chalked down to naivety/hubris.  But their refusal to remove these plaudits from their website, when presented with clear evidence of the awards being a total sham, is slightly more concerning.  There is a clear risk of misleading the public; how does this sit with the duties to act honestly and with integrity?  I'd feel extremely uncomfortable if I were a solicitor at this firm.

Anonymous 22 February 19 10:05

A quick google reveals the somewhat ironic motto "Bridge Law: An Honest and Open Approach".

Their initial failure to question the legitimacy of these "awards" might be chalked down to naivety/hubris.  But their refusal to remove these plaudits from their website, when presented with clear evidence of the awards being a total sham, is more concerning.  There is a clear risk of misleading the public; how does this sit with the duties to act honestly and with integrity?  I'd feel extremely uncomfortable if I were a solicitor at this firm.

Dearie 22 February 19 12:32

I tend to think that anyone using words like "honest", "open" or "integrity" in their self description, mission statement or similar, often has a problem with actually achieving those ambitions - frankly these things should already exist and not need highlighting.

Darth Play-Doh 22 February 19 13:00

@Rupert. Thanks for coming below the line. On reflection and after looking in more detail at your website and the details of your research process I owe you an apology for the innuendo. I was a bit baffled to see someone most of my colleagues found pretty mediocre listed as a Thought Leader but realise that's a smattering of opinion only, and it looks like you take a number of opinions in putting your publication together and base it on the general consensus, which is of course a valid research approach. May the Force be with you.

Hey Nonny Nonny 22 February 19 16:27

My bronze medallion regional firm doesn't go in for these type of awards. We regularly put ourselves up against magic circle firms so that we can look like we are "players". 

LegalComms 01 March 19 06:27

The amount of nonsense like this that crosses my desk on a weekly basis is TERRIFYING!  I won’t say who I work for, but it's a top 20 Global law firm, and I get smashed with BS like this, either from unsolicited emails or from naive lawyers who don’t know any better.

 

Can I advise people to (i) do a quick location check on any organisation claiming to offer awards like this, as it’s a dead giveaway as to whether or not they are legitimate.  If they are based in Slough, in the back office of an industrial park, then you can probably assume they are utter fraud hacks (I’m not saying that you have to be based in London to be legit in this world, but it’s kind of a decent filter if a publishing house/directory has a Fleet Street office as it at least means they’ve got enough resource to pay London rents and at least work in the publishing heartland!) (ii) Pay-to-play is a sign it’s completely illegitimate.  No legitimate award would get you to pay to enter, though you might pay for tables at an award ceremony or sponsorship etc (they have got to make there money somehow, right?) (iii)  Same applies to Legal Directories, In fact from a  directories stand point you don’t have to pay a penny to legitimate research organisations like Chambers or Legal 500 to submit data to them, firms only pay for profile/advertising space on their website. (iv) Get a blacklist going; I’ve been tracking and keeping a blacklist for years now, and it’s about 50 pages long!

 

The fact of the matter is that legitimate awards and/or directory rankings are hard to get.  The easy option will see you getting the unwelcome PR bonus of a ROF article.  So be careful!  Ultimately the quality of your legal advice and reputation are what sells you to a client, not a dangling dong award from a couple of hacks who rent a room and go spam fishing for gullible egotistical lawyers.