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."
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: