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Distilling the Secret Sauce of Awards

In the mid 2000s, Philadelphia real estate investor Zell Kravinsky found fame when he set out to donate his $45 million fortune, much of it to public health initiatives. After giving away all but $80,000, his family home and a minivan, Kravinsky donated a kidney—to a complete stranger—and later contemplated donating a second. To Kravinsky, a devout utilitarian, saving a life--any life--would be worth his. Who knows, he reasoned, what another person might be able to accomplish with his kidney. Undoubtedly, this led to some domestic strife (his wife, with whom he has four children, is a psychiatrist, which is probably a good thing). When I first read about Kravinsky in The New Yorker, I was sure he was crazy. But, like, good crazy. Like many people, I am fascinated by individuals who go “all in,” whether it’s over philosophy, philately or philanthropy. Simply put, there is nothing more genuine than obsession. And as I’ve shared previously, authenticity is incredibly attractive. Which brings me to awards, “best of” lists, and content strategy. I’ve been on both sides of the plaque, evaluating submissions as well as writing them. What I’ve learned is this: whether submitting or evaluating, it’s pretty clear who eats, breathes and sleeps their niche, versus who has decent credentials and hired a good writer.

Linus is accepting RFPs for his Chambers submission.

Here’s the thing: the trial or deal that has the potential to put an attorney on a “best of” list is only half the equation. What seals the deal is her or his body of work in the field, not the win. It’s their documented involvement with the industry or area of law over a period of time. In advisory practices, such as regulatory law, privacy or cybersecurity, where there aren’t deals or trials to point to, this means a body of written work that illustrates one’s depth and interest in the field. Even in trial and deal work, the mega-hits only come around so often. One needs to be writing and speaking in the “off years” to stay competitive for the upper echelons. When staking one’s claim in Chambers, this is even more important. Unlike “deal of the year” lists, Chambers relies on the documented record and impressions of peers. And what do peers rely on? Personal interactions and personal knowledge, or a documented record of thought leadership. Speaking is important, yes, but writing on a topic provides evidence of one’s intense interest in a subject, and an effort to challenge convention and push discussions forward. Sometimes writing feels like a chore. It’s tempting to take a bye. I’m with you there more often than you might think. But this is the “3 reps of 10” that you do at the gym whether you feel like it or not. Publishing is the proof of our engagement in our field. Don’t sit this one out.

--stet-- Susan Kostal is a legal marketing consultant and content strategist located in San Francisco Bay Area. Find her monthly column on Attorney at Work & check out more great content here. This post originally appeared in Susan Kostal's Legal Marketing Bits & Bites Newsletter. Sign up for more content here.

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