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Lawyer Awards: Your Complete Guide to Canadian, US, and International Awards

Lawyer awards are a great way to showcase your professionalism and trustworthiness to your potential clients. This guide provides insights into the best Canadian, US, and international awards and gives tips on winning them.

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Lawyer Awards: Your Complete Guide to Canadian, US, and International Awards

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Helping people win cases is a big enough reward for many lawyers – but there are plenty of reasons you should strive for industry awards, too.

Lawyer awards are more than just polished trophies or framed certificates. They show prospective clients that you excel in your niche, can be trusted, and are ahead of the competition.

The best lawyer awards are fantastic marketing tools, but which should you prioritize? The process can often get confusing and time-consuming with so many different accolades available.

However, you’re in the right place if you want recognition for your casework efforts.

In this guide, we show you:

  • The best law firm awards to apply for in Canada, the US, and beyond
  • Tips on how to win legal awards
  • Why applying for awards is important for your firm

Click here to jump to our tips on how to win lawyer awards.

Summary of the 11 Best Law Firm Awards

Before we dive deep into the how and the why of applying for law firm awards, let’s look at the most prestigious accolades available for US, Canadian, and international attorneys.

The following awards are all ones you need to work for, not pay for. If you’re wondering, “Are Lawyer Monthly Awards legitimate?” keep reading for our full breakdown.

The following legal awards apply to attorneys in various specialisms and firms of different sizes. Be sure to carefully check the categories you can apply for to avoid disappointment and wasted time.

Lawyer Awards Worth Aiming for:

Lawyer awards worth aiming for

The Best Canadian Law Awards

The following awards are open to those in the Canadian legal profession – and are among the most impressive nationwide.

Best Lawyers in Canada

Best Lawyers annually recognizes thousands of law firms in different fields across Canada based on its ranking system.

These awards and rankings are reviewed by industry peers. A third party first nominates a lawyer. They’re then judged by recognized legal officials, who give feedback through votes.

Law firms nominated for Best Lawyers then undergo eligibility checks before results are released online and in Best Lawyers Magazine.

Separate awards offered by the body include Law Firm of the Year, Ones to Watch, and Lawyer of the Year. To be eligible for these awards, you must be nominated and rated highly across a year of adjudication.

Our client Timothy P. Boland is recognized by Best Lawyers:

an example of lawyer award won and showcased on the attorney's website

Canadian Law Awards

The Canadian Law Awards has recognized the country’s best attorneys since the turn of the New 20s. 

Presented by Canadian Lawyer, this awards ceremony recognizes legal excellence in categories such as Mid-Market Deal of the Year, Law Department Innovation, Family Law Firm of the Year, and Pro Bono Initiative of the Year.

Nominations take place online up to the February of an awards year. You can self-nominate for different awards.

Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Awards of Excellence

The CBA is the lawyers’ association representing attorneys and firms across Canada.

The CBA currently offers six different national lawyer Awards of Excellence each year:

  • The CBA President’s Award
  • The Douglas Miller Rising Star Award
  • The Jack Innes Award
  • The Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence
  • The Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Law
  • The Touchstone Award

To be eligible for CBA awards, you must first be a registered CBA member in good standing. In most cases, you also need letters of nomination and recommendation from other members of the Canadian legal profession.

The CBA provides an in-depth guide to each award and how to nominate yourself via their website.

The Law Society Medal (Ontario)

The Law Society of Ontario recognizes Canadian lawyers who make what they refer to as “significant contributions to the profession.”

Award winners receive physical medals they’re encouraged to wear for specific functions and occasions, along with the designation of LSM (Law Society Medal) to add after their names.

The award is for individual lawyers licensed via the LSO. You can file your own nomination for the accolade online and submit up to five recommendation letters.

Best Legal Awards in the USA

The best American lawyer industry awards are open to attorneys in different specialisms and niches. Let’s explore the top accolades.

American Bar Association (ABA) Awards

The ABA supports and recognizes attorneys and law firms across the US under several categories. For instance, they provide separate awards for international and family law excellence.

Using international law as an example, the ABA grants Public International Law Awards and Lifetime Achievements. 

These awards interest lawyers who specialize and excel in a particular area or who innovate through specific projects.

Nomination processes vary depending on the sector you apply for. For example, in some cases, you can nominate yourself for an ABA award with brief descriptions of your work and supporting evidence.

American Association for Justice (AAJ) Awards

The AAJ provides accolades for legal professionals who excel in highly specific areas. Major awards granted each year include the Women Trial Lawyers Caucus Award, the LGBT Caucus, and the New Lawyers Division Awards.

These awards celebrate outstanding achievements by attorneys and law firms striving to make a difference in niche practice areas.

Applications and nominations for AAJ awards vary depending on the specific prize.

Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers’ online directory is highly trusted by US citizens searching for reputable legal professionals. The company honors selected attorneys each year.

To become a Super Lawyer, an attorney needs third-party peer nominations and feedback to pass the directory’s adjudication. The company’s panel then gradually assesses an attorney’s work and merit before awarding them either a Super Lawyers or Rising Stars honor.

Getting selected as a Super Lawyer takes incredible dedication. Only around 5% of nominees get recognition at the end of the process. Here’s how that process breaks down:

how to get a lawyer award - step-by-step guide

Best Law Firm Awards in the Rest of the World

If your firm is in North America but you help people in Europe, Asia, and beyond, there are still opportunities for you to claim international legal awards. Here are four to keep in mind.

IFLR Awards

The IFLR is a media body covering financial and business law that gives annual awards to legal professionals and firms worldwide, including categories for Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Focusing mainly on cross-border transactions, these awards are ideal for companies innovating in finance. It’s worth applying for if you deal in mergers and acquisitions across different territories, for example.

You can submit your own in-house legal teams and/or firm for these awards, and the IFLR then conducts research through interviews and canvassing of various professionals to build a clearer picture of your practice.

Categories available for nomination include private equity, loans, restructuring, and project finance.

Lawyer Monthly Awards

Lawyer Monthly, a leading magazine in the legal trade, runs annual award ceremonies recognizing legal excellence, particularly lawyers who have gone the extra mile for clients. 

These awards are open to entrants from the US, Canada, and beyond. The magazine recognizes attorneys representing different specialisms and industries.

Voting takes place online, and a professional judging panel then takes a few months to pore through the results and conduct further research.

Are Lawyer Monthly awards legitimate? Yes, this isn’t a pay-to-play accolade. However, the magazine advises that promotion in their award winners’ issues may incur marketing fees, so plan ahead if you intend to enter.

The Lawyer European Awards

At the end of each year, the Lawyer European Awards celebrate firms with offices across the continent.

You don’t have to be headquartered in Europe to participate, as the awards also honor outstanding achievements by US law firms and attorneys covering the continental market.

You can nominate your firm for an award or recommend a firm on their behalf. Entry conditions and templates vary depending on the categories you apply for. Make sure that you read The Lawyer’s full details online before applying. 

ACC Awards

The ACC is the Association of Corporate Counsel, a bar association and resource service for law firms worldwide.

The ACC Awards offer prizes to individual attorneys, legal departments, lawyer networks, and volunteers based on excellence proven in the past year.

The association also provides a Value Champions program to help publicize exceptional lawyers, and the ACC Top 10 30-Somethings recognizes young lawyers considered rising stars in their trades.

The nominations process varies depending on where your firm is based and which category you intend to apply for. For example, a full nomination procedure for the ACC Value Champions is available online.

How to Win Law Awards? 3 Tips

Winning legitimate law awards is recognition for running a supportive and successful firm. You should never pay for them, and we explore why further on in our guide.

how to increase chances of winning lawyer awards

Let’s break these points down.

1. Focus on Clients, Not Legal Awards

Becoming award-worthy doesn’t mean polishing your firm just for the judges. You need to lead by example by putting clients first in all that you do.

The biggest law firm awards recognize winners’ extra steps to support people in legal need and what they do to innovate in their sectors.

Remember, a lawyer award is an effect of a strong, client-based strategy; it’s a bonus. Running a firm just for the honors or a lifetime achievement award is uncaring and unprofessional, and potential clients will notice.

2. Create a Simple Law Firm Awards Strategy

As awards seasons approach, it pays to prepare.

First, research the awards market, starting with the legitimate honors listed in our guide.

Check an award body’s legal associations. Are they well-known and well-respected?

Check the deadlines for all awards you want to apply to. If there is too small a window for an award (say a month), mark the date for next year’s event and look for an alternative. Prioritize applying for awards with fixed deadlines, provided you can make them.

If you apply for a vote-driven award, promote your entry via social media like Instagram and LinkedIn. Do so within the window advised by an awards body, but don’t oversell yourself.

Unfortunately, some lawyer awards are unclear about how nominations and voting occur. Make sure to research the full process before applying.

Be sure to check all of the following points:

  • How many nominees and awards are honored each year
  • How much promoting yourself (and the award, if you win) is likely to cost
  • How old the award is
  • Where judges get data on your firm and clients 
  • Who votes in the award (e.g., members of the public or legal experts)

3. Write a Winning Entry and Gather Votes (if Applicable)

Writing a winning entry for an award panel means being transparent and concise. For example, if you nominate your firm for an award because of an innovative case strategy, start by discussing the initial problem, what you did to solve it, and the outcome.

Always give objective facts and avoid hyperbole. If a body asks for your resume and client history, check with third parties to see if they agree to let you use their data. 

Finally, start gathering votes, if applicable, for the award by promoting yourself on online channels closer to the event and reaching out to happy clients.

Are Lawyer Awards Worth It?

The short answer is, yes, legitimate monthly lawyer awards are worth applying for if you have the hard work to show for them.

Hard-earned lawyer awards are fantastic trust signals for new clients. When you’re a winner, you can display badges and rosettes on your website to give extra confidence to your visitors – much like Wagners does here:

how to show your lawyer awards on your website

It’s never worth paying for awards as a shortcut. Let’s explore why.

The Difference between Earned and Paid Law Firm Awards

Earned law firm awards celebrate your talent and accomplishments. Paid law firm awards are glorified advertising campaigns.

Paid lawyer awards are vanity plaques that tell your clients you have enough money to look good but don’t necessarily work hard for results.

Avoid applying for paid awards. Try searching for the name of an award plus keywords like “scam” or “vanity” if you’re unsure of their integrity.

Entering into paid law ads is effectively deceiving clients. However, you may frequently receive calls and emails from vanity awards organizations that sound legitimate, so be vigilant.

Otherwise, you risk turning away discerning clients who know a real honor from a vanity award.

Other Trust Signals: Going Beyond Attorney Awards

Legal awards are excellent marketing assets for your law firm, but you can’t rely on them to promote and support you long-term.

Consistently positive reviews of your practice are worth more long-term than a single award earned several years ago in a national law journal. 

Start bolstering your public profile with trust signals such as Google Business reviews, which you can ask clients to leave for you at the end of representation.

Ask clients to leave reviews, including videos you can share via your website’s testimonials page or on landing pages. Video reviews add authenticity and help people share their case studies, as demonstrated here by Grillo Law:

sharing client testimonials can strengthen trust

Above all, view awards as just one part of the trust-building puzzle. If you’re talented enough to achieve them, they’re wonderful bonuses to help build client bases. However, you only stand to turn clients away if you focus on chasing them.

Go Get Those Lawyer Awards… But Take Caution

The best lawyer awards help show prospective clients they can trust you with sensitive, confidential, and costly legal affairs. 

Building a plan to apply for legal awards is healthy. Doing so means you stand a fair chance of claiming the honors you deserve.

You must always see awards as just one PR avenue. Chasing awards – or worse, paying for them – is insincere at best and fraudulent at worst.

Forward-thinking legal professionals instead focus on growing their law firm and building a fantastic reputation. Start by partnering with a specialized legal marketing firm like dNOVO that can help you manage your image, build your online profile, and drive more clients to your door.

In the meantime, get accustomed to some of the best tools for boosting your online profile. Read our guide to Google Local Service Ads for lawyers and learn more about the power of local interest.

Then, when it comes to elite lawyer award season, write up a winning entry and get backing from the people you’ve come through for. 

Lawyer Awards: FAQs

Let’s finish our guide to lawyer awards with some commonly asked questions.

What Are Legal Awards?

Legal awards recognize the talent and efforts of hard-working lawyers and their firms. They often celebrate specialisms such as family, immigration, and employment law. 

Legal awards help attorneys and their firms build client trust, increase brand awareness, and offer new networking opportunities. Learn more in our guide.

What Are the Most Prestigious Law Firm Awards?

In the Canadian legal landscape, awards such as the Canada Bar Association Awards of Excellence are among the most prestigious for national recognition. 

In the US, the American Bar Association (ABA) awards some of the highest legal accolades. 

Internationally, lawyers strive to win the IFLR and ACC awards. We take you through these awards and more in our guide.

How do I Apply for Lawyer Awards?

Application processes vary. Sometimes you can nominate yourself for awards as long as you offer supporting documents and explain why you deserve recognition. 

Other award bodies require membership and nominations from other registered members before your case goes to peer review from others in the legal community. 

Be sure to look carefully into the process for each award you wish to apply for!

Are Lawyer Monthly Awards Legitimate?

Yes, Lawyer Monthly awards are legitimate, voted for through an online poll, and adjudicated by professional judges. 

The magazine chooses award winners based on different categories and expertise areas, with judging taking place over months of processing and decision-making. 

There are no fees to pay to enter, though marketing costs in the magazine apply.

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