Lawyers love awards. So much so that they have become in some quarters such a questionable marketing practice that the Law Society of Ontario has special commentary for them under the Rules of Professional Conduct,
4.2-1 A lawyer may market legal services only if the marketing
(a) is demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable;
(b) is neither misleading, confusing, or deceptive, nor likely to mislead, confuse or deceive; and
(c) is in the best interests of the public and is consistent with a high standard of professionalism.
 Examples of marketing that do contravene this rule include…
(e) referring to awards, rankings and third party endorsements that are not bona fide or are likely to be misleading, confusing, or deceptive.
Typically this commentary refers to the type of awards that are effectively “pay for play,” where only the financial contributor to the organization, publication, or institution are eligible for consideration (and some would argue, there is a proportionate return on awards based on the quantum of investment).
At the same time, awards within the legal community can play an important function. They can signal efforts and achievements that are commendable, worthy of recognition, and cause for celebration. They can encourage others to strive for more. These types of awards serve a positive function, and should be encouraged.
Precedent Magazine has launched their inaugural Innovation Awards, to celebrate members of the profession that have improved the law.
The winners this year include:
- Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP for The R&R Lounge that allows students to have a break during the Bay Street recruitment process
- Borden Ladner Gervais LLP for a new workspace, The Zone, to help foster creative ideas
- Breanna Needham for The Robing Room Campaign, which drew attention to the stark disparity between facilities at the Court of Appeal – and managed to get the change rooms changed
- Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP initiative through their Innovation Challenge, supported by Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone, to develop The Undertaking Management Tool
- Kathryn Hendrikx, the only smaller firm on the list, who developed a software called The Ontario Family Law Forms Project, which would fill out complicated forms
- Gowling WLG’s Third-Party Demand Manual, to help navigate the complex area of determining whether creditors should forcibly remove funds from an account to cover a debt
Although I’m firmly convinced that the vast majority of legal innovation is still happening in the shadows, usually among small tech start startups, legal entrepreneurs, and community-based activists, this type of theme is certainly one which could spurn further change and recognize more of the social and technological innovators in the community, especially when advanced by reputable publications.
Let the celebration of innovation begin!