Managing Partners’ Forum Awards 2020 – Marketing, client service, innovation, learning and culture change

I’ve been one of the judges on the annual Managing Partners’ Forum Awards for many years – across a number of categories. I was invited to attend the Awards dinner (again at the Marriot Grosvenor Square) to celebrate with the short-listed firms across three themes – Client, Community and Business. I thought I’d highlight some of the most interesting projects for the Managing Partners’ Forum Awards 2020 – Marketing, client service, innovation, learning and culture change. There’s a full list of winners and runners up and other details of the night.

Client service excellence

In the Client service theme, the “Best enhanced solutions for clients” winner was Irish law firm Mason Hayes & Curran. A transformation in both ways of working within the firm and in client relationship management (CRM) through the adoption of new technological solutions. The success in integrating the solutions and generating buy-in from both lawyers and clients has supported the efficiency but also effectiveness gains sought, with leadership within the initial roll-out department driving success. The project ensures Mason Hayes & Curran is well setup to expand its range of innovative solutions as the technologies are adopted more widely via the firm’s innovation committee.

Marketing excellence

The “Best Marketing Initiative” had a short list of four law firms as follows:

Bird & Bird for marketing materials centred on the client – with redesigning and rewriting of 1,300 lawyer CVs on the web site (Runners Up). Pinsent Masons launched a new global web site in June 2019. Womble Bond Dickinson created a Brexit Hub with the firm’s Knowledge Management team allowing users to drill to tailored content.

Clark Hill was the winner. Clark Hill has grown from a regional US firm, to an international firm with 25 offices. Marketing and Business Development was no longer fit for purpose. It embarked on an ambitious initiative to completely re-imagine their marketing function and make the most of their global potential, through a very clear and comprehensive design of the department and how it has impact as a cohesive central function for the firm. The judges were particularly impressed by the scale of their research and project commitment, how they achieved buy-in at every level and how they have creatively used data and technology in the delivery and measurement of marketing success, and achieved remarkable results.

Thought leadership

FTI Consulting was the winner with its Resilience Barometer. In November 2018, this global management consulting firm researched 2,200 business leaders from across the G20 about the challenges and opportunities they face in today’s interconnected, technologically-disrupted and increasingly regulated world. It calculated a resilience score showing how well companies are prepared to deal with 18 different scenarios which might negatively impact their turnover, value and reputation. The report was launched at Davos with an event for 400 senior business leaders. There was a multi-country PR campaign and advertising campaign, including The Economist, video interviews and internal communications.

The campaign generated:
• 141 meetings with potential clients at Davos
• 4,000 views of the website and videos
• 200,000 unique social media views in the first month
• Press coverage on the front page of the UK Telegraph
A second edition FTI Resilience Barometer is due to be launched at WEF 2020.

Other shortlisted entries included: A&L Goodbody for its partnership with Spirasi, the centre of care for survivors of torture for legal reviews of medical legal repots, Brachers for re-engineering debt recovery services and Womble Bond Dickinson for “The Digital Tipping Point “– research looking at online shopping and its impact on the retail sector.

Sector success

Two of the merit awards featured firms whose success is down to a sector approach.

Ian Jeffrey, managing partner of Lewis Silkin  which focuses on employment and the creative sector (Creators, Makers and Innovators), picked up the “Exceptional achievement by an individual award”. The firm has also been placed in the Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Firms to Work For’ nine times in succession. The firm also won first place in the “Best Employee Engagement” Award.

Boodle Hatfield, a 300 year old law firm focusing on High Net Worth individuals and property with a majority female equity partnership, won “Exceptional Achievement by a firm”.


In the “Best New Solutions for Clients” category, Kennedys won with a number of initiatives to help clients use lawyers less. It improved claims outcomes by c.50% and made it easier for clients to address simpler issues allowing them to focus on the more challenging cases. Read more about Kennedy’s IQ six smart tools.

Irish law firm Mason Hayes & Curran was short-listed for “Project Las” for developing a methodology to manage a loan sale involving 20,000 properties all requiring legal due diligence against aggressive deadlines. Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner was also short-listed for helping clients manage legal risk and cut deal times across global real estate portfolios.

The “Best Business Innovation” awards had some great short-listed entries:

The judges unanimously identified Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner as having introduced the best business innovation through the introduction of BCLP Cubed. This integrates, into one seamless service, volume legal delivery with complex legal advice and legal operations support, thereby reducing risks, delivering cost savings and enabling clients to close transactions faster. It also frees clients to focus on adding strategic value. The judges were impressed with the strategic alignment of the innovation, the clear active involvement of senior leaders in its development and implementation, its positive impact on clients’ experiences, and its measurable impact, including generating new clients around the world.

The judges felt the other candidates were difficult to separate, but second place went to White & Case, whose LIFT programme within the London office has spread awareness and engagement in their innovation activities, encouraging both understanding and cultural change. Involving both a live event showing off some of the firm’s practice technologies and a Training Academy to combine communication and training, the LIFT programme has created excitement and interest and has positively impacted on employee engagement with innovation. Future events are planned within the London office, and similar programmes have been implemented or are planned in the company’s offices in the Asia-Pacific region, New York and Germany.

Other innovation short-listed entries include: Hogan Lovells – The HL Jam inviting 7,500 people across the world to an online crowdsourced conversation, Maanch global impact platform to empower those using technology towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Weightmans for the creation and launch of a virtual assistant to respond instantly and intelligently to employee queries.

Learning & Development

University of Oxford and Meridian West  won the “Best Knowledge provision to clients” award for a case study led thought leadership campaign to raise senior leaders’ awareness of how strategic Learning & Development creates competitive advantage and builds professional firms of the future.

This is particularly timely as it also one of the topics in my forthcoming report for Globe Law and Business on “Essential Soft Skills for Lawyers”.

Leadership and coaching consultancy Xinfu  was runner-up with a proprietary Four Quadrants formula for CEO success to drive outperformance.

The “Best learning & development programme” winner was Dentons. There was a suite of five interdependent leadership programmes aimed at developing high performing associates and partners. It uses innovative research in neuroscience and emotional intelligence to transform how the firm thinks, leads and engages its diverse and multi-generational talent. Testimonials to the various programmes showed effective learning and this was reflected in quantitative measures of personal development.

Runner-up was PwC’s “Whole Leader Programme”. The judges were impressed by the strategic alignment of the programme, borne from engagement of new leaders and open dialogue about the firm’s strategic challenges. The design contemplated a range of learning styles, the need to apply skills, reflect and refine. The programme has produced strong results, quantitative and qualitative, particularly in relation to talent development. The impact of the programme on some participants could be described as transformational.

Other interesting points were: A&L Goodbody’s Summer School to improve everyone’s productivity, Mazars Manager UK-wide development programme and Moore Kingston Smith’s skills programme in a supportive environment.


It was encouraging to see a construction company pick up the merit award for “Exceptional Achievement by a management team”. Willmott Dixon  is fifth in the Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Best Companies to Work For’, while, according to the FT Diversity Leaders list, it leads the UK for diversity and inclusion. Willmott Dixon is constantly driving an agenda for positive change to improve its industry. This includes becoming the first UK contractor to be carbon neutral, nearly 10 years before it became the boardroom priority we see now. It has now come up with an audacious ambition to be first construction firm to achieve gender parity within 10 years, a feat many think is impossible. However, setting tough goals is part of its DNA, and it is driven by strong leadership from the top, from the person whose name is across the door.

Best Corporate Culture

I was lucky enough to be sharing a table with the lovely team from Cornwall’s Stephens Scown , an employee-owned company, who won this award for a cross-selling campaign based on Abba and 1970s disco. I’m hoping to provide a more in-depth analysis of the marketing at this firm shortly.