Founded in 2019, the Chambers Diversity & Inclusion categories at the UK Bar Awards have marked, celebrated and showcased the best in D&I, pro bono and environmental work from sets.
This year for the first time, we are opening for submissions from sets for our three categories: D&I Set of the Year, Outstanding Contribution to D&I and Future Leader in D&I.
Our submissions process is simple, and requires a short essay (no more than 1000 words) detailing the work of the individual/set and referee details or testimonials supporting the nomination.
To aid your nomination process, our two D&I Managers (who lead the shortlisting process) sat down to discuss how they winnow down the submissions, including their top tips, key pitfalls they often see and how to make your application stand out.
For each awards you receive hundreds pages of nominations: how do you even begin to sort through these?
Honestly it’s a big task, but you can’t help but be inspired reading about the incredible work the legal community has been doing over the last year. We know that the individuals, firms and in house teams that submit share our immense passion for creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable society and so are committed to ensuring we give each heartfelt nomination it’s due consideration.
Fundamentally we always return to the five criteria which every submission is judged by, detailed on our submission guidelines. Each application receives a mark out of ten for its breadth, commitment, impact, advancement and originality (expanded on below), with the highest overall marks considered for our shortlist.
Breadth: the degree to which the initiative spanned different strands of diversity and protected groups. Breadth can also refer to the extent to which the initiative covered different jurisdictions, practice areas, and career progression.
Commitment: the degree to which the initiative went beyond normal practice and work remit. Commitment can also refer to the percentage of individuals at the set who were involved and/or the number of hours dedicated to an initiative.
Impact: the degree to which individuals, the set and/or the wider community is positively affected by the initiative. The best submissions will be able to detail evidence of the impact that their initiative has had.
Advancement: the degree to which the work advanced diversity and inclusion in terms of recruitment, retention and promotion (statistics for comparison would be useful here) as well as organisational, procedural and structural change.
Originality: the degree to which the work involved innovative solutions, original programs, processes and procedures, or tackled issues that had not previously been foremost in the set/individuals remit, or are addressing issues that are not commonly part of the D&I conversation.
Is there a moderation procedure?
The top ten nominations in each category are moderated by another member of the team to ensure the marks are fair. At this stage we also bring in the written statements from referees, which might affect the scores (particularly around impact). From there, we decide on the shortlist of nominees who exemplify best in class work.
What makes a nomination stand out to you?
When it actually tackles all five areas! The nominations which invariably make it to the shortlist are those which demonstrate excellence in every area which we assess. Over the last few years, the D&I landscape at the Bar has matured tremendously so we are anticipating a very high level of quality – which means careful attention to the criteria will be even more important.
Nominations also need to actively share the outcomes of initiatives. This fits into both the Impact and Advancement categories, and can be demonstrated through statistics or testimonials (so either quantitative or qualitative data).
Are there any frequent pitfalls you see on nominations?
Yes! To start with, we frequently see nominations that are too long, and to ensure fairness we’re only able to assess the information provided within the word limit. It wouldn’t be right for us to consider anything above 1,000 (or due to the software we use, 6,000 characters), and that often that means that some of a nominations most interesting work cannot be considered.
As this is the first year we have run a full nominations process, we welcome some context on the relevant work. However, we would find it difficult to reward a historical programme which has had few achievements or developments over the last twelve months specifically, so encourage sets to focus predominantly on the last year.
Some nominations go into significant detail about the core legal practice of an individual. While it always makes interesting reading, the day-to-day practice of nominees does not count towards the awards we judge so we suggest focusing directly on the D&I work.
Overall, we highly advise firms to read the nomination guidelines! It’s usually very clear this has been done, and these submissions absolutely stand out from the crowd.
You must get submissions from sets of all sizes, and initiatives of all levels of maturity – how do you ensure work is treated fairly when there are so many variables?
Unsurprisingly, we’re passionate about ensuring the awards process runs as equitably as possible. With this in mind, we’ve asked about set size to enable our team to judge the awards fairly. Our team carefully consider the relevant variables and do our best to ensure individuals and sets at all stages of their journey are appropriately recognised.
Does it cost to submit to the D&I Categories?
No, this is not a process we charge for.
Will our submission in the D&I Categories affect our overall rankings or other Award decisions?
Participation in the D&I Categories will not affect your overall set rankings in the Chambers UK Bar Guide.
Why do you ask for Client Referees? How is that information used?
Testimonials and quotes from Client Referees are used to judge submissions that we are considering for the shortlist. Accordingly, while providing contact details for the five chosen referees is sufficient, we would highly recommend sets take the time to include a quote: this makes the submission far more competitive.
We require five client references in total for each submission, not five for each category. It’s helpful to note whether a referee is for a specific category or for multiple awards.
As with all referees submitted to Chambers, whether for the D&I Awards or in our regular practice area submission process, these details are treated with the highest level of confidentiality. We will also not contact your referees to discuss the D&I Awards specifically, so again suggest a short quote or testimonial is included.
Can I submit two individuals for one award?
Unfortunately not! Sets need to decide on one individual for each category who they think has achieved above and beyond on D&I work over the last year.
The one exception to this would be where team members have jointly run a programme, who sets might want to submit together. However the strongest applications invariably involve individuals who have contributed to the legal community across multiple projects or programmes, so we’d encourage sets to consider other work each of the individuals in question and whether, bearing that in mind, a nomination for one might be stronger.
So that’s the shortlist: how do you decide on the winners?
First we take some time away from the material, so that we’re able to approach it with fresh eyes for that crucial final stage. When we return to the shortlist, the team will reread the submissions and referee statements for each of the top contenders. What follows is a spirited debate between the team: while the final three are decided by the numerical scores the last stage of the process comes down to the expertise of our team. We also work closely with our UK Bar team to utilise their deep knowledge of the market.
How can my team/firm get more involved?
There are two main ways sets can get involved. The first, unsurprisingly, is filling out the nomination! The second would be booking a table at the Awards, which this year are going to be held in the beautiful JW Marriott Grosvenor House. Anyone who has been to the Awards will tell you it’s an inspirational celebration of the best of the legal industry.