SNAPPING UP ten awards at this year’s event, Mallesons Stephen Jaques just about needed a trolley to carry all the ‘lady justices’ it took away from the 2005 Fuji Xerox Australian Law Awards.
While at the beginning it may have appeared the top-tier firm might as well be handed the whole table of awards, having won the first three — the Legalco Banking & Finance Awards, the Diskcovery Commercial Property Award, and the LexisNexis Competition & Consumer Protection Award — in fact it totalled only ten of the 33 prestigious awards.
This was an ironic twist for the top-tier firm, which boycotted the Awards last year, so won no awards, citing their lack of support for the self-nomination process. This year, however, they were given no choice but to take part, as winners were decided by Australia’s consumers of legal services.
Mallesons, all agreed, were the overall successors of the evening, taking away the most awards. Competition was much tighter than it may have appeared on the night, it can now be revealed. Allens Arthur Robinson in many cases was only a per cent or so behind its major competitor, for example where Mallesons won 18 per cent of the votes in the Disckovery Commercial Property Award, Allens won 16 per cent. As well, Allens was close behind in the Banking & Finance, missing out by 9 per cent, and the Competition and Consumer Protection Award, behind by 14 per cent. See page 6 this week for a breakdown of percentages.
Every voter was allowed to vote for each award up to three times, so the potential percentage of each award could potentially reach 300 per cent. Lawyers Weekly this week lists the top four ranked firms and the percentage of votes received by each, which reveals the amount by which firms topped others, but not the exact number of votes received. See the story below for more information on methodology.
The fractured voting meant that in many awards there were no clear favourites, and in some cases a score of percentage points in the mid-teens was enough to secure victory — an indicator of the strength of the quality of the legal services in Australia.
One of the tight squeezes into the winning faction was Freehills for the Hall Chadwick Insolvency Award. Topping the rest with 18 per cent of votes, Freehills was closely followed by Mallesons at 17 per cent, Blake Dawson Waldron on 15 per cent, and Holding Redlich at 13 per cent.
One of the most prestigious awards for the evening went to Freehills, for the Harriss Wagner Australian Law Firms of the Year Award (over 500 practising certificates), though Mallesons and Blake Dawson Waldron closely followed.
A notable award for the evening was the Blake Dawson Waldron In-House Team Award, which turned out to be a bitter-sweet sign-off for WMC Resources, now part of BHP Billiton.
As many may have expected, Justice Michael Kirby won the Hughes-Castell Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sunshine democracy for industry awards : consumers win
THE FUJI Xerox 2005 Australian Law Awards was the first industry wide democratic award vote for the legal profession. As a high security online vote it may well be the first for any professional in the world.
There is no unique way to select winners in an award event but, until now, the norm has been a panel of judges — the panel selects who it thinks is the best in each award category. The final selection is a 100 per cent accurate measure of what the small panel of selected judges thinks to be best. The problem is, the result will vary with the composition of panel. So, the big question is, who selects the judges and how?
One way to solve this dilemma is to put the consumer first. The panel that best reflects consumers is a panel of consumers. A self selected consumer panel will consist of all those consumers motivated to reward their service providers with a vote. This voluntary vote avoids any attempt to quantify disinterest. A secret ballot means the vote is free from peer pressure or interference. Labelled the sunshine method, this means everyone is invited with equal attention, all candidates have equal chance to invite their clients to vote and everyone can see the candidates ranked live until at least a few days before the vote close date. This sunshine democracy approach produces an industry leader-board that is 100 per cent accurate from the perspective of interested consumers and it was this method used by Lawyers Weekly in the Fuji Xerox 2005 Australian Law Awards.
Of course the voting method must be secure with all appropriate measures taken to avoid the risk of vote stacking. The votes were harvested using the BigPulse Opinion Market technology and service, which contains many security checks to avoid vote stacking. For example, votes from people who vote for themselves are suppressed. An independent auditor was engaged in the recent Law Awards. And, a vote agreement clause which meant that anyone who deliberately attempted to corrupt the vote accepted full liability for damages was thrown in for good measure.