Lawyer Awards: Top National, International, and Local Awards to Apply For


If a person is looking for a law firm, where do they start?

Imagine two firms in their area are similarly priced, provide comparable services, and offer the same level of experience and expertise, according to their websites.

But one of the firms won the XYZ Law Firm of the Year award from a local industry publication last year. They’ve also received business excellence awards from the Chamber of Commerce.

Who do you think the person is going to call?

Credibility is a very persuasive currency for any business and lawyer awards allow you to build trust instantly with your potential customers.

For law firms, one way to establish credibility is by actively seeking such awards.

In this guide, you’ll find:

  • A list of the top national, international, and local awards
  • How to apply for them
  • The pros and cons of awards
  • Whether you should pay for awards
  • A list of awards that aren’t worth it

Let’s begin.

Why you should consider applying for lawyer awards

It’s not an exaggeration to say that when someone’s looking to hire a professional and they visit a new website to research a firm, their first thought is:

“Can I trust these people?”

(Image Source)

It’s a natural defence mechanism that they need to overcome if they’re going to pick up the phone and call a law firm.

Awards, certificates, professional memberships, and other “trust badges” are hands-down the quickest way to do this.


Because they are:

  • An instant visual sign of credibility
  • Trusted as independent verification of your credentials
  • Great for PR and word-of-mouth marketing
(Image Source)

The problem is that awards are handed out for practically everything now. A recent Forbes article claimed that the legal profession’s “award season is longer than baseball’s, and the list of award categories rivals the Oscars.”

It certainly is easier to lay your hands on an award now, if you know the buttons to press, the avenues to go down, and the people to approach.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t work.

In fact, the power of awards is still very strong:

Large award-winning companies experienced a 48% increase in operating income and a 37% growth in sales when compared to non-award winners.”

“Smaller award-winning companies were also shown to have experienced a 63% increase in operating income, and a 39% growth in sales when compared to non-winners.”

“Three years after receiving an award, the 120 award-winning companies outperformed the comparison companies by an average of 17% for sales and 36% for share value.”

“More than 600 quality corporate award winners had 37% more sales growth and 44% higher stock price return than their peers.”

How to win lawyer awards

Even if you’re the best firm in your practice area in the local area, getting your hands on an award to prove it is unlikely to just happen. Most law firms will need to take action to receive any awards.

You’ll need to check out which law firm awards are up for nominations and how you go about putting your name forward.

And here’s the thing: there may be an application fee.

This is where it can get a little complicated. After all, if you have to pay to be considered for the award.

The following questions are worth asking:

  • Does the application fee guarantee that you’ll win the award?
  • Who’s making the final decision?
  • What criteria are used to decide – statistics or the opinion of judges?
  • How credible is the firm doing the ‘awarding’?
  • How much will the award enhance your firm’s reputation and credibility?

With that said, here’s what to do:

  • Focus on creating a client-centered experience. If you’ve read our guide on how to start a law firm, you know all about the value of creating a client-centered experience. Setting up your firm in this way lets you prioritize client relationships, fostering a positive client experience. Think about how any business decision you make will affect your clients.
  • Make note of all the deadlines. Applying for lawyer awards takes a considerable amount of time. Make sure to give yourself enough time to complete the application process before any deadlines.
  • Do your homework. Not all law firm awards are made equal. Look into each and every award carefully before applying for them. They should be offered by reputable bodies and actually benefit you in some way. All of the awards on this list have already been vetted.

The best national lawyer awards

Let’s go over the top awards you should consider applying for.

American Bar Association (ABA) awards

Here’s a list of the top ABA awards.

1. 2022 On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyers Awards

on the rise award
(Image Source)

This award goes to young lawyers that demonstrate excellence in their practice, showcasing “innovation, vision, leadership, and service to the profession and their communities.”

Apply if: You’re a member of the ABA in good standing, are 36 years of age and/or have been licensed for 10 years or less, and are a licensed attorney in the United States or one of its territories.

2. Alexander Award

alexander award
(Image Source)

The Alexander Award is given to an individual or organization that creates opportunities for underrepresented communities through educational pipeline work. The purpose is to bring opportunities to groups including ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Apply if: You’ve created opportunities for underrepresented students in law school and in the legal field.

3. E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards

e smythe gambrell professionalism award
(Image Source)

Recognizing innovative professionalism programs in the United States that benefit either legal education or the legal profession. Each award is worth $3,500.

Apply if: Law schools, state and local bar associations, court programs, law firms, and not-for-profit law-related organizations with professional programs or projects should apply.

4. Pro Bono Publico Awards

pro bono publico award
(Image Source)

Presented during the ABA annual meeting, the Pro Bono awards go to five individual lawyers or institutions that have improved on or delivered volunteer legal services.

Apply if: You’re a lawyer or institution that has demonstrated a dedication to providing volunteer legal services to help the nation’s poor and disadvantaged.

5. Solo and Small Firm Awards

solo and small firm awards
(Image Source)

Celebrating the achievements of solo and small law firms (between 2–5 attorneys), this category is broken into three awards: the Solo and Small Firm Lifetime Achievement Award, the Solo and Small Firm Project Award, and the Solo and Small Firm Trainer Award.

Apply if: You’re a solo or small law firm that meets the criteria for one of three awards.

6. Samuel S. Smith Award

samuel s smith award
(Image Source)

One of the most prestigious awards given out by the ABA Law Practice Division. This award recognizes excellence in law practice management.

Apply if: This award is presented at the ABA annual meeting and does not require an application.

7. Robert P. Wilkins Awards

robert p wilkins awards
(Image Source)

Recognizing quality submissions to the ABA’s publications—Law Technology Today, Law Practice, and Law Practice Today—there are awards available in three categories. Those are Overall Achievement in Division Publications, Best Feature Article, and Best Column.

Apply if: You’ve contributed to the ABA’s publications.

8. Elizabeth Clark Young Lawyers Fellowship

elizabeth clark young lawyers fellowship
(Image Source)

Elizabeth Clark had a passion for mentoring young attorneys of color, and she dedicated her time to pro bono work. In honor of her, this award is given to a young attorney who shows promise in the field of public law.

Apply if: You’re a young lawyer working in public law.

9. Charles R. English Award

charles r english award
(Image Source)

Charles English, an attorney specializing in criminal defense, was named Outstanding Defense Attorney by the Los Angeles Bar Association. In honor of him, this award is given to like-minded candidates.

Apply if: You’re a judge, prosecutor, academic, or attorney who is a member of the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section and’ve demonstrated excellence in the practice area.

10. Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award

livingston hall juvenile justice award
(Image Source)

Named in honor of Livingston Hall, a leader in the juvenile justice field, this award goes to someone who’s dedicated their time to helping youth.

Apply if: You’re an active member of the bar who’s devoted a generous amount of their legal practice to helping youth and children.

11. Frank Carrington Crime Victim Attorney Award

Frank Carrington Crime Victim Attorney Award
(Image Source)

Founded in honor of Frank Carrington, who had a monumental impact on the crime victim movement. It recognizes attorneys and legal service providers who are working to improve the treatments and rights of crime victims through advocacy, scholarship, leadership, and more.

Apply if: You’re an attorney or legal service provider who represents victims in criminal, juvenile, or appellate courts, or you’ve worked to improve the treatment of crime victims.

12. Albert Krieger Champion of Liberty Award

Albert Krieger Champion of Liberty Award
(Image Source)

An award for those in the criminal justice field who follow the principles laid out in the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, Defense Function. You must have contributed to the betterment of the criminal justice system.

Apply if: You’re a criminal defense attorney who embodies the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice.

13. Difference Makers Awards

difference makers award
(Image Source)

This set of awards recognizes individuals who do groundbreaking work through community service, pro bono work, or serve the legal industry in another way. It’s a set of five awards honoring barrier-breaking attorneys.

Apply if: You’re a solo attorney or a law firm that’s a member of the ABA and GPSolo.

14. Jean Crowe Pro Bono Award

Jean Crowe Pro Bono Award
(Image Source)

In honor of former ABA Family Law Section Council member, Jean Crowe, this award is given to someone who goes above and beyond in their work supporting low-income and underrepresented communities.

Apply if: You regularly do pro bono work for low-income and underrepresented populations.

15. James I. Keane Award

James I. Keane Award
(Image Source)

This award is rewarded to law offices that break barriers in the way they deliver legal services over the internet. Firms that serve the middle class will be given priority.

Apply if: Your firm is proficient in eLawyering.

16. Partnership Awards

partnership awards
(Image Source)

The ABA Partnership Awards Program recognizes projects that advance the careers of lawyers of color, and other underrepresented groups.

Apply if: You’ve founded a program that advances the diversity of the legal profession.

American Association for Justice (AAJ) awards

Here’s a list of the top AAJ awards.

1. Leonard Ring Champion of Justice Award

leonard ring champion of justice
(Image Source)

This award recognizes AAJ members who’ve dedicated at least 10 years to working toward human and civil rights.

Apply if: Recipients are selected by their peers.

2. Howard Twiggs Award

howard twiggs award
(Image Source)

This award is given to an attorney who embodies the passion and professionalism of its namesake, Howard Twiggs.

Apply if: You’re an AAJ member of at least 10 years.

3. Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award

Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award
(Image Source)

The Weinglass award is given to an attorney or civil rights advocate that has actively defended civil rights and advanced civil liberties.

Apply if: Recipients are selected by the AAJ.

4. Harry M. Philo Award

Harry M. Philo Award
(Image Source)

Given to an individual whose work has advanced the safety and protection of American consumers.

Apply if: Recipients are selected by the AAJ.

Other national awards to consider

Here are some other national awards to consider.

1. National Law Journal Legal Awards

National Law Journal Legal Awards
(Image Source)

A set of awards that honors attorneys and judges who make a difference in the legal profession through shaping the law or other means.

Apply if: You’re an attorney or judge.

2. IFLR 1000

IFLR 1000
(Image Source)

The IFLR1000 is one of the more established unpaid awards and is exclusively for law firms and lawyers in the financial and corporate sectors. It’s the only international legal directory dedicated to ranking lawyers and law firms like this and there is no paid element to being included.

Apply if: Awards are given out based on the organization’s research.

3. Consumer Choice Award – Business Excellence

Consumer Choice Award – Business Excellence
(Image Source)

The Consumer Choice Award for Business Excellence is not solely for lawyers; in fact, any Canadian business can win an award.

Apply if: Awards are given out based on research.

4. FT North America Innovative Lawyer Awards

FT North America Innovative Lawyer Awards
(Image Source)

The FT North America Innovative Lawyer Awards recognizes innovators in the legal business each year, with awards for areas such as Innovation in the Business of Law.

Apply if: Awards are given out based on research and surveys.

5. Law Firms Global Elite

Law Firms Global Elite
(Image Source)

The Lawyers Global runs annual Legal Awards that include categories such as Global Winner (one firm), Global Outstanding (30 law firms), Winner North America (one firm), Outstanding North America (10 firms)

Apply if: You’re a law firm in North America.

6. Law Firm 500 Awards

Law Firm 500 Awards
(Image Source)

The Law Firm 500 Awards honor the 500 fastest growing law firms in the US. They’re ranked in order, based on gross revenues of the previous three years.

7. Super Lawyers

super lawyers
(Image Source)

Super Lawyers recognize attorneys from all practice areas throughout the United States who perform at the top of their game.

Apply if: Lawyers can nominate one another, but not themselves.

The best international lawyer awards

Here are the best international lawyer awards to consider.

1. Canadian Bar Association (CBA) National Awards

canadian bar association awards
(Image Source)

The Canadian Bar Association runs awards in multiple categories including Charity and Not for Profit Law, Equality, General, Human Rights, Immigration Law, Legal Aid, Literature, Public Sector Law, Staff Achievement, and Student Fellowships & Awards.

Apply if: You’re a lawyer or law firm in Canada.

Smaller local, regional or niche awards

It’s not just prestigious national awards or awards from major publications.

There are also interesting local and ‘niche’ awards, depending on your main practice areas, your working environment, and even the content you create.

(Image Source)

A few examples include:

Pros & cons of law firm awards

If we accept that winning awards has many advantages, we must also accept that it can raise questions.

So, it’s worth taking an objective view of the pros and cons of paying for a law firm award.


  • Awards can position you as an industry leader: Reputable awards raise your credibility, reputation, and profile, and position you in customers’ minds as the leader in your industry. That’s very powerful in terms of competitive advantage.
  • They help you build trust: Nobody will do business with you if they don’t trust you. Awards are a way to build that all-important trust with potential customers.
  • You’ll get a backlink to your website: Backlinks from authority sites are pure gold for law firm SEO. The search engines place high stock on these links as a ranking indicator for your website.
  • They’re generally great for PR: Awards get people talking about you positively. You can send out press releases and include them in other marketing materials. This creates good PR and word-of-mouth marketing, generating more interest in your firm.
  • Brand awareness: Just entering your name into the hat for an award can help create more awareness of your business. Some firms enter award nominations for trade magazines and other high-profile publications just so that editors and journalists become aware of them.
  • They help you attract and retain talent: Raising your profile by winning awards can help you hit the radars of the best talent and also boosts the morale of existing team members. From a recruitment and staff retention point of view, this is of huge value.
  • Even if you lose out, you learn: A less-considered benefit of entering your firm for an award is that, even if you don’t win, you’ll gain insight into where you need to improve. This can help you develop your firm.
  • The best law firm websites feature awards & recognition: Take a look at the Top 101 law firm websites. Most include ‘trust badges’ that relay instant credibility and some have awards or recognition sections.


  • They can be expensive: If you ‘pay to play’ for a law firm award, it may set you back thousands of dollars,  and there’s no guarantee you’ll win.
  • They become outdated quickly: The award probably only lasts a year, which means that it soon looks out of date, unless you pay again for the current year, which gets even more expensive.
  • It takes considerable time to apply: In order to prove your worth for an award, you’ll likely have to compile evidence, statistics, and customer testimonials. Then you’ll need to prepare documentation for the lengthy application process. Most lawyers are already busy with casework. Do you have the time to provide what’s needed?
  • There’s no guarantee you’ll win: Not getting the recognition you feel you deserve can be de-motivational. What happens if you apply for the award but don’t win?
  • Which one(s) do you apply for?: The process of evaluating awards can be confusing and time-consuming. Which are the best ones that you have a chance of winning? Are the awards from credible authorities? It takes time and resources to research.
  • Paying for an award carries a stigma: There can be a stigma associated with paying for a law firm award. Is it ethical if paying for it guarantees that you win? Could customers even count it against you if they know you paid for it?
  • The ROI might be higher through other marketing channels: You may find out that you get a better return on investment from other law firm marketing strategies, like Google Ads or other paid advertising like billboards.

It’s important to do the math.

A word of warning about other awards

There is another batch of awards that are seen as spammy and not worth associating your law firm with.

Either they’re operating under false pretenses, hide the fact that they’re paid, or they have a name that can easily be confused with a more reputable award.

A few names include:

  • Best Attorneys of America
  • America’s Top 100 Attorneys
  • American Institute of Legal Counsel

You can save yourself time and money by checking out this list of law firm awards, complied by Igor Ilyinsky, where the spammiest awards in North America are identified.

So, is it worth it?

If your service is not up to scratch, paying for an award won’t save you.

And it’s better to be awarded recognition and honor than to purchase it.

However, if you’re doing a great job but struggling to establish recognition and credibility online, a business award, a nomination, or even a “badge of honor” to display next to your name may help.

Credibility, trust, and reputation are high-value commodities for any law firm. Awards can help and may even enhance SEO.

But bear in mind that, if you have to ‘pay to play,’ others may not view the award as favorably as you do.