The Oscar season is upon us and the big studios are putting their backs and wallets into high-profile marketing campaigns designed to ensure that both their stars and films come away with the gongs.
For the legal sector too, the season of back patting is approaching.
In Birmingham, we have the Legal Awards in March, while the various magazines and directories which rank members of our profession are starting to publish or compile their 2005 listings.
First out of the stable was The Lawyer's Hot 100, which claims to recognise excellence across all sectors of the commercial legal profession, from magic circle firms to in-house lawyers, the bar and legal educationalists.
However, a quick glance down the list reveals it is heavily biased towards those practising within the M25.
Just two Midlands lawyers made the final count: Mike Ward, of Birmingham-based Gateley Wareing, and David Beech of Stoke-on-Trent firm Heatons.
Both head small/ mediumsized corporate practices, but are listed rubbing shoulders with the City's high-profile big hitters. Their inclusion is a credit to them and their firms, but on the whole it is disappointing that more of our legal community was not represented.
Limited as it is to just 100 leading lawyers, and given its bias towards the South, buyers of legal services can probably get a better flavour of the capabilities of regional lawyers through The Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and Legal 500's Recommended Law Firms and Lawyers.
These rival publications rank solicitors and law firms and pitch themselves as reference bibles for independent advice on the abilities of leading legal practitioners. Their entries are based on interviews conducted with lawyers and their clients.
In fact, Legal 500' s researchers have recently been in town compiling entries for their 2005 publication.
Mills & Reeve is fortunate enough to be able to call on its in-house marketing team to help do the homework for our entries. Magic circle firms, with their PR teams of ten or so have even more resource to call upon. Against this background, it is hardly surprising that many of the region's smaller firms are conspicuous by their absence. There are many individuals, widely regarded among their peers, who fail to make the grade. I know that in some cases they do not have the time, resources or expertise to devote to this exercise. Others simply refuse to play the game, preferring to focus on their client work.
So how much store do our customers put in these lists?
In my experience, it varies from client to client.
Historically, I have been rather cynical about their influence.
However, one of our longterm large target clients, from whom we have enjoyed a lot of repeat business, with a legal spend of several hundred thousand a year, recently told us that they short-listed five potential legal suppliers for a recent tender based on their Chambers' reviews.
In most cases, however, legal directories will be just one source of reference for buyers of legal services.
There is no doubt the best source of business is recommendation from satisfied clients.
As previous Oscars have demonstrated, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that Mike Leigh will triumph over Martin Scorsese.
* Guy Hinchley, managing partner at the Birmingham office of law firm Mills & Reeve.