THE shortlist has been announced for the Dorset Legal Awards.

More than 167 submissions were received from 17 law firms before the shortlist of 40 was created.

Fifteen winners will be crowned across three different categories – individual awards, team awards and firm-wide awards.

The awards are run by Bournemouth-based IT consultancy QuoStar and Dorset’s only specialist legal recruitment consultancy ASH Elite.

This year’s shortlisted entries include a number of last year’s finalists, including Blanchards Bailey, Dutton Gregory, Ellis Jones and Farnfields.

This year’s awards will also include a new “mystery shopper” element. Each firm will be scored on its rapport with the prospective client, knowledge of the enquiry, and how valued the client felt.

Finalists will be judged in person by an independent panel of notable legal and business professionals including Dr John Knowles, former chairman of DEK; Darren Slade, Business and Technology Editor of the Bournemouth Daily Echo; barrister Vanessa Meachin QC; and Ian Scott, retired senior corporate Solicitor.

QuoStar chief executive Robert Rutherford said: “The Dorset Legal Awards is an opportunity to give recognition to the hard work and dedication shown by the industry in the South West and has very quickly become a key date on the calendar for firms in this region.

“This year’s mystery shopper element will also add an exciting twist to proceedings, allowing firms to show their true commitment to clients. Following the success of last year’s awards, we are more excited than ever to have this year’s finalists announced.”

ASH Elite’s managing director, Sofie Scott, said: “As was very evident in this years’ entries, Dorset is full of fantastic firms, teams and legal professionals. We are proud to be able to run these awards to showcase the legal talent and help raise their profile, not only locally, but across the South. We are exciting to start the next stage of the judging process and to meet with all the finalists in January.”

The awards ceremony will take place on March 1.

The shortlisted entries are as follows.

Lawyer of the year: William Warnock of Dutton Gregory; Victoria Riddlestone, Ellis Jones; Paul Burton, Brettens; Kerry Parsons, Laceys.

Partner of the year: Emma Menzies, Dutton Gregory; William Fox Bregman, Ellis Jones; Simon Cross, Humphries Kirk; John Munro, Laceys; Emma Hamilton-Cole, Williams Thompson.

Rising star of the year: Clair Phillips, Ellis Jones; Nicola Highland, Laceys.

Property team of the year: Blanchards Bailey; Dutton Gregory; Farnfields; Laceys.

Family team of the year: Blanchards Bailey; Dutton Gregory; Farnfields; Laceys; Trethowans.

Personal injury/medical negligence team of the year: Dutton Gregory; Ellis Jones; Trethowans.

Private client team of the year: Blanchards Bailey; Dutton Gregory; Laceys.

Company commercial team of the year: Blanchards Bailey; Ellis Jones; Laceys.

Dispute resolution team of the year: Blanchards Bailey; Ellis Jones; Laceys.

Law firm of the year (100+): Dutton Gregory; Ellis Jones; Laceys.

Law firm of the year (50-99): Blanchards Bailey; Farnfields; Frettens.

Contribution to the community: Ellis Jones; Farnfields.