The Legal Aid Practitioners Group is proud to announce the finalists for the 2019 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards. The LALYs are into their 17th year and celebrate the life-changing work of lawyers at the legal aid coalface.
LAPG Special Awards 2019 sponsored by Doughty Street Chambers
These three Special Awards are made by the LAPG committee, to recognise exceptional commitment to access to justice. This is only the third time the committee has made these prestigious awards. Baroness Doreen Lawrence OBE was honoured in 2012 for her dedication to achieving justice for her son Stephen. In 2015, the award was presented to four criminal defence solicitors who were leading lights in the campaign against government cuts to the duty solicitor scheme: Bill Waddington, Robin Murray, Jon Black and Paul Harris.
District Judge, Court of Protection
Anselm joined the bench after 25 years as a mental health lawyer, and ‘it is impossible to overstate his contribution to the development of law among those representing detained patients’, according to one leading lawyer in the field. He was one of the first CoP judges to conduct hearings in care homes to allow patients to take part, and is described as ‘ever watchful and vigilant to ensure people can exercise their rights’. A former president of the Mental Health Lawyers Association, his 1997 book Mental Health Review Tribunals: law and practice had a transformative impact. One solicitor says: ‘It was my closest friend and resource and enabled me to represent the most vulnerable clients.’
Barrister, One Pump Court
Former co-chair, Young Legal Aid Lawyers
Solicitor, Irwin Mitchell
Former co-chair, Young Legal Aid Lawyers
Rachel and Oliver worked together to lead YLAL from strength to strength, at an intensely challenging time for the profession in general and for newcomer lawyers in particular. Since its formation, YLAL has been effective, well liked and supported, but under their stewardship, the group has truly become a force to be reckoned with, respected on all sides for its expertise, energy and professionalism. The fact that Rachel and Oliver were able to achieve so much with YLAL, while launching successful careers as, respectively, an immigration and family law barrister, and public law solicitor, is testament to their unique drive and talent. They are a tremendous asset to the legal aid sector and deserve our recognition and thanks.
Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award finalists. The award category finalists were selected by the LALY judging panel.
Children’s rights sponsored by Anthony Gold
Edward has developed a specialism in the area of age assessments, acting for unaccompanied child asylum-seekers whose age is disputed by the Home Office. He often deals with children who are vulnerable, scared, depressed and suffering the effects of ill treatment. In his first year of practice, he had conduct of AS v Kent CC
, the leading case on age assessments.
Fiona is praised for her dedication, care for vulnerable clients and attention to detail. Her work on R (L) v Camden LBC
led to the London council reviewing its approach to homeless 16- and 17-year-olds, and she recently spent six months working on Upper Tribunal cases regarding the transfer of minors to the UK after the closure of the Calais ‘Jungle’. She is conducting pre-litigation research on a potential challenge to the failure of local authorities to support some asylum-seeking children.
Nusrat is described as exceptional, and with a commitment and energy that is infectious. She acted in a challenge that led to asylum-seeking victims of modern slavery receiving back payments after the government tried to slash levels of subsistence. She is also known for her work ensuring unaccompanied migrant children receive essential support and can be reunited with family members in the UK.
Criminal defence sponsored by DG Legal
Lydia has specialised in public order and protest-related work throughout her career, and is acting for Extinction Rebellion activists. She is a duty solicitor and co-ordinator of the non-state, non-police legal teams in the Undercover Policing Inquiry
, representing core participants. She is described as ‘entirely unsung, and quite exceptional’.
Hodge Jones & Allen
Kerry is passionate about her work and always goes the extra mile for clients. Her caseload routinely includes the most serious offences, including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and drug supply. Many of her cases are complex and multi-defendant. She has an ‘encyclopaedic knowledge of law and procedure’.
North Kensington Law Centre
Alexandra-Maria is a rare criminal defence solicitor based at a law centre. She provides essential, holistic support to a community still traumatised by the Grenfell fire, and as well as supporting clients through police investigation and the courts, she also organises outreach programmes to raise awareness of issues such as knife crime and youth violence.
Practice management sponsored by Accesspoint
Practice manager and non-lawyer partner, Joanne has steered the firm for the past 20 years. In that time, it has grown from having two offices and 25 staff, to a 15-partner, four-office organisation, with 130 employees. MSB has legal aid contracts in family and criminal defence, and recently moved into public law. She works hard to encourage the next generation of lawyers and to promote diversity within the firm.
Foster & Foster
Julie combines running her own housing and debt caseload with a practice management role, and has built the firm from the ground up. Since Foster & Foster opened its doors in 2008, her mantra has been to provide the same level of service as clients would expect from a City firm. She manages the firm’s IT system, and places great value on the importance of staff development.
Luqmani Thompson & Partners
Sally has run this highly-regarded immigration firm for 20 years, ensuring it can fulfil its guiding principle of ensuring access to justice for its clients. Her work ‘reflects the essence of the unsung heroine of unsung heroes in the quintessential small legal aid environment’. She is praised for implementing practical systems to enable the firm to remain commercially viable while delivering the highest-quality advice.
Family including mediation sponsored by Resolution
Paul is praised for his considered and child-centred approach, and for his knowledge and compassion. He represents children, parents, grandparents, extended family members and interveners, during care proceedings. He undertook special training to enable him to better understand and support clients with autism, and he has a basic understanding of British Sign Language.
McMillan Williams Solicitors
Keeley fights hard for her clients and always goes the extra mile. Her practice covers private law Children Act work, domestic abuse, abduction, acting for parents in care proceedings and special guardianship orders. She is dedicated and caring. One client says of her: ‘Going to court is not as stressful when you have somebody you know you can trust and makes you feel at ease.’
Hudgell & Partners
Most of Philip’s clients are parents involved in care proceedings facing the loss of their children. He acted for one learning-disabled mother who would have lacked capacity were it not for his ability to communicate with her and win her trust. One supporter says: ‘Even parents in the darkest pits of despair or drug abuse, out of all the solicitors I know, he is most likely to find a way to engage them.’
Legal aid barrister sponsored by The Bar Council
Garden Court Chambers
Joanne combines a mixed serious crime and public law practice. The chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Chris Henley QC, says she is ‘probably the most influential criminal barrister working today’. She is at the heart of key policy debates and her commitment to access to justice is extraordinary. She has a particular passion for youth justice, and has been involved in nearly every piece of strategic litigation in recent years in this vital and developing field.
One Pump Court
Martin has been at the legal aid coalface for 38 years and is known for his unshakeable commitment to housing clients. He has represented innumerable tenants facing possession claims, often bringing counterclaims, and secures injunctions and damages against rogue landlords. He also regularly represents homeless clients challenging local authority decisions. He is praised as ‘wise’, ‘principled’, ‘pragmatic’, ‘empathetic’, ‘kind, and always very helpful and approachable’.
Doughty Street Chambers
Samuel is described as an ‘all-rounder’, which regularly takes him from the legal aid coalface – doing legally routine but life-changing cases for those at the heart of them – to the Supreme Court – where he brings one-off, landmark challenges that have the power to bring about widescale improvement. He is ‘modest, accessible, helpful and capable’.
Legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency sponsored by The Law Society
This 14-office firm has legal aid contracts in crime, family, mental health, Court of Protection, and community care. Its driving principle is that the rights of the individual should not be extinguished by a state determined to overregulate or dictate people’s lives.
Child Poverty Action Group
CPAG is a charity that, under its public law legal aid contract, conducts high-profile strategic judicial review cases related to welfare benefits. It has brought a string of challenges to welfare benefit cuts, the two-child rule, the benefits cap, the bedroom tax for those with disabilities, and disability living allowance.
Southwark Law Centre
Southwark Law Centre provides holistic support to migrants and other vulnerable members of the community. It was instrumental in the setting up of the Housing and Immigration Group (housing and immigration teams pictured), and in persuading Southwark LBC to remove an embedded Home Office worker from its no recourse to public funds team.
Legal aid newcomer sponsored by Friends of LALY19
Maria is a trainee in the public law and immigration department, and inspires everyone around her with her can-do attitude and determination to hold the Home Office accountable. Recent clients include a Chinese national who was trafficked to the UK and sexually abused for three years, and a Vietnamese asylum-seeker forced to work at a cannabis farm. She is due to qualify in July 2019.
Garden Court Chambers
Una was called to the bar in 2012 and is co-convenor of Garden Court’s civil liberties team, and an active member of the INQUEST Lawyers Group and the Police Action Lawyers Group. She thinks quickly on her feet, and ‘can compete with seniors and silks with many more years’ seniority, and can still get fantastic results’.
Public Interest Law Centre
Helen specialises in public law, with a particular interest in women’s rights and housing. Her clients are vulnerable and marginalised, and have often been written off as ‘too difficult’. She is warm and compassionate, and takes the time to build a relationship with the people she represents. She works with a raft of front-line organisations.
Public law sponsored by Irwin Mitchell
Public Law Project
Polly acts for NGOs on challenging government policies and trains other legal professionals in how to bring judicial reviews. She also represents individual clients in immigration, asylum and trafficking cases, and related human rights and public law matters. She is described as having ‘that special quality so essential to legal aid practice to build a rapport with the most vulnerable clients’.
Child Poverty Action Group
Martin is a welfare rights adviser with over 20 years’ experience advising and litigating social security law. He is a true expert in his field. His knowledge of the history and development of particular benefits and relevant case law is an invaluable resource for CPAG’s legal team, and has been decisive in securing important judgments, including over backdating of employment and support allowance payments.
Scott-Moncrieff & Associates
Sam is praised for his passion, expertise and drive in working with women in prison. He is described as ‘a fighter’. Recent cases include LW and others v Sodexo and SSHD
, concerning the illegal strip-searching of four prisoners at HMP Peterborough, which held that the systemic failings amounted to a breach of ECHR article 8. The case has wide implications for the contracting out of key government services.
Raja Rajeswaran Uruthiravinayagan
Raja left Sri Lanka due to the war at the age of 13, leaving his family behind, and is now dedicated to securing access to justice for vulnerable immigrants with irregular immigration status, who are often victims of torture, abuse and trafficking. He had a string of notable cases last year, including R (FB and another) v SSHD
, which challenged the Home Office’s hard removals window policy and led to its suspension. A QC describes him as ‘brilliant and fearless’, adding: ‘He works at the coalface where the work is hardest.’
Social welfare law sponsored by Tikit
Monica came to the law after a career as a caseworker and policy officer at disabled rights organisations. She is described as a ‘star performer’ in her firm’s social welfare department.
Her work ranges from securing care packages for her clients to tackling complex cases in the High Court.
William handles housing, community care, public law and social security cases, and has a particular interest in ensuring EU migrants have access to benefits and services. He has excellent communication skills, and manages to win the trust of even those who have experienced torture and are suffering mental and physical health problems.
Derbyshire Law Centre
Lisa is a true grass-roots legal aid lawyer. For 25 years, she has helped people stay in their homes, obtain access to goods and services, and get the support they need. The homelessness prevention team at a local council says that, thanks to Lisa’s hard work and professionalism, she has managed to secure ‘some amazing results for local residents’.
Access to justice through IT sponsored by The Legal Education Foundation
Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit
is a unique resource, bringing together legal information that is essential for victims of trafficking but often hard to find for those based outside London. In some areas, people have to wait up to a year for an appointment with a specialist in what is still a relatively new area of law. ATHUB provides easy access to information covering immigration, housing, compensation, and children and young people.
Much police station work is done at a loss, and it was this that prompted leading criminal defence firm GT Stewart to create FormShare
, with Tikit P4W. Rather than taking handwritten notes, a digital form is completed by police station advisers, which creates a time record that is instantly encrypted, and opens a new client record.
•The judges will also be making an award for Outstanding Achievement (sponsored by Matrix).
•The Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards are organised on a not-for-profit basis by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group.
•Legal Action is media partner of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards.
The LALY award winners will be announced at a ceremony in central London on 10 July 2019. Tickets are available here