Nominations open for LALY20, ‘the most important night for the legal aid community’
Marc Bloomfield
A few days before last year’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards ceremony, a (dog-loving, Arsenal-supporting) housing solicitor tweeted that the event was a ‘beacon of hope and happiness’.
Description: LALYs19 audience (Richard Gray_rugfoot photography)
Celebrating the everyday miracles made possible by legal aid at the 2019 LALY awards (photo: Richard Gray/rugfoot photography)
These unique, non-profit-making awards, organised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG), are now into their 18th year (Fiona has co-organised every single one of them). With nearly 500 guests, the event is the culmination of many weeks of work by LAPG and Team LALY (many of whom are volunteers). For the organisers, one of the nicest moments comes on the morning after the ceremony, with the arrival of unsolicited but heartfelt emails and texts from guests. A random sample from last year: ‘I don’t know how you do it year after year but it feels like the most important night for the legal aid community.’ ‘You’ve created a space where hardworking, modest and caring people can be unashamedly proud of their work and celebrate their excellence.’ ‘So inspiring. I had a lump in my throat most of the time.’ ‘You are wondrous. It was brilliant. I cried three times.’
The fact that LAPG has succeeded in creating something unique and so well supported by the grassroots profession is testimony to the exceptional nature of legal aid work and of the lawyers who are called to this area of law.
Our loyal LALY sponsors deserve a special mention. We think of them as honorary members of Team LALY. Some – like Resolution, Matrix and Irwin Mitchell – have supported us since the outset of the LALYs. It is thanks to all of our sponsors – and donors to our Friends of LALY crowdfunding – that we are able to stage the event and keep ticket prices affordable enough to encourage newer entrants to the profession to attend.
From when they were launched in 2003, the LALYs aimed to be different: to be an antidote to the glitzy-but-soulless legal awards ceremonies that celebrate lawyers who are already handsomely rewarded. At the LALYs, we don’t go in for fountains and light shows. For legal aid lawyers, the transformative power of their work means star quality comes as standard. With that kind of brilliance, we don’t need to spend money providing the glitz.
We want every aspect of the LALYs to be accessible to all – not just the ticket prices. Nominations are made online and we impose a 20-page maximum, precisely to keep the process manageable for individuals and smaller organisations with limited resources. Yes, some bigger providers clearly devote considerable effort each year into creating highly polished nominations, but less really can be more. There have been times over the years when a finalist has been chosen despite their nomination having a marketing team’s fingerprints all over it (rather than because of it).
With nominations for LALY20 now open, we urge you to put forward the individuals and organisations you know that go the extra mile to deliver access to justice, whether by bringing precedent-setting legal challenges or through their day-to-day dedication at the social justice coalface. Nominations close on 3 April and the winners will be announced on 7 July (tickets available here). There are 12 awards in total, including three new categories this year: legal aid team; mental capacity law; and regional legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency. (Guidance about the entry criteria for each award category is available from LAPG’s website.)
We hope having a designated regional award will send a strong signal about the importance of celebrating the invaluable work being done away from the bigger legal centres and encourage the widest possible geographical spread of nominations. The LALYs were created to celebrate the unsung heroes of legal aid. We particularly welcome nominations for individuals or organisations that have never previously had (or sought) any kind of recognition, other than from immediate colleagues and clients.
These are the only awards dedicated solely to recognising the legal aid profession and it is quite right that the important work done by bigger organisations is recognised. We welcome the loyal support shown for the awards by serial nominators (last year, seven lawyers from one firm were all nominated in one category). But the LALY judges’ hearts especially tend to sing at the sight of a nomination from an individual or an organisation that really has been hiding its light under a bushel.
We encourage nominations of all kinds and our judges are already looking forward to reading every word.
LALY20 award categories
Outstanding achievement1We do not accept nominations in this category
Criminal defence
Legal aid newcomer
Social welfare law
Legal aid barrister
Family legal aid
Public law
Immigration and asylum law
Legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency
Regional legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency
Legal aid team
Mental capacity
LALY20 sponsors
Bidwell Henderson
The Bar Council
DG Legal
The Law Society
Doughty Street Chambers
Legal Education Foundation
Matrix Chambers
Irwin Mitchell
Legal Action Group (media partner)
One Pump Court
Garden Court Chambers
TV Edwards
1     We do not accept nominations in this category »

About the author(s)

Description: Chris Minnoch
Chris Minnoch is CEO of Legal Aid Practitioners Group.
Description: Fiona Bawdon - author
Fiona Bawdon is a freelance legal affairs journalist and founder and co-organiser of the LALY awards.