For two decades, the LALY awards have celebrated the work of lawyers on the legal aid front line. Fiona Bawdon gives the lowdown on the six organisations and 29 individuals to make the 2022 shortlist.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards, and the ceremony on 12 July, where the names of the winners will be announced, will be our first in-person event since 2019.
It was also the first time since before the pandemic that our judging panel could get together in the same room, rather than having to meet on Zoom. Being face to face did not make deciding any easier, however. It was only after long and detailed discussion that our judges were able to confirm the LALY22 shortlist.
One of our new judges described reading the nominations as ‘humbling’ and said she felt prouder than ever to be part of this extraordinary profession. Even those of us who have been LALY judges for two decades are still moved and inspired by the skill, compassion, expertise and dedication that shines through the testimonials. Congratulations to everyone shortlisted; commiserations to those who didn’t make the line-up – maybe LALY23 will be your year?
Legal aid newcomer sponsored by Friends of LALY22
Garden Court North Chambers
Ciara specialises in inquests and inquiries, acting for bereaved families when someone has died in the care of the state. A bereaved father says Ciara understood his son was ‘not just a deceased client, but a son, brother, parent and friend’.
Doughty Street Chambers
Marie is a housing barrister who fights to keep people in their homes. She is praised for being ‘quick and clever’, and her manner with often profoundly vulnerable clients is ‘empathetic, calming and deeply reassuring’.
Doughty Street Chambers
Rabah is a criminal defence advocate of six years’ standing who has the ‘ability of someone of 20 years’ call’. He acts in a range of serious cases, including murder, attempted murder and ‘romance scams’.
Samuel is a housing, public law and community care solicitor. He successfully challenged Brent Council’s unlawful policy preventing homeless people bidding for a council house, helping more than 1,200 individuals and families onto the borough’s housing list.
Legal aid support staffer sponsored by Accesspoint
Garden Court Chambers
David is a former barrister turned legal researcher extraordinaire. He is described by barrister colleagues as a ‘legend and absolute saint’. He works closely with Albanian asylum-seeking children, who call him ‘our Einstein’ and say ‘he makes you feel safe’.
The Community Law Partnership
Known to colleagues as ‘PowerJen’, Jenny joined at the outset of CLP and is now its finance manager. ‘No one outside the firm knows Jenny, but in many ways she is the most important person within CLP.’
Practice secretary Lesley has been the ‘heart and soul’ of the firm for 32 years. ‘She was there when we moved from typewriters to computers’ and when the firm went paperless overnight due to the pandemic.
Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre
‘At the start of every Law Centre journey is Simone.’ As receptionist, Simone greets every client with kindness and compassion: she keeps homeless people company in reception, making tea and phone calls for them, and even, on occasion, letting them sleep in a quiet room.
Disability rights sponsored by Bidwell Henderson
Liz specialises in Court of Protection and community care cases. She acted for Amy McLennan in her bid to secure her 17-year-old son’s right to a kidney transplant, after doctors said it was not in his best interest due to his autism and learning difficulties.
Anna is described as a ‘legal aid legend’ for her Court of Protection, inquest and High Court work. She ‘works on often interminably sad cases, fighting for every bit of funding, and supporting her clients’ needs at the worst time of their lives’.
Sarah represents clients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, and is head of her Cardiff firm’s Court of Protection practice. She ‘has an incredible ability to form a relationship of trust with clients, matched only by her tireless defence of their rights and wishes’.
Family law sponsored by Resolution
Alison specialises in children’s cases, with a particular interest in domestic abuse, forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ violence. She acts in complex non-accidental injury cases, including fabricated illness. A colleague says working with her is ‘exciting and motivating’.
Deborah has been a family lawyer for 22 years and has a string of reported cases to her name. A guardian praises her ‘strong moral compass’ and ‘astonishing technical knowledge’. A local authority solicitor says she always makes children feel heard.
The Family Law Company
Grace’s nomination is supported by a raft of client testimonials. One wrote: ‘Without you, the last few weeks would have been horrific. Living with the thought of the upcoming appeal was truly awful but your constant upbeatness and positivity kept me going.’
Criminal defence sponsored by Doughty Street Chambers
Edward Fail, Bradshaw & Waterson
Alongside her busy practice, Adeela is also vice-president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association. She is a duty solicitor and known for her protest work, including successful appeals by members of XR.
Hodge Jones & Allen
Rhian Graham, one of the Colston Four, says her solicitor Laura ‘worked extraordinarily hard’ and ‘has a wonderfully comforting demeanour’ for those in court for the first time. A QC says she is ‘exceptional in every way’.
Seema runs the criminal department at her two-partner firm. Her clients include Maurice Robinson, who faced 39 manslaughter charges in the Vietnamese lorry death case. She is praised for her dedication to clients and legal prowess.
Legal aid barrister sponsored by The Bar Council
One Pump Court
Amean is described as the first British Yemeni barrister in England and Wales, who wins plaudits from colleagues, clients and even judges for his family practice. One deputy High Court judge said: ‘If I were a parent fighting for my children, I would want to have Amean representing me.’
Garden Court Chambers
Gráinne represents vulnerable clients in education law, community care, Court of Protection and immigration law. She won damages for a six-year-old boy in one of the first peer-on-peer abuse claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 to reach the courts.
Doughty Street Chambers
Oliver acted for Tony Hickmott, a man with learning disabilities who was detained for 20 years under the Mental Health Act 1983. A BBC journalist who covered the case says: ‘Oliver’s work is life-changing for individuals but also has a broader impact on society.’
Legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency sponsored by The Law Society
MTC is a niche firm, specialising in criminal defence, prison law and immigration. Its caseload covers the most serious offences, including gang-related crimes, murder and large-scale drug dealing.
UCL Integrated Legal Advice Clinic (UCL iLAC)
This groundbreaking university legal advice clinic has legal aid contracts in community care and housing. It has a small staff team, including two solicitors and a trainee, plus a team of law student volunteers.
Mary Ward Legal Centre
The Mary Ward Legal Centre has roots dating back 100 years, and it continues to provide a vital service to the community, offering debt, employment, housing and welfare benefits advice.
Regional legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency sponsored by The Legal Education Foundation
Based in Manchester, Ashwood Solicitors is a specialist immigration firm, and many of its clients are victims of trafficking, modern slavery and domestic violence. It has been awarded ‘Victim Friendly Organisation’ status by Lancashire Victim Services.
This Leicester-based firm is known for its expertise in crime and family law. It has strong links with community groups, including those supporting victims of domestic violence. A client wrote: ‘You have helped me realise that things are OK.’
David Gray Solicitors
Newcastle-based David Gray Solicitors has 82 staff, and is particularly known for its family work, but also has legal aid contracts in crime, mental health and Court of Protection. One barrister says its dedication to vulnerable family clients is ‘unmatched in the North East of England’.
Housing law sponsored by Garden Court Chambers
Mary Ward Legal Centre
Hannah’s work includes acting in possession cases, often involving anti-social behaviour and mental health needs. She ‘takes on the Legal Aid Agency as fearlessly as her opponents’. She is described as ‘my saviour; a miracle to me’.
Derbyshire Law Centre
Lisa has been a legal aid solicitor for 25 years and is president of Sheffield & District Law Society. A local councillor says she is ‘hardworking, tenacious, a true champion of tenants’ and disabled people’s rights’.
Miles & Partners
Rajea’s clients are vulnerable, with complex mental and physical needs, and many do not speak English. She is ‘a superb community and grassroots housing lawyer, uninterested in the spotlight, and puts her heart and soul’ into every case.
Social welfare law sponsored by DG Legal
Miles & Partners
Andrew is a mental capacity lawyer with a special interest in housing and community care. ‘He applies his encyclopaedic knowledge of the law to find carefully crafted solutions for extremely vulnerable clients.’
Chris has a particular interest in complex political asylum claims, and citizenship deprivation appeals before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. His efforts on behalf of a mother stranded in Syria were ‘superhuman’.
Clare has had an incredible year, securing successful judgments against the Home Office in the Napier Barracks and asylum-seekers’ mobile phone seizure cases, along with myriad other policy changes for vulnerable clients.
Public law sponsored by One Pump Court
Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Qaisar is head of education at CCLC. He is described as ‘creative and effective’ in his approach to cases involving children with profound disabilities. ‘Equality and fairness underpin all his work.’
Duncan Lewis Solicitors
Jamie works primarily in immigration and asylum law. His cases last year include CSM, on behalf of a client in immigration detention with HIV, and Lawal, over attempts to remove from the UK a potential witness to a death in detention.
Rebecca has a special interest in securing the rights of migrant children and young people. A client says: ‘I was very fragile when I came to her. She did more than the work of a lawyer. If other lawyers were like her, the world would be a better place.’
The LALY judges will also be making an award for Outstanding Achievement (sponsored by Matrix Chambers). There is no shortlist for this award.
The Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards are organised on a not-for-profit basis by Legal Aid Practitioners Group
. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in central London on 12 July. Tickets available here
LAG is media partner of the LALY awards.