Authors:Fiona Bawdon
Last updated:2024-05-28
Here come the heroes
Marc Bloomfield
Description: LALY24 logo
Legal Aid Practitioners Group is proud to announce the names of those shortlisted for this year’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards. Fiona Bawdon, co-organiser of this unique event, reports.
Forget the Baftas; forget the Oscars; forget the Brits. As all social justice lawyers know the only awards that really matter are the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards, AKA the LALYs.
Now into their 22nd year, these non-profit making awards are organised by Legal Aid Practitioners Group on behalf of the grassroots profession as an unabashed celebration of its work and a spirited riposte to ill-informed critics, including senior politicians who really should know better.
This year’s crop of finalists is as impressive as ever, and we are particularly pleased to once again be recognising not just lawyers and caseworkers, but also the support staff whose work is often entirely unsung and unrecognised. These are the behind-the-scenes individuals and teams without whose professionalism and dedication even the most brilliant lawyers would be unable to deliver access to justice. Support staffers, we salute you as the glue that holds organisations together, despite minimal resources, and the oil that keeps the wheels of justice turning, despite years of underinvestment in legal aid and the justice system more generally.
Details of all the finalists are below. As well as the 11 shortlisted categories, the LALY judges will be making an award for Outstanding Achievement, which is the highest honour the awards can bestow.
Join us on 5 July 2024 to celebrate with the winners and commiserate with the runners-up (tickets £15–£45). Come along and cheer on the finalists. We can’t promise you a goody bag with a $50,000 yacht charter or even a ‘gold radiance face mask’ (you’ll need the Golden Globes for that), but we can guarantee an inspiring evening with kindred spirits (and if you’re lucky, you might be able to snaffle the odd pen and some post-it notes from one of our excellent sponsors).
Legal aid newcomer sponsored by Friends of LALY24
Description: John Crowley_Leigh Day
John Crowley
Leigh Day
John qualified in 2019 and acts for migrants in judicial review and civil damages claims involving false imprisonment, human rights abuses and discrimination. He stands out for his technical legal skills combined with the ability to deal with individual clients.
Description: Mira Hammad_Garden Court North Chambers
Mira Hammad
Garden Court North Chambers
Mira is described as an ‘astounding barrister and human’. She works on major inquests and inquiries, including Hillsborough, Grenfell Tower, Manchester Arena and COVID-19. She is described as ‘bold, tactical and fearless’.
Description: Nicholas Hughes_Duncan Lewis Solicitors
Nicholas Hughes
Duncan Lewis Solicitors
Nicholas is known as lead solicitor in the Brook House Inquiry and for playing vital role in the landmark Rwanda Supreme Court victory. A barrister says he is ‘a joy to have on my team and king of the witness statement’.
Description: Ollie Persey_Garden Court Chambers
Ollie Persey
Garden Court Chambers
Ollie has a thriving community care and education law practice, and has particular expertise in Equality Act 2010 protections owed to marginalised children accessing education. He is a tireless writer and speaker, and described as an inspiration to colleagues.
Legal aid support staffer/support team sponsored by Accesspoint
Description: Family billing team_AFG Law
Family billing team
This three-strong team sprung into action when the firm stood to lose 3,000 client files after its then IT supplier was the victim of a cyberattack. They ‘rolled up their sleeves and looked at new and creative ways to get through the crisis’.
Description: Helen Fanning_MJC Law
Helen Fanning
Practice manager MJC Law
Helen has devoted her professional life to legal aid and is passionate about access to justice. She is described as ‘integral to the smooth running and success of the firm and we are very lucky to have her’.
Description: Mia Hakl-Law_Garden Court Chambers
Mia Hakl-Law
Director of operations and human resources Garden Court Chambers
Mia’s nomination is supported by current and former heads of chambers, plus convenors of Garden Court’s many different practice teams. She is behind its award-winning diversity scheme, and responsible for 50 staff and 190 barristers.
Description: Silvana Velez_Leigh Day
Silvana Velez
Team coordinator Leigh Day
Silvana coordinates three busy teams in the human rights department and is praised as ‘incredibly supportive, friendly, kind and utterly reliable’. A recently qualified solicitor says: ‘I am so grateful for her patience and positivity.’
Disability rights sponsored by Communicourt
Description: Emma Bergin_Irwin Mitchell
Emma Bergin
Irwin Mitchell
Emma acts for highly vulnerable clients in the Court of Protection, including serious medical treatment, and is known for her open-minded and reflective approach, often bringing novel legal points. A barrister says she is ‘dogged and unwavering’ in her commitment to clients.
Description: Lauren Crow_MJC Law
Lauren Crow
Lauren has acted in many landmark cases and has had 10 reported Court of Protection cases to date. An independent psychiatric expert says: ‘She strongly advocates for the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society.’
Description: Tam Gill_Gledhill Gill Solicitors
Tam Gill
Gledhill Gill Solicitors
Tam represents clients at mental health tribunals, and has particular expertise in complex and challenging forensic cases. One client says: ‘She treated me like I was just a normal person when all others backed away.’
Family legal aid including children’s rights sponsored by Resolution
Description: Oliver Conway_Oliver Fisher
Oliver Conway
Oliver Fisher
Oliver is nominated by a charity working with Traveller communities, which describes him as ‘the most exceptional practitioner we have ever encountered’. One mum says: ‘His adamant, direct but fair approach helped me and my family get the right result for my child.’
Description: Tash Fairweather_Hanne & Co
Tash Fairweather
Hanne & Co
Tash qualified as a child care solicitor in 2021 and is praised for her ‘unwavering passion, dedication and exceptional client care’. A barrister who worked with her on a complex care case involving nine children says she is ‘self-assured, quietly measured yet very warm’.
Description: Jenny Newton_TV Edwards
Jenny Newton
TV Edwards
‘Every family legal aid department needs a Jenny,’ says one of her many supporters. Jenny has devoted her career to family law, specialising in complex cases including suspected non-accidental injuries and several involving severe malnutrition.
Social welfare law sponsored by Doughty Street Chambers
Description: Eleanor Bulmer_Butler & Co
Eleanor Bulmer
Butler & Co
Eleanor is a specialist mental capacity and Court of Protection solicitor with particular expertise in brain injuries caused by drug and alcohol abuse, where capacity to make decisions can fluctuate. She is ‘sensitive and robust in equal measure’.
Description: Sabira Kashmiri_South West London Law Centres
Sabira Kashmiri
South West London Law Centres
Sabira is a ‘remarkable’ lawyer specialising in immigration and asylum law. She is praised for exemplifying ‘strategic, compassionate, exceptional skill in handling complex legal challenges’, and is ‘a beacon of hope’.
Description: Esme Madill_Islington Law Centre
Esme Madill
Islington Law Centre
Esme is the driving force being Breaking the Chains, which supports Albanian children seeking asylum in the UK. Her young clients describe Esme as their ‘champion’ and praise her for ‘fighting with everything she has so children have the chance to rebuild their lives’.
Public law sponsored by DG Legal
Description: Bahar Ata_Duncan Lewis Solicitors
Bahar Ata
Duncan Lewis Solicitors
Bahar is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and is known for her fearlessness and dedication to her immigration clients. One client who was in immigration detention says: ‘She took up my case and looked out for me like family.’
Description: Sophie Naftalin_Bhatt Murphy
Sophie Naftalin
Bhatt Murphy
Sophie’s practice sits at the intersection of public law, actions against the police and inquests, with a particular focus on women’s rights. Her work on the Kellie Sutton inquest was groundbreaking, and established a link between suicide and previous domestic abuse.
Description: Paul Keeley_South West London Law Centres
Paul Keeley
South West London Law Centres
Paul is an ‘exemplary’ immigration solicitor with over 15 years’ experience. One client says: ‘Paul saved my life, saved my family and saved our children. He is a human with a capital H.’ A clinical psychologist describes him as ‘a courageous man and gifted solicitor’.
Criminal defence sponsored by One Pump Court
Description: Amy Cox_Sonn Macmillan Walker
Amy Cox
Sonn Macmillan Walker
Amy is vice-chair of Women in Criminal Law and head of litigation at her firm. A barrister says: ‘I have seen her ability to pick up a case, identify the important issues, and connect with the client in record time.’ Her work ranges from murder to money laundering.
Description: Rebecca Freitas_Ringrose Law
Rebecca Freitas
Ringrose Law
Rebecca is head of her Lincoln-based firm’s criminal defence team and has a formidable reputation. She has a particular interest in youth court work and her team typically handles 80–100 clients a month.
Description: Katy Hanson_Welch & Co
Katy Hanson
Welch & Co
Katy is vice-chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and managing director of her firm in rural West Wales. Katy is ‘bucking the trend’ by bringing large numbers of young lawyers into criminal defence work and runs a ‘dynamic, progressive, multidisciplinary firm’.
Legal aid barrister sponsored by The Bar Council
Description: Nick Bano_Garden Court Chambers
Nick Bano
Garden Court Chambers
Nick is an exceptional housing barrister with particular expertise in public sector equality duty and discrimination cases. A law centre solicitor says he is their ‘go-to barrister for tackling legally ambitious and novel cases. He is in a league of his own.’
Description: Mani Singh Basi_4PB
Mani Singh Basi
Mani is ‘a positive force in family law’, and is known for his work on international abduction and stranded spouse cases. Clients love him and he makes them feel safe. Mani had a string of reported cases last year and often represents incredibly vulnerable people.
Description: Miranda Butler_Landmark Chambers
Miranda Butler
Landmark Chambers
Miranda is an expert in public law work, with an emphasis on trafficking and asylum. She also worked on the infected blood inquiry. She has ‘a whip-smart brain combined with compassion and care’.
Housing law sponsored by Leigh Day
Description: Michael Marshall_UCL Integrated Legal Advice Clinic
Michael Marshall
UCL Integrated Legal Advice Clinic
Affectionately known to his colleagues as Michael ‘triple threat’ Marshall for his knowledge not just of housing law but also welfare benefits and community care, he is praised for his passion and persistence. A housing barrister says he is always ‘bursting with good ideas’.
Description: Rose Pritchard_The Community Law Partnership
Rose Pritchard
The Community Law Partnership
Rose has had a long career in legal aid and in the past two decades has specialised in housing law. She is a duty scheme stalwart and an archetypal coalface social justice lawyer. Her work is outstanding and her commitment to clients exceptional.
Legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency supported by The Law Society
Description: Harrow Law Centre
Harrow Law Centre
Founded in 2010 in what was previously an advice desert, Harrow Law Centre is at the heart of its local community and now has a team of 20, including three trainee solicitors. Its legal aid contracts include housing, immigration and welfare benefits, and also crime.
Description: Public Interest Law Centre
Public Interest Law Centre
PILC prides itself on its collaborative approach, working hand in hand with grassroots groups and social justice campaigners to challenge systemic injustice. One supporter says: ‘They always work with us as equals, where our knowledge and experience are valued.’
Description: Wilson Solicitors
Wilson Solicitors
This 100-strong firm has been providing expert legal services to the people of North London and beyond for 35 years. It is particularly known for its commitment to asylum and human rights work, including playing a key role in the successful Rwanda Supreme Court appeal.
Regional legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency sponsored by The Legal Education Foundation
Description: North Yorkshire Citizens Advice & Law Centre
North Yorkshire Citizens Advice & Law Centre
NYCALC has a team of seven caseworkers, two solicitors, an administrator and a volunteer. Last year, they helped 923 people with 1,469 different issues and secured income of £94,940. They are described as ‘a passionate and united team’.
Description: TRP Solicitors
TRP Solicitors
TRP is a Birmingham-based specialist immigration practice, set up just over 20 years ago. Many of its clients are traumatised and vulnerable, and their cases are complex. A barrister says: ‘TRP remain a defiant beacon of strength and commitment to marginalised people.’
Description: Watkins Solicitors
Watkins Solicitors
Based in Bristol, Watkins serves communities across England and Wales on complex family, education and judicial review cases. It is particularly known for its work representing disabled children who have been out of education for many years.
The LALY judges will also be making an award for Outstanding Achievement (sponsored by Matrix Chambers). There is no shortlist for this award.
LAG media partner
39Essex general sponsor
Miles & Partners drinks reception sponsor