Gongs for legal aid heroes

Legal Aid Champions received well-deserved recognition at last night’s (July 12) Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) Awards.

The finalists gathered in London to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the awards, organized by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, with the ceremony held in person for the first time since before the lockdown.

“Congratulations to all the winners and finalists who work tirelessly on behalf of people facing the most difficult circumstances,” said Law Society of England and Wales President I. Stephanie Boyce.

“Legal aid is seriously underfunded despite being an essential foundation of justice.

“Increasing legal aid eligibility through means-tested reform is a welcome development, but sustained investment is needed to ensure there are enough practitioners still working in civil legal aid and criminal, where they are so desperately needed.

“First, the UK government should commit to increasing criminal legal aid rates for criminal defense lawyers by at least 15%, as recommended by Lord Bellamy.”

The winner in the Legal Aid Firm/Not-for-Profit Agency category – sponsored by the Law Society – was University College London Integrated Legal Advice Clinic (UCL iLAC).

UCL iLAC started as a pop-up advice center in an east London GP practice and now has contracts for legal aid in housing and community care

Also shortlisted were MTC Solicitors, a firm that acts for vulnerable young black and minority ethnic clients in gang-related matters, including modern slavery; and Mary Ward Legal Centre, whose lawyers are described as fearless and known for their expertise and determination to obtain justice for their clients.

New this year was the Legal Aid Support Staffer Award, which was given jointly to David Neale of Garden Court Chambers and Lesley Kennedy-Neal of Wilson Solicitors LLP.

Another notable winner was Laura O’Brien of Hodge Jones & Allen in the Criminal Defense category, while Grace Bradley of The Family Law Company won the gong for family law.

Zia Nabi, a housing lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers, won the award for outstanding achievement.

About the Law Society

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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100