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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards: winners celebrate

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Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards: winners celebrate

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Zia Nabi, a housing barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, took home the Outstanding Achievement Award

Legal aid champions got some well-deserved recognition at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards on 12 July.

Finalists gathered in London to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the awards, organised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, with the ceremony held in-person for the first since before lockdown.

“Congratulations to all the winners and finalists who work tirelessly on behalf of people faced with the most difficult circumstances,” said Law Society president, I. Stephanie Boyce.

“Legal aid is critically underfunded despite being a crucial bedrock of justice. Increased eligibility for legal aid through means test reform is a welcome development, but sustained investment is needed to ensure there are enough practitioners still working in both civil and criminal legal aid, where they are so desperately needed.

“First of all, the UK government should commit to the bare minimum 15% increase in criminal legal aid rates for criminal defence solicitors 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 out as a pop-up advice centre in a GP practice in East London and now has legal aid contracts in housing and community care

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

New this year was the Legal Aid Support Staffer Award, which was awarded 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 Defence category, while winning the gong for Family Law was Grace Bradley from The Family Law Company.

Taking home the Outstanding Achievement Award was Zia Nabi, a housing barrister at Doughty Street Chambers.

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