On the 1st July I attended the 13th annual Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards (or ‘LALYs’ as they are also known). The LALYs celebrate the work of legal aid lawyers across the country and it is a great event for like-minded people to come together and to celebrate the work they do (and it is a good excuse to get dressed up!).
Even though London was melting in 30+ degrees, the heat did not stop over 400 people attending the awards. The room was packed with standing room only – this really demonstrates how many people continue to fight on behalf of vulnerable people, legal aid and access to justice.
Anna Jones of Sky News and Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane presented 13 awards to the most hardworking and dedicated individuals.
A special award was presented at the start of the night to reflect the outstanding commitment and determination against the criminal legal aid reforms. This was given to Bill Waddington and Robin Murray of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and to Jonathan Black and Paul Harris of the Criminal Courts Solicitors Association. The award was presented on the same day when a further fee cut was imposed.
We were honoured last year to be awarded ‘Legal Aid Firm of the Year’ but were happy to pass on the baton to the Central England Law Centre (a collaboration between Coventry and Birmingham Law Centres).
Other winners include the solicitor who acted for the family of Mark Duggan and is now representing the families of 75 victims of the Hillsborough disaster. National charity the ‘Public Law Project’ were presented with an ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award for their numerous successful judicial reviews. We were involved in one of these successes – R (Ben Hoare Bell and ors) v Lord Chancellor  EWHC 523 (Admin) – on the ‘no permission, no payment’ regulations for judicial reviews that require legal aid.
As we had not entered any nominations this year I was able to relax and enjoy the whole ceremony nerve free. The night is a great celebration for those working in publicly funded areas of law. This year the awards were a well-needed boost for the continued fight against cuts to funding and changes to the justice system. As further cuts and changes are on the horizon all 400+ legal aid lawyers at the awards and thousands across the country are more determined than ever to fight for vulnerable people and access to justice.
Blog by Rachel Floyd