Congratulations to our Legal Heroes shortlist

Legal Heroes is an opportunity to recognise the solicitors that have made the biggest difference to the lives of others, their local communities and society. We’re proud to announce a shortlist of those who have made a lasting and tangible impact and brought distinction to the profession.

Earlier this year we received hundreds of nominations for solicitors across England and Wales.

Our president Lubna Shuja said:

“Congratulations to all our nominees. It has been inspiring to read so many entries which all showed the fantastic work done by many of our members. They are a testament to the profession.

“We are proud to announce a shortlist of amazing solicitors who have consistently gone above and beyond to make a lasting impact on colleagues and communities."

Seven Legal Heroes have been selected by our judging panel:

  • Mark Davies
  • Margaret Obi
  • Paul Rogerson
  • Lubna Shuja
  • Mark Stephens CBE
  • Peter Watson-Lee

Selection was made based on information shared in their nominations – they will be announced on Thursday 7 September.

The following edited extracts have been taken from nominations and do not capture the entirety of the nominees’ work.

Helen is a criminal defence legal aid solicitor advocate.

She worked, at times with little or no funding, to overturn the conviction of a 14-year-old boy sentenced to life in what she considered to be a miscarriage of justice.

While the initial appeal was rejected, Helen referred the matter to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who were persuaded to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal. They quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial. At the retrial, the boy was acquitted after just 30 minutes of jury deliberation.

Parvien has been nominated for the drive and resilience she demonstrates when working for her clients. She successfully helped a vulnerable client who had been told multiple times that he would not succeed in his claim.

She is passionate about helping young people, especially those from less-privileged backgrounds. At De Montfort University, she mentors graduates and takes part in mock interviews and trials.

Mellissa is a solicitor and diversity officer in the Government Legal Department (GLD). She was instrumental in the GLD’s decision to open posts to all legal professions and was part of the executive committee that introduced the new Solicitors Apprenticeship Scheme.

She is a former chair of the African Women Lawyers Association and is the founder of Black Lawyers Circle, an organisation dedicated to increasing Black and minority ethnic representation within the legal profession.

She acts as mentor to many, provides outreach to schools and universities and delivers talks on careers and entry into the legal profession.

Shabina is a senior associate at Dawson Cornwell.

She’s been nominated for her work to end honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Shabina is a UN-recognised authority and raises awareness of these issues by running specialist training courses, speaking at conferences and campaigning for a Women’s Bill of Rights.

She is also a mental health advocate and an expert in Shariah law. She has worked as an independent domestic violence advocate handling high risk cases and vulnerable clients.

She was involved as part of the pro bono team who campaigned for and drafted the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022.

Matthew is a solicitor who specialises in commercial property.

He founded SQuarE Route, which helps aspiring solicitors improve their employability.

He gives talks, helps with CVs, provides interview practice, and organises events with law schools and firms.

His efforts to provide personal support for a wide range of young people will help to bring a new generation of solicitors into the profession.

Ruth is a duty solicitor for Shelter UK specialising in housing and social welfare law.

Her clients come into court feeling anxious and overwhelmed. She adjusts her approach to each individual’s needs to make sure they understand, feel reassured, and are supported.

She makes a significant impact on the lives of many of her clients, helping many to remain in their homes.

Ruth also supports, mentors and trains university students. She designs volunteering opportunities, so students gain exposure to real cases and develop their interview and advocacy skills.

Rebecca is a solicitor specialising in financial, banking, investment, and employee fraud.

She is a fierce champion for her clients. She has excelled in authorised push payment fraud cases, supporting victims who have had their lives turned upside down.

Rebecca’s determination to combat fraud includes work to educate the next generation of lawyers. She has worked on StreetLaw with the University of Birmingham, a project that supports students to provide pro-bono legal advice on fraud for individuals, charities and small businesses.

Victoria is a solicitor and head of UK business development at BARBRI Global.

She has been relentless in working to conceptualise and establish the Social Welfare Solicitors’ Qualification Fund, which helps to improve social mobility in the legal profession.

Victoria helped to persuade commercial legal entities to fund the project. She has been involved in creating selection criteria, assessing candidates and devising the learning programme.

She has been an ambassador for the initiative, persuading her organisation’s leadership to offer generous fee discounts, resulting in extra candidates being funded.

Crystal specialises in immigration and family law and is the co-founder of Lawyery, a legal firm based in London that offers services to the Filipino community and vulnerable clients.

She advocates for the rights of migrants and women. She has helped children, victims of domestic abuse and victims of human trafficking.

She is also the legal advisor for the European Network of Filipino Diaspora and vice-chair of the Filipino Women’s Association. She was instrumental in launching the Juan Eu Konek Mentorship programme in 2022, which helps young Filipino women from the UK enter legal and media careers.

Lisa is a director and head of the employment and HR team at Watkins and Gunn.

After battling to get treatment for the menopause, Lisa wanted to raise awareness and help others. She started a menopause network and has spoken at events about her journey and the law relating to the menopause in the workplace.

She has inspired others to introduce menopause champions and workplace policies. She’s received feedback from women who have had similar experiences and were validated by hearing her share her personal journey.

Susan Harlow and Elizabeth Francis have been jointly nominated for their work in building up the family law department in Hanne & Co in Wandsworth. They work on many legal aid and pro bono cases, particularly for the Wandsworth community.

They both value being part of their local community; supporting local charities including Victim Support, Battersea Foodbank, Citizen’s Advice, Rights of Women and Women’s Aid Refuges.

They are also dedicated to diversity and inclusion; their firm has 100% female equity partnership and they are committed to mentoring junior solicitors.

Naga is a solicitor specialising in criminal, immigration and human rights law.

He has acted in complex cases to help vulnerable clients, including descendants of the Windrush Scandal, refugees stranded in Diego Garcia, and assisting Tamil refugees who fled following the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka 2019. Naga has successfully acted in representing members of the Jamaican community which garnered commendation from the Jamaican High Commission.

Many of Naga’s cases are reported in national and international media outlets; a recent example being frontpage news in the Jamaican national newspaper regarding Jamaican nationals living in limbo for decades without access to basic healthcare, including one client who was a cancer patient.

He has written several articles on human rights issues and spoken about problems within the immigration and justice system.

He regularly works with organisations such as the Southall Black Sisters, Freedom from Torture, Asian Women Centre (where he provides pro bono assistance), Helen Bamber Foundation, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Lubana is a solicitor specialising in immigration and asylum law and leads the legal team at Ashiana Network, a charity based in East London.

She has helped women unable to secure legal aid or afford legal fees to resolve their immigration status. In one case, she worked tirelessly to obtain indefinite leave to remain for a client who had suffered significant domestic abuse.

She is dedicated to making a difference to women and girls. With her knowledge, expertise and guidance, many women have been able to start the process of rebuilding their lives after surviving horrendous abuse.

Belinda is a solicitor specialising in criminal law.

She successfully brought a judicial review case, which changed the law on how young people are treated in police custody.

Following Belinda’s work, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act was amended so that 17-year-olds can no longer be interviewed without an adult present. This eradicated the inconsistency of 17-year-olds being treated as adults in a police station but as youths in court.

Belinda’s nomination describes further complex and serious criminal cases, as well as her work both as a duty solicitor and a crown prosecutor.

Aleksandra is a legal counsel for East European Resource Centre, a charity providing help and support for vulnerable migrants from Eastern and Central Europe.

She was nominated for her family law advice to women who have suffered domestic abuse and her work on cross-border issues between the UK and Poland.

She also organises legal English courses for Ukrainian and Belarusian lawyers aimed at helping them gain new qualifications. She publishes legal English educational content for students and foreign lawyers and gives presentations on domestic abuse and the legal profession in the UK.

Jonathan is a commercial solicitor and senior managing associate in Sidley Austin’s London office.

He was instrumental to the success of the Free Family Representation and Advocacy Project, a charity set up in response to the difficulties litigants in person face following the removal of legal aid in private family law cases.

Despite a demanding role at his firm, he often went above and beyond to represent litigants in person effectively, sometimes in extremely complicated hearings against senior counsel.

Emily has been nominated for her work in setting up the Social Welfare Solicitors’ Qualification Fund.

She worked with the project team to conceptualise the scheme, propose it to commercial legal entities and persuade them to fund it. She helped create the selection criteria and processes, reached out to the junior social welfare lawyer market, and worked with Law Centre Networks and the Legal Aid Practitioners Group. She helped to assess candidates, support recipients of the fund, and was an ambassador for the initiative.

The scheme has already helped nearly 70 candidates qualify into the solicitors’ profession.

Reena is a solicitor specialising in banking and corporate finance at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

She was a founder and co-chair of Freshfields Enabled from 2019-2022 and remains an active committee member. Her work included raising awareness of neurodiversity, helping to improve office working conditions, and working with management on the impact of COVID-19 on disabled colleagues.

Reena is keen to champion disability awareness and inclusion in finance, working with the International Capital Market Association on becoming more inclusive.

She is chair of our Disabled Solicitors Network and has contributed to guidance on reasonable adjustment for law firms, and champions collaborating to better support disabled or neurodivergent legal professionals with mental health struggles.

Sabeena is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence in Bristol.

She has made a lasting and tangible difference to victims of forced marriage and honour-based abuse through her role as director of the Sky Project charity, as chair of the Forced Marriage Working Group in Bristol, and by providing bespoke training packages for the police.

Much of her work is voluntary and she encourages cross-collaboration between local organisations to combat forced marriage collectively and share best practice.

Joan is a commercial in-house solicitor with Specsavers. She has been nominated as a staunch advocate for diversity, equality and inclusion.

She is founder and co-chair of Specsavers’s embRACE network, helping to develop a more inclusive and supportive working environment for colleagues belonging a minority ethnic group. It also works to increase awareness of eye health conditions disproportionately affecting ethnic minorities.

She acts as a mentor for GROW, speaking about pathways into law and promoting in-house careers. She has recently been involved in the establishment of the Black Counsel Forum’s pit crew, a support group for mid-senior level black female lawyers.

Qaisar is head of education at Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC).

He helps children and young people with a range of disabilities and special educational needs, assisting with challenges against local authorities and schools. His work contributes to shaping education law by bringing ground-breaking cases on behalf of CCLC.

He has also contributed to innovative projects such as a pilot aimed at early intervention for families of children at risk of school exclusion in the Grenfell community.

Clive is a sole practitioner.

When the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) proposed the closure of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, it would have impacted solicitors who had been retired for more than six years and meant members of the public would have had no recourse for legitimate claims.

He identified the inadequacies in the consultation process and worked quickly and decisively to present evidence to the SRA and other interested bodies. The SRA eventually withdrew the proposal.

Niresha is a young solicitor who goes above and beyond to support her clients and raise awareness of human rights and community care issues.

She specialises in housing and social welfare and her work includes: supporting asylum-seeking children, finding accommodation for homeless children, and fighting for support for children who fall through the cracks of the care system.

A lot of her clients have multiple mental health and physical disabilities, and she treats her clients with honesty, warmth, and respect.

Martin is a solicitor specialising in residential property work in Surrey.

Martin has spoken widely about disabled access in the law and how he uses his unique skillset to utilise his full potential.

He has also contributed to our guidance on disability inclusion and reasonable adjustments for small firms. He has utilised his lived experiences to educate firms and his efforts have led to the guidance being implemented by many firms.

Mohammed is the managing director of a large criminal defence practice in London and a civil practice in Birmingham.

Through his pro bono work, Mohammed has helped numerous individuals with legal issues, and his willingness to provide his time, expertise and support has been an invaluable asset to the communities he works in.

Mohammed helps those with drug addictions and mental health issues and is known to actively support those who have opted to undertake various rehabilitation courses.
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Legal Heroes is an opportunity to recognise the solicitors who have made the biggest difference to the lives of others, their local communities and society over the last two years.

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