A well-deserved spotlight was shone on some of our legal aid heroes as the show went virtually on at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards 2020.
The Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) annual awards took place online against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic with 34 organisations and individuals shortlisted.
Winner of the legal aid firm/not-for-profit agency category, sponsored by the Law Society of England and Wales, was South West London Law Centres (SWLLC).
The SWLLC is the UK’s largest law centre and last year helped more than 8,000 people access justice and defend their rights.
Shortlisted in the same category were Cartwright King Solicitors and Simpson Millar.
Among the other winners was Sheree Green, a former chair of the Law Society Mental Health and Disability Panel, who won the mental capacity lawyer award.
Philippa Southwell, a solicitor advocate and head of Birds Solicitors’ human trafficking and modern slavery department, took the criminal defence lawyer award.
“Congratulations both to the victors and to those who were shortlisted,” said Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales.
“There are so many unsung heroes doing vital work in an incredibly tough environment and they deserved their contributions to be recognised.
“But what the beleaguered legal aid practitioners need even more is for the legal aid system to be properly resourced and funded by the government.
“To preserve access to justice and the rule of law, legal representation must be available to those without the means to provide for it.”
Time and time again, the Law Society has highlighted that the legal aid system is reaching breaking point and more government investment is needed.
For example, as of 2 July, there were just 1,146 firms holding a criminal legal aid contract, already 125 fewer criminal legal aid firms than in 2019 and far fewer than the 1,861 firms that existed in 2010.
Two Law Society committee members – Richard Atkinson and Jenny Beck – were among those honoured with LAPG Special Awards last month in recognition for their work during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100