Diane Morrison, of Hackney Community Law Centre, has won the in-house solicitor of the year prize at the Law Society Excellence Awards ceremony held last night in London.
The Law Society Excellence Awards celebrate excellence in the law. The achievements of individual lawyers and law firms from all over the country are recognised. In addition to the in-house category she has won, Diane has also been shortlisted in the ‘Junior Lawyer of the Year‘ category.
Diane was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. When she was 16, her A-Level English teacher, noticing Diane’s flair for English and her analytical mind, encouraged her to become a lawyer. In July 1990, when Trinidad suffered an attempted coup d’etat, Diane came to Britain. She worked as a typist in the day while studying for her LLB and LPC at night.
In May 2005, Diane joined Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) as a part-time typist. Neither she nor HCLC has looked back since. It was a source of deep pride, not only for Diane but also for the local East London community that HCLC serves, when she finally qualified as a solicitor in 2012.
In her short time as a solicitor, Diane has made an impact that would have taken other solicitors many more years. With a background as a volunteer advisor at the Citizens Advice Bureau (where she still volunteers), Diane is HCLC’s go-to advisor on anything and everything that comes through the Law Centre’s doors.
As well as managing her growing solicitor caseload, Diane runs the Centre’s telephone adviceline, answering over 50 telephone queries a week from members of the public. Since 2012, she has also spearheaded HCLC’s weekly Community Pop-Up Shop advice service which she delivers in a local Hackney library. Diane has provided advice to over 700 local residents since the service began and the Pop-Up was shortlisted for a Law Society Excellence Award in 2012.
When Diane set up HCLC’s volunteer and intern programme she told us she was doing so because she remembered how hard it was for her, as a law student with no family support or personal legal connections, to qualify as a solicitor. She said that if she were ever in a position to help other people qualify as lawyers then she would. Diane’s willingness to ‘give something back’ has resulted in hundreds of law students being given the opportunity to gain practical legal experience at HCLC and take their first step on the legal career ladder.
However, Diane is also – and most importantly – a phenomenal solicitor. Due to the meticulous way in which she prepares her cases, Diane has so far won 4 out of 5 of her hearings at the first-tier social security tribunal. In January 2012, before Diane had even fully qualified as a solicitor, she began to build on her formidable skills as a social welfare lawyer by taking over the running of HCLC’s employment law service. As a result, Diane is now gaining a solid reputation in the solicitor community for her exceptional work and client care skills in employment law too.
Diane Morrison is a true community lawyer, fighting for those in desperate need who cannot afford legal representation.
From all of us, Diane, well done and congratulations!