Patrick Marples receives SWLLC's award at the LALY 2020 ceremony (image: LAPG)
Two Law Centre nominees have picked up excellence prizes at the 2020 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) awards held last night.
The LALYs are considered 'the Oscars of the legal aid world'. The awards recognise excellence among social justice lawyers and practices doing public-funded work. This work, often underpaid, is nonetheless essential because it ensures that justice is indeed accessible to all people, including those in great disadvantage.
South West London Law Centres (SWLLC) was recognised in the Best Firm/Not-for-Profit category. The Law Centre, one of the largest in the country, operates four offices covering six south-west London boroughs. It give legal assistance to some 8,000 people a year and operates 14 daytime and evening pro bono advice clinics. It is a diverse practice and has recently celebrated its 45th anniversary.
Solicitor Siobhan Taylor-Ward of Merseyside Law Centre was recognised in the Legal Aid Newcomer category. While a newcomer because she recently qualified as a solicitor, Siobhan has already worked in the Hillsborough Inquiry, has served as co-chair of Young Legal Aid Lawyers, and has helped set up a local branch of tenant group Acorn alongside her Law Centre work.
Another Law Centre nominee, housing solicitor Mike Norman of Bristol Law Centre, was recognised as finalist in the Social and Welfare category.
The LALY awards ceremony is normally held in London every July. This year, organisers Legal Aid Practitioners Group have opted for a virtual ceremony which was broadcast live on YouTube. The event, which lost none of its sparkle, was again presented by Anna Jones of Sky News. Announcing the winners was domestic abuse campaigner David Challen, whose family benefited from legal assistance in the fight to release his mother, Sally Challen, from prison.
Patrick Marples, director of South West London Law Centres, said:
"It means an amazing amount to all my colleagues. I am so proud of them for all the hard work and kindness they show to all the clients we see. It is an amazing boost for all of us."
Receiving the award with her son Alistair by her side, Siobhan Taylor-Ward said:
"I just really wanted to help change society. I've worked with vulnerable people for a long time, I knew how difficult things can be for them and I just wanted to do what I can to help."
Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, head of policy and profile at the Law Centres Network, said:
"Especially now, it is important to acknowledge the demanding work that social justice lawyers have continued to perform during the pandemic. It is helping people in need get through these difficult times and it will be essential to the nation's recovery. Congratulations to SWLLC, Siobhan and Mike on their achievements!"