We are delighted to announce that we have won three awards at the UK Diversity Legal Awards. For the second year running, we saw success in all three areas that we were shortlisted for which included; the Access to Justice Award, the Law Firm Diversity & Inclusion Award, and public law director Ahmed Aydeed won the Black Solicitors Network Rising Star (Private Practice) Award.
Held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel, St Paul’s in London, the UK Diversity Legal Awards focus on recognising, promoting and celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion across the legal profession.
The Access to Justice Award celebrates an ambitious initiative that has demonstrably provided access to justice for the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society in the UK. Being the largest provider of legal aid services in the UK, we are fully aware of the how the legal aid cuts make it increasingly difficult to access legal advice. In the last year alone, we have not only provided countless pro-bono surgeries and clinics to those in legal aid ‘deserts’, but we have also actively fought to improve the situation and re-enable access to justice for all by challenging the obstacles generated by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).
Our public law department successfully challenged the LAA by bringing a judicial review of the LAA’s refusal to backdate legal aid certificates. As a result, the legal aid regulations will now confer a discretionary power on the LAA to backdate legal aid determinations to the date on which an application for funding or an amendment to an existing certificate was made.
Another feature that delivered a positive result, which will better equip legal aid providers to represent marginalised members of society, was the successful challenge of the LAA’s blanket refusal to provide legal aid funding for judicial reviews where permission was refused on the papers.
Our second award, The Law Firm Diversity & Inclusion Award honoured our firm-wide Equality and Diversity Policy, through which we are dedicated to attracting and recruiting talent from diverse backgrounds, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background. We realise that valuing and retaining a diverse range of employees best reflects and delivers the needs of the diverse communities we serve. As a multicultural firm, we also make excellent use of the 60 languages spoken by our workforce. We therefore target communities where language barriers make access to mainstream legal services problematic. The result of our efforts to maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce can be seen in our latest firm-wide diversity survey.
The BSN Rising Star (Private Practice) award won by Ahmed Aydeed is a tribute to the outstanding work he has carried out throughout the year. Ahmed has been at the forefront in the battle against criminalisation, detention of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. He has led key public law challenges including his recent challenge to the Home Office’s policy terminating all statutory support to slavery victims in the UK after just 45 days. The Home Office conceded that their policy was indeed unlawful. Thanks to the challenge, victims will now receive support that is provided in relation to their individual needs rather than for a single stipulated time.
Ahmed’s understands that access to justice is not only being hampered by the hurdles created by the LAA, but also by the existence of unhelpful and often unlawful policies. His work to combat this led to him being awarded the Marsh Award this year’s Anti-Slavery Day Awards. Undoubtedly, Ahmed is a champion for vulnerable individuals whose voices would be left unheard without the support, commitment, and dedication he shows them.
Through our renowned success at the Legal Diversity Awards this year, it is clear that the overall work carried out by the firm as a whole and individual teams have had an indispensable impact on our clients and for access to justice as a whole. Through the litigation challenges we bring and with our firm dedicated to pro-bono activities, legal aid providers are in a stronger position to assist their clients.
Winning in all three categories is a tremendous achievement and we would like to offer a huge congratulations to everyone who has contributed to our success, particularly to Ahmed for his well-deserved win, and huge thanks to him for representing the firm at the awards ceremony.