YLAL wins LAPG outstanding achievement award


Young Legal Aid Lawyers was elated to receive an outstanding achievement award from LAPG at their silver jubilee Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards on 23 June 2009. The awards ceremony took place at the Cumberland Hotel near Marble Arch and was followed by a champagne reception.

 

The award was presented by Cherie Booth QC. John Howard, compere at the event, praised YLAL for its optimism, enthusiasm and proactiveness. He remarked that since its inception the group has become a relentless campaigning force and has responded to every government consultation connected to legal aid. LAPG quoted one of the LALY judges as saying “The drive and enthusiasm of YLAL is remarkable and stimulating for us all...They have operated effectively at both the political and practical level, and this alone gives us hope for the future of legal aid.”

Laura Janes, YLAL Chair, made the following acceptance speech on behalf of the group:



"We are delighted to receive this award, but also sad that we are still around to receive it.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers was born in 2005 out of my frustration as a trainee on the high street:
frustration at being forced to turn away desperate clients in tears,
frustration at being constantly distracted from legal work by worrying about funding and, most of all,

frustration that as lawyers representing vulnerable people, often dealing with issues that would properly require a qualification in social work, we are somehow branded by government as a self serving fat cats – a label that I hope MPs will be less quick to use in the future!

 

The aim of YLAL was to give a voice to the next generation of legal aid lawyers - the LAPG membership of the future - by campaigning against the changes to legal aid, responding to consultations and, importantly, supporting aspiring lawyers to do legal aid and not turn away to more lucrative fields.

The response was amazing: we now have over 1000 members nationwide, with new members joining all the time. And we will continue to fight for the survival of good quality, qualified, legal aid lawyers for the future.

But despite our hard work the evidence is that those vulnerable clients are even worse off now than when we launched and face a grim future without suitably qualified lawyers to help them. Legal aid firms now have no time to train and no training contracts; instead they rely on armies of paralegals unable to qualify or make a decent living.

This bodes for a future where the social diversity of legal aid lawyers will be limited to those whose parents own moats and duck houses and can support them in their ‘social crusade’.

A sort of ‘glass ceiling’ en route to qualification has slowly been solidifying into concrete, and the real losers are our clients who are being denied access to justice and the rule of law. That, rather than MPs’ expenses, is the real constitutional crisis. But, as we have seen in recent weeks, it is never too late to reflect and reform in the name of public service.”

Outstanding achievement awards were also presented to the following.

-Michael Burdett (HCL Hanne & Co) received an award in recognition of his career in criminal defence and his campaign work that led to the introduction of court duty schemes. He was also acknowledged for first suggesting to the LSC that it should provide training contract grants.

-David Gray Solicitors was recognised for its commitment to legal aid, the consistent excellence of its work and the calibre of its staff.


-Angela Jackman (Fisher Meredith LLP) received an award for her pioneering role in education law and her outstanding contribution to the law centres movement.

-Edward Fitzgerald CBE QC (Doughty Street Chambers) was credited for being a humanitarian lawyer who has dedicated his career to representing marginalised groups, for example, psychiatric patients and, most recently, the Ghurkas. His service to YLAL as its patron since it was formed was also highlighted.

YLAL congratulates its fellow outstanding achievement award winners. We also congratulate LAPG on celebrating its 25th anniversary, and thank the organisation and the judges for honouring our work with this prestigious LALY award.