A junior lawyer who helped an Afghan judge at risk of capture, imprisonment or murder by the Taliban because of their role is among the winners of LawWorks’ Pro Bono Awards this year.

Alessandro Angelico, a second year trainee at City firm Covington & Burling, won the award for ‘best contribution by a junior lawyer’ at this year’s ceremony, hosted by the Law Society in Chancery Lane.

Angelico researched evidence of threats against the judge in support of a resettlement application. He took the lead, under supervision, liaising with lawyers, diplomats and UN officials to pursue the refugee application.

Other winners included The Financial Conduct Authority Pro Bono Group for ‘best contribution by an in-house team or solicitor’, which was set up last year. Pro bono matters include helping a litigant in person apply for a judicial review, giving advice to non-profit organisations on the use of outdoor spaces and data protection issues.

The ‘best contribution award by an individual’ award went to Naga Kandiah of MTC Solicitors, who helped three Jamaicans residing in London to alter their unlawful status in the UK, ending years of reliance and misery made worse by illness. LawWorks said one client had been told to expect medical costs of £70,000 after a cancer diagnosis, but as a result of the change in her immigration status, was able to receive medical treatment without significant medical debt.

The Islamophobia Response Unit, set up in 2021, won ‘best new pro bono activity’. The team helped a Muslim woman who was verbally assaulted in public and her belongings violently damaged. As a result of the unit’s intervention, the offender was found guilty of racially and religiously aggravated intentional harassment and ordered to pay several thousand pounds in criminal damages.

The awards were hosted by journalist Samira Ahmed, who described the awards as the key event in the LawWorks calendar.

Law Society vice president Richard Atkinson said the pro bono advice given by lawyers individuals, charities and community groups to have their voices heard, exercise their rights and challenge decisions.

Justice should be accessible to everyone, Atkinson said. While lawyers were incredibly generous with their support, ‘pro bono work should not become an alternative to a properly funded system of legal aid’, he said.

Pro Bono Awards 2023 winners

Best contribution by a small or medium firm – Pallas Partners LLP

Best contribution by a large firm – Reed Smith

Best contribution by an in-house team or solicitor – The Financial Conduct Authority Pro Bono Group

Best contribution by a junior lawyer – Alessandro Angelico, Covington & Burling

Best contribution by an individual – Naha Kandiah, MTC Solicitors

The LawWorks Cymru Award – University of South Wales Legal Advice Clinic

Best contribution by a pro bono clinic – Kent Law Clinic, University of Kent

Best international pro bono award – Rule 39 Pro Bono Initiative: CILD and Orrick, Freshfields, DLP Piper, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, Osborne Clarke, Reed Smith and Eversheds Sutherland

Best new pro bono activity – Islamophobia Response Unit

Most effective pro bono partnership – Green Tech Legal Collaborative: Bloomberg L.P, Ropes & Gray, Willkie, Farr and Gallagher, Ashurst, Mayer Brown, Travers Smith, Shearman and Sterling, Venner Shipley

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