‘Champions of the vulnerable’ were among the solicitors feted at last Thursday’s Law Society Awards 2021.

Excellence was recognised across 20 categories at the most prestigious awards ceremony for solicitors in England and Wales, which took place virtually and was hosted by comedian Jo Caulfield.

Neil Hudgell (pictured), from Hudgell Solicitors, who helped secure justice for dozens of former sub-postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal, won the Law Society Gazette Legal Personality of the Year. It was quite a day for Hudgell, who was also named Yorkshire Lawyer of the Year at the Yorkshire Legal Awards, held in Leeds last night.  

The Society's Lifetime Achievement Award went to Michael Hanley, from Wilson Solicitors LLP, who has dedicated his career of 36 years to fighting for some of society’s most vulnerable and unpopular causes.

Hanley’s firm was also a winner, picking up the award for Excellence in Access to Justice. Specialising in immigration, an area which has seen substantial public funding cuts, Wilson Solicitors ‘have demonstrated a strong commitment to providing continued legal aid provision’, the judges said.

Fatema Orjela, of Sidley Austin LLP, took the Woman Solicitor of the Year gong, ‘having demonstrated clear leadership in gender diversity including mentoring the next generation of aspiring solicitors from diverse backgrounds’.

Human Rights Solicitor of the Year winner – Maria Patsalos, from Mishcon de Reya – was hailed as a ‘true champion of diversity’. She founded a range of pro-bono initiatives such as Pink Law and Black Justice to safeguard and promote the rights of marginalised groups.

List of winners:

  • Excellence in Access to Justice – Wilson Solicitors LLP
  • Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion – Thursfields Legal Limited
  • Excellence in International Legal Services – Baker McKenzie
  • Excellence in Practice Management – The Family Law Company
  • Excellence in Practice Promotion – DAC Beachcroft
  • Excellence in Pro Bono – Akin Gump, Ashurst, Cooley, Dentons, Freshfields, Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster, O’Melveny, Orrick, Reed Smith, Skadden and White & Case (Collaboration)
  • Excellence in Promoting High Ethical Standards – The Ethical Solicitor/MLSH Ltd
  • Excellence in Technology and Innovation – Monaco Solicitors
  • Excellence in Upholding the Rule of Law – Rook Irwin Sweeney
  • In-house Team of the Year – Working Families
  • Medium Law Firm of the Year – Phillips Solicitors
  • Small Law Firm of the Year – Tatham Law LLP
  • The Law Society Gazette Legal Personality of the Year – Neil Hudgell, Hudgell Solicitors
  • Human Rights Solicitor of the Year – Maria Patsalos, Mishcon de Reya
  • Junior Lawyer of the Year – Jeremy Bloom, Duncan Lewis Solicitors
  • Sole Practitioner of the Year – Ian Walker, Family Law and Mediation Limited
  • Solicitor of the Year – In-house – Marios Kontos, Rainbow Migration
  • Solicitor of the Year – Private Practice – Anne Kavanagh, Irwin Mitchell
  • Woman Solicitor of the Year – Fatema Orjela, Sidley Austin LLP
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Michael Hanley, Wilson Solicitors LLP