Advocate marked its 25th anniversary in style by honouring members of the Bar who have gone above and beyond for pro bono at its prestigious awards ceremony, sponsored by LexisNexis. The networking event was held in person in Gray’s Inn on Wednesday 3rd November with the awards element live streamed on YouTube.
This year saw a crop of 46 outstanding nominations across nine categories, including young and junior barristers, QCs, Chambers, clerks and a brand-new category – the John Collins Pro Bono Excellence Award. The Awards, held as part of Pro Bono Week, present a chance for the Bar to showcase its incredible range of work with charities, NGOs, community groups and individuals, both at home and abroad.
The new award category was given in partnership with the North-Eastern Circuit to honour the life of the late John Collins, a barrister and pro bono hero who dedicated his life to helping people in need. The contenders were nominated by Advocate’s casework team and was won by Sarah Blackmore, joint Head of Chambers at Spire Barristers, for her dedication to taking on cases and supporting others to do so.
Junior Pro Bono Barrister of the Year was won by Brick Court barrister Sarah Abram. Sarah was the only barrister willing to travel to Luxembourg in the pandemic to represent an environmental NGO at a hearing, the outcome of which had a profound effect on environmental campaigners’ ability to challenge highly polluting infrastructure projects.
This year’s Pro Bono Queen’s Counsel is Anthony Metzer QC from Goldsmith Chambers. Anthony also won this award in 2019 and is widely praised in Chambers for helping to embed a real culture of pro bono by forming a specialist team to advise on the use and extension of international sanctions regimes to finance restorative justice for victims of sexual violence in conflict, with particular focus on the Yazidi victims of Da’esh.
Rhys Davies of Temple Garden Chambers and Ben Keith of 5 St Andrew’s Hill jointly won International Pro Bono Barrister of the Year for their remarkable work helping a British man wrongly imprisoned in Dubai for 13 years in a very complex case spanning multiple jurisdictions.
Pro Bono Chambers of the Year went to 12 King’s Bench Walk for encouraging its members to dedicate nearly 700 hours to Advocate cases. Pro Bono Chambers Professional was awarded jointly to Leigh Royall from Spire Barristers and Patrick Sarson from Gatehouse Chambers for their dedication to making space in barristers’ diaries to undertake pro bono.
Pro Bono Innovation was awarded to Leducate, which aims to promote an understanding of everyday legal rights among secondary school-aged students across England and Wales by delivering lively materials through an online learning platform.
Lord Goldsmith QC, founder of Advocate and Chair of the judging panel said: “When I set up the bar pro Bono unit (as Advocate was), I did not know what the take up by the Bar would be. But I was bowled over by the willingness of the Bar to do pro bono work and I remain humbled by how willing the Bar is. I’ve seen people take on much more than the commitment they signed up for because they want to help someone. I believe that doing pro bono is part of being a professional and these nominations demonstrate that this work is also close to the heart of other members of the Bar. Congratulations and thank you to all the winners and nominees, and to those whose efforts are unseen.”
There are eight categories of award in total, with six announced on the night and two at the Bar and Young Bar Conference on 20th November. Winners were chosen by an independent judging panel headed by Lord Goldsmith QC, and including the Chair of the Bar, Director of the Law Centres Network and the Secret Barrister.