Charity honours female lawyers who fight for women’s rights

Female lawyers are in the spotlight this December after winning awards for their tireless fight to give free representation to some of the world’s most vulnerable women.

Every year, the legal profession honours particular barristers for the massive contribution they make to society by taking on legal cases without charge, enabling vulnerable people to get access to justice. Legal charity Advocate, which matches barristers who will work for free with people in need of legal representation, supports an illustrious judging panel to choose the winners from among a group of people nominated for their incredible hard work and dedication.

This year, a record seven women were recognised in different categories, many specifically for their work defending women’s rights, both at home and abroad.

Jennifer Robinson, described by colleagues and clients as “genuine, compassionate and kind” was a joint winner of the International Pro Bono Barrister of the Year award, along with her colleague Jelia Sane. Both women work at Doughty Street Chambers in London, which is renowned for taking on cases championing human rights and is also home to the lawyers representing the parents of Harry Dunn against the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Ms Robinson has tackled a variety of international cases. She joined the pro bono legal team for women’s rights activist Amal Fathy, who was imprisoned and persecuted in Egypt for posting a #MeToo video on Facebook. Jennifer’s strategic advice and expert drafting secured support from UN experts, which in turn resulted in Ms Fathy being released. She was also one of two lawyers trusted to provide legal advice to the UN on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Fellow winner Jelia Sane has already crammed a lot in to her four years as a qualified barrister, including documenting the failure of the French and UK authorities to put in place adequate safeguards to protect lone child refugees living in the Calais jungle refugee camp when it was destroyed, leaving them open to the risk of trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Her report is still used in many UK refugee cases and has helped to develop the law in this area. She has also assisted abandoned child refugees in Syria to be relocated with their grandmother in the UK

Junior Pro Bono Barrister of the Year went to Shu Shin Luh of Garden Court Chambers, whose support on cases for homeless charity Shelter has gone on to help it influence and shape changes to UK law. In addition, she challenged cuts to subsistence payments given to trafficked people though the government’s National Referral Mechanism. Shu Shin’s win went far beyond benefitting her client, securing a reversal of the cuts for all people supported by the mechanism, and a back payment to all individuals affected by the cuts, sending a clear message to government that victim entitlements will be protected by law.

Ms Luh said: “I’m surprised and touched to be honoured for work that I have been privileged to be involved in. I would hope that we do what we do not because of benevolence but because of a belief that everyone should have access to justice as of right and that it should be properly funded. We still have a long way to go before we get there. For now, I’m fortunate to be a part of a chambers where our work reflects that commitment day in day out, and affords me the encouragement and support to live up to that commitment.”

Jennifer MacLeod has spent more than 450 hours doing free legal work this year, winning Young Pro Bono Barrister of the Year and focussing particularly on women’s issues. Rated by colleagues as “quite simply a force to be reckoned with”, she brought a high profile systemic challenge against the Crown Prosecution Service’s approach to prosecuting rape and also challenged the prosecution of rape victims for perverting the course of justice.  This work has the potential to change women’s lives and her nomination was supported with a ringing endorsement from the Centre for Women’s Justice, who praised her for her “good humour and good grace”.

Three other women were given honours for their commitment to fighting for others, including Miriam Smith who advises survivors of domestic abuse, Sanaz Saifolahi who worked to protect unmarried partners of UK citizens and Alice Nash, whose workload includes saving people’s homes and preventing them from succumbing to crippling debts.

Notes for editors:

  1. Advocate is the only national charity finding free legal help from barristers in any area of law and in any court or tribunal across England and Wales. For more information contact Mary Dobson: mdobson@weareadvocate.org.uk / 02070923961 or lnaylor@weareadvocate.org.uk.
  2. Barristers dedicated over 10,000 hours of legal help in 2018 through Advocate, which equates to just under £2.25 million in uncharged fees. Over 4,000 barristers are signed up to the service, responding to the demand created by over 2,000 applications for help received every year.
  3. The full list of winners and nominees includes:

Junior Pro Bono Barrister of the Year (sponsored by Juriosity)

Winner: Shu Shin Luh (Garden Court Chambers)

Highly commended: Sanaz Saifolahi (Goldsmith Chambers)

Nominees:

Katherine Dunseath (1GC | Family Law)

Alice Nash (Hailsham Chambers) (honoured for greatest number of cases taken)

Colm Nugent (Hardwicke)

International Pro Bono Barrister of the Year

Joint Winners: Jennifer Robinson and Jelia Sane (Doughty Street Chambers)

Young Pro Bono Barrister of the Year (sponsored by Place Campbell)

Winner: Jennifer MacLeod (Brick Court Chambers)

Highly commended: Miriam Smith (5 Paper Buildings)

Nominees:

Katharine Elliot (4-5 Gray’s Inn Square)

Matt Lewis (Cornerstone Barristers)

Emmanuel Shappard (3 Verulam Buildings)

Pro Bono QC of the Year (sponsored by Therium Access)

Winner: Anthony Metzer QC (Goldsmith Chambers)

Nominees:

Janet Bazley QC (1GC | Family Law)

Pro Bono Chambers Professional of the Year (sponsored by the Legal Practice Management Association)

Winner: Peter Campbell (Practice Director, Hardwicke Chambers) & Ben Connor (Senior Practice Manager, Landmark Chambers)

Nominees:

Nick Levett (Outer Temple Chambers)

Pro Bono Innovation of the Year

Winner: The Transparency Project’s Legal Blogging Pilot

Nominees:

The Mencap Right to Care Barrister Panel

Pro Bono Chambers of the Year (sponsored by the DX)

Winner: Fenners Chambers

Nominees:

Brick Court Chambers

Cloisters Chambers

Hardwicke

Outer Temple Chambers

  1. The Bar Pro Bono Awards 2019 judging panel comprises:

Lord Goldsmith QC, Chairman of the Judging Panel and Advocate Founder and President

Marianne Alton, Winner of the Young Pro Bono Barrister of the Year Award 2018

Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar

Lucy Barbet, Chairman of the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks

Julie Bishop, Director of the Law Centres Network

Lord Burnett, The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

Catherine Calder and Robin Jackson, Co-Chairs of the Legal Practice Management Association

Sarah Grainger Editor, Counsel Magazine

John van der Luit-Drummond, Editor, The Legal 500 UK Bar and Asia Pacific

Athena Markides, Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee

Lucinda Orr, Chair of the Employed Barristers’ Committee

Leanne Target-Parker, Chair of the Bar Council Pro Bono Committee

The Secret Barrister

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