An award for Newcastle’s top lawyer has been shared by nine people.
In an unusual move, Newcastle upon Tyne Law Society shared its Lawyer of the Year award between nine criminal defence solicitors who have been involved in the campaign against Government plans to curtail access to legal aid.
Lewis Pearson from Pearson Caulfield, Nigel Barnes, formerly with Ben Hoare Bell LLP, Paul Dunn from Alderson Law LLP, Allan Devine from Swinburne Maddison, Verity Dobbie from Swinburne Snowball and Jackson, Mark Harrison from Hay and Kilner, Mark Saunders from Singleton Winn Saunders, Valerie Bell from Geoffrey Forrester and Co and John Wesencraft from Crowe Humble Wesencraft shared the award.
The other major prize of the night - Law Firm of the Year - went to Ben Hoare Bell LLP, which has offices in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland.
Awards judges said they were impressed with the firm’s “commitment to access to justice and involvement in community projects in the region”, such as the law clinic Legal Advice Byker it runs jointly with Northumbria University.
Two of the firm’s members of staff also received special mentions at the awards, with partner Cris McCurley highly commended for her work, internationally and domestically, in relation to forced marriage, honour based violence and violence against women while consultant Simon Garlick received praise for his actions in “fighting for the rights of those whose needs are frequently ignored by society”.
The Special Achievement Award went to Barry Speker, a consultant with Sintons LLP who has been a solicitor in Newcastle for over 43 years.
Mr Speker is trust solicitor to the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, legal advisor to two adoption and fostering agencies and an employment Judge for more than 20 years.
Outside of the Law, he is a director of the Grainger Town Project, president of the North East Council on Addictions, a board member of NE1, a trustee of Age UK Newcastle, a board member of the North of England Civic Trust, chair of the Newcastle City Centre Business Forum and the Chinese Futures Group.
Top trainee solicitors were Amie Kavanagh from Ward Hadaway and Helen Walton from Muckle LLP while two Newcastle University students were recognized for their academic excellence: George Nassif in the field of trusts and Jade Rigby in criminal law.
Urmi Akther and Katherine Appleton jointly received the prize for best student on the Part Time Law Degree at the University of Northumbria.