On Tuesday 2nd July 2013, at a special awards ceremony at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Hilton von Herbert, our superb Senior Immigration Caseworker, won the 2013 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Award for his outstanding work as an immigration lawyer.
The Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards (LALYs), run by the formidable Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG), are now into their 11th year. They are held to collectively take the opportunity to recognise the invaluable contribution that legal aid practitioners make to social justice and the rule of law. When LAPG launched the awards in 2003, they say that they wanted to bring the profession together to celebrate the remarkable but unsung work that goes on in legal aid offices throughout the country, day in, day out and, just as importantly, to show solidarity with the clients that all Legal Aid Lawyers are all proud to serve.
Hilton (pictured above centre) was presented with his ‘Immigration lawyer of the Year’ award by John Howard, former BBC Radio 4 presenter (pictured above left) and Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane QC (pictured above right).
With well over ten years of experience as an accredited Senior Caseworker and Immigration Supervisor, in the field of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Law, Hilton joined Hackney Community Law Centre in April 2009, having previously worked at Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau, Nucleus Legal Advice Centre and Lambeth Law Centre.
Hilton qualified with a Law Degree from the University of London and has many years of experience in delivering training in Immigration Law. He has also been involved in some high profile parliamentary lobbying which has brought about significant changes in UK immigration law and undoubtedly benefited the lives of thousands of people.
Hilton is not HCLC’s only LALY winner. In 2006, HCLC was over the moon when our Senior Housing Solicitor Nathaniel Mathews (pictured above left with Hilton) scooped a LALY award in the ‘Social Welfare Lawyer of the Year’ category.
Commenting on winning a 2013 LALY award, Hilton von Herbert said:
“I am really delighted to have won this award. It is a significant recognition of hard work and dedication to my work. It will inspire me to continue to fight for the vulnerable and I hope that the award will also serve as an inspiration to the younger generation of lawyers – especially those who wish to forge a career in the not for profit sector.
I would first of all like to thank the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) for presenting me with the award.
I would also like to congratulate my fellow nominees in the immigration category and in fact all LALY nominees as we are all celebrated winners in our various fields of practice.
I would like to thank Ian Rathbone, Chair of HCLC, and Matthew Howgate, former manager of HCLC, for managing to keep together a struggling Law Centre that was facing closure when I started working here and for recognising the value and importance of immigration legal aid work.
Finally, I would like to thank all my HCLC colleagues, past and present, for all of their tremendous support“.
Hilton’s nomination was supported by his former boss at the Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau, the Hackney Migrant Centre, interns at HCLC and clients he has helped. One such client was Kusi (pictured above left with Hilton, who is pictured second left); Declan O’Callaghan, HCLC Patron and immigration barrister (far right); and Declan’s wife Jacqueline (centre) at HCLC’s 2012 summer reception.
Supporting Hilton’s nomination Kusi wrote: “I suffer from end stage kidney failure. I have to have dialysis 3 times a week. I was fit and healthy when I arrived in the UK on a working tourist visa but then I suddenly became ill. If I am deported from the UK I will not be able to receive medical treatment and my Doctors tell me I will die painfully within 7 days. Before I met Hilton I was despondent. Hilton helped me by encouraging me and taking on my case despite the fact that no other solicitors would. I had talked to four other solicitors and after hearing the details of my case, no one wanted to take it. The only solicitor who did agree to take the case on wanted me to pay £100, which I did not have. When Hilton took my case, I felt relieved because finally I knew that there was someone to help me. Hilton has worked so hard on my case, researching all the information about Ghana and speaking to my Doctors. The judge in my appeal at the Upper Tribunal said my case was worth fighting. It is a case of imminent death for me without the treatment I am currently receiving. After we won my appeal in the Upper Tribunal, I felt that at least my life would continue. I am very grateful to Hilton, Declan the barrister and Hilton’s colleagues at the Hackney Community Law Centre who have helped him with my case. I hope Hilton wins the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award for best immigration lawyer“.
Chair of HCLC Ian Rathbone said:
“This is an impressive win by Hilton and HCLC because it is from his legal peers, who know the field very well, who awarded this national recognition to him. And the competition comes from across the UK for such awards, and from firms who may be far bigger and better financed than us. And just to cap it, Hilton’s clients testify to his superb qualities as their legal help. So it’s an historic win in many ways. And never more so than for the people of Hackney and surrounding area who continue to benefit from his care and skills. In personal terms, I want to thank Hilton who has sailed with us at the Law Centre through some choppy waters in the last few years, yet maintained his equilibrium and sense of humour as a valued team member and friend“.
Please see some photos from the LALYs awards ceremony below!
Carol Storer OBE, Director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, welcomes everyone to the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year event.
Hilton is wished good luck by Jon Robins, HCLC Patron and editor of The Justice Gap.
The HCLC team (Diane, Kim, Bella, Simon, Marie, US intern Jordan and super intern Sharin) – grab seats right at the front to cheer Hilton on.
As the time arrived for the ceremony host John Howard (pictured above left) to read out the ‘Immigration Lawyer of the Year’ shortlist, there were a few nerves in the HCLC camp. But then Hilton won!!!!! Hilton is pictured above collecting his award and discussing why the award meant so much to him, to his colleagues at HCLC and the wider Hackney community. HCLC is now one of only two solicitors’ firms in Hackney still providing legal aid services for clients with immigration and asylum problems despite the recent cuts to civil legal aid and the severe restriction on the type of immigration work HCLC can now do. Hilton also runs the entire immigration department single-handedly.
After the formal ceremony was finished, Hilton thanked HCLC Patron, brilliant human rights solicitor and LALY judge, Louise Christian (pictured above right), for her sterling support for him and HCLC in general.
Hilton was also really grateful to Leslie Thomas, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers, winner of a 2012 LALY and one of this year’s LALY judges (pictured above left) for his kind words and support for the work HCLC has been doing. Leslie told Hilton that he used to be instructed by HCLC many years ago on cases involving ‘actions against the police’. Alongside Michael Mansfield QC, Leslie will be representing the family of Mark Duggan at the inquest due to begin in September.
Hilton also expressed his gratitude to Carol Storer OBE, Director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (pictured above right). Carol works tirelessly to champion and promote the work of legal aid lawyers around the country. HCLC was delighted when Carol was awarded an OBE for ‘Services to Legal Aid’ in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June.
The HCLC attendees (intern Sharin, Administrator Bella, Receptionist Kim, Housing caseworker Marie and Former intern and HCLC Board member Adenike) raised a glass to Hilton’s success.
Hilton was congratulated by his former intern Mary Rachel McCabe (pictured above left) and Simon Bowen, current HCLC intern (pictured right). Mary Rachel is now a HCLC Board member, Deputy Editor of The Justice Gap and will soon be taking up a place on the Bar Professional Training Course. Simon teaches acting and is also studying for his Graduate Diploma in Law.
HCLC Development Officer Miranda Grell (pictured above left) was particularly pleased that Hilton won his award. Miranda put together Hilton’s nomination entry. She says: “It was a joy for me to help prepare Hilton’s entry for the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards. Hilton is just fantastic. He is a brilliant lawyer but, more importantly, he is a thoroughly nice person. I have been to him many many times to ask him to take up the most desperate of immigration cases and – despite running the HCLC immigration department alone – he almost never says no. Hilton works hard every single day without a word of complaint. He truly deserves this award and I am delighted for him“.
Hilton was also supported at the awards event by his cousins, Dr Myra Herbert (pictured above left) and Desmond Awoonor-Gordon (pictured above right).
Congratulations to all nominees, finalists and winners!!!