Who won Women & Diversity in Law Awards 2024 – and why

Details of all the winning entries in this year’s awards
Winners and highly commended finalists assemble on stage at the close of the awar

Winners and highly commended finalists assemble on stage at the close of the awards ceremony

The Women and Diversity in Law Awards, which took place in London yesterday evening (13 March), highlighted the achievements of legal professionals, businesses, not-for-profits and teams from across the UK in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion. The awards were hosted by The Global Legal Post, which assembled a panel of 30 judges from across the profession to choose the winning and highly commended entries. The charity for the evening was mental health charity LawCare and award-winning actress Natalie Gumede presided over the ceremony. Here is a rundown of this year’s winners and those who made the shortlist. 

Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: Barbara Mills KC

Barbara Mills KC received the Lifetime Achievement Award, whose recipient is chosen each year by the judging panel. At the start of 2024, Mills became the first person of colour to assume the role of vice chair of the Bar Council, having been elected to the post last May. Her work at the Bar Council includes chairing its Race Working Group, which published the landmark Race at the Bar report in 2020. She is also joint head of chambers at 4 Paper Buildings, whose diversity data report for 2022/3 shows that 56% of its tenants and 48% of its silks are women while 47% of its tenants were the first generation of their families to attend university. “Barbara has, for many years, been an absolute inspiration to everyone in the family law community and beyond,” said awards judge James Stewart, a family law partner at Penningtons Manches Cooper who presented the award to Mills. “She is one of the most visible, and certainly the most active diversity champions at the English Bar.” Mills, who received a standing ovation, said: “It is my absolute privilege to accept this award and to be a part of this inspiring community that breathes its every intention to uplift, to value and to include everyone in its bid to create one equitable and fair profession.”

Advocate of the Year
Winner: Nageena Khalique KC, Serjeants’ Inn Chambers
Shortlist: Charlotte Proudman, Goldsmith Chambers; Christina Warner, 33 Bedford Row; Danielle Manson, Matrix Chambers; Grace Brown, Garden Court Chambers (Highly Commended); Lucinda Nicholls, Nicholls & Nicholls

Serjeants’ Inn Chambers’ Nageena Khalique KC took home the Advocate of the Year award for her work in championing the rights of vulnerable members of society, particularly in serious medical treatment cases that impact reproductive rights, sexual autonomy and religious beliefs. She recently represented a learning-disabled Pakistani man subject to forced marriage, ensuring the safeguarding of his interests and demonstrating a deep understanding of the cultural context of the case. She has also been involved in inquest work on allegations of police brutality against individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds and domestic homicides against women. Her contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion include being the first female Asian deputy High Court judge in the Family Division and co-founder of the Facefacts charity, while also working to destigmatise supported living for Asian elders in the community. In addition, she has provided mentoring and motivational speaking to aspiring female barristers and a Birmingham school with large cohorts of Muslim and Asian children.

Age and Life Stage Initiative of the Year
Winner: Farrer & Co
Shortlist: Briefed; In/Fertility in the City; Mimoza Fleur Recruitment; Reignite Academy (Highly Commended)

London-based Farrer & Co lifted the Age and Life Stage Initiative of the Year award for its menopause support initiative, which was created in response to a significant lack of awareness and understanding about menopause issues among lawyers. As a result of that deficit, support has often been piecemeal and relied on an individual understanding their own signs and symptoms, and having to find relevant support on their own. Farrer & Co sought to remedy this by introducing a new menopause support policy, with guidance for employees and line managers. This was also backed up by a series of lunch and learn webinars to support the launch, as well as one-to-one menopause coaching with external specialists and a partnership with Grace & Green to supply free period products in the firm’s women’s and gender neutral bathrooms. The initiative has resulted in menopausal symptoms-related absences falling, while the firm’s health, wellbeing and disability group is also planning to create an informal menopause support group.

Commercial Lawyer of the Year
Winner: Elizabeth Bradley, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Shortlist: Eve-Christie Vermynck, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom; Louise Skinner, Morgan Lewis (Highly Commended); Natalie Lewis, Travers Smith; Nicola Conway, Bird & Bird; Suzanne Horne, Paul Hastings; Zoe Jacob, Boodle Hatfield

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner tax lawyer Elizabeth Bradley was named Commercial Lawyer of the Year for her work representing a number of the firm’s top clients on complex transactions. An impressed judge described Elizabeth as a rainmaker at the top of her profession. She was the youngest ever member of the firm’s global board and is currently global practice group leader for tax, employee benefits and private client. In addition to her legal work, she has spearheaded BCLP’s award-winning diversity goals and action programme, which seeks to cultivate a culture of belonging and drive inclusion and accountability. She is also a key supporter of the firm’s ‘Speak Up Policy’, which encourages colleagues to raise misconduct issues without fear of reprisal.

DE&I Champion of the Year in a Legal Role
Winner: Caroline East, Penningtons Manches Cooper
Shortlist: Aman Sahota-Dhatt, Higgs; Bridget Tatham, Browne Jacobson; Danielle Manson, Matrix Chambers; Lisa Ardley-Price, NatWest; Maiko Adachi, Aviva; Pauline Campbell, Waltham Forest Council; Shanika Haynes, Stowe Family Law; Sophie Garner, St Philips Chambers (Highly Commended); Tanya Dolan, AstraZeneca; Theresa Mohammed, Watson Farley; Tracey Dovaston, Pallas Partners

Penningtons Manches Cooper’s Caroline East picked up the DE&I Champion of the Year in a Legal Role award for her work spearheading a range of initiatives to tackle the stigma and lack of knowledge around neurodiversity. Those included helping set up the firm’s neurodiversity committee to boost its neurodiversity inclusion efforts (which she is co-chair of) and working with the HR team to make the firm’s recruitment process more accessible for neurodivergent individuals. This has led to an open conversation in the firm about what it means to be neurodivergent and how to build a workplace that understands, celebrates and includes neurodivergent individuals. She is also a member of the firm’s disability and mental health committee and a diversity and inclusion ambassador. In addition to her neurodiversity work, Caroline supports the firm’s EMpower programme for students from Black or ethnic minority backgrounds aimed at increasing their representation in the legal industry.

DE&I Champion of the Year in a Specialist Role
Winner: Danielle Gleicher-Bates, Neurodiversikey
Shortlist: Alice Brighouse, Matrix Chambers; Claire Rason, Client Talk; Irene-May Adeyinka, DLA Piper; Joanne Conway, DLA Piper; Julian McCombe, Euporos Consulting; Katie Horn, RPC; Nina Goswami, Clifford Chance (Highly Commended); Rachel Peers, RPC; Yvette Croucher, Paul Hastings

Neurodiversikey co-founder Danielle Gleicher-Bates was named DE&I Champion of the Year in a Specialist Role for her advocacy work on neurodiversity and efforts to increase neuroinclusion in the legal industry. Through Neurodiversikey, which was launched last September, she has produced educational materials and guides on the topic, including co-authoring the ADHD in Custody Guide and appearing in publications including the Guardian and LawCare. She has advised various organisations on neurodiversity workplace issues, including the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on how to encourage and accommodate neurodivergent job applicants. And she also created and spearheaded the #InvisAbility campaign which featured 24 profiles of aspiring and practising neurodivergent lawyers intended to celebrate and destigmatise neurodivergence. As a late-diagnosed multiply-neurodivergent person, Danielle seeks to raise awareness through her own lived experience to increase understanding and dismantle barriers for neurodivergent people in the legal sector and beyond.

Dealmaker of the Year
Winner: Eleni Zodiates, Brown Rudnick
Shortlist: Alyssa Caples, Cravath Swaine & Moore (Highly Commended); Anu Balasubramanian, Paul Hastings; Helena Potts, Paul Hastings; Katja Butler, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom; Sage Revell, Brown Rudnick

Brown Rudnick financial and special situations partner Eleni Zodiates was handed the Dealmaker of the Year award for her stellar transactional work, in particular the $800m global refinancing of a private equity firm’s portfolio company – an upmarket hostel operator – in defiance of tough financial markets. The private equity firm’s general counsel praised Eleni for her “amazing outside of the box thinking and managing of the big picture”. Aside from her deal work, Eleni is a champion of diversity at her firm, and is determined to create systemic change and level the playing field for underrepresented groups in the legal industry. She co-leads the firm’s Women’s Initiative, which helped expand paid parental leave benefits for the London office, among other initiatives. She also set up a two-way mentoring scheme for young Black lawyers in collaboration with The Stephen James Partnership. She says her philosophy on DE&I is action and creating space for others to succeed.

Disability and/or Neurodiversity Initiative of the Year
Winner: The Law Society of England and Wales
Shortlist: Fieldfisher, Neurodiversikey 

The Law Society of England and Wales won the Disability and/or Neurodiversity Initiative of the Year award for its work to improve inclusion for disabled solicitors. Spearheaded by the Law Society’s disabled solicitors network, it has published guidance that focuses on reasonable adjustments employers can make to aid the recruitment and retention of disabled staff, among myriad other initiatives, such as Project Rise (a part-time training programme for disabled individuals and also other diverse communities). Those initiatives have also included working with external DE&I organisations, including the Legal Neurodiversity Network, to champion disabled lawyers and make it easier for them to not only maintain a career in law but also thrive. The Law Society is now seen as leading on this agenda, with other firms and organisations coming to it to seek advice. One judge described the Law Society’s carefully formulated plan as “commendable work bringing much needed focus”.

Disputes Lawyer of the Year
Winner: Suzanne Horne, Paul Hastings
Shortlist: Catherine Bedford, Harbottle & Lewis; Claire Kelly, Oracle Solicitors; Emma Ager, Clyde & Co; Kate Davies KC, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom; Kate Gee, Signature Litigation; Lizzie Williams, Harbottle & Lewis; Louise Clare Taylor, Penningtons Manches Cooper (Highly Commended); Morag Ofili, Harbottle & Lewis; Paula Hodges KC, Herbert Smith Freehills

Paul Hastings’ international employment practice head and London office vice-chair Suzanne Horne was named Disputes Lawyer of the Year for her impressive dispute resolution work and her contribution to advancing the firm’s diversity and inclusion agenda. She was the first law firm representative on the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing and is the only European co-chair of Paul Hastings’ Global Women’s Initiative. In her practice role, one recent standout case was acting for the UK subsidiary of a global hedge fund manager in defence against allegations that it had hired a star trader in violation of the trader’s non-compete agreement. Suzanne successfully argued that the non-compete clause was unenforceable because it allowed the trader’s former employer to unilaterally determine the length of the restriction and to do so after termination of employment. The case had been closely watched amid a backdrop of fierce competition for talent in the financial services industry.

Environmental Sustainability Initiative of the Year
Winner: Sonnedix
Shortlist: Fragomen; Protect; RPC

Renewable energy producer Sonnedix was handed the Environmental Sustainability Initiative of the Year award for the launch of its online academy to support education on sustainability, renewable energy and other climate-related issues. The programme is intended to drive awareness among younger students and create more environmentally-conscious citizens amid a broader teaching gap on these topics in traditional schools. The academy provides a digital learning experience known as SolQuest, which allows students to take a virtual tour of Sonnedix Atacama Solar – a solar farm in Chile – to learn about renewable energy in a more engaging way. SolQuest is also available to those with visual or hearing disabilities with audio descriptions and closed captions to support inclusivity. The programme is designed to adapt, evolve and scale to maintain relevance among the next generation of students. To date the project has reached half a million learners, easily exceeding its initial target of 100,000.

Faith Initiative of the Year
Winner: Clifford Chance

UK Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance won the Faith Initiative of the Year award for the introduction of its Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist Society (HSJB), which was created to provide a voice for those communities within the firm. Since launching in late 2022, the HSJB now has more than 60 active members, and through events, charity fundraising and pro bono initiatives, it has raised awareness of these faiths and their communities among hundreds of Clifford Chance colleagues, clients and beyond. Those fundraising initiatives included supporting Akshaya Patra, a charity which provides free school meals in the UK and India, and Nanhi Kali, which enables underprivileged girls to complete 10 years of schooling. HSJB co-founder Dhwani Shah also spoke at the This Can Happen Conference last year to discuss faith, culture and mental health at work. By formalising the community, HSJB has created an inclusive network that colleagues can now use as a safe space.

Gender Equality Initiative of the Year
Winner: International Bar Association
Shortlist: Addleshaw Goddard; Carter-Ruck; March Women; Mimoza Fleur Recruitment; Right to Equality; ThoughtLeaders4

The International Bar Association claimed the Gender Equality of the Year award for its hugely ambitious nine-year global project designed to uncover the root-causes of gender disparity at senior levels of the legal profession. Launched on International Women’s Day in 2021, the 50:50 by 2030 Gender Project is seeking to understand why women are consistently prevented from reaching their full potential within the law and to gauge whether existing equality initiatives are working. The project’s goal is to provide a blueprint for gender parity in the legal profession at all levels of seniority by the end of this decade. While previous studies have focused mainly on commercial practice, this is the first project to gather data for law firms, the Bar, in-house teams, government and public institutions and the judiciary. It has already yielded groundbreaking reports on jurisdictions including England and Wales, Uganda, Spain, Nigeria and The Netherlands, among others.

In-house Counsel of the Year
Winner: Lorna Gibb, Nokia
Shortlist: Jennifer Phillips, Tate & Lyle; Lynda Horgan, Softbank Investment Advisers; Mia Morgan, Trainline; Simran Delfino, Manulife Investment Management; Sirah Abraham, Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office; Timiko Cranwell, AB InBev (Highly Commended)

Nokia’s deputy chief legal officer Lorna Gibb took home the In-house Counsel of the Year award for devising and implementing a psychological safety campaign to tackle disengagement in the virtual workplace and create a more connected, inclusive and supportive culture. The campaign has helped introduce schemes such as linking reward and promotion to conduct, as well as rolling out an in-house mediation service and training modules on the importance of being an active bystander. The campaign has generated overwhelmingly positive feedback and a recognition that it has helped shift the company’s culture. Lorna is passionate about shattering the glass ceiling for women in leadership and banishing assumptions that women, particularly mothers, do not want to travel or progress. She has also provided mentoring for more than 50 women over her career. Of the psychological safety campaign, one judge observed: “This is an excellent practical initiative and it is great to see its impact measured.”

Innovator of the Year
Winner: Samantha Woodham, The Divorce Surgery
Shortlist: Ayse Yazir, Bench Walk Advisors; Carla Hoppe, Wealthbrite; Dee Kundi, Find Me A Solicitor; Mary Bonsor, Flex Legal; Miranda Perkins, WilmerHale; Natalie Salunke, Zilch; Victoria Cromwell, BARBRI (Highly Commended)

The Divorce Surgery co-founder and 4 Paper Buildings’ family law barrister Samantha Woodham was named Innovator of the Year for creating a ‘One Couple, One Lawyer’ model for divorcing couples. The purpose for this approach is to end long drawn out adversarial divorce proceedings and enables couples to understand how a judge would view their case. Divorces usually take around 14 months, but The Divorce Surgery can get the process down to about four months on average, operating on a fixed-fee basis and making the service accessible and transparent. It is also using AI to make it easier and cheaper for divorce clients to navigate financial disclosure in a similar way to arranging online car insurance. The project was funded by Innovate UK’s ‘Women in Innovation’ competition, from which Samantha won a £50,000 grant. “It is a simple idea but a truly innovative approach which has changed the market,” one judge noted.

LGBT+ Initiative of the Year
Winner: OUT@work
Shortlist: Standard Chartered

The General Counsel for Diversity & Inclusion’s OUT@work programme clinched the LGBT+ Initiative of the Year award for creating a platform to foster an environment of enhanced inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Launched last September, its mission is to provide LGBTQ+ individuals with the tools for growth, development and visibility in the professional sphere and encourage law firms and corporates to drive real change for this community. The organisers said the programme demonstrates the continued commitment across the legal industry to work together to promote greater inclusion, diversity and equity in the workplace. The OUT@work steering committee is now developing a full programme to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion that can be adopted by law firms and major corporates.

Law Firm Leader of the Year – Large Practice
Winner: Fiona Adams, Greenberg Traurig
Shortlist: Alison Eddy, Irwin Mitchell; Helen Bourne, Clyde & Co; Kate Robottom, Spencer West; Kelly Thompson, RPC; Kirsty Harrower, Locke Lord; Mei Lian, Paul Hastings; Nadine Goldfoot, Fragomen (Highly Commended); Natalie Lewis, Travers Smith

Greenberg Traurig’s London office managing partner Fiona Adams was crowned the Law Firm Leader of the Year – Large Practice for her efforts helping the firm achieve significant DE&I milestones in the UK. Those included relaunching Greenberg Traurig’s DE&I strategy, its ranking in the top 10 of UK firms with the highest proportion of state school-educated lawyers, and overhauling its graduate recruitment strategy to open the programme to more diverse candidates. She was also a driving force behind the firm becoming an inaugural member of InterLaw Diversity Forum’s UK Model Diversity Survey and has led several mental wellbeing initiatives. Described as one of just a handful of women M&A rainmakers in London, Fiona is also the firm’s global corporate co-chair and a member of its executive committee. She entered the Legal 500 Hall of Fame for the M&A (£100m-£750m) category this year – currently making her the only female to achieve this status.

Law Firm Leader of the Year – Small-to-Medium-Sized Practice
Winner: Emma Wright, Harbottle & Lewis
Shortlist: Alison Lobb, Morecrofts Solicitors; Anna Wilson, Barcan+Kirby; Catherine Bedford, Harbottle & Lewis; Claire Kelly, Oracle Solicitors; Crystal Dias, Lawyery (Highly Commended); Florence Brocklesby, Bellevue Law; Jodie Hill, Thrive Law; Laura Devine, Laura Devine Immigration; Natasha Pearman, Milberg London

Harbottle & Lewis partner and head of its technology, data and digital team Emma Wright won the Law Firm Leader of the Year – Small-to-Medium-Sized Practice award for her work promoting diversity across the firm and around the world. For instance, she developed a ‘Diverse Founders’ legal offering to create a more diverse pipeline of founders and start-ups. She also sits on the Global Forum of Women 4 Ethical AI – a network of 17 global experts focused on promoting the use of ethical AI – and co-founded the Interparliamentary Forum on Emerging Technologies to share best practices on regulatory approaches around AI and reducing the risk of bias in new tech. The majority of her technology team she has assembled at Harbottle is minority ethnic and female. One judge said Emma is pursuing an exceptional career which demonstrates the highest level of ethics in an area that is having a significant impact on society and business.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Initiative of the Year
Winner: In/Fertility in the City
Shortlist: Farrer & Co (Highly Commended); Harbottle & Lewis; Kingsley Napley; Mimoza Fleur Recruitment; Thrive Law; Wealthbrite

Advocacy group In/Fertility in the City landed the Mental Health and Wellbeing Initiative of the Year award for its work to reduce the sense of failure and isolation felt by those experiencing fertility struggles in the legal world and to end the secrecy, shame and stress that legal professionals suffer at those times. Often organisations have little understanding of how to support staff during these personal journeys, therefore to help support people experiencing fertility issues In/Fertility in the City founders Natalie Sutherland and Somaya Ouazzani have put on a series of events and podcasts. These included providing a forum for lawyers who have experienced infertility or baby loss to share their experiences and create a wider conversation in the industry about these issues. This has resulted in more people having the confidence to approach their employers to put policies in place to support employees’ mental health around infertility.

Mentor of the Year
Winner: Anthony Metzer KC, Goldsmith Chambers
Shortlist: Alex Anderson, RPC; Crystal Dias, Lawyery; Egbe Manton, Inspire Law Global; Emma Clark, CMS; Jane Colston, Brown Rudnick (Highly Commended); Julian McCombe, Euporos Consulting; Lisa Ardley-Price, NatWest; Maxine Purcell, Clifford Chance; Nicola Conway, Bird & Bird

Goldsmith Chambers’ barrister Anthony Metzer KC was named Mentor of the Year for his efforts to provide career advice and mentoring to women returning to the Bar after having children and for those planning to apply for silk, including women and those from ethnic minority or less advantaged backgrounds. During his eight years as head of chambers at Goldsmith, he introduced a range of diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as ensuring gender balance with female heads of teams, an active BAME inclusion team and introducing generous parental leave policies. “A truly humane and authentic submission,” said one judge.

Not for Profit Organisation of the Year
Winner: Support SEND Kids
Shortlist: International Bar Association (Highly Commended); Protect; STRIVET

UK charity Support SEND Kids picked up the Not for Profit Organisation of the Year award for its work helping support the families of children with special educational needs and disability. The organisation was established in 2021 by a group of five female lawyers and activists to provide those families with access to free legal resources to secure appropriate educational support against the background of restricted local authority funding and a system at breaking point. The charity has worked with Matrix and Landmark Chambers on a guide to SEND law (to support the EHCP application process), as well as producing a digital disability discrimination in education guide with Talem Law, and working with Reed Smith to help families apply for child trust funds and assist in the court protection process. With as many as one in six children in England identified as having special educational needs, the platform provides much needed support to this community.

Race Equality Initiative of the Year
Winner: Reed Smith
Shortlist: Black Counsel Forum (Highly Commended); Garden Court Chambers

Reed Smith secured the Race Equality Initiative of the Year award for the successful implementation of its Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP). The plan was created by the firm’s Racial Equity Task Force. The REAP framework has set specific benchmarks for hiring, retaining and promoting Black lawyers and advancing pro bono initiatives impacting the Black community. The plan is already having an impact: the number of diverse lawyers in its ranks in the US and UK (excluding gender) increased to 31% in 2022 from 17.5% in 2016. Pro bono hours are also up, with London-based lawyers delivering 22,800 hours of pro bono work compared to 16,720 hours in 2019. REAP is also having an impact outside of Reed Smith, with more than a dozen clients seeking help to advance their own racial equity efforts.

Responsible Business of the Year
Winner: RPC
Shortlist: Locke Lord; March Women

RPC won the Responsible Business of the Year award for its work in aligning its responsible business strategy with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The firm has focused on eight of the UN’s goals that are most relevant to its business, including environment, DE&I and belonging, health and wellbeing, charity, pro bono and ethics and governance. As part of that programme it has partnered with the UOcean project, whose mission is to remove a billion kilograms of plastic from the sea by 2030 and restore the world’s oceans by 2050. It was also handed a silver award in the 2022 EcoVadis sustainability rating, placing the firm in the top 25% of employers for sustainability. In addition, the firm has already hit its gender target of reaching 30% female representation at partnership level. And it has launched an ESG advisory group to help govern the firm’s ESG activity, reporting directly to the board.

Responsible Leader of the Year
Winner: Rachel Holmes, Matrix Chambers
Shortlist: Arun Birla, Paul Hastings; Ayse Yazir, Bench Walk Advisors; Jane Colston, Brown Rudnick (Highly Commended); Laura Brunnen, March Women; Mila Trezza, Coaching Lawyers

Matrix Chambers’ chief executive Rachel Holmes was named Responsible Leader of the Year for her role in demonstrating what it means for a chambers to be a responsible business. This has included driving the set’s green strategy – which involved a supplier review, a waste reduction programme and introducing a plastics policy, among other measures – and pushing ahead with its equal opportunities action plan, ensuring it remains a trailblazer for enshrining equality in its constitution. Rachel has also grown Matrix’s ESG work and ensured its responsible business efforts are bound up in its core values, which include environmental sustainability and the promotion of equality and diversity. As CEO, she strives to ensure that ethos and mindset filters through the organisation and the way it operates. In addition she sits on the Bar Council’s Race Working Group and Flexible Working Group, which are seeking to revamp working practices across the Bar.

Returner of the Year
Winner: Laura Newton, Brick Court Chambers
Shortlist: Alys Sciannaca, Transperfect Legal Solutions; Emily Miles, Harbottle & Lewis; Lisa Lee Lewis, Addleshaw Goddard; Sabra Ferhat, Clifford Chance (Highly Commended)

Brick Court Chambers barrister Laura Newton won the Returner of the Year award for her work devising and leading a landmark review into parental leave policies at the Commercial Bar and developing best practice to support new parents returning to work. The leading commercial junior is drawing on her own experience having successfully returned from her second maternity leave in two years last June. Laura is seeking to normalise and promote parental leave policies in the Commercial Bar, which lags behind law firms and other commercial organisations. She sits on Brick Court’s pupilage committee and its equality, diversity and inclusion committee. She also sits on the executive committee of COMBAR, which is attempting to tackle the gender pay gap, among other initiatives. Laura is working towards a silk application in an effort to demonstrate that taking parental leave is not an impediment to becoming a KC.

Rising Star – In-house Lawyer
Winner: Phoebe Whitlock
Shortlist: Farah Ali, Vodafone; Susan Desfontaines, West Northamptonshire Council

Former Garrison junior legal counsel Phoebe Whitlock landed the Rising Star – In-house Lawyer award in recognition of her efforts to increase the diversity of women in technology law. She is the chair of the board of trustees for Codebar, a charity seeking to enable individuals from minority groups to learn programming skills in a safe and collaborative environment. Aside from her tech work, she previously sat on Garrison’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee, where she hosted coding events to spread technical knowledge for women considering a technology career. She has also provided mentorship through Big Voice Legal, which provides mentoring for students at state schools to improve social mobility in law. The judging panel said Phoebe is “definitely one to watch”.

Rising Star – Large Law Firm
Winner: Sophie Nehammer, Clyde & Co
Shortlist: Amita Chohan, Locke Lord; Jee Yoon Chung, Paul Hastings; Josephine Healy Russell, Osborne Clarke; Kathryn Palmer, Clyde & Co; Mariia Artemenko, Herbert Smith Freehills; Nicola Conway, Bird & Bird; Sabra Ferhat, Clifford Chance; Sonia Gadu, Penningtons Manches Cooper (Highly Commended)

Clyde & Co lawyer Sophie Nehammer scooped the Rising Star – Large Law Firm award for her voluntary work that included a spell at the UN Refugee Agency in Warsaw providing legal support for Ukrainian refugees. Driven by her passion to empower others to build resilience and pursue their dreams, Sophie volunteers for a mentoring scheme at a school in Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived areas in the UK, as well as mentoring trainee lawyers at Clyde & Co. Her other volunteering work has included supporting a children’s charity and a homeless shelter, underscoring her commitment to support the most vulnerable in society. She also recently ran a successful emerging professionals academy for people working in her area of law, which involved a workshop to build confidence and networking skills and technical sessions run by a diverse group of juniors at the firm. “Sophie’s passion for equality is palpable,” said one judge.

Rising Star – Small-to-Medium-Sized Practice
Winner: Polly Broad, Harbottle & Lewis
Shortlist: Eleanor Haidon, Harbottle & Lewis; Gabriela Goldberg, George Green; Genevieve Smith, Boodle Hatfield; Jessica Pinches, Black Antelope Law; Lesley-Ann Ainsworth, Keller Postman UK; Lucy Burrows, Keller Postman UK; Micah Lee, Lawyery (Highly Commended); Robyn Adams, Debenhams Ottaway

Harbottle & Lewis associate Polly Broad picked up the Rising Star – Small-to-Medium-Sized Practice award for her work as co-lead of the firm’s Social Mobility Network, championing the recruitment and progression of people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds. That involves organising the firm’s annual work experience programme for sixth-form students from those communities. Her passion for social mobility is informed by her teenage years when she was able to access legal sector work experience through the Social Mobility Foundation. She is also the technology and innovation lead in the firm’s family group, which involves finding opportunities for innovation in the team’s work. Polly’s legal work has seen her recently represent a vulnerable wife and mother who was in an abusive relationship, helping her secure financial support from the husband pending resolution of her divorce claims. “Polly is a stand out, clear rising star – and she is clearly just getting started,” said one judge.

Social Mobility Initiative of the Year
Winner: Aviva
Shortlist: BARBRI; City Century; Clyde & Co; CMS; Flex Legal; Garden Court Chambers; STRIVE; University of Greenwich

UK insurer Aviva’s in-house legal department won the Social Mobility Initiative of the Year award for introducing a paid internship programme to boost social mobility, part of its broader DE&I strategy that has seen it rank 25th in the Social Mobility Employer Index. The six-week paid placement enables interns to spend time in different legal teams in its Norwich and London offices, doing work that a trainee would be expected to handle. The interns also spend a day visiting the insurer’s panel firms to network with their lawyers, with each intern also allocated a trainee law firm mentor for the duration of the placement. Aviva advertises its internship through its charity partners, as well as directly in sixth-forms across Norfolk. It also refines the internship each year based on feedback from participants. An impressive 83% of its cohorts have subsequently obtained legal roles.

Supplier of the Year
Winner: The Tall Wall
Shortlist: BARBRI; Briefed; Client Talk; ELE; Find Me A Solicitor; Networking Nuance; sb.inc

Coaching organisation The Tall Wall clinched the Supplier of the Year award for its efforts helping working parents and women at professional services firm to advance in their careers. The Tall Wall works with 11 law firms including Bird & Bird and Clyde & Co to help them create a better working experience for parents in those organisations by identifying the factors that can help them thrive. It then puts together a blend of interventions and offers that will make the biggest impact. As parents who come from client facing roles, The Tall Wall’s female founders are well placed to understand the on-the-ground reality and pressures that parents face when working in a high-pace law firm environment. Since founding the business seven years ago, Tall Wall has coached more than 1,000 parents, with an impressive 100% of coachees saying they would recommend the programme to a colleague.

Unsung Hero
Winner: Kalela Mwenya, Clifford Chance
Shortlist: Anna Cotgreave, Clifford Chance; Carol Alison Withey, University of Greenwich; Emma George, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner; Emma Sosner, Spencer West; Hayley Duggan, Wilberforce Chambers; Judy Goodman, West Northamptonshire Council; Rebecca Owen, Ashurst; Sharon Thomas, Black Counsel Forum (Highly Commended); Sophie Gould, Flex Legal

Clifford Chance senior tax manager Kalela Mwenya secured the Unsung Hero award for her work to further the firm’s inclusion agenda. As co-chair of the Magic Circle firm’s inclusion committee, Kalela has helped shape its DE&I strategy, as well as establishing a D&I committee for its finance team, which she chairs. She is an avid campaigner for change and strives to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and a better culture. This voluntary work with both committees, layered on top of her day job, has seen her engage with partners and heads of department firmwide to help them understand what they need to do to support the firm’s inclusion efforts. A judge said: “Kalela is totally committed to advancing the DEI agenda and can evidence her impact through tangible results and collaborations.”

Woman of the Year
Winner: Caron Heyes, Fieldfisher
Shortlist: Aarti Thakor, Charity Commission; Alex Anderson, RPC; Ayse Yazir, Bench Walk Advisors; Becca Naylor, Reed Smith; Charlotte Proudman, Goldsmith Chambers (Highly Commended); Christina Warner, 33 Bedford Row; Danielle Manson, Matrix Chambers; Emma Wright, Harbottle & Lewis; Grace Brown, Garden Court Chambers; Laura Brunnen, March Women; Leena Birdi, Birdi & Co Solicitors; Lloydette Bai-Marrow, Parametric Global Consulting; Mary Bonsor, Flex Legal; Sharon Thomas, Black Counsel Forum

Fieldfisher director Caron Heyes was named Women of the Year for her clinical negligence work supporting clients with injury-acquired learning difficulties, who often face unequal healthcare outcomes. As well as providing pro bono support, Caron created Rachel’s Voice in collaboration with learning disability charity Mencap to reduce avoidable deaths for people with learning disabilities in healthcare settings. Rachel’s Voice provides free legal advice to bereaved families on inquest law and hospital investigations, and to Mencap’s legal team. It is currently conducting research with the University of Liverpool to examine patterns in the way hospital deaths are recorded and to find ways to remove barriers to healthcare equality. She is also a member of Fieldfisher’s disability network that provides a forum for people to talk about disability and implement inclusive change at the firm. A judge said: “The scope and social impact of Caron’s achievements are remarkable.”

General Counsel of the Year
Winner: Sabrina Nguyen, Danone
Shortlist: Aarti Thakor, Charity Commission; Emily Coupland, AXA; Hannah Constantine, Smiths Group (Highly Commended); Salima Fajal

Danone’s UK and Ireland legal chief Sabrina Nguyen was named General Counsel of the Year for her commitment to putting diversity at the core of her team’s work. Since Sabrina joined Danone in 2021, her team has logged the highest engagement scores in the company and helped spearhead its company-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as creating employee network groups for parents and carers, LGBTQIA+, accessibility and BAME. “She is clearly making a huge difference to those around her,” said one judge.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programme of the Year
Winner: Standard Chartered Bank
Shortlist: Clyde & Co; Female Lawyer Breakfast Networking; March Women; Nokia; Penningtons Manches Cooper; STRIVE; Taylor Wessing (Highly Commended); University of Greenwich; Virgin Media 02

Standard Chartered Bank scooped the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programme of the Year award for its initiative to help employees engage safely on LGBT+ communications throughout the jurisdictions in which it operates. One judge said: "This is an excellent practical tool across a huge market with success in implementation and clear evideence of careful planning to handle sensitive issues."

Email your news and story ideas to: news@globallegalpost.com