Asylum seeker turned solicitor who only qualified in 2016 wins immigration lawyer of the year

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By Katie King on

Baroness Doreen Lawrence handed out gongs at yesterday’s legal aid awards

Award winners. Image via @LALYawards

A solicitor from Croydon who relied on legal aid lawyers when he came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 2004 was one many lawyers celebrated at yesterday’s Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards.

Kaweh Beheshtizadeh arrived in the UK speaking no English, and now specialises in asylum and immigration law at Barnes Harrild and Dyer.

He has been vocal in his condemnation of hate crime against asylum seekers. On the gang attack of a 17-year-old Kurdish-Iranian, who was brutally assaulted while waiting for a bus in Croydon, Beheshtizadeh said:

I am worried, I work here. I come here every day, I see many Kurdish clients, many Kurdish British citizens working in this street and it is really worrying. If this child was attacked simply because he was an asylum seeker, then I can’t see why I wouldn’t be attacked… if he was attacked while he was going home without any provocation, I could be attacked any minute.

Beheshtizadeh’s achievement is particularly notable given how new he is to the profession. Having qualified in May 2016, he has less experience than ‘Legal Aid Newcomer’ winner Tom Royston, a Garden Court North barrister called in 2012.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered schoolboy Stephen Lawrence, handed Beheshtizadeh his award, one of many dished out at yesterday’s ceremony.

Other winners include Phillip Rule, a human rights expert and No5 Chambers barrister who saw off competition from Doughty Street and Garden Court to win ‘Legal Aid Barrister’. Advicenow, a website that provides guidance for people facing legal issues, came out on top in the ‘Access to Justice through IT’ category.

Perhaps the most important award of the night, ‘Outstanding Achievement’, went to Sue James of the Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre. In her emotive acceptance speech, housing law specialist James urged the audience to “be radical again, and inspire the next generation of legal aid lawyers.”

Full list of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year winners:

1. Legal Aid Newcomer — Tom Royston, Garden Court North

2. Immigration & Asylum — Kaweh Beheshtizadeh, Barnes, Harrild & Dyer

3. Legal Aid Barrister — Philip Rule, No5 Chambers

4. Family Private — Mary Shaw, David Gray Solicitors

5. Family Public — Sheila Donn, Philcox Gray Solicitors

6. Social & Welfare — Stuart Luke, Bhatia Best

7. Public Law — Keith Lomax, Minton Morrill Solicitors

8. Criminal Defence — Graeme Hydari, Hodge, Jones & Allen

9. Children’s Rights — Solange Valdez-Symonds, Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens/Migrant Resource Centre

10. Legal Aid Firm/Not-for-profit Agency — Community Law Partnership

11. Access to Justice through IT — Advicenow, Law for Life

12. Outstanding Achievement — Sue James, Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre

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