By Legal Futures Associate Hudgell Solicitors
Both awards came on the same day as the work of Hudgell Solicitors was hailed at the national Law Society Excellence Awards and the Yorkshire Legal Awards.
As Mr Hudgell claimed the two individual prizes, the firm was also recognised as shortlisted finalists in ‘Law Firm of the Year’ categories at both events.
It follows a year in the media spotlight for Mr Hudgell and the firm given its role representing former subpostmasters across England and Wales who were victims of the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history, the Post Office Horizon Scandal.
Wrongfully convicted of crimes relating to financial shortfalls at the branches they ran, lives and reputations were ruined – many were jailed – in a scandal running almost 20 years. The victims were innocent, hard-working, law-abiding members of communities.
Motivated to clear their names and led by Mr Hudgell, the firm provided legal expertise over a 12-month period, at the beginning on an entirely pro bono basis, leading the highest ever number of appellants to go to the Court of Appeal in one case in April 2021.
Working alongside Tim Moloney QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, Hudgells has now successfully represented 48 of the 57 former subpostmasters to have long-standing criminal convictions quashed to this date, and will also be their legal representatives at a Public Inquiry next year.
In summarising his success at the Yorkshire Legal Awards, judges said: “Neil’s work was vital, superb and incredibly impressive. Neil is also well thought of by the profession.”
Firm has established a reputation for ‘righting wrongs’
Reflecting on a year of incredible success for the firm he established in 1997, Mr Hudgell said he was ‘exceptionally proud’ that it had been founded on ‘righting wrongs for people who need legal support the most’.
He said: “It was obviously an exceptionally proud night for myself personally, but I take greater pride in where we are now as a legal firm, as we have the expertise, strength, ability and crucially the desire across the board to truly make a positive difference for people who need us the most.
“Clients want people representing them who will truly care about their situation, care about looking after their needs and give them the best possible service.
“That fits our values of righting wrongs every day. We are committed to fighting for the people who need us the most, not those who can pay the most, and that is where we do our best work. It is a pleasure to work with, and for them.
“Both these awards events were full of law firms brimming with exceptional legal expertise. I think we have stood out for going that extra mile for clients and helping turn lives around for the better. That makes me immensely proud and I think it’s a fabulous recognition of what’s possible when you have trust in people.
“Our clients face very challenging situations and they put their trust in Hudgells, so to look after them we have to put trust in one another as a team to work hard and to do the right thing.
“I think as a profession it shows how far we have moved on to become socially inclusive. For someone like me who was a first generation university graduate to qualify as a solicitor and then reach the heady heights of where we are now hopefully sends out a really positive message about the industry.”
Awards reflect firm’s high-profile caseload
Hudgells was shortlisted in ‘Law Firm of the Year’ categories following a stand-out 12 months which has also seen the firm’s Clinical Negligence, Personal Injury and Travel Litigation teams continue to thrive.
Other high-profile cases handled include representing the families of four men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port between 2014 and 2015 at inquests which are currently ongoing at Barking Town Hall, and representing families of victims at the Manchester Arena Inquiry.
An increased focus on inquest representation has also seen lawyers act for the family of Hull man Lewis Skelton, who was shot dead by armed police; the widow of a man killed on one of the UK’s controversial ‘smart motorways’; and a case in which security officers were found to have ‘unlawfully killed’ a man they detained at a Manchester railway station.
Chief Executive Rachel Di Clemente said: “We are thrilled with this much deserved recognition for Neil and of course the firm. The judges spoke about how well thought of Neil is in the profession and that is very much the case. He leads the firm from the front and inspires a very talented and dynamic legal team which supports him.”
Hudgells will be back at New Dock Hall in Leeds next month for the 2021 Personal Injury Awards, at which the Clinical Negligence team is shortlisted in the Clinical Negligence Team of the Year category.