Judging Panel

The Awards judging panel is made up of sponsors and other highly regarded legal and business professionals.

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Amir Ali

STEPHEN GOWLAND

Chair of the Police Misconduct Tribunal and Non-Executive Board Member of the Legal Services Board
Claire Smith

Claire Smith

Head of Partnerships Mortgage Advice Bureau
Carmen Nadolu

CARMEN NADOLU

Head of Memberships
The Institute of Paralegals
Carmen Nadolu

DAVID OPIE

Managing Director, Today's Media
KATRINA ROBINSON

Katrina Robinson MBE

Associate, Housing Management
Capsticks Solicitors LLP
KEVEN BADER

Keven Bader

Chief Executive
CITMA
SALLY PENNI

Sally Penni MBE

Barrister at Law
Kenworthy's Chambers
Esperanza Fuentes

Esperanza Fuentes

Ombudsman Manager at Financial Ombudsman Service
Eleanor Evans

ELEANOR EVANS

Eleanor Evans Partner, Hugh James Solicitors
LEE DAVIES

lee davies

Chief Executive
CIPA
KAREN PEART

karen peart

Service Delivery Manager, DENTONS
Stephen Ward

Stephen ward

Managing Director, Clerksroom

Rachel Tombs

rachel tombs

Director, Orion Legal Marketing
Hilary Underwood

hilary Underwood

Family Lawyer & Parental Alienation Specialist.
Neil Roberts

NEIL ROBERTS

Head of Legal Operations, Which? Legal
Neil Roberts

Pippa Marler

Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Weightmans
Helen Randall

Helen Randall

Senior Consultant, Trowers & Hamlins LLP
Hugh Anderson McKnight

Hugh Anderson McKnight

Director of Learning and Business Development at CLT Scotland
Neil Newman

Neil Newman

Commercial Director at The Chartered Governance Institute
 

Head Judge | Stephen Gowland

Stephen was the 50th national President of Cilex and the first who was also qualified as a solicitor. He spent ten years on the Cilex board. He started his career as an apprentice and qualified as a lawyer whilst working full time. He was the first Cilex apprentice to sit on the Cilex board and has championed apprenticeships throughout his career.

He has worked in various law firms dealing with general civil litigation which included dealing with civil actions against the police and sexual abuse claims. He ran his own successful high street firm for twelve years before moving on to pursue other opportunities.

He now works in-house and sits as a police misconduct judge for seventeen police forces across England and Wales. He also works as an associate with the College of Policing assisting them with recruitment and promotion for UK police forces.

He was appointed to the Legal Services Board in August 2020, and is the first Cilex member to sit as a non-executive board member for the oversight regulator.  In his spare time, he enjoys reading about ancient history and spending holidays in his VW campervan.

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Judge | Sally Penni MBE

Sally Penni is an award-winning practicing Barrister at Law with almost 20 years of experience and a Non-Exec Director of Codethink Ltd, a fin tech company.

In 2012 Sally founded Women in the Law and Business UK a non-profit professional development organisation providing mentoring and inspiring tomorrows future lawyers.

Sally practices in Employment Law, Regulatory Crime and Cyber Security Law having started her law career in serious crime of young offenders and mental health.

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Judge | Keven Bader

Keven Bader joined the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys in November 2008 as the first Chief Executive.

He has overseen many developments during his time at CITMA including the successful petition for a Royal Charter, granted in April 2016 and the introduction of a new title CITMA Paralegal for paralegals specialising in trade mark and design work.

This led to the launch of a formal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme for CITMA Paralegals in January 2019. 

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Judge | Claire Smith

Claire starter her legal career as a paralegal before going on to qualify as a solicitor. She then moved into business development in Professional Services. Claire headed up Connect2Law, the UK’s largest referral and support network for law firms, before joining the national brand, Quality Solicitors. She then led the Business Development team within Moneypenny, the UKs largest outsourced communications business.

Passionate about people, customer service and the importance of creating a thriving culture for the success and happiness of both employer and employee, Claire has been a regular spokesperson at industry leading events.

Claire is now Head of Partnerships with Mortgage Advice Bureau. She is responsible for building and leading strategic relationships with large businesses to help them promote financial well-being across the workforce. In addition to this, she has also led an internal team to redefine the mission, vision and DNA of the business and implement a newly defined culture across the business.

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Judge | Eleanor Evans

Eleanor Evans is a partner in Hugh James, a top 100 UK law firm with offices in Cardiff and London. Eleanor is Head of the Trusts and Estates Administration Department, a large team dealing with estates and trusts administration on behalf of financial institutions, trust corporations, and individual executors and trustees. Eleanor is a specialist in wills, probate, tax and trusts, and is a full member of the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners, and a committee member of the STEP Wales branch.

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Judge | Neil Roberts

Neil qualified as a solicitor in 2004 and for many years worked in the Legal Expenses Insurance sector, initially advising LEI customers on consumer and employment matters, before moving on to lead the LEI claims department at Direct Line.

Neil was involved in the creation of DLG Legal Services, the ABS set up and owned by Direct Line in 2014, and managed the firm’s Bristol office for five years.

In 2019, Neil moved to the consumer organisation Which? to head up their legal services offering. Which? Legal provides a low-cost accessible advice service to consumers, as well as a Wills and Powers of Attorney service.

David Opie

Judge | David Opie

David joined The Practical Vision Network as Marketing Director following roles in sales and marketing within the professional services and property sectors. He was appointed Managing Director of Today's Media in 2021 and now heads up the industry leading family of “Today’s” publications. Today’s Media also runs an extensive events, marketing and training programme where David often leads and chairs discussions and industry events.

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Judge | Carmen Nadolu

Having spent several years as a Qualified Lawyer in her home country, Carmen became the IoP's Head of Membership in 2015.  She has participated in the growth of the organisation, from recruiting new members, through managing complex complaint resolution and intake processes.  

Carmen’s day-to-day activities in the supervision of the administrative activities to facilitate the smooth and efficient running of the IoP office include assisting with membership processes, dealing with membership issues, liaising with members and the general public, co-editing the monthly newsletter.  At the IoP, no two days are the same and there's never a dull moment. 

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Judge | Lee Davies

Lee Davies is the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), a role he took up in February 2012.  Prior to this, Lee held the position of Deputy Chief Executive of the Institute for Learning (IfL), where he was instrumental in reforming and refocusing professional identity in the further education sector.  Lee is a passionate advocate for the association sector and is Vice-President and Chair of the Institute of Association Management (IAM), where he leads the Chief Executives’ Forum. 

Lee’s professional background is in engineering (mechanical services) and further education teaching.  Lee has experience of the governance of professional bodies, having served as the President of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) in 2011-12. 

Karen Peart

Judge | Karen Peart

Karen is the service delivery manager for Dentons UK&ME LLP (Dentons) supporting the real estate (RE) team in Milton Keynes (MK).  She leads ParaShoot (the dedicated MK RE paralegal team).   She was key to the inception, implementation and delivery of the Dentons development programme for its paralegals which won the National Paralegal Award 2019 for best Law Firm  - Paralegal Development.   

Karen is a qualified real estate solicitor with over 15 years’ experience gained both in the City and in house.  Prior to her role at Dentons she was a senior tutor at the University of Law Moorgate and enjoyed delivering both the land law module on the GDL and the real estate courses on the LPC.  Karen is a keen champion of paralegals and is delighted to be a judge on these awards.

Stephen Ward

Judge | Katrina Robinson MBE

Katrina is an Associate in Capsticks Solicitors having spent a number of years in in-house roles where her previous team won the Law Society Excellence Award for the in-house category in 2017.  She was also the Independent Adjudicator for Grenfell.

She specialises in combating anti-social behaviour and tenancy fraud and was awarded an MBE for services to social housing in the New Year’s Honours List in 2016.  Katrina is passionate about protecting the victims of anti-social behaviour and fraud. She is also the Chair of the Law Society’s LGBT+ Division. Katrina is also the founding member and Chair of the Tenancy Fraud Forum which brings together all social landlords to identify and stop tenancy fraud.

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Judge | Rachel Tombs

Rachel was a practising Solicitor for 15 years before setting up her own business helping legal professionals, who want to attract new clients and grow their practices and achieve exceptional results. Since leaving practise, Rachel has worked with over 500 businesses and law firms, delivering bespoke and effective marketing and business development services. Rachel’s knowledge of the legal sector means she is able to offer proven, reliable advice that makes a measurable and substantial difference to law practices, using both online and offline marketing tools to generate maximum results.

Rachel has won a national award and two regional business awards in recognition of her expertise and commitment to helping others succeed. She has been featured in a number of legal publications including the Solicitors Journal, Sole Practitioners Group Journal SOLO magazine, CILEx Regulation etc. She has also presented at events hosted by the Employment Lawyers Association, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Standing Conference of Mediation Advocates, Sole Practitioners Group and The Law Society.

Stephen Ward

Judge | Stephen Ward

Stephen Ward has been a barristers' clerk since 1983, becoming a senior clerk in 1993.  Aged 25, Stephen was one of the youngest senior clerks in the UK after 10 years experience in the Temple and Grays Inn, London.  Now Stephen is co-owner and co-founded Clerksroom Barristers in 2001, more recently added Clerksroom Direct in 2015, which is a web based portal allowing anyone to go direct to a UK qualified Barrister. Clerksroom Direct was voted the UK's 2nd most Disruptive Tech Start Up company 2017 by Disruptive Pitch TV (15th March 2017)

Stephen’s current roles include Managing Director of Clerksroom Barristers, Clerksroom Mediation & Clerksroom Direct. Stephen has recently taken on the additional task of project manager for Billy Bot, the chat bot junior clerk. 

Stephen has won many awards for innovation and appeared in numerous publications with a focus on disruption in the legal tech environment in the UK.

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Judge | Esperanza Fuentes

Esperanza started her legal career in the commercial law sector. After a career break she spent a year at the CPS then joined Which? Legal where she advised on a range of issues including consumer law and employment law, and appeared on national and local TV and radio. When she was appointed Head Of Legal Operations she led a team of 20 lawyers and introduced paralegals to the team for the first time. Esperanza now works in the area of dispute resolution.

Esperanza is passionate about developing new talent and is keen to see more diversity in the legal profession and more development opportunities for aspiring newcomers. She also believes that the public need new ways of accessing legal information and advice which are relevant to their needs and professionally and expertly delivered.

Hilary Underwood

Judge | Hilary Underwood

Hilary is a specialist family lawyer with over 20 years experience. In her practice H A Underwood Solicitors, based in Kent, she focuses upon children issues and is an expert practitioner in the complex field of parental alienation. She is passionate about helping those who are victims of this damaging form of child abuse. Hilary is also twice winner of the Lawyer Monthly Women in Law Awards - Advocacy Solicitor of the Year (UK). She is co-Director of the Hexagon Legal Network, former Interim CEO of the Surrey Law Society and former Chairwoman of the Sole Practitioners Group.

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Judge | Helen Randall

Helen is rated by Chambers and the Legal 500 as a leading national expert in local government, procurement, PPPs, public and administrative law and consistently ranked as among the world's leading government contracts lawyers (Who's Who Legal). 

Helen is also the Chair of Stonewall Housing (a specialist LGBTQ+ housing charity), a member of the Institute of Paralegals Diversity Board, a board member of Transforming Women's Leadership in Law (Thompson Reuters), and an active member of the Law Society's LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee. Helen previously headed TrowersIncludes her firm's D&I programme.

Hugh Anderson McKnight

Judge | Hugh Anderson McKnight

Hugh Anderson McKnight is Director of Learning and Business Development at CLT Scotland, part of The University of Law, where he is responsible for Specialist Paralegal Qualifications throughout the UK. He has worked in human resource development for over 25 years. Much of his career has been spent managing training functions and projects both in Europe and Asia; he has worked within the legal sector for the last 14 years. Hugh has a research interest in professional competence and presented the paper ‘Professional Competence: can it be taught?' at the UK Centre for Legal Education's international conference. Hugh holds a Master's degree (awarded with distinction) in the Management of Training and Development from the University of Edinburgh and is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
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Judge | Neil Newman

Neil is Commercial Director at The Chartered Governance Institute.  Prior to CGI he worked as Director of Development at the Institute of Paralegals and Director of Communications and Membership at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators responsible for the strategic leadership on all aspects of commercial development, communications and a global network of branches. Neil also holds non-executive positions in the regulatory and private sector.

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