Yorkshire Legal Awards 2018: An interview with the chair

The Yorkshire Legal Awards take place on 11 October. To be held at New Dock Hall in Leeds, the glittering black-tie event will recognise the region’s best and brightest legal talent.

Here, judging panel chair Paul Singh, who leads the litigation team at Sheffield City Council and is president of Sheffield & District Law Society, reflects on the nominations received from across Yorkshire, what it takes to judge an awards ceremony, and how the quality of nominations reflects a thriving legal sector in the region.

How did you come to be a solicitor?

Paul Singh (PS): I have been an employment lawyer for the past 10 years and have worked in private practice in both Sheffield and Leeds. I am currently heading up the litigation team at Sheffield City Council. I didn’t really plan on being an employment lawyer but found I had a knack for it during my legal practice course. I found the cases to be interesting, especially when having to learn about how different industries and businesses operate in order to get a proper understanding of the nuances of each case. I also have a particular interest in discrimination law. Tackling inequality is a personal passion of mine and I regularly get involved in projects supporting disadvantaged groups.

Is this the first time you’ve judged an awards? How did you find the process?

PS: Aside from adjudicating when my kids have argued as to who has the biggest slice of cake, it’s my first time judging something. I really enjoyed the whole process. It was hard work as there were a lot of nominations and they all contained a lot of detail, but at the same time, it was good to know that there were so many quality firms and lawyers within the region.

The most difficult part of the process was recording the video introductions for each award. Reading something from a script without looking like you are reading from a script, even when I had written the words myself, was much more difficult than I thought it would be! I understand why news readers get paid so much—there’s definitely an art to it!

Who impressed you the most in terms of their submission and why?

PS: I would definitely say there were a number of candidates for the Rising Star award that really impressed me. This was most hard fought and fiercely contested category. There were dozens of submissions and nearly all of the judges had a different idea as to who would win. However, this was testament to how well the candidates had done. These were all lawyers in the early stages of their careers who had dealt with huge, complex cases or had overcome personal adversity to get to where they are and it was difficult to decide who was more deserving than all the others. Everyone who put themselves forward for this award should be proud of their achievements, even if they didn’t win.

What are you most looking forward to about 11 October and the Yorkshire Legal Awards?

PS: The food! The menu looks really impressive, especially the desserts! I am also looking forward to meeting some of the winners in the flesh and telling them what impressed me most.

I am not looking forward to my speech, however. I normally don’t have a problem with public speaking, but when I know so many highly skilled and well respected lawyers are in the audience, I fear I will be awe-struck and turn to jelly.

In your opinion, why are the Yorkshire Legal Awards important to the profession in the region?

PS: I think it’s really important that we take the time to celebrate our achievements. Not all lawyers like to brag about themselves and often a job well done is considered its own reward. However, formal recognition from your peers can be the icing on the cake and we shouldn’t feel shy about shouting about how well we have done. The awards are attended by non-lawyers as well and I think they help in promoting a positive image about the legal profession to those outside it.

What does the popularity of the Yorkshire Legal Awards say about the strength of the profession in the region?

PS: It shows that there is a massive wealth of talent in the region. The legal arm of the Northern Powerhouse is definitely flexing its muscles and showing that we are as strong as the firms in London or anywhere else in the country. Yorkshire firms are involved in huge multi-million pound commercial deals, trailblazing in pushing for changes in the law and having a huge community impact by the great work they are doing for charity as part of their corporate social responsibility. It’s also clear from the Rising Star applications that the future remains rosy for the Yorkshire legal profession!