Judges 2020

Judges for 2020 will be announced soon! Check back for details. 

Judges from 2019

We are hugely fortunate to have a fantastic panel of judges with a great diversity of experience across the legal world. We are very grateful for the time they dedicate to reading the nominations, shortlisting and interviewing all of our finalists on judging day. Thank you!

Helen Ager
Partner Professional and Commercial Risk
DAC Beachcroft LLP

View Helen’s Biography

Justin Barlow
Marketing Director
Nigel Wright Recruitment

View Justin’s Biography

Joanna Berry
Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship
Durham University Business School

View Joanna’s Biography

Deveral Capps
Leeds Law School

View Deveral’s Biography

Richard Clark
Chartered Wealth Manager

View Richard’s Biography

Ruth Connorton
Solicitor (non- practicing)

View Ruth’s Biography

Ian Cosgrove
Costs Lawyer
Cosgrove Costing Limited 

View Ian’s Biography

Rebecca Cresswell
Chartered Legal Executive
Sweeney Miller Law

View Rebecca’s Biography

Helen Cutting
Executive Director of Legal & Governance Services and University Secretary
Teesside University

View Helen’s Biography

Simon Darby
SD Legal Services

View Simon’s Biography

Jon Dudgeon
FCA Cofounder
Blu Sky Chartered Accountants

View Jon’s Biography

John Duns
NE Times

View John’s Biography

Andrew Entwistle 
Partner – Head of Valuations
George F White

View Andrew’s Biography

Laura Farnworth  
Head of Legal
Atom Bank

View Laura’s Biography

Vicki Gilman
Healthcare Entrepreneur
Social Return

View Vicki’s Biography

Alison Gittins
Durham Business Group

View Alison’s Biography

Simon Goldberg
Trinity Chambers

View Simon’s Biography

Geoff Harrison 
Visiting Professor
Northumbria Law School

View Geoff’s Biography

Lee Hartley 
Chief Executive Officer
Fairstone Group Ltd

View Lee’s Biography

Toby Hedworth Q.C.
Head of Trinity Chambers

View Toby’s Biography

Elizabeth Hodgson
Parklane Plowden Chambers

View Elizabeth’s Biography

Chris Hugill 
Compliance Officer for Legal Practice
Ward Hadaway

View Chris’ Biography

Edwin James 
Director & General Counsel (Solicitor)
Bannatyne Group

View Edwin’s Biography

Paul Jennings 
Chief Executive
The North of England P&I Association Limited

View Paul’s Biography

Jonathan Jowett
Company Secretary & General Counsel
Greggs plc

View Jonathan’s Biography

Jessica Layfield
Newcastle Manager
Personal Support Unit

View Jessica’s Biography

Rose Lee-Gough
Newcastle Manager
Personal Support Unit

View Rose’s Biography

David Leech
Relationship Director
Peritus Corporate Finance

View David’s Biography

Kevin Maloney
Muckle LLP

View Kevin’s Biography

John Marshall  
Chair of NGI

View John’s Biography

Paul McKeown
Senior Lecturer
Northumbria Law School

View Paul’s Biography

Ammar Mirza
Chairman & Founder
Asian Business Connexions (ABC)

View Ammar’s Biography

Alison Moss
Solicitor (non-practising)

View Alison’s Biography

Erin Peart
Head of Property
Hanro Group

View Erin’s Biography

Andy Poole
Legal Sector Partner
Armstrong Watson LLP

View Andy’s Biography

Matthew Price
Company Law Solutions Limited

View Matthew’s Biography

William Ralston
Acting Director of Bar Programmes
Northumbria University Law School

View William’s Biography

Natalie Rodgers
Chartered Marketer, Non-practising Solicitor 

View Natalie’s Biography

Rhona Smith
Head of Law School
Newcastle University

View Rhona’s Biography

Barry Speker
Sintons LLP

View Barry’s Biography

David Storey

View David’s Biography

Michael Stubbs
Practice Director
Parklane Plowden

View Michael’s Biography

Rod Wilkinson

View Rod’s Biography

Helen Ager Biography

Helen is a professional indemnity partner in the Newcastle office of DAC Beachcroft with many years of experience acting for professionals and their insurers.
Helen mainly deals with claims against Solicitors, Accountants and other   professionals in traditional lines of work. However she has also represented a variety of professionals and businesses, consultants, agents, brokers and manufacturing or service businesses facing claims under their professional indemnity, Directors and Officers or Corporate Legal Liability insurance policies.
Helen also advises insurers on policy points which arise whilst dealing with those types of claims.

Justin Barlow Biography


Justin Barlow has over 20 years’ marketing leadership experience gained in multi-channel business-to-business sectors with international blue chip corporations such as ICI plc and Sage Plc. Until recently, Justin spent 9 years as the Business Development Director for commercial law firm, Muckle LLP.
Justin’s career has involved plenty of rebranding and brand development with extensive online and offline marketing. Having worked with lawyers for nearly a decade, he is experienced in knowing what it takes for law firms to stand out from their competition and how their culture and working practices will directly influence a firm’s level of success.

Joanna Berry Biography


Joanna is Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship at Durham University Business School and Regional Chair of the IoD. Joanna was Regional Chair for the CIM for seven years and still sits on the NECC’s International Trade Committee. Joanna was born and brought up in the North East and remains passionate about increasing the profile and prosperity of the region, with a particular and personal emphasis on supporting women in (and into) business, particularly in the STEM subjects. Following a career in international business development she founded and ran a number of SMEs, nationally and regionally. She has been mentor to many Business Enterprise companies and still mentors senior individuals in large and small corporate organisations.

Deveral Capps Biography

Deveral is the Dean of Leeds Law School at Leeds Beckett University. He joined Leeds Beckett in 2015 and has been involved in Higher Education for over 20 years, 18 of which were spent at Northumbria. As a barrister, in both civil and criminal law, Deveral has appeared in courts across the North of England and is a door tenant at Trinity Chambers in Newcastle upon Tyne. As a legal academic he has taught on undergraduate, postgraduate and professional courses and published widely on legal education, legal skills and eCommerce law.

Deveral has had significant input into the development of legal education and training in the UK. Between 2011 and 2013, he sat on the steering panel for the Legal Education and Training Review, the largest review of legal education since 1971. Deveral sits on the Bar Standards Board’s Future Bar Training Programme Board and is member of the Curriculum and Assessments Review group examining how barristers will be trained in the future. He is also a panel member for the subject pilot of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

As an expert in Quality Assurance, Deveral has a broad understanding of academic quality and assurance processes. He is an experienced external examiner, including lead external examiner, for all types of academic award and also solicitors' Higher Rights. He has also been a member of Institutional inspecting panels on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board. Outside of law, Deveral is a board member and trustee of Ballet LORENT, the leading contemporary dance company in the North East.

Richard Clark Biography

As a Chartered Wealth Manager at Barclays Wealth I am able to offer comprehensive wealth management solutions to entrepreneurs, private clients, business owners, companies, trusts and charities.

I have spent my career listening to, understanding and advising clients in respect of their wealth management needs. Having previously been part of a Wealth Management team at a leading national law firm advising an array of clients I joined Barclays in order offer even greater support to my clients through the wide ranging services available.

As a Chartered member of CISI I hold the Private Client Investment Advice & Management (PCIAM) Qualification. I am dual regulated also holding the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning via the CII.

Ruth Connorton Biography


Ruth trained in house before working in private practice for over 20 years in leading national firms. She spent 18 years at Eversheds as a commercial law partner heading the NE co/comm team and leading their successful national public procurement practice. In 2013 she moved with her commercial team to establish DAC Beachcroft’s commercial team in the NE. She has worked with small local businesses and large multinationals as well as many public sector organisations and been involved in large scale delivery projects including London’s Olympic Legacy, New Covent Garden Market and Network Rail’s delivery strategy.
Ruth has very recently decided to take a break from legal practice to explore other avenues. She is currently undertaking a variety of volunteering work including as a board member of Tyneside Cinema Bar Cafe and New Writing North and is training in floristry.

Ian Cosgrove Biography

Ian Cosgrove has been around the Newcastle upon Tyne legal scene since 1974, firstly as a Legal Executive and since 1994 as an independent Costs Practitioner. He became an Associate of the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen in 1993, gaining fellowship status by examination in 1997 and became one of the first Fellows bestowed with Costs Lawyer status in 2007. As a Costs Lawyer, Ian is entitled to conduct reserved legal activities under the Legal Services Act 2017.

Ian’s practice has resulted in him being instructed by commercial firms of Solicitors, high street firms and sole practitioners, dealing with all manner of legal costs. He estimates that since 1994 he has been instructed by well over 100 different firms of Solicitors making him ideally placed a member of this years judging panel.

Rebecca Cresswell Biography

Rebecca began her studies at Northumbria University in 2010 where she obtained a Masters level qualification while at the same time achieving a Qualifying Law Degree and completed her Legal Practice Course. She completed her training by qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive specialising in Civil Litigation and Family law via a work-based learning programme with CILEx.

Rebecca is based in the family and litigation department of what has become a major North East law firm through its period of growth. Rebecca is passionate about finding a resolution for family disputes. Rebecca joined the CILEx Newcastle Branch in 2015 and became Secretary of the Branch shortly after. Rebecca is a keen ambassador of the CILEx Newcastle Branch and works tirelessly to promote alternate routes into law. Rebecca has helped organise numerous charity fund raising events over the years at the Newcastle CILEx Branch and hopes that the support for both the Branch and the charities will continue to grow through new members.

Helen Cutting Biography

Helen is a qualified practising solicitor having studied law at Northumbria University. She is currently Executive Director of Legal and Governance Services & University Secretary for Teesside University having joined the senior executive team there in June 2017. Before joining Teesside, Helen was Director of Legal and Governance at University of Sunderland. Helen’s current role requires her to have oversight of the University’s legal and regulatory compliance, including information governance and safeguarding, as well as leading on the modernisation of the University’s governance practices and taking an active role on the University Executive Team. Before moving inhouse in higher education, Helen worked as a solicitor in private practice in the areas of medical negligence and commercial contracts.

Simon Darby Biography


Simon founded SD Legal Services, a provider of process serving, investigation and enforcement services to the legal sector 10 years ago.
SD Legal Services now has offices in Newcastle and Guisborough and have a large number of North East based solicitor clients.
In the last 15 years Simon has carried out thousands of instructions in the North East for Solicitors, property management companies and Local Authorities.
Simon is a Certificated Bailiff (Enforcement Agent) of 15 years, a full member of the ABI (Association of British Investigators) and former police officer and school governor.
He has been dubbed ‘The Respondent Whisperer’ due to his ability to track down and serve Respondents with Non-Molestation Orders and works with 2 local domestic violence charities.

Jeff Dean Biography


Jeff Dean started his career as a Social Worker in Liverpool before working as a senior manager in Local Government, the Not for Profit Sector and the NHS . He moved to Ben Hoare Bell LLP in 1998 and retired as Managing Partner there in 2014.
He presently holds a number of roles including; Director/Trustee, Waddington Street Centre Durham; Trustee, Northumbria Quakers: Ethics Adviser, Durham University Anthropology Dept ; Researcher, Ethical Consumer . He is also involved in community groups working to develop cycling infrastructure, care of the environment and community power generation.

Jon Dudgeon Biography


Jon is Cofounder of Blu Sky Chartered Accountants, a growing, ambitious accountancy and tax practice that specialises in delivering expert advice to exciting high growth businesses. Blu Sky’s niche is the tech and digital sector here in the NE, London, Leeds and Manchester. Jon’s career as an accountant started with Arthur Andersen in Leeds in 1997 and prior to founding Blu Sky in 2008 Jon also worked for Deloitte, Aviva, GE Money and Santander. Jon is no stranger to award ceremonies having won NE accountancy practice of the year 3 times with Blu Sky at the North East Accountancy Awards.

John Duns Biography

John Duns is the co-owner of leading regional business magazine North East Times.
John has over 30 years experience in media and professional services with Wealth Manager Brewin Dolphin , law firm Watson Burton and Trinity Mirror.

Andrew Entwhistle Biography

Andrew has over 20 years’ experience working in the North East property sector and heads up the valuation teams within George F White. Andrew frequently deals with legal professionals on numerous matters, particularly on valuation orientated subjects, and as an Expert Witness in litigation cases. Appointed Head of Valuation for George F White in 2010, Andrew also sits on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Valuations Standards Board. 


Laura Farnworth Biography

Laura joined Atom Bank, initially on secondment, in July 2014 when the business was still very much in the early stages of development. She has been involved in all of the company’s funding rounds, including the initial investment by Banco Bilboa Argentaria Vizcaya as part of a £100m raise in late 2015, as well as the application for Atom’s banking licence and the associated lifting of restrictions on that licence in April 2016. More recently, Laura was Atom’s legal lead for its inaugural RMBS, where £400M of bonds were publicly placed.

Formerly, Laura was an associate in the banking team at Womble Bond Dickinson, working on transactions for both borrowers and high street lenders as well as clients including the British Business Bank and local fund managers.

Vicky Gilman Biography


Vicki qualified as a physiotherapist in 1988 and worked through a range of specialisms in the NHS before finding her clinical niche in the field of neurorehabilitation. Following a move to the independent sector she discovered an interest in entrepreneurial activities alongside her clinical professional background.
For the past 20 years as a therapist, expert witness and entrepreneur Vicki has been able to combine these aspects as the founder of successful and award-winning therapy and case management businesses.

Vicki has learned from the ground up how to balance innovation and passion for effective, meaningful services with a well-developed attention to detail, a strong strategic view and sustainability of outcomes for both the individual with healthcare needs and for the business.
She has had the good fortune in business to be surrounded by teams of outstanding people where 2-way knowledge sharing was firmly embedded and to be part of wider vibrant networks within the medico-legal community.

Alison Gittins Biography

Alison is the CEO of Durham Business Group (Durham Business Club, Durham Office Services and The Executive Group).
Alison has a passion for people and a love of networking, so feels she landed her dream job in 2010, and is lucky to work with businesses from all sectors across the region, and bring them together while showcasing some wonderful venues. DBC holds monthly breakfast and evening events for its 200 members, while The Executive Group’s lunches, are must-attend events for North East business leaders. To recharge her batteries Alison enjoys escaping to the sun on a cruise ship.

Simon Goldberg Biography

Simon is the head of Trinity Chambers’ Business and Property team and is well established as one of the region’s leading commercial litigation barristers. He regularly appears in the Chancery and Queen’s Bench divisions of the High Court, and in arbitrations, often with an international dimension. He has recently been appointed as a Recorder for the North Eastern Circuit. Simon has also been a member of the Attorney General’s Regional Panel of Counsel since 2007, which has given him the opportunity to advise and represent central government departments in cases of complexity and sensitivity.
He is one of only a handful of local practitioners to be recognised nationally by the professional directories as a leading barrister in Business and Property work, where his intellectual ability and willingness to fight his clients’ corner is regularly praised. "He is as sharp as a razor and able to take on and get to grips with matters of significant complexity very quickly." Commercial Dispute Resolution, Chambers UK 2018.
Simon’s principle areas of practice include: contractual disputes; commercial fraud; directors’ duties (including director’s disqualification proceedings); shareholder disputes; contentious probate; partnership disputes; landlord & tenant (commercial and residential); insolvency and professional negligence.

Geoff Harrison Biography

Geoff retired as a partner in Eversheds in 2009. His area of practice was competition law. In 1999 he chaired the board which created the blueprint for the full financial integration of Eversheds a year later. From 2000 until his retirement he was a member of the senior management team running the international law firm. He had particular responsibility for all aspects of client service and relationship management. From 2009 until 2015 he was a Visiting Professor at Northumbria University. His focus was on the development and teaching of programmes designed to increase the commercial awareness of lawyers and to increase their understanding of what is required to run a successful legal services business, He is now a non executive board member at Parklane Plowden Chambers.

Lee Hartley Biography

Lee Hartley, 41, has been involved in business development for over 18 years, specifically within the digital, technology and financial services sectors. Lee co-founded Fairstone in 2008 and has grown the business from a start-up to its present position as one of the UK’s largest Chartered financial planning business. He architected the business model, acquisition programme and IT strategy together with leading the business through 3 investment rounds. Fairstone now operates on a national footprint with 36 regional branches and has management offices situated in Newcastle and London. Today, Fairstone Group encompasses 410 staff and professional advisers, has run-rate revenues approaching £70 Million and oversees £8 Billion in client assets.

Toby Hedworth Q.C. Biography

Winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award in 2017, Toby Hedworth Q.C. is a nationally recognised Criminal and Regulatory Silk.
Born and educated in the North East, Toby Hedworth Q.C. studied Law at Cambridge before returning to the region and being called to the Bar in 1975, quickly establishing himself as a leading junior barrister. He was appointed Crown Court Recorder in 1991 and took Silk in 1996.
Toby Hedworth Q.C. became Head of Trinity Chambers in 1998. During his time as Head, he has driven the development of Chambers, including the renovation of and move to The Custom House on Newcastle's Quayside in 2004 and the opening of Chambers in Middlesbrough. Under Toby’s leadership, Trinity has tripled in size, with nearly 80 barristers including 6 Silks working with solicitor clients across the region, nationally and increasingly, internationally.
Toby Hedworth Q.C. is regularly recognised in the leading legal directories - "He's an outstanding advocate in trials, and he gives peace of mind to clients who are facing the most stressful of times." Chambers and Partners 2018. "A fantastic communicator, who distils complex facts into intelligible themes" Legal 500 2017.

Elizabeth Hodgson Biography

Elizabeth Hodgson is a barrister at Parklane Plowden Chambers, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She has practiced almost exclusively in the field of injury-related litigation since pupillage at Ropewalk Chambers in Nottingham in 1993. She acts on behalf of both Claimants and Defendants in a wide range of personal injury, industrial disease and clinical negligence cases. She is instructed by many insurance companies, local authorities, the NHSLA, and the major trades unions. She has been recommended in the Legal 500 regularly since 2007, being described in the most recent edition as "Very bright and capable with excellent advocacy skills"

Chris Hugill Biography

Chris has had a long legal career which includes qualifying and practising in a high street firm, lecturing at a University in property law and the business of the law, writing three editions of a practitioner’s book on Business Leases, as a commercial property lawyer specialising in housing and mixed use development and formerly holding the position of a regional managing partner in an international law firm. Chris joined Ward Hadaway in 2006 as a partner to become the head of the firm’s regeneration team and is now a consultant with the firm giving advice on issues of legal ethics and property law and also the firm’s COLP. His particular interests are property law, the business of practising law, the development of lawyers, professional ethics and regulation.
Chris is Vice President of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Law Society.

Edwin James Biography

Ed James is Legal Director and General Counsel (Solicitor) at The Bannatyne Group with responsibility for overseeing legal compliance for over 71 health clubs, over 40 beauty spas and a small chain of hotels.

Ed’s legal career commenced with a training contract at Whitehead Monckton in Kent where he qualified into the Commercial Department. This was followed by a five year stint as a Corporate Finance Associate at Ward Hadaway in Newcastle upon Tyne. In November 2010, Ed joined Bannatyne as Legal Counsel. This role has developed in line with the growth of the company and Ed now oversees the Legal Department at The Bannatyne Group as well as sitting on the board of a number of the Bannatyne companies.

Paul Jennings Biography

Paul Jennings is Chief Executive of North Group, a leading international marine insurance group with a global market share of over 12% and an annual turnover of US$400M. North is headquartered on the Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK employing nearly 400 people globally with regional offices and subsidiaries in Australasia, China, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, US and a newly opened subsidiary in Dublin. Paul has been involved in the marine insurance industry for over 30 years and he is an Executive Director of North P&I Club UK and Dublin as well as Sunderland Marine and is responsible for all aspects of the North Group. He is also Chairman of the International Group of P&I Clubs which acts on behalf of the interests of over 90% of the world’s merchant shipping.

Jonathan Jowett Biography

Jonathan Jowett’s executive role is Company Secretary & General Counsel at Greggs plc, where he is a member of the Operating Board, reporting to the Chief Executive. He is a lawyer by profession, and has spent most of his career working in-house in international manufacturing companies, across a variety of sectors including food production and retailing, medical product and consumer healthcare.

Jonathan’s responsibilities in Greggs include legal and government affairs, risk management & insurances, internal audit, food safety, health and safety, corporate communications, social responsibility, and pensions administration. He is Secretary to the PLC board and its committees.

Away from Greggs, Jonathan chairs the Board of Trustees of the Percy Hedley Foundation, which provides educational and care services to children, young people and adults with cerebral palsy, communication sensory impairments and complex learning, social care and therapeutic needs. Jonathan is also a non-executive director at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Company Secretary of Darlington Football Club.

Jessica Layfield Biography


Jessica is one of the Service Managers at the Personal Support Unit (PSU) in Newcastle. Based in the Combined Court, PSU volunteers provide free practical and emotional support in the civil and family courts, with issues such as contact with children, divorce, eviction and money claims. Jessica graduated from Durham University, and has several years of experience in the voluntary sector, in a variety of operational and volunteer management roles.

Rose Lee-Gough Biography

Rose is one of the Service Managers at the Personal Support Unit (PSU), having set up the service in Newcastle in 2014. Based in the Combined Court, PSU volunteers provide free practical and emotional support in the civil and family courts, with issues such as contact with children, divorce, eviction and money claims. Rose graduated from Aberystwyth University in 2009 and, after working briefly in the public sector, has worked with volunteers in the charity sector since 2011.

David Leech Biography


David has 30 years of experience in Banking, having worked in the North East all of his career.
With over 20 years at HSBC, David later moved  to Santander Corporate Bank where he spent 5 years looking after corporate and real estate customers before finally moving to Handelsbanken 4 years ago.
Specialising in Corporate Banking over the last 15 years , David’s present role is a Corporate Account Manager at the Grey Street Branch of Handelsbanken, in Newcastle.
Looking after a small portfolio of high quality corporate customers, David enjoys being a trusted advisor to his customers providing a professional and friendly service.

Kevin Maloney Biography


Kevin is a partner in the banking team specialising in the full range of services to banks, other financial organisations and businesses.
Outside of his fee earning work, Kevin leads the graduate recruitment team at Muckle and is responsible for the recruitment of the firm’s trainees. He also acts as a mentor for the trainees and oversees their training requirements.
Kevin studied law at Newcastle University and completed his LPC at the College of Law in York. Kevin joined the firm (Robert Muckle as it was then known) in 1998 as a trainee solicitor.

John Marshall Biography

John Marshall spent his legal career working out of Newcastle as a commercial litigator, becoming Head of Litigation and Senior Partner of Dickinson Dees. In 2013, on the firm's merger, John became Vice-Chairman of Bond Dickinson LLP.

John left on 30 June 2016 to build up a portfolio of interests. He is Chair of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and Chair of Trustees at Newcastle United Foundation. He is also a non-executive director of North East Ambulance Service and North East England Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Advisory Board of Bradley Hall Chartered Surveyors and of the North East Development Committee of the Prince’s Trust. He sits on the International Advisory Board for Newcastle University Business School, is a member of the Governing Body of St Chad’s College, Durham University and Vice Chair of Governors at Northumberland Church of England Academy in Ashington.

Paul McKeown Biography

Paul is an Associate Professor and a solicitor at Northumbria University. He is currently the Director of Northumbria Law School’s multi-award winning Student Law Office. Prior to joining Northumbria University in 2007, Paul was a solicitor specialising in employment and housing law. Throughout his career, Paul has had a keen interest in promoting access to justice. As well as being a former trustee of the North East Legal Support Trust, he has worked closely with a number of organisations including LawWorks, the Access to Justice Foundation and the Personal Support Unit to support the provision of legal advice and assistance in the North East. Paul has also been a board member of the European Network for Clinical Legal Education (ENCLE) since its formation in 2013.

Ammar Mirza Biography


Ammar Mirza CBE - A multi-award winning entrepreneur who has helped establish several hundred businesses in the North East. Ammar is Founder and Chairman of Asian Business Connexions, President of the Federation of Asian Business, Board Member at the North East LEP, alongside being a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management (FInstLM), and Royal Society of Arts(FRSA). He has a particular interest in enterprise education as Chair of Governors of a Primary School, Chair of the Progression Forum and a visiting Professor of Practice at Newcastle University, and having helped launch the Primary Inspiration through Enterprise (PIE) Project Charity.

Alison Moss Biography


From 2008 until December 2017 Alison Moss worked as the Group Legal Director for PD Ports, one of the UK’s major port groups based in Teesside but with operations at many key ports and logistic centres. Alison was previously in-house Legal Counsel for a utilities company based in Teesside and has also worked in private practice as a commercial solicitor for a number of North East based law firms including Bond Dickinson (now Womble Bond Dickinson) and Ward Hadaway. Alison studied law at the University of Northumbria where she obtained her LLB and undertook the Legal Practice Course.

Erin Peart Biography

Erin is the Head of Property at Hanro Group, a privately owned North East based property group with an investment and development portfolio in the order of £120m. She has responsibility for the day to day operation of the portfolio, including development, acquisitions and disposals.
Erin graduated from Northumbria University and is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Erin sits on the North East Regional Board of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The Board exists to help improve standards and professions in the land, property and construction sectors. Activities include influencing Government policy, encouraging more young talent in to the industry and helping promote RICS’ latest initiatives to create a more inclusive industry.

Andy Poole Biography

Andy is the Legal Sector Partner at Armstrong Watson, a top 30 UK firm of Chartered Accountants and Financial Advisers. Andy heads the firm’s nationwide services to the legal sector, covering all of the firm’s 15 offices. He has specialised exclusively in the legal sector since 2004. He provides compliance accounting, tax and SAR services to law firms as well as helping firms to improve by providing benchmarking, strategic consultancy, merger assistance, structural reviews and training courses. He understands and proactively informs law firms on issues that may impact on them. Andy speaks at national solicitors’ conferences and is a regular contributor to the legal press. Andy is co-author of the Law Society’s toolkit on financial stability. Andy works with law firms throughout the UK.
Armstrong Watson is endorsed by the Law Society for the provision of accountancy services to law firms throughout the North of England.

Matthew Price Biography

 Matthew graduated with a Masters degree in History from the University of Durham and worked for a local software company before deciding to switch to law, undertaking the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at Northumbria University. He joined Company Law Solutions as a paralegal in 2009 and became a Director in 2014. Though mainly specialising in company-commercial support services, Matthew has a particular interest in corporate law as relates to sports clubs, non-profit and charitable organisations and social enterprises.

William Ralston Biography


William is a senior lecturer in law at Northumbria University and is the Programme Leader for the Full Time Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at Northumbria. Prior to joining Northumbria in 2013, William spent 13 years in full-time-practice in the Bar at a common law set of chambers in Liverpool. He still practises part-time in the areas of personal injury and commercial law.

Natalie Rodger's Biography

Natalie is a Chartered Marketer, non-practising solicitor and Member of the Chartered Institute of PR. Prior to establishing her niche marketing and business development consultancy, Scala in 2009, she practised as a solicitor at global law firm DLA Piper.

She combines her expertise as a lawyer and marketer to advise law firms, barristers’ Chambers and other organisations who work in the legal and professional services arena.

Natalie sits on the Executive Management Board of Parklane Plowden Chambers and provides strategic advice at a managerial level, she has published a number of feature articles that have appeared in leading industry magazines, online publications and newspapers.

Rhona Smith Biography


Dr. Rhona Smith is Professor of International Human Rights and Head of School at Newcastle University. She has more than twenty years’ experience in legal academic  and professional education across different legal systems and jurisdictions.  She has published in a range of outlets and completed several externally funded research projects, including on aspects of English law.

Barry Speker Biography

Barry Speker has practised as a Solicitor in Newcastle for over 47 years. He is a Consultant at Sintons Law and Trust Solicitor for The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. A former Deputy District Judge, he continues to sit as Employment Judge in Newcastle, Teesside and London, a post he has held for over 27 years.

He is a former President of the Newcastle Law Society from whom he received a lifetime special achievement award in 2016. Barry was awarded the OBE in 2008 “for services to business and the community in Newcastle upon Tyne.” He is a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Tyne & Wear and a Freeman of the City of London. He was actively involved in the Grainger Town project developing Newcastle City Centre and was Chair of the Business Forum. He is a Law Society adjudicator and assessor.

Barry is also Honorary Chair of the North East Chinese Association, President of North East Council on Addictions and is on the board of many other charities including Tyne Theatre, North of England Civic Trust, Charlie Bear for Cancer Care and Northern Institute of Business Ethics.

David Storey Biography


David Storey is a Business Strategy Consultant, based in North England.
His current clients include Brewin Dolphin, one of the country’s largest wealth management groups and Drummond Central, the expansionary digital media company. On the legal front, he has held advisory roles with Bond Dickinson and with Square One Law but his private client experience also includes Investec, Yorkshire Bank, Tier One Capital and several accountancy practices, Last but not least, he looks after the financial interests of a selection of High Net Worth clients both in Newcastle and London.

David’s background was always aimed at the professional services sector and his law degree and accountancy qualification seemed part of a natural progression to becoming a stockbroker briefly in Newcastle with Greig Middleton, before moving to Head Office in London and becoming a founding Director of Gerrards, now Barclays Wealth.
His business interests include 15 years spent as a SME shareholder and Director in an animal breeding technology business which he sold to the Milk Marketing Board in the mid nineties. He was Commercial Director of Genus, now a FTSE250 company, for 2 years.
David lives by the river in Tynedale with his wife Carolyn. He has 2 children and rates his interests as family, sport and, a first in 30 years: “no commuting and more Northumberland”.

Michael Stubbs Biography


Michael has over 30 years experience as a barristers clerk working in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. After relocating to the North East in 2003, he joined Plowden Chambers as senior clerk in 2005. Following the successful merger with Park Lane Chambers in Leeds, where Michael was one of driving forces behind the link he was employed as Joint Senior Clerk to the largest civil litigation set on the North Eastern Circuit “Parklane Plowden”. He is committed to meeting clients' needs, being responsive to the market, and working with clients to provide pragmatic solutions to the engagement of barristers and fee structures. He is also involved in the marketing and development of Parklane Plowden Chambers and now Practice Director and member of Chambers Management board.
Chambers and Partners 2018 - Client service: "They are a very forward-thinking set and the clerking is excellent." Practice director Michael Stubbs is described as "a delight to work with and fantastically proactive in arranging suitable counsel."
Legal 500 2017 Practice director Michael Stubbs is ‘a fantastic ambassador for the set’
Chambers and Partners 2017 - Client Service: The "absolutely brilliant" practice director Michael Stubbs leads the clerking team

Rod Wilkinson Biography


Rod leads the Corporate Finance Team at KPMG in Newcastle. He started his career with the firm on Teesside and specialised in Lead Advisory work following qualification. During a 25 year career in Corporate Finance, Rod has lead well over 100 transactions including advising Board’s on strategy options, disposals, acquisitions, private equity fund raisings and re-financings. Local transactions include the sale of O’Brien Waste Management, the sale of the Kids 1st nursery business, the re-financing of Kitwave and the sale of North East Convenience Stores.