Confirmed Judges 2022 – More to follow!

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 – Kennedys Law

Biography to follow


Chris Badger, Director of Legal and Compliance – Just

View Chris’s Biography



Dr Joanna Berry, Associate Professor (Entrepreneurship) at Durham University Business School

View Joanna’s Biography


Judith Birkett, Partner – Muckle LLP

View Judith’s Biography


Professor Deveral Capps – Dean of Leeds Law School at Leeds Beckett University

View Deveral’s Biography


Richard Clark, Director in the North team of Barclays Wealth Management.

View Richard’s Biography




Laura Coapes, Senior Lecturer – Northumbria Law School


View Laura’s Biography




Rebecca Creswell – Head of the Civil Litigation and Family at Sweeney Miller Law

View Rebecca’s Biography


Helen Cutting, Executive Director of Legal and Governance Services & University Secretary – Teeside University

Biography to follow




Simon Darby – Managing Director, SD Legal Services

View Simon’s Biography


Ian Dormer CBE, CDir, HonFIoD, BA – Managing Director, Rosh Engineering Ltd

View Ian’s Biography


Michael Downes, FCA Director, Deal Advisory Corporate Finance – KPMG

View MIchael’s Biography


Katherine Dunn – Senior Lecturer, Northumbria Law School

View Katherine’s Biography

John Duns – Director, North East Times

Biography to follow

Andrew Entwistle- Partner & Head of Valuations, George F White

View Andrew’s Biography

Laura Farnworth – General Counsel and Company Secretary, Atom bank

View Laura’s Biography

Dr Jonathan Galloway – Head of School, Newcastle Law School

View Jonathan’s Biography

Vicki Gilman – Managing Director at Social Return Case Management Ltd

View Vicki’s Biography

Simon Goldberg Q.C. – Trinity Chambers

View Simon’s Biography

Sarah Hawkins, Solicitor  – Adderstone Group

View Sarah’s Biography

Ed James – General Counsel & Director at The Bannatyne Group

View Ed’s Biography

Paul Jennings – Chief Executive Officer at North of England P&I

View Paul’s Biography

Siobhan McConnell – Senior Lecturer in Law at Northumbria University & Careers Coordinator – Northumbria Law School

View Siobhan’s Biography

Ammar Mirza CBE – Community and Business Leader representing the North of England. Chair of Asian Business Connexions, SME CofE Group & North East LEP Business Growth Board. NED. Angel Investor. Proud Hon. Col. 101 Regiment RA

View Ammar’s Biography

Erin Peart – Director of Campus Services, Northumbria University

View Erin’s Biography

Richard Pickles, Sales Director (Residential) – tm group

View Richard’s Biography

William Ralston – Senior Lecturer – Northumbria Law School

View William’s Biography

Natalie Robson – Service Manager,  Support Through Court

View Natalie’s Biography

Rosy Rourke – Legal Sector Director, ArmstrongWatson

View Rosy’sBiography

Scott Stevenson, Centre Principal, Porsche Centre Newcastle – JCT600 group

View Scott’s Biography

Michael Stubbs, Commercial Director – Parklane Plowden Chambers

View Michael’s Biography

Elspeth Thomson, President, Newcastle Law Society 2022 – 23

View Elspeth’s Biography

Scott Stevenson is the Centre Principal at Porsche Centre Newcastle, which is part of the JCT600 group

JCT600 represents 25 of the world's most iconic brands at more than 50 locations throughout Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, and the North East, and yet its ambition remains the same as ever – to be the best, not necessarily the biggest. Last year Porsche Newcastle was recognised as an industry-leading dealership and ranked within the top 40 in the UK. The Centre was also awarded the title of “North East Sports Car Dealer of the year” in 2021.

Scott has spent the last 25 years within the automotive industry representing BMW/MINI, Bentley, and Ferrari. Scott has recently graduated from the Porsche Global academy in conjunction with the University of St Gallen in Switzerland.

When not at work Scott has spent the last 21 years as a volunteer coach, supporting the northeast grassroots Football program.


Dr Joanna Berry Biography

Joanna was born, brought up and educated in Hartlepool, NorthEast England. Her academic experience runs from her Oxford University law degree (1985) to her MBA and PhD from Newcastle University. Her MBA focused on the impact of broadband connectivity on the TV industry, and her PhD took this one step further, using her creation and management of a London-based record label as a lens through which to assess the impact of digital technologies on the music industry's business models and value chains.

Joanna is Associate Professor, Entrepreneurship at Durham University Business School, teaching new venture creation, entrepreneurship, innovation, marketing and a wide variety of other management disciplines to MBA, DBA, PhD, MSc and undergraduate students. She is Trustee/Director of Acumen Community Buildings, and was Advisory Board member for the NorthEast LEP "ScaleUp NorthEast" programme. Joanna is Director for Business, Innovation and Enterprise for the Durham Energy Institute and has been Regional Chair for both the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Institute of Directors.

Her professional experience encompasses law (mostly company and contract, practiced in South Africa from 1985 to 1987) science, creativity and technology. In her professional commercial career Joanna has undertaken a variety of international business development roles in marketing, advertising and publishing. Roles include Manager of Europe and East Asia for the World Economic Forum and international PR manager for Mobil 1 Motorsport with McLaren.

Joanna has also founded, bought and run a variety of digital and creative companies, and continues her personal and practical involvement with new venture start-ups. She places a particular emphasis on supporting the 'women in STEM' agenda in a variety of ways. These include teaching, mentoring, and public appearances, as she undertakes a wide variety of public and media activities on TV and Radio. She is winner of the Forward Ladies Scotland, NorthEast and Yorkshire Academic Leader Award and a member both of the Northern Power Women ‘NPW Power List’ and NPW Power Circle for Teesside and Newcastle.

Judith Birkett - Partner, Muckle LLP

Judith has been a solicitor for over 30 years.  She is a partner at Muckle LLP originally specialising in real estate but now managing risk and compliance at Muckle.  Whilst she did work in London for 10 years, she is firmly committed to a life and career in the North East.

Professor Deveral Capps - Dean of Leeds Law School at Leeds Beckett University

Deveral is a professor of law and the Dean of Leeds Law School at Leeds Beckett University and has been involved in Higher Education for over 20 years. 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. He has particular expertise in barristers training and was a member of the Bar Standards Board’s Future Bar Training Programme Board between 2017 and 2019 and is a member of the Curriculum and Assessments Review group examining how barristers will be trained in the future. He was also a panel member for the subject pilot of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Outside of law, Deveral is a board member and trustee of Ballet LORENT, the leading contemporary dance company in the North East.

Richard Clark, Director in the North team of Barclays Wealth Management.

Richard is a Chartered Wealth Manager and has been advising individuals, trusts, charities and companies on their Wealth Management needs for over 20 years across the North of England and beyond.  Prior to his 11 years at Barclays Wealth he was a Wealth Manager at a National Law Firm, which allowed him insight into how intrinsically linked clients Wealth Management, Legal and Tax affairs are.  This experience allows Richard to work closely with is clients and support them in navigating the myriad of options available to them in protecting, managing and growing their wealth, encompassing areas such as succession planning and wealth structuring.

Laura is a senior lecturer in law at Northumbria University and lectures on both undergraduate and Bar Programmes. She is a barrister at Trinity Chambers (nee Nagel) and has a research interest in family law, with recent publications in Child & Family Law Quarterly and the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. Laura also acts in various consultancy roles for the Bar Standards Board, including as an External Examiner and Team Leader for Bar Training assessments.

Rebecca Creswell Biography

Rebecca is Head of the Civil Litigation and Family at Sweeney Miller Law. She completed her training by qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive specialising in Civil Litigation and Family law and has worked in the North Eastern Circuit ever since; predominantly dealing with private family law matters, including divorce, finance, separation, pre and post nuptial agreements and private law children matters.

Rebecca is passionate about promoting alternative routes into a career in law and is the Chair and Treasurer of the CILEx Newcastle Branch Committee. Rebecca’s role in the Committee means she has the opportunity to organise social events and CPD webinars for CILEx members.

Outside of her career, Rebecca loves to travel and go on hikes in the Lake District

Simon Darby is the MD of SD Legal Services, providing nationwide process serving and tracing services to over 150 law firm clients nationwide.

Simon is also Co-Founder and Associate Investigative Consultant at Crime Prosecutors, a full complaint to court room Private Prosecution service and a Senior Consultant Investigator at Millbank Solutions, which provides services such as pre-sue reports, surveillance and complex fraud and cyber investigation services and a former Police Officer."

Ian Dormer Biography

Ian has been Managing Director of Blaydon on Tyne based specialist high voltage engineering contractor Rosh Engineering Ltd since 1989.

After joining the Institute of Directors for professional development and to share best practice he became more involved both regionally and nationally, being appointed national IoD Chairman in 2012 for a 3 year term.

Always passionate about promoting a positive business climate, it has resulted in past appointments to the Board of Regional Development Agency, ONE North East, through to Chairing Business Link Tyne & Wear among others. He also has a passion for life-long learning and qualified as a Chartered Director in 2013.

Ian was previously Chairman of Newcastle College, Chairman of the Primary Science Teaching Trust, and currently serves on the Board of the Employee Benefit Trust that manages the £90million turnover builder’s merchant JT Dove. He is also an Independent Member on Gateshead Council’s Audit Committee.

He was made a CBE in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2016 New Year Honours list.

Michael is an experienced business advisor, working with clients to assist with strategic decision making, growth plans, debt and equity finance raising and all aspects of M&A.

Working with clients from a broad range of sectors including many owner managed businesses in technology, software, business services, pharmacy and pharmaceuticals, retail, distribution and wholesale, catering, waste management and construction. Significant experience working with Private Equity investors.

Katherine Dunn is a senior lecturer in law at Northumbria University and lectures on both Police Apprenticeship Degrees and Bar Programmes. She is currently programme leader for the Bar Training programme and the two-year Police apprenticeship Degree for Durham Constabulary.  In addition, she is a barrister at Trinity Chambers. Katherine has a research interest in criminal law, currently participating in the “Consulting the Oracles” project on complex disclosure issues. Katherine is also an external examiner for Liverpool John Moores University, an advocacy  trainer for the Bar on Vulnerable witnesses and conducts training courses for  social workers on “How to be an Impressive witness in Court”.

The son of Northumberland vet, Andrew began his career as a Chartered Surveyor in Northumberland before furthering his development the Midlands. Andrew returned to the North East in 2000 to join George F. White and became partner in 2006.

Appointed Head of Valuation for George F. White in 2010,  Andrew also sat on the Global Valuation Standards Board (GVSB) of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) representing the Rural faculty for 11 years. The GVSB oversaw production of the RICS Appraisal and Valuations Standards (The “Red Book”).

Andrew is well known for his appointments as Expert Witness in property disputes, with restrictive covenant matters being a particular speciality, receiving instructions throughout England. Andrew gave evidence in Father’s Field v Namulas, considered by Property Week as one of the top 10 property law cases of 2021.

Laura Farnworth - General Counsel and Company Secretary - Atom Bank

Laura joined Atom Bank, initially on secondment, in July 2014 when the business was still very much in the early stages of development.  As Head of Legal, she was 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.  Laura was Atom's legal lead for its inaugural RMBS, where £400M of bonds were publicly placed.

Laura was appointed as General Counsel and Company Secretary in December 2019.

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 Bank and local fund managers.

Jonathan has been Head of Newcastle Law School since April 2020 and has overseen the Law School's successful transition to remote teaching delivery during 2020/21 and back to in-person teaching with hybrid delivery during 2021/22. He has also supported the Law School's new strategic partnership with the University of Law. Prior to becoming Head of School Jonathan served as Associate Dean (Internationalisation and Strategic Projects) for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences with a broad portfolio covering global strategy and estates and space planning as well as involvement in various capital build projects. Jonathan's Faculty Internationalisation remit included supporting the implementation of the University Global Strategy within the HaSS Faculty, leading on the University’s (international) mobility plan, being a key contact for several international partners, as well as assisting in the identification of emerging recruitment markets, supporting Brexit mobility contingency planning and on the large scale repatriation of students at the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Estates strategy responsibilities included supporting capital projects management and user engagement within the Faculty, supporting estates and space strategic planning, and ensuring that our University facilities met our research and educational needs. Jonathan is a qualified Attorney and Counsellor at Law (New York), and holds a PhD from Glasgow University. His academic expertise specialises in Competition/Antitrust Law, EU law, and with a keen interest in Corporate Governance and US Constitutional Law.

Vicki Gilman MSC MCSP, BABICM Advanced Case Manager, Managing Director Social Return Case Management Lt, BABICM Chair

Vicki qualified in 1988 as a physiotherapist from King’s College, London, and specialised in neurology. Her early career was shaped by working in a military hospital where team-working was excellent. This set a high expectation for effective team working and creative approaches to rehabilitation. There followed an MSc in Neurorehabilitation and experience setting up 3 community rehabilitation teams in the NHS and independent sector and working as an expert witness in catastrophic injury cases for over 20 years. Her clinical interests focus on brain injury and clinical complexity.As a serial entrepreneur Vicki has experience of 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 seeks to recruit outstanding people and to build safe and collaborative team environments where 2-way knowledge sharing is firmly embedded.Vicki is current chair of the British Association of Brain Injury and Complex Case Management, she sits on the management group of The Institute of Registered Case Managers,  alongside leading the now well-established Social Return Case Management, a company she founded in 2014.

Simon Goldberg Q.C.

Simon heads Trinity Chambers’ Business and Property team and is well established as one of the region’s leading commercial litigators. Appointed Queen's Counsel in March 2022, Simon is the first and only specialist Business and Property silk based locally. He has been described by a member of the senior judiciary as a "standard setter and standard bearer for the North East." He regularly appears in the Chancery and Queen’s Bench divisions of the High Court, and in arbitrations, often with an international dimension.

Simon is also a recognised senior employment law practitioner, and is the first and only specialist Employment Q.C. based in the North East. He acts on behalf of clients in employment disputes involving issues of significant factual or legal complexity and/or which are high value. Advising and representing both employers and employees, Simon appears across the UK in the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the High Court.

Simon is also instructed in complex regulatory as well as public law matters such as commercial related Judicial Review, including procurement challenges and providing policy advice.

Called to the Bar in 1999, Simon became a Crime, Civil & Chancery Recorder in 2018 and was a member of the Attorney General’s Regional Panel of Counsel for over 10 years.

Sarah is firmly rooted in the North East having moved from Cumbria in 1996 to study law and the University of Northumbria before undertaking her training contract at Northampton Borough Council. Sarah specialises and has extensive experience having worked for Eversheds, Dickinson Dees, Kingswalk Law and Ward Hardaway.

Sarah joined the legal team at Adderstone Group at the November 2021 further broaden her experience as she has always worked in private practice.

Sarah has been a Chair of Governors for 9 years a local school and has previously worked as a volunteer in the criminal justice system.

In her spare time Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and friends and two dogs.

Chris is a solicitor specialising in property law and professional ethics. He is a former Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria and author of a book on business tenancies and served several years as the regional managing partner of an international law firm. He has recently retired from practice.

Ed joined Bannatyne Group in November 2010, after having them as an external client for a number of years whilst he was a Corporate Finance lawyer at Ward Hadaway.

As Legal Director, he is responsible for all aspects of the Group's legal compliance and also oversees the People, Technology and Training & Development Departments sitting on the Group's Executive Board.

When not at work, Ed enjoys running and ferrying his children to football matches and trampolining competitions!

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%. North is headquartered on the Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK with regional offices and subsidiaries in Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America. Paul is also Chairman of the International Group of P&I Clubs, helping to shape the future of the maritime industry, working with governments and legislators to provide solutions to some of the biggest challenges faced by shipowners

Siobhan is a Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University, Siobhan also works closely with the careers team to provide careers support to undergraduate students in the Law School.

Siobhan trained as a solicitor at commercial law firm Muckle LLP in Newcastle.  Siobhan specialised in commercial and corporate finance work for a number of years, eventually becoming an associate solicitor.  Siobhan later worked as an associate lecturer in law for the Open University before joining Northumbria University in September 2010.

Ammar Mirza CBE, MBA, FRSA, FInstLM, FIOEE

A multi-award winning entrepreneur, angel investor and organisational growth expert who has helped establish and scale several hundred businesses globally.  Ammar is Chair of the Business Growth Board and SME representative on the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Main Board, Founder and Chairman of not for profit social enterprise Asian Business Connexions (ABC) and President of the Federation of Asian Business alongside being a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management (FInstLM), Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (FIOEE) and Royal Society of Arts(FRSA).  He has a particular interest in enterprise education as ex-Chair of Governors of a Primary School, current Chair of the Progression Forum and a David Goldman visiting Professor of Practice at Newcastle University.  Ammar launched the Primary Inspiration through Enterprise (PIE) Project Charity in 2013, the first of its kind within the UK to deliver enterprise vocational qualifications to primary age pupils.

Ammar was appointed a CBE in 2014 for outstanding services to Business and the Community, and has been consistently recognised across the UK for his tireless efforts in supporting and promoting trade and industry, including British Asian Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019, Maserati top 100 Entrepreneur, Williams and Glyn top 50, Institute of Directors Special Judges Award, and British Community Honours Award to name but a few.

Other roles held by Ammar include Honorary Colonel 101 Regiment RA,  immediate past Chair of the Institute of Directors North East North, Member and Northern Representative on the All Party Parliamentary Group for BAME Business, Private Sector Representative on European Structural Funds Advisory Board, Patron of Charlie Bear for Cancer Care Charity, Founder of the SME Centre of Excellence which helps SMEs start, survive and thrive, and he hosts his own radio show on Spice FM.

Erin joined Northumbria University as Director of Campus Services in 2021, following 8 years at the local Property Investment Company Hanro Ltd where she managed the £150m asset portfolio.

Now leading the operational services including Maintenance, Security, Catering and Student Accommodation, she is also developing the University Estates Strategy and Master Plan, creating the vision to provide the best facilities for students through to 2035.

Erin is a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Chair of the North East RICS Regional Board.

Richard has been involved in supplying products and services to the legal sector for more years than he cares to remember! Firstly, during the nineties, as Market Manager for the DX responsible for the Legal & Government sectors (he managed to get Cherie Booth/Blaire to officially open the ‘new’ Chancery Lane DX Exchange!) then via the NLIS project to be General Manager of TransAction Online and part of the team that acquired Searchflow and Richards Gray. Latterly he has been National Sales Director at CDS and is now Sales Director (Residential) – tm group.

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 Robson is the Service Manager for Support Through Court Newcastle, a charity that exists to reduce the disadvantage of people facing the civil and family justice system without a lawyer. Support Through Court Is an award-winning charity with over 550 dedicated volunteers providing practical and emotional support to people facing court alone, empowering people who feel that they have nowhere else to turn.

Rosy lives in Penrith and is a Legal Sector Director at Armstrong Watson.

Having joined Armstrong Watson in 2012, Rosy has specialised in working exclusively within the legal sector since 2014.

Based in Carlisle, Rosy provides compliance support such as accounting, tax and SAR services to law firms throughout the UK, as well as specialist pro active advice in order to help them improve. This advice includes structure reviews, mergers and acquisition assistance, the implementation of bonus schemes, lock-up reviews and valuations.

Rosy enjoys building close working relationships with her clients and understands the topical issues and challenges they face due to the continuing changes within the legal sector.

Michael has over 30 years’ experience as a barristers’ clerk and is a highly regarded and a trusted figure amongst the legal fraternity. His expert clerking abilities has secured him several impressive legal directory recommendations and recognition at industry awards.

He played a pivotal role in the merger of Park Lane with Plowden Chambers in 2007 and sits on the Executive Management Board of Chambers

Michael works closely with his clerking team in the day-to-day clerking of members’ practices. He is responsible for the business development of chambers and ensures a close working and open relationship with our clients.

Incredibly well-connected, not just amongst solicitors but also the wider legal community, he is known for his expert knowledge and infectious enthusiasm, making him a popular go-to figure in the legal community.

Michael is focused on exploring new ways Chambers can work with clients to deliver a service that evolves with the changing legal landscape. He strives on being responsive to the market and working with clients to provide pragmatic solutions to the engagement of barristers and fee structures.

He has secured many new work avenues and clients, and generated respect for his honesty and approach. Michael’s work and abilities are key to the success that Chambers enjoys.

Elspeth is a family law solicitor specialising in children law with a caseload consisting of public and private law children disputes, and adoption and surrogacy applications. She is Managing Partner at David Gray Solicitors LLP in Newcastle with responsibility for the strategic planning and operational running of the firm. Elspeth is a Higher Rights Advocate and an accredited arbitrator (children’s issues). Elspeth sits on the National Committee of Resolution, the organisation for family justice professionals.

Elspeth is the President of Newcastle Law Society 2022-23