Awards preview: assistant solicitor of the year

On 22 June, 1400 people will crowd into the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the most eagerly-awaited event of the year. With only one week to go, The Lawyer brings you a sneak preview of the shortlisted individuals and teams

Zainab Al Qirnawi
Clyde & Co

Zainab Al Qirnawi is no ordinary assistant. Hailing from Basra, Iraq, she has used her extensive knowledge of the Middle East to help Clyde & Co become the first UK firm to establish itself in Baghdad following the fall of Saddam Hussein. The firm formed an exclusive cooperation agreement with prominent Baghdad practice Numan Shakir Numan, and Al Qirnawi was instrumental in this move. Since then she has played an important business role for the firm and clients looking to work in the region, where her knowledge of Arabic and the legal systems and religious cultures of the Middle East have been invaluable.

Arpita Dutt
Russell Jones & Walker

Arpita Dutt’s commitment to fighting racial and sexual discrimination shines through in her work. Dutt has played a key role in establishing the specialist discrimination unit at Russell Jones & Walker (RJW) as a leading name in the field and is responsible for advising RJW fee-earners on new developments in discrimination law. In the last 12 months she has been involved, often as the principal lawyer, in more than 10 Employment Appeal Tribunal hearings, as well as four ongoing Court of Appeal cases. Highlights include her work for the Police Federation, which provided a new framework for all police discrimination litigation, and winning £150,000 in compensation for a female Asian doctor in a successful sex and race discrimination claim.

Amanda Galloway
Denton Wilde Sapte

Amanda Galloway has had a busy year advising on a broad range of aircraft, film and shipping finance transactions. One particular highlight was co-leading the team that advised Lombard Corporate Finance Division and Royal Bank of Scotland on one of the first US leases to service contracts of UK passenger rolling stock. While lead partner Lisa Marks was on maternity leave, Galloway coordinated the team with the UK lawyers and other parties and assisted US counsel Shearman & Sterling. Other big deals that Galloway worked on include advising the maintenance arm of a large European airline, a client she introduced to the firm after her secondment to Airbus in 2000.

Christine O’Neill

Christine O’Neill has quickly developed her commercial practice in litigation and public law since joining Brodies in 2000. Scottish devolution opened up a new area of law and O’Neill, at just 29, has already established herself as one of the country’s experts in the field. She continues to break new ground in this area and recently led the public law group in a significant application for judicial review involving a challenge to European Community law. O’Neill sits on the Law Society of Scotland’s Law Reform Committee and is a member of its working group on the new Supreme Court. She continues to tutor at the University of Edinburgh and delivers many addresses to national conferences.

Mohammed Paracha
Norton Rose

Although just 27, Mohammed Paracha has made a significant contribution to the development of an area of law that affects the lives of millions of people in the UK. Since joining Norton Rose four years ago, Paracha has taken the firm’s Islamic finance group to new heights. His work with high street banks such as HSBC has enabled them to launch Islamic mortgages and other retail products tailored to Muslim customers, and he was also instrumental in winning the Islamic House of Britain as a new client for the firm. He is the sole legal representative on a Bank of England working party on Islamic finance and was one of the key individuals to negotiate significant reliefs incorporated into the Finance Act 2003.

Daniel Tain
Shadbolt & Co

Daniel Tain’s secondment from Shadbolt & Co to construction company client Galliford Try proved so successful that since his return he has brought in £600,000 of project work to the firm, where previously there had been none. He made a big impression on the company, working effectively as its sole in-house legal adviser despite only qualifying in 2002. He is still advising Galliford on its involvement in one of the Government’s Lift projects as well as two of the company’s private finance initiative projects, Ealing Care Homes and Coventry Schools.

Kate Vernon

When Kate Vernon was in her last seat as a trainee on DLA’s competition team, she started working on the two biggest cartel cases ever brought by the Office of Fair Trading. Now, as a newly qualified solicitor, she is advising Littlewoods and JJB Sports on their appeals to the Competition Appeals Tribunal. Vernon is acting as number two to competition partner Mark Rees and is involved in setting strategy and instructing senior QCs directly. Her work has won plaudits from all sides, including Lord Grabiner QC. She has also worked on other competition and regulatory transactions, as well as DLA’s fundraising and pro bono activities.