A Bookshelf at an Angle

Alumni Profile

Anne Kavanagh: UWL Graduate Wins Prestigious Legal Award 

Anne K

After practicing as a registered nurse for many years, Anne Kavanagh changed careers and became a solicitor after studying at the University of West London. Now, she has won Solicitor of the Year – Private Practice at the 2021 Law Society Awards. We sat down with Anne to find out more about this remarkable career journey.

Anne grew up in a very small village in County Mayo, Ireland and trained to become a nurse at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. Upon qualifying, she found her job prospects were scarce, so made her way to London where she practiced as a nurse in Orpington before joining an agency in Marylebone. It was while working here that she decided to enrol on the LLB at the University of West London, then known as Ealing College.

I really enjoyed my time at Ealing College, which became Thames Valley Polytechnic and then Thames Valley University by the time I graduated in 1992. As a slightly older student at the time, I found that I was not alone with many others on the LLB course, also working part-time or with family commitments and I made lifelong friends there.  The quality of teaching led by Nina Scott and Leslie Orr-Ewing at that time was high and lectures and tutorials were challenging and fun all at once.

During this time, Anne supported herself financially by continuing with agency nursing work. When she graduated, she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to happen next:

Initially I did not have a clear ambition to become a solicitor, but I was interested in the Law as a subject and more broadly, the concept of a rules-based society and how that works. As I progressed through my degree, I began to imagine that I could in fact become a qualified solicitor, but nursing was always my insurance to earn a living and support myself particularly when my first training contract ended abruptly after 6 months.

I applied to over 80 firms at that time to continue my training contract without success and during the following 2 years, took up nursing again full-time. I started to provide outdoor clerking services to a friend who was based in Maidenhead, by attending at the High Court for hearings to take notes. I also continued to apply for legal positions eventually securing a paralegal role in a firm in East London, Bowling & Co.

Over the next few years, Anne moved to Islington firm Bolt Burdon where she enjoyed a dynamic, engaged work environment. Anne worked at Bolt Burdon until she gave birth to her second child and took a break from practice. Always looking for projects, Anne became Chair of Governors of her local nursery school and children’s centre, also assisting other school governing bodies with governance issues.

On encouragement from her old legal colleagues, she returned to private practice with City-based firm Devonshires, and then moved on to Irwin Mitchell, becoming a Partner in May 2021.It was here that she had three different cases reported in law reports in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court all within a 6-month period of time. These cases, involving actions in negligence on behalf of seriously injured women and children, gained Anne the recognition that led to her recent win at the Law Society Awards.

Asked about her win, Anne said it felt “amazing! I was enormously flattered to be nominated but I had little expectation of winning.” The award was presented over a zoom ceremony, and Anne’s family were waiting in the room next door to rush in and congratulate her!

Finally, we asked what advice Anne would impart to any students or recent graduates. She had this to say:

My advice is fairly simple – choose a subject for study which you find interesting and engaging and be open to offers even if they do not at first seem to lead to your goal. My career so far has not been a typical straight line but more of a ‘Jungle Gym,’ with many twists and turns but that has made it all the more interesting and enjoyable.

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