Yvonne Brown

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This was a BLD interview with Debo Nwauzu in June 2008. Read more about Yvonne Brown in the Directory

Our Lawyer of the Month is Yvonne Brown, the consultant and practice manager of Legal Management Consulting in London and the former Chair and founding member of the Black Solicitors’ Network (BSN).

Yvonne was born in Hackney, London, in 1961 and attended Woodberry Down School. She graduated in Law with honours from the University of Leicester. She qualified as a solicitor in 1985 and became an Assistant Solicitor with Dowse and Co.

In 1989 she joined the West End firm Claude Hornby and Cox, where she became a partner. She remained at Claude Hornby and Cox until 1994 when she established her own firm, Yvonne Brown & Co in Hackney, London, offering Legal Aid advice on children, family and education matters. Her firm was the first in Hackney to gain a Legal Aid franchise in the area of Education Law. Yvonne was committed to the education work undertaken by the firm and has said that she believes that unless black children are afforded a proper opportunity of securing a good education, then the whole black community will suffer in the longer term.

In 1996, BSN was established to represent black and ethnic minority solicitors and under Yvonne’s leadership membership grew considerably from the initial few hundred. She remains an honorary board member of the BSN and in recognition of her work, the organisation awarded her the Outstanding Solicitor of the Year award in 2006. The same year she was short-listed for the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) award in the family category.

Yvonne has been a Higher Court Advocate since 1998 and she is also on the Family Law and Children Panel.

In 2008, Yvonne wound down her practise and established Legal Management Consulting which she set up to advise law firms to excel in practice management. She also joined the leading family law firm Goodman Ray, as a consultant.

She is a Board member of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, where she Chairs the Scrutiny Committee and is a member of the Compliance Committee. She is also a former elected member of the National Committee of Resolution, a family law organisation, where she chaired the Children Committee. Yvonne is one of the judges of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Award (LALY), chaired by Cherie Booth QC, whose panel of judges also include Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the murdered teenager, Stephen Lawrence.

In January 2007 Yvonne was included in the first 100 top lawyers in the Times Online panel.

Below is our interview with Yvonne:

BLD: Why did you choose a legal career?
YB: I was inspired to do a law degree by the law lecturer on my Ordinary National Diploma in Business Course.  In particular, I remember a negligence lecture and his informing us about the Case of Owen v Liverpool Corporation, a case against undertakers.

BLD: If you were to choose another role/profession other than law, what would it be and why?
YB: I would choose engineering as those skills can be used in any part of the world.

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
YB: By my mother “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

BLD: What was the worst career advice you were given?
YB: A Career Officer at the City & East London College, told me not to apply to do a law degree as it was too competitive.

BLD: What career advice would you give to others?
YB: Work hard and enjoy your work.

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive) and why?
YB: Apart from my parents, my hero is one of Jamaica’s National heroes, the Right Honourable Marcus Garvey.  He inspired 6 million people of African descent to be proud of their African heritage in the early 1920s and 1930s.

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
YB: Ensuring justice and equality for all.

BLD: What are your dislikes?
YB: Abuse of power by those to whom it is entrusted.

BLD: What was your worst moment as a lawyer?
YB: Having to explain to an Old Bailey Judge why a woman who had been abused by her partner, no longer wished to give evidence against him.

BLD: Tell us your professional high point(s).
YB: There were three: opening my firm, Yvonne Brown & Co., in 1994, when the Black Solicitors Network passed the 5000 member mark by bringing together African and African Caribbean solicitors throughout the UK and securing victory in the High Court against Barclays Bank for a Butcher based in Essex who was party to an unfair loan agreement.

BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
YB: My firm acted for a father in children proceedings which led to a change in the law giving fathers the right to know the paternity of their children.

BLD: Any professional regrets?
YB: No.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
YB: Remove the unfair trade barriers imposed by “Western” countries against African countries