Francis Hanna Solicitor Laura Banks is The Times Lawyer of the Week

Laura Banks

07 September 2018


Laura Banks, a solicitor at Francis Hanna & Co, Belfast has been featured in today’s law pages of The Times as lawyer of the week.

Laura acted for unmarried mother Siobhan McLaughlin in the Supreme Court, which ruled that her ineligibility to claim Widowed Parent's Allowance for her 4 children is incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. You can read our overview of the case here.

Laura’s interview as featured in The Times:

What were the main challenges in this case? 
The government argued that there was “a clear line of authorities” from Strasbourg against us, so it became necessary to distinguish each of these cases. We had to keep the court’s focus on the key issue — the rights of children.

What’s the best decision you’ve taken? 
Taking time out of private practice to work in Citizens Advice. It may seem a bad career move, but it gave me a valuable insight into injustices such as systemic discrimination of lower socioeconomic groups and led to a career in social justice that I might not otherwise have had.

Who has inspired you? 
Laura McMahon, counsel in this case, and Sara Rowbotham, the Rochdale whistleblower. People who fight for good inspire me, as do those who overcome adversity. I’m fortunate to work with committed professionals in this firm who look out for each other — it’s like a family.

What is the oddest thing that has happened to you as a lawyer? 
I went to court wearing a new tweed navy blazer, thinking I looked smart. The judge mistook me for a sixth-form student in a school uniform. I never wore it again.

What’s the best advice you’ve received? 
You can’t win them all, but you must always try your best. Before you accept the things you cannot change, try to change the things you cannot accept. Forgive yourself as well as others for mistakes.

Which three qualities should a lawyer have? 
Perseverance, professionalism and passion. Passion is key — when you stop caring about your clients then it’s time to hang up your boots or move on to another practice area.

What law would you enact? 
I would make access to justice compulsory for all, especially those who are vulnerable. There’s no point having rights if people don’t know how to enforce them, and so many don’t.

How would you like to be remembered? 
As someone who cared about people and a good mum. By clients and colleagues for having passion, tenacity and integrity.