Laura Banks shortlisted as finalist for Employee of the Year award at Belfast Business Awards 2019

Laura Banks

04 April 2019

Laura Banks has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Employee of the Year award at this year’s Belfast Business Awards.

The Belfast Business Awards have been dubbed “the most prestigious business awards in Northern Ireland, recognising excellence and celebrating outstanding achievements across a range of business sectors”.

During her short career, Laura has already demonstrated a real passion for social justice. She is a trailblazing lawyer who, like our founder Francis Hanna, sought to change the law in the UK.

Laura brought a legal challenge on behalf of Siobhan McLaughlin and her children. This case centred around challenging the law around the entitlement of unmarried parents to access the bereavement benefit, Widowed Parent’s Allowance.   Laura didn’t just stumble upon the case – she actively sought it out as she was aware that this benefit was not available to children of unmarried parents if one parent died.  Laura has been in every Court in Northern Ireland fighting the case for Siobhan. In 2018, the case was heard by the Supreme Court, the highest Court in the land.  Most lawyers never have a case go to the Supreme Court in their careers. 

Laura won this landmark legal case by successfully arguing that to refuse benefits to unmarried parents was discriminatory and incompatible with Human Rights. This decision is expected to bring about UK wide benefits reform, benefiting thousands of families. 

Laura was listed as The Times Lawyer of The Week in September 2018 for her work in this case. The outcome of the case has been debated twice in the House of Commons in 2018.

The case attracted widespread media interest and was hailed as a significant victory for thousands of bereaved children. Laura was interviewed by BBC News, Radio 5 Live, Sky News and ITV, Good Morning Britain. We held a press conference on 30th August 2018 which was widely reported on both locally and nationally.

Laura worked extremely hard, throughout the life span of the case, but in the last months as the hearing drew near, this involved particular effort. Often, outside of office hours, whether that meant coming in to the office on a day off to compile bundles or working on a submission; research at home in the evening; staying late to consult with Counsel; getting up at 6am to go on Radio Ulster and all the various media work.

Laura is modest in her victory and always deflects from her own achievements and points back to the thousands of children whom she has sought to help. She inspires the rest of the team to continue to have the tenacity to use their skills to press for justice for our clients and to have the determination never to give up.

In a world where lawyers are seen as “fat cats” and self-serving, Laura’s drive for justice on behalf of the most vulnerable has been refreshing and inspiring for all the team at Francis Hanna & Co.  We wish her all the best of luck in this category and feel there would be no more deserving winner!