Two of the country’s most eminent lawyers were presented with Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees at The University of Law’s first Degree Congregation since it achieved university title and changed its name from The College of Law in 2012.
Professor David Yates, a leading academic lawyer and practitioner who served as a Governor of The College of Law for more than ten years, and Edward Fitzgerald QC, who was recently named as Human Rights and Public Law Silk of the Year, received their degrees at the ceremony in Central Hall Westminster on Saturday (November 16).
LL.B degrees were also conferred on 974 University of Law students, who have passed both its Graduate Diploma in Law and then either its Bar Professional Training Course or Legal Practice Course. The University also conferred Masters of Laws degrees on 50 graduates of its LL.M programmes.
The degrees were presented by University of Law chairman Alan Bowkett and Sir Tim Wilson, chair of the University’s Academic Standards Committee. Professor David Yates has had a distinguished career as a leading academic lawyer and practitioner. He is currently Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge and Warden of Robinson College. He has held permanent and visiting appointments at a number of leading UK and global universities including Bristol, Manchester and Sydney. He was Foundation Professor of Law, Dean of the School of Law and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex.
Professor David Yates
He joined the global law firm Baker McKenzie in 1987, where he became global Chief Operating Officer before his retirement from practice in 2001. He was a Governor of The College of Law for over ten years, culminating in his appointment as Chairman in 2009.
During his tenure he steered the College through a radical strategic review, culminating in the separation of the charity from the legal education operations, and the creation of The University of Law and the Legal Education Foundation in November 2012.
Professor Yates continues to teach and write on legal and related issues. He is a member of the Training Committee of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and an honorary member of the Chicago Bar Association.
The citation for him delivered during the ceremony said: “It is singularly appropriate that we should be awarding our first honorary degree post University title to Professor David Yates. David is one of those rare individuals who has had a very distinguished career as an academic and also been successful in practice.”
It went on to commend him for his “huge commitment and passion for teaching and the interests of his students”, his “passion for bringing about change in legal education and continuing the process of making our system fit for purpose” and for “providing leadership and management skills in academic life and professional practice.”
It concluded: “Last but not least we at The University of Law are greatly indebted to David Yates for the time and commitment he has shown and his leadership in creating a lasting legacy in legal education.”
Edward Fitzgerald QC has been named as Human Rights and Public Law Silk of the Year in the Chambers Bar Awards 2013. Previous commendations include Legal Aid Lawyer of the year in 2009, the winner of the Silk of the Year award in 2005 and Times Justice Human Rights Award in 1998. He specialises in criminal law, public law, judicial review and international human rights law. In June 2008 he was awarded the CBE for services to human rights.
Edward Fitzgerald QC
As a criminal practitioner he has featured in many of the leading cases involving extradition, appeals against miscarriages of justice, and international law. He also frequently appears in the Privy Council in cases involving the constitutions of the Commonwealth Caribbean, death penalty appeals and extradition.
In the field of public law he has argued many of the leading cases on inquest law, prisoners' rights, mental health law and refugee law. His clients have included Gary McKinnon in his fight against extradition, the Gurkhas in their fight for residence, the Hillsborough victims' families, the family of Derek Bentley in his successful posthumous appeal, and the family of Private Farr in his battle for a posthumous pardon.
He has a wide ranging practice in international law and has won many leading cases in the European Court against the United Kingdom, Greece and Spain, including Stafford v UK, Scott v Spain and Portington v Greece. He has appeared in the Privy Council in numerous cases involving criminal appeals and constitutional challenges, including the cases of R v Reyes, R v Hughes and R v Fox, which struck down the mandatory death penalty in the Eastern Caribbean and Belize.
His citation said: “Edward has established himself as one if the leading barristers of his generation in the areas of criminal law, public law and international human rights. His advocacy and influence and in representing prisoners on death row in the Caribbean has actually saved lives and influenced public policy in the region.”
It concluded: “At a time when many would say that civil liberties and access to justice are under continued threat, not least by the pressure on public funding, Edward represents an inspiration to all young lawyers. Indeed his whole career is a shining example of the civic responsibilities that members of the legal profession owe to society.”
The University of Law is the largest provider of professional legal education and training in the world with eight UK centres. It trains more than 7,000 students each year on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.
Copies of the full citations are available on request.