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Queen Mary alumni celebrate diverse legal achievements

Meet the winners of our Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS) Alumni Awards, which shine a light on some of those who chose Queen Mary for their postgraduate legal education.

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The Awards were created to celebrate the outstanding achievements of people who studied at CCLS, and to highlight the impressive global impact of the Centre’s alumni community. Ahead of today’s inaugural event on the Lincoln’s Inn Fields campus, there were more than 80 nominations for the four prizes available.

First to be presented was the Community Impact Award, recognising CCLS alumni who’ve brought about real change for people. This award was taken home by Geronimo Frigerio (Banking and Finance Law LLM, 2001) for his work to reduce poverty and enhance growth by removing legal red tape. Geronimo’s achievements include developing education and transport sector policy reforms to rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, designing the regulatory framework for the expansion of the Panama Channel, and redesigning the sovereign financial architecture in the Bahamas. 

Also shortlisted were Dr Amir Ibrahim (Competition Law PhD, 2015) whose work as chair of the Egyptian Competition Authority was key for the country’s Covid-19 recovery; Dr Maritza Adonis (Arbitration summer school, 2014) who promotes diversity, equality and inclusion not only in her professional efforts but through grassroots volunteering; Mary Rizk (Laws LLM, 2018) who co-founded a community organisation that helps build schools, homes and toilets for underprivileged children around the world; and Siddharth Chandrashekhar (Commercial and Corporate Law LLM, 2012) whose advocacy in Bombay High Court has won challenging public interest cases, stopping fake Covid vaccine scams and helping vulnerable people and abandoned animals.

The next prize was the Commitment Award, which recognises CCLS alumni who support the Centre and wider University by sharing their time, expertise, networks or resources. This award was given to Assunta Ndami (Comparative and International Dispute Resolution LLM, 2019) whose determination and dependability were key to the success of CCLS free legal advice service qLegal’s bid for funding to help establish an Entrepreneurship Law clinic at the University of Strathmore in Nairobi. Thanks to Assunta, the bid was successful, and the Strathmore Entrepreneurship Law Clinic is thriving.

Also shortlisted were Ajit Mishra (Intellectual Property Law LLM, 2005) who quickly formed a really special community as chair of the CCLS India Chapter; Dr Germán Darío Florez Acero (Intellectual Property Law LLM, 2011) who has been a very active Alumni Ambassador for more than a decade; Julia Bonder-Le Berre (Intellectual Property Law LLM, 2007) who has generously shared her time and expertise with postgraduate students via qLegal and qMentoring programs since 2018; and Kuseme Iseh (International Dispute Resolution LLM, 2021) who built a supportive social media community for students isolated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Next was the Achievement Award, for CCLS alumni who’ve shown excellence and best practice in a chosen area of commercial activity or society. This award was bestowed on Francis Ben Kaifala (Law and Economics LLM, 2014) for his impressive anti-corruption work in Sierra Leone, where he has introduced strong and far-reaching legislative reforms to ensure accountability in public life. Francis is head of the republic’s Anti-Corruption Commission, as well as President of the Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa and an elected member of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, while also lecturing in commercial law at the University of Sierra Leone.

Also shortlisted were Antonius Alexander Tigor (Computer and Communications Law LLM, 2017) who is Head of Legal for Telkomsel in Indonesia, where he was recently named Rising Star and In-house Lawyer of the Year; Bijetri Roy (Public International Law LLM, 2014) who is Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer at her start-up, the Institute for Pioneering Insightful Research and Edutech (InsPIRE); Müge Bulat Çetinkaya (Commercial and Corporate Law LLM, 2010) who is Head of Legal for Domino’s in Turkey, where she has introduced a more proactive approach to risk management and compliance; and Meenakshi Salathia (Criminal Justice LLM, 2019) who is practising law at the High Court of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, where she recently filed a domestic violence case on behalf of a male against his wife for the first time in State history.

Finally, the Chapter Award recognised the achievements of CCLS international communities. This award was collected by Ajit Mishra on behalf of the CCLS India Chapter, which emerged as one the fastest growing Chapters with over 400 members in its inaugural year. Also shortlisted were CCLS Chapters for China, ColumbiaIndonesia and Nigeria.

Winners were selected by a panel of judges drawn from across the University: Queen Mary’s President and Principal, Prof Colin Bailey CBE; CCLS Director, Prof Ian WaldenProf Julian Lew QC, Head of the School of International Arbitration; and Dr Franziska Arnold-Dwyer, Academic Deputy Director of Alumni Relations and a CCLS Alum herself (PhD in Law, 2018).

Prizes were presented by The Right Honourable Lord Justice Kitchin, who chairs the CCLS Advisory Council. Also in attendance was Queen Mary’s visiting professorial fellow Prof Sir Roy Goode QC, who founded CCLS in 1980, among many other achievements in his eminent legal career. After 17 years as a solicitor, Roy made the rare move from private practice to academia – an extra impressive feat having never been to university himself, instead qualifying through work experience.

Speaking ahead of the event, Prof Sir Roy Goode said: “When I left Queen Mary in 1989, CCLS was small but flourishing. In subsequent years, it has been transformed – by the imagination and drive of my successors as Director, and the enthusiasm and dedication of the incredibly hard-working staff. It’s now the largest centre of its kind in Europe and one of the largest in the world, engaged in advanced postgraduate teaching and diverse research, with links to a wide range of institutions here and overseas. Though it should come as no surprise that such impressive people spring from an equally outstanding institution, the alumni we celebrate in these awards are truly inspirational, and every nominee would be a very worthy winner.”

Prof Ian Walden, Professor of information and communications law and Director of CCLS, added: “We’re delighted and very proud to have such an amazing alumni community. CCLS was created to bring together practising commercial lawyers with those from academia, so that their different perspectives could find innovative solutions to complex legal challenges. The impact and achievements of our alumni highlighted here are proof positive that this diversity of ideas helps us achieve the previously unthinkable.”

Prof Colin Bailey, Queen Mary’s President and Principal, concluded: “On behalf of my colleagues on the judging panel, we have seen a really high standard of nominations. It has been great to see the nominations and the finalists today. We are proud of what our postgraduates achieve, and this can publicly help demonstrate successes for what future students can go on to do.”

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