Hudgell Solicitors’ founder and executive chairman Neil Hudgell has marked the firm’s 25th year in business by setting his sights on becoming involved in more cases where his firm can ‘make a difference’ in matters of national importance.
Having consistently made national headlines throughout 2021, Hudgell Solicitors has become a name synonymous with ‘righting wrongs’ and challenging big institutions for their failings.
Its casebook has included representing clients to overturn convictions relating to the Post Office Horizon scandal at the Court of Appeal and families who lost loved ones at the ongoing Public Inquiry into how the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing happened.
The firm also represented the families of four young gay men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port at inquest, which found police failings probably contributed to at least three of the deaths.
It has also represented widow Claire Mercer, who has campaigned for Smart Motorways to be scrapped since the death of her husband Jason. The Government announced earlier this month that a planned rollout of such roads was now being put on hold.
It has been a journey from local to national prominence which Neil deliberately set the business on five years ago – expanding on its long term personal injury and medical negligence work – and one he remains passionate about continuing into the future.
“By the time we reached 20 years in business I had refocused my mind onto getting involved in matters that are interesting and defining, and which generally make a real difference on a wider platform,” he said.
“I like to get involved in national cases that involve big institutions such as The Post Office Horizon scandal and the failures by the Metropolitan Police to stop Stephen Port.
“The inquest into the deaths of the four young men murdered by Port involved big institutions, how they discriminate and how you can campaign to change all that, where people are marginalised. It’s a desire to get involved in things that involve a large section of society.
“Had the police done their job properly three of the four men who tragically died need not have. There was clear evidence of unconscious bias, and we became involved after the criminal trial because families wanted answers.
“It took seven years before we got to the point of the inquests, which vindicated the families and their belief that the police did a wholly inadequate job.”
From council estate to Court of Appeal.
Brought up by his grandparents in east Hull in the 1970’s, Neil says he was advised to “do your best and find a job through a trade or a scholarship”.
He failed at school but then qualified via night school, securing his first job in a private practice with Max Gold, where the opportunity later arose to take them on two offices, and 800 clients, in 1997.
Twenty five years on, Neil insists the business mantra remains exactly the same as it did on day one – an approach which has brought repeated rewards and recognition.
Hudgell Solicitors has been named in The Times Best 200 Law Firms list for the past two years and he was named the Law Society’s Legal Personality of the Year and the Yorkshire Lawyer of the Year in 2021.
Successfully challenging the wrongful convictions of hundreds of former subpostmasters – people prosecuted by the Post Office over a 15-year period based upon evidence from a faulty accounting system – has brought great acclaim.
So far Neil and his team have helped 58 people to clear their names, with many more to follow the same path to the Court of Appeal, and a Public Inquiry set to begin next month.
“It means a 75-year-old can stop working and relax a little after being treated so badly 20-years-ago after going to prison. That person can now enjoy some comforts and security,” Neil says in reflection.
“Client relations are key. You’ve got to have your client’s back and they have to be confident you can do the job for them. That has been the key ingredient from day one until now. Put the client first, have real empathy and put them at ease.”
Reflecting on his achievements, and more big days ahead with the Manchester Arena Inquiry to conclude and the Post Office Horizon Inquiry to start in 2022, he says: “I still like to do a shift.
“We try to do the best job we can and get the best outcomes. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we get a lot of clients who know about us because of what we do.
“My 100% goal at all times is a proper outcome and a satisfied client in every case. So it’s the same approach today in 2022 as it was on day one in 1997.”