Witness the fascinating new definitions of ‘Best’ and ‘Excellence’.

A legal awards company has shown its arse by naming a disgraced struck off solicitor as one of the best lawyers in the UK.

SME News gave Alan Blacker two prizes: ‘Best Pro Bono Legal Services Practice 2024’ and the ‘UK Legal Client Service Excellence Award 2024’.

Blacker, or, to refer to him by his preferred titles, ‘The Rt Hon Dr Alan Blacker, Lord Harley of Counsel, Earl of Dublin, Knight of St John’, first made the pages of RollOnFriday and the national press when his propensity to attend trials in a robe adorned with badges led a judge to remark that he looked like “something out of Harry Potter”.

He turned out to be more Gilderoy Lockhart than Albus Dumbledore and was struck off in 2016 after he was found to have lied about his titles and qualifications.

In his excellent defence before the SDT he dismissed a solicitor who had raised doubts about his credentials as “a cretin of the first order”.

He also denied that he had inflated his LPC results, claiming that a “national charity” had given him a distinction as part of its mission “to give a proper reflection of one’s academic standing”.*

In 2020 he was convicted of disability benefits fraud and given a nine month suspended sentence. The conviction automatically prevented him from acting as a trustee for the charity he founded, JAFLAS (Joint Armed Forces Legal Advocacy Service).

After a four year inquiry, the Charity Commission found in March 2024 that Blacker still held significant control over the charity’s funds and banned him from being a trustee for a further 15 years, saying that his continued involvement amounted to “serious misconduct and/or mismanagement”.

It also referred the matter to Greater Manchester Police, having found that JAFLAS had proposed a transfer of assets into Blacker's business and that donations to its website were being funnelled straight into his personal bank account.

But in the world of vanity awards none of that is an obstacle to glory.

Despite being struck off, convicted, banned and reported to the police, SME News was happy to give Blacker the ‘UK Legal Client Service Excellence Award 2024’ and to name his company as the ‘Best Pro Bono Legal Services Practice 2024’, which either says terrible things about the pro bono legal sector or that SME Awards sometimes takes a light touch approach to due diligence.

The open door policy is logical for awards companies, which benefit from not looking too closely at nominees since their business model depends upon ego-starved lawyers nominating themsleves, often in ultra-specific categories, and paying for evidence of their prizes in the form of a website page, logo, and perhaps a trophy.

ROF once scooped a prize (Film Financing Firm of the Year in Nigeria) from another awards company by creating a fake law firm, FLF Abiola & Co, despite making its logo an ejaculating penis and Danny Glover the Managing Partner.

Blacker’s acceptance speech on SME News implied that grateful clients were responsible for his unlikely awards success.

“We are humbled to receive this award as a mark of our client’s unremitting appreciation of our work”, his company stated, offering a "Thank you to all who voted” and quoting an anonymous testimonial which described Blacker as the “Mozart of the Courtroom".

His company website now states that it has been “declared the winner in the Legal Advice Firm Category beating 190 other contestants!”

Blacker’s victory deals another blow to the battered reputation of awards factories and risks devaluing the achievements of the other SME News victors. 

Victors like the University of Edinburgh Law School, which 'won' the prestigious award, 'Most Inspirational Legal Education DEI Initiative 2024'. And E.A Law Solicitors, which beat a crowded field to the title of 'Best Law Student Educational Experience Facilitator 2024'. Not forgetting Emerald Solicitors, the 'Most Dynamic Immigration Law Firm 2024 – Kent', or Holdens Solicitors, 'Most Trusted Residential Conveyancing Firm 2024 – Lancashire'. And, erm 'A City Law Firm', named 'Most Innovative Boutique Law Firm 2024 – London'.



AI Global Media, the parent company of SME News, is run by three directors based in Burton Upon Trent. Its tagline is “Content you can trust” and it claims on its website that “we have a specialist team dedicated to finding appropriate firms and individuals” and that “[we] create a well-rounded, accomplished shortlist for every campaign”.

It also claims to have a research and judging team which vets candidates. “We play a vital role in upholding standards and benchmarking shortlisted candidates against the strict criteria set by AI Global Media”, they claim.

“Receiving the shortlist of candidates from our nomination team, we make an assessment of the firm’s suitability by reviewing all of the supplied documentation, information available in the public domain and a comprehensive review of the company’s digital footprint. We are thorough in our approach, but the most common metrics are evaluated via: company websites, social media, official registrars of companies, industry specific and popular review platforms, customer testimonials, media outlets and blogs”.

ROF asked SME News, AI Global Media and co-founder Kathyrn Hall how, if any of that was true, they all missed the continent-sized footprint of Blacker’s misadventures. No response was forthcoming.

Lord Sir Dr Baron Earl Blacker did not respond to a request for comment.

*When the head of the St John Ambulance Service testified that Blacker had never been a member, Blacker told the SDT that he belonged to the "official order dating back to the eleventh century" and not the "modern English order" whose claims to legitimacy were "clearly pompous rubbish".

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Tip Off ROF


innermigration 07 June 24 09:07

It is not just mickey mouse legal PR firms that hand out dodgy awards. In 2018 the Law Society gave the "best in-house solicitor of the year" award to Post Office general counsel Ben Foat. Despite all that has been revealed about the Post Office and Ben Foat's poor performance (most notably in controlling disclosure of documents) the Law Society has done nothing to rescind the award. Gobsmacking really.

Mr Wise 07 June 24 09:53


Don't forget the LS also made Phil Shiner their 'Solicitor of the Year' in 2007

Anonymous 07 June 24 09:56

Wonderful to have this much loved character back on RoF. A week is always made brighter by a story of Lord Harley's latest escapades.

My only sadness is that it will probably be quite hard to continue to report on his irrepressible and enduringly creative japery once he is remanded to custody by Greater Manchester Police. We shall have to pass the time until his release by using the Comment board to write fan fiction about his rise to King Of The Wing by setting up some kind of underground free legal advice unit for fellow prisoners and/or by using his gas boiler fitting skills to fashion high quality shanks out of stolen radiator parts.

Anonymous 07 June 24 10:10

It’s probably best to leave poor A Blacker alone, this is an unseemly perpetuation of a figure of fun in someone who is probably suffering some disorder or other.

Anonymous 07 June 24 10:12

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting for a moment that Lord Harley will perceive himself as stealing said radiator parts. There is no allegation being made that his state of mind will be dishonest when he conceals various removable flanges of metal in the cuffs of his trousers during rec hour.

He will no doubt sincerely believe that he is entitled to the use of them as part of his status as a peer of the realm who is entitled to make fair use of all Crown property falling within his demesne, and which it is therefore quite reasonable of him to fashion into swords to be used by the Order Of The Knights Of St John to defend their estates. Making his stabbing up of Big Larry during the morning showers entirely permissible.

Car crash 07 June 24 10:26

This guy's life is an utter car crash - with hair dye.

He desperately needs therapy. 

LondonLife 07 June 24 10:41

I was sadly subject to a winner of SME's awards which was previously named by ROF, Bridge Law Solicitors, when they were acting on the other side of a deal for a family member. I don't expect there to be amazing solicitors in Holmfirth, Huddersfield, but they were by far the most negligent bloody awful law firm I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with.

Anonymous 07 June 24 12:42

These ridiculous companies and the lawyers who use them can’t be shamed enough imo

This 07 June 24 19:32

The open door policy is logical for awards companies, which benefit from not looking too closely at nominees since their business model depends upon ego-starved lawyers nominating themsleves, often in ultra-specific categories, and paying for evidence of their prizes in the form of a website page, logo, and perhaps a trophy.

Well done ROF for calling out the utter dog shit of the awards “circuit”.

 Ruddy faced men, blonde stick insects, dressed up ready to collect their awards because they’ve bunged some money across as “sponsors”.

Then get it on the website in an attempt to deliver credibility.

More investigative journalism please, tell us who paid what and to whom to become “throbbing c**k partner of the year”.


Cynical Bastard 10 June 24 12:09

Look, at least this guy has the decency to be entertaining in his nonsense.

It's semi-serious law firms and universities that engage in this crap that we should be more worried about. And yes that include the more 'prestigious' awards where buying a sponsorship or several over priced tables at the awards dinner pretty much guarantees you a trophy…

Wee Eck 13 June 24 10:25

"their business model depends upon ego-starved lawyers nominating themsleves, often in ultra-specific categories"

#Honoured and #Humbled to share that SME News has announced me as the winner of the Occasional Commentator On RollOnFriday Lifetime Achievement Award. Thanks to my many clients and colleagues that made such kind comments.

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