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Leigh Day’s Frances Swaine receives honorary doctorate

Consultant solicitor Frances Swaine has received a Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, from the University of Law.

Posted on 31 May 2024

The award recognises Frances’ “humanity and dedication to justice” and, in particular, the introduction of Leigh Day’s Black Solicitor Apprenticeship programme, which is a responsibility shared with the University of Law and was awarded first prize in our sector at the Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards in 2021.

The apprenticeship scheme began in January 2020 with the hopes of addressing an underrepresentation of qualified solicitors of African-Caribbean and/or African heritage working at Leigh Day. In 2019-21, ten solicitor apprentices were recruited, and the first students are expected to qualify next year. 

Frances’ career at Leigh Day began in 1991 as a clinical negligence solicitor working with Sarah Leigh, the founding partner of the firm. Frances was Leigh Day’s first managing partner from 2010 to 2021, where she introduced the apprenticeship programme. She was previously a partner in the clinical negligence department, head of the human rights department and initiated the regulatory team.

Between 2011 and 2023 Frances also undertook roles as Leigh Day’s compliance officer of a legal practice (CoLP) and then compliance officer for finance and administration (CoFA). Since she stepped down as managing partner in 2021, Frances has been working as a consultant solicitor in human rights, in partner Jacqueline McKenzie’s immigration and asylum team. Frances primarily works with clients applying to the Windrush Compensation Scheme and those Black children misclassified as Educationally Subnormal during the 1960s and 1970s. 

Frances was presented with the honorary doctorate on 14 May by Patrick Johnson, Vice-Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion and Professor Andrea Nollent, Vice Chancellor of the University of Law during the University of Law’s graduation ceremonies.


Frances Swaine receiving honorary doctorate
Frances Swaine receiving honorary doctorate

Frances Swaine said:

“I feel very honoured to have been chosen as a representative of the legal profession for an Honorary Doctorate when there are so many in the legal field who have also achieved so much.

“It is very special to me to me that my legal career, looking back down the telescope of many decades now, can be seen by The University of Law as worthy of such a commendation.”

Patrick Johnson said: 

"Throughout her career, Fran has not only been a legal advocate but also a role model, particularly for women in the legal profession. Her leadership has extended to nurturing the next generation of legal minds through the Solicitor Apprentice programme, a testament to her commitment to education and mentorship in the legal profession. Fran has been passionate about ensuring those who work at Leigh Day are reflective of the community around them.

"Fran’s accolades underscore her professional excellence and dedication. Yet, it is her profound humanity and dedication to justice that truly define her career. For these achievements, Vice Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to present to you and the whole University, Frances Swaine, for the award of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa."

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Frances was the firm’s first managing partner from 2010 to 2021, and was a partner in the regulatory and disciplinary department, the human rights department, and clinical negligence department.

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