Mike, a criminal law partner at London firm Bindmans, received the private practice solicitor of the year accolade last month at the Law Society’s fifth annual Excellence Awards.
His citation for the award commended his ‘seminal’ work on issues including the operation of undercover police, the Crown’s obligations of disclosure, the fairness of the trial process, the legitimacy of civil disobedience and threats to criminal legal aid.
The nomination was ‘testament to his strategic insight into the marriage between the law, politics and the media’, it added. Schwarz has come to prominence over the past year for two cases in particular. He represented 20 climate change protesters who had their convictions for conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station quashed, after the Court of Appeal ruled that the police had unlawfully used an undercover officer to spy on the protesters.
In April 2009, police arrested 114 activists who had attended a meeting on the eve of a protest during which some of the environmental campaigners planned to occupy the power station. Their action was intended to prevent the alleged harm done by the power station in releasing thousands of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. However, among their number was undercover police officer Mark Kennedy, who was part of a police programme designed to infiltrate extreme left-wing groups.
During his career he has, as the above cases demonstrate, been on the side of the underdog. That commitment guided him to Bindmans, then called Bindman & Partners, where he completed his articles and where he has remained throughout his career, rising swiftly to become a salaried partner in 1995 and equity partner in 2004. Throughout his career Schwarz has retained his commitment to fighting on behalf of the underdog, to civil liberties and legal aid, and to striving to provide the very highest standard of service to clients.