Andrea Beveney

Government Legal Profession

University: Nottingham Trent University
Degree: Law

Immigration lawyers deal with all legal matters relating to immigration and nationality. The work ranges from asylum and human rights claims through applications by family members and students to how businesses can secure immigration status for their employees. There is a significant and increasing EU law element, and many cases raise important human rights issues. The law is rapidly developing in terms of both statute law and jurisprudence, and procedural timeframes are tight. There is a good deal of overlap with employment, tax, social welfare, mental health, prison law, criminal law and civil actions.

Keen to keep her career options open when deciding what to study, Andrea Beveney opted for the versatility of a law degree: “I didn’t know if I wanted to be a lawyer when I started university, but I felt that a law degree would stand me in good stead for whatever profession I chose to pursue later,” she explains. “Over the course of the degree I changed my mind, as I found that I was enjoying particular subjects such as employment law and criminal law a lot more than I expected.”

Off the beaten track

Although Andrea eventually trained at magic circle firm Linklaters, her journey there was not the well-trodden route from university to Legal Practice Course (LPC) to training contract: “I think I’m a good example of the different ways to get into the law. As I mentioned, I enjoyed employment law and criminal law, so I always envisaged that I would end up in a high-street firm. With many high-street firms, it is not necessary to apply until you have finished the LPC; but while I was completing the course I did some work experience at a high-street firm and I didn’t like it at all. I had to think again about what I really wanted to do. At that stage it was too late to apply to the big firms, as I didn’t want to go through a frustrating period of making lots of applications and receiving rejections when I needed a job fairly quickly, which is why I made the decision to apply for a job as a tax consultant, where I could still use the legal skills that I had gained. I applied to the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, which favoured law graduates. I joined KPMG as a tax consultant, moved from Birmingham to London, made new friends and took my tax exams. Later, Linklaters was recruiting share schemes lawyers and was specifically looking for LPC graduates with tax experience. The role was perfect for me and my previous experience meant that the length of my training contract was reduced to just one year.”

Sometime after qualifying, Andrea moved on from Linklaters to continue working in share schemes at Ernst & Young, but really she was ready for a change. “One of the downsides to early specialisation is that it can be quite difficult to move onto something else and I was at the stage where I wanted to do something new,” she explains. “I applied to be a tax lawyer at HMRC, a role which I thought suited my experience, and fortunately was successful; so that’s how I joined the Government Legal Service – GLS. One of the great things about GLS is that is possible to move into different areas of law every three years or so, and I moved into employment. Later my whole team was moved from HMRC into the Government Legal Department, which is where I began to practise immigration law.”

“We handle cases in their entirety, from the initial response to a request for judicial review to the negotiation of some form of settlement where we accept that the Home Office’s decision was not the right one. Some cases go all the way to the Supreme Court”

Judicial review

Now an experienced immigration practitioner, Andrea is a mini-team leader of 10 within the government’s wider team of around 200 immigration lawyers and support staff. Most of the cases that she works on concern judicial review. “Judicial review is often the only way that people can challenge immigration decisions, as while there is an appeals process in place, some Home Office decisions don’t carry a right to appeal,” she explains. “We represent the Home Office and provide litigation services in response to claims for judicial review that are made against Home Office decisions. Cases vary from people who have not been granted leave to enter the country; to people who are already in the United Kingdom who have been refused variations to or further leave to remain; to people who have requested leave to remain as the spouses of partners who are, for example, EEA nationals. In other cases there is a judicial review because the claimant considers that the Home Office has taken too long to make a decision. The work totally varies on a day-to-day basis. We handle cases in their entirety, from the initial response to a request for judicial review to the negotiation of some form of settlement where we accept that the Home Office’s decision was not the right one. Some cases go all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Government policy must be taken into account, but Andrea and her team still assess each case individually. “The Home Office makes decisions in line with government policy, but this does not mean that our position is to defend every decision regardless of the merits of the individual case – all decisions are looked at on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the home secretary’s decision was rational and lawful,” she explains. “For example, in some cases we may find that certain evidence was not taken into consideration when a decision was made, which means that the decision has to be reconsidered.”

Deportation laws

The highlight of Andrea’s career thus far has been working on the high-profile case of Kevin Kiarie and Courtney Byndloss, who were the first to challenge the government’s so-called ‘deport first, appeal later’ rule for foreign nationals who have committed serious criminal offences. “The Home Secretary has the right to deport people who were not originally British citizens in cases where they have been convicted of a criminal offence serious enough to incur prison sentence of at least 12 months,” she explains. “Previously, offenders were able to challenge their deportation on the basis of their human rights, among other reasons, with the appeal taking place in the United Kingdom, thus delaying deportation. The Immigration Act 2014 gave the home secretary the ability to determine –  based on information provided by the person who is due to be deported – whether she considered any human rights appeal made in those circumstances would be prejudiced if it took place outside the country. The case I worked on was a challenge to the home secretary’s ability to make decisions in that way. It was dealt with on an expedited timetable for the Court of Appeal to hear it as soon as possible, as other similar challenges were stayed behind it due to it being the first case testing this new power. We had two months to prepare and worked closely with advisory lawyers and litigators, as well as policy clients and other stakeholders. The advocate general for Scotland represented the Home Office in court and fortunately we were successful. The case actually demonstrated how different parts of the government can work really well together. Both appellants have now been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, so we are currently preparing for that hearing.”

Looking forward to the medium term, Andrea and her colleagues will continue to be very busy: “The Immigration Act 2016 is coming into force and clauses from that are currently being implemented. Brexit is also going to have a massive impact, with the right to remain of EU nationals currently uncertain. There is going to be a lot of change to manage, but immigration law is always changing anyway, as a result of the constant flow of new legislation concerning this area – Brexit is just another change to take on board.”

 Andrea concludes that “the things that I enjoy about this job are also sometimes the things that I don’t enjoy. I enjoy the fact that each day is different and I often don’t know what is going to happen when I arrive in the morning – it keeps things really interesting, even though sometimes this means having to rethink my day. If you are robust and enjoy unpredictability, you might just make a good immigration lawyer yourself.” 

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