Vanessa Ganguin receives alumni of the year award from Lancaster University
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+44 (0) 7855 817714
21 July 2023
“I soon realised that in immigration every case is unique, deeply-personal and life-changing to the people seeking to establish lives and businesses in the UK.”
Managing Partner Vanessa Ganguin addressed graduates of Lancaster University on graduation day for Lancaster’s Grizedale college as she was honoured as one of 2023’s Alumni of the Year.
Graduates heard how “with more than 25 years of outstanding practice to her name, Vanessa Ganguin is a highly respected leader in the field of immigration law. A tireless champion for decency and compassion, with an impeccable record of service, Vanessa’s work is consistently highly rated in Chambers Directory and the Legal 500… Her dynamic and eponymous law firm, established in 2015, has developed an enviable reputation in its work with companies of all sizes, from start-ups to household brands. Vanessa has become a go-to expert on immigration issues for companies in the fin-tech, manufacturing, entertainment and arts industries.”
Vanessa Ganguin thanked the Vice Chancellor of the university where she had graduated 31 years before with an LLB (Hong) Law and gave an inspiring address to this year’s graduates which you can watch below, or read the full text here:
“Vice Chancellor, fellow members of the university, honoured guests I am truly delighted to be accepting the outstanding alumni of the year award. I am also very grateful indeed to be standing here 31 years after graduating with an LLB Honours Law Degree celebrating your successes after what I’m sure has been a very fun three years, packed full of memories of Lancaster as fabulous as those I still enjoy looking back on.
You have reached a key milestone in your lives and you should be very proud of yourselves indeed. Huge congratulations.
At the end of three years of mastering essays, exams, laundrettes and lie-ins, you will be feeling a mix of emotions: pride at your academic achievements, trepidation about what new adventures lie ahead, worrying whether the luxury of lie-ins is over, whether you will stay in touch with the great friends you have made. Let me reassure you on the latter – you will make sure you stay in touch with the ones that count.
I am conscious as I stand here of the many brilliant careers this university has launched, and excited for you all as you leave Lancaster, this tiny city with a great big heart, to launch your own brilliant careers all over the world.
What better launchpad than Lancaster University? You did exceptionally well to get in – and now graduate from an institution consistently ranked among the top UK universities. You all deserve a round of applause – and a round of drinks so I’ll keep this short.
The day I graduated in Law in the Great Hall back in 1992, I would never have imagined the possibility of running my own law firm. Being sat where you are was a massive achievement for me in itself. There weren’t many who went to university at my school. I never at any point in my journey took anything for granted. And I hope you don’t too. My only other tips for you are:
Always be enthusiastic about what you choose to spend your time on – do it with love.
Always be prepared to outwork others.
And please keep hold of the academic skills and intellectual curiosity that brought you to this point today.
And NEVER stop learning.
I have never stopped. And nor should you.
I chose to learn law because my mum told me to. I sat on my bed aged 17 and read A.V. Dicey’s The Law Of The Constitution – probably the only law book I could find in Stafford Library – from cover to cover instead of going to the pub with my friends like a normal teenager. I decided if I enjoyed a rather dry read like that I might well be cut out for law.
I was one of those kids who constantly said ‘it’s not fair’ to my parents and had a burning sense of injustice. I still do today. Though I later realised the law is not always about what is fair.
I chose to read law at Lancaster University because the course was relatively colourful and radical at the time. It had exciting units such as ‘Gender and the Law’ and ‘Critical Analysis of the Law and Human Rights’. I got to do a dissertation on human rights, which in the late Eighties /early Nineties was quite unusual (not so much now).
I did my Law Society Finals at Chester College of Law. Then, as many immigration lawyers often tell me too, I fell into immigration law by mistake. An opportunity came up at a service offering free immigration advice.
I soon realised that in immigration every case is unique, deeply-personal and life-changing to the people seeking to establish lives and businesses in the UK. For some clients fleeing persecution it literally is a matter of life and death. I trained and become a partner at a legal aid firm, working largely on asylum and human rights cases.
I always loved the fact that it was your client against the might of the state. Whether this was taking apart a questionable Home Office decision, or challenging an adverse tribunal decision in a judicial review or in the Court of Appeal, it all appealed to my sense of fairness.
I now face different challenges working in commercial immigration. Yet whether representing individuals, families or companies, we are always up against constant policy changes. Immigration is a political football always in the news – whether it is people’s right to claim asylum in the UK, or the country’s post-Brexit skills shortages. There really is no other area of law where legislation evolves pretty much on a daily basis.
And so for me the learning can never stop.
And I think I learnt a lot a lot about critical thinking and intellectual curiosity from Lancaster University’s Law Department: skills that are vital in law.
My time in this welcoming city much of it working in its characterful pubs and bars also taught me confidence, communication, and importantly, how to listen – also critical for a career in law – whether working with refugees or the CEOs of Blue-Chip companies.
I won’t delay your graduation celebrations any further – you may be planning to show off some of Lancaster’s characterful pubs and bars to your friends and families – apart from wishing you all success in the next chapter of your own stories which you are about to write.
And I do hope you also take all that learning, all the critical thinking, all those friendships I’m sure you have made with fellow students from different backgrounds from all over the world, and let the openness, camaraderie and tolerance of Lancaster University always inform you on your journeys in a world which may seem at times more hostile, more divided and more cruel than what you have enjoyed here, but a world with many exciting opportunities for you to shape it for the better.”