As she walks into the classroom of her new law school today, Georgina Blackwell may well find that she is the only blonde beautician from Essex among the students. Then again, it is also likely that she will be the only one to have won a High Court battle.

Blackwell was offered a £10,000 ($21,600) scholarship at a private university after defeating one of Britain's biggest property developers in a case which had threatened to leave her family penniless.

Representing her family in court, and despite having no legal training, she convinced the judge to overturn a previous defeat and even to award her mother £75,000 in compensation.

Bellway Homes, which owns a site next to the Blackwell family home in Halstead, sued Georgina's mother Sandra for access to her garden. A judge ordered Sandra Blackwell to pay the developer's legal costs of £22,000 as well as a "five figure" sum in damages.

The 24-year-old, who had previously been forced to turn down a place at Kingston University to help keep the family business going, is starting a two-year course at BPP Law School, London, today. "I never dreamt I would ever be able to go to university, I thought I had missed my only chance."

Blackwell said that she was called by the university at the request of the dean, who had been impressed by her conduct, and offered a place at the university over the phone.

The fight with Bellway Homes, which was developing houses on a neighbouring plot, began after the Blackwells refused access to their garden. A judge ruled that Bellway had right of access to a factory neighbouring the Blackwells' home and the developer promptly started work.

But Georgina noticed in the legal papers that the developer had only been given access to one of the garden's two walls. Despite having no legal training, Blackwell acted for her mother in the High Court, opening the case, giving evidence and cross-examining Bellway's solicitor. "The barrister came over and congratulated me. He said I had put up a good fight."

Blackwell said she would work three days a week in her mother's salon to cover the £5000 annual cost of commuting to London.

- Independent