Andrew Phillips - Lord Phillips of Sudbury - won the Luke FitzHerbert Lifetime Achievement Award at last night's Third Sector Excellence Awards in recognition of more than 40 years' work in charity law.
Phillips received the award at a ceremony in London, backed by headline sponsor Markel. The award is named after the former senior researcher at the Directory of Social Change, who was killed in a road accident in January 2007.
Phillips founded charity specialist law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite in 1970 and played a major part in debates during the passage of the Charities Act 2006.
"It is a real honour to receive this award, which could have gone to many people in this hall and many outside it," he said.
Phillips said the world had changed since he joined the legal profession in 1957.
"One has to say that certain things have gone for the worse," he said, saying modern-day culture was "fanatically materialistic" and "insatiably acquisitive".
"Against that, there are tens of thousands of charities, many have no staff at all and we know that they do wonderful unsung work, often in the grottiest corners of society," he said.
"There is a creative anarchy that I love about the voluntary sector," he added. "It is a life-enhancing quality - it brings the best out of people."
A 48-page special supplement about the Third Sector Excellence Awards, with pictures, details of the winnners and reports from the awards night, will be published with Third Sector magazine on 6 October
Full list of winners
Communications, marketing and campaigning
Annual report Missing People
Brand development (sponsored by Spencer du Bois) Catch22
Use of digital media Beatbullying: Cyber Mentors
Website The Queen's Nursing Institute
Communications campaign Parkinson's Disease Society: Brain Donor Appeal
Communications team The Children's Society
Direct marketing campaign (sponsored by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association) Save the Children: Gaza Emergency Response
Fundraising event Comic Relief: BT Red Nose Climb 2009
Fundraising team British Red Cross
Finance and enterprise
Financial management St Loye's Foundation
Charity trading War Child: Heroes
Social enterprise Riders for Health
Charity partnership Crisis: Skills for Jobs for Homeless People
Corporate partnership Teenage Cancer Trust & Andrex
Public sector partnership (sponsored by the Commission for the Compact) Woodland Trust & Essex County Council
Best employer Julia's House
Volunteer of the year (sponsored by Markel) Doug Smith, Riding for the Disabled Association
Governance and foundations
Trustee board of the year (sponsored by Ansvar) Dimensions
Accountability and transparency (sponsored by CfA) Kent Union
Innovation by trusts and foundations - Reed Foundation
Third Sector awards
Small charity, big achiever Excellent Development
The Third Sector big impact award Macmillan Cancer Support: Prescription Charges Campaign
The Luke FitzHerbert lifetime achievement award Andrew Phillips (Lord Phillips of Sudbury)