I am finishing this series on a personal note.   In June last year I wrote a tribute to Robin Butchard.  I later attended his funeral and was one of the (many) who stood up in a very packed chapel. Rob was the Senior Clerk and Chief Executive of Zenith Chambers for many years.  However he was much, much, more than that.


I will leave it to others to describe  the full range and depth of Rob’s professional achievements. He started in chambers the “traditional” way by entering London chambers as a very  junior clerk.  He became a senior clerk at a very young age. As he progressed he moved gradually north, clerking in Birmingham and then coming to us in Leeds.

Rob was the consummate professional.  Although (I suspect) he was always overworked he was never harassed and always had time for every member of chambers and every client.  Courteous, friendly and able to keep up with every technical and professional development that came along.

Over the years Rob touched the lives of many barristers (many of whom are now judges and silks), he spoke fondly of them all.


During his time as head clerk several members of chambers went through very difficult personal times.  One of them (now a circuit judge) told me of the great efforts that Rob had gone to to ensure they were looked after and matters kept running as smoothly as possible. Rob went well beyond the call of duty.

Rob had some surprising elements to his life. One of his best friends was the drummer in Status Quo. Rob once got me tickets to watch them play in Yorkshire.  I was humbled when he asked the band I play in to perform at the party he held celebrating his 45 years as a clerk (Rob could boogie as well it turned out). People came from all over the country for that party, fellow clerks, barristers and solicitors. Similarly there were numerous guests from his previous chambers who attended his leaving dinner at the MCC.



Cricket was a large part of Rob’s life. After he retired from playing he became an umpire.  In the first few years after he retired from clerking  he umpired  virtually full time (even having an “agent” to arrange his matches and collect fees –  basically Rob had a clerk).

He used to return to Leeds after he retired . On one occasion we met up, he and I (and a trio of Exall children) went to see Yorkshire play at Headingley.   Sitting next to Rob was fascinating, he couldn’t help but signal virtually ever run that was scored.  Once an umpire – always an umpire.


Needless to say his family was central to Rob’s life.  I always assumed that he met his wife Gill  through working in the law, it turns out they met at the local cricket club and she became involved in law gradually – helping out in chambers when there was a shortage of staff, helping with software and then becoming chambers’ administrator.  Gill, as a result of Rob’s influence,  has also provided help and assistance to numerous barristers and chambers over the years. He had two sons, Matt and Keith,  both of whom he was immensely proud. (His son Matt is a Senior Crime Practice Manager at Doughty Street Chambers – clerking is in the family).


I don’t really have the words. He was a really great guy.  We will miss him. He came to chambers’ events for many years after he retired, it was always a pleasure having him back. He gave us a lot. We are all lucky to have had him and to have known him.

I am certain that he is, right now, umpiring games played by the legends of cricket: “I’m sorry Mr Bradman but Mr Grace got you lbw there  –  fair and square” – and he’ll be right.