CIVIL LITIGATION BRIEF: LAWYERS OF THE YEAR 2020: JOHN COLLINS & MICHAEL WILLIAMSON
My lawyers of the year for 2020 both embodied everything that is good about the legal profession. Both cared about the law; both wrote about the law and were involved in informing and educating others ; both performed the, extremely difficult, job of managing other lawyers.
John died in April this year. Richard Wright QC, the head of Circuit wrote.
“Today the @ne_circuit lost one of its finest. John Collins called to the Bar 1956 and working to the very end. Committed to the underdog. Pro Bono champion. Circuit legend. Absolute gentleman. We may not see his like again but we will remember him. Rest in peace John.”
John was a colleague for more than 20 years. There were others, far more eloquent than me, who paid tribute to John, his fantastic personal attributes and his professional life and achievements. I would just like to repeat that he was the nicest, most gentle, most kind person you are ever likely to meet.
John as a lawyer
John was called to the Bar in 1956 (and that is not a misprint). He was head of chambers of Woodhouse Square, and then joint-head of Zenith for many decades. During that time, indeed in all the time I knew him, I never heard him complain, or say a bad word about anybody.
John had no plans to retire. He had that essential trait of a great lawyer – curiosity. He never stopped learning. He continued writing for the New Law Journal, and more widely, on a wide range of legal subjects. He was an encyclopedia of legal knowledge.
John’s thirst for work and thirst for knowledge went unabated. He was also, as Richard said, a champion of the underdog. He won numerous awards for his pro bono work.
His chambers’ profile recorded that John was involved in charitable and public work. He was a member of a housing association board for over 40 years. This does not surprise me. He had an intense sense of public duty which was demonstrated in his capacity as head of chambers for all those decades. I would not be surprised if he was not the longest serving head of chambers of all time.
I knew Michael for many years, through his blogging and social media activity. In June this year he became the final “founding member” of The (not so) Lonely Litigator’s Club. Michael wrote:-
“Williamsons’ tenth birthday celebrations were thwarted by the news early last November, following investigations, that I had Stage 4 cancer of the stomach and that surgery was not an option. Palliative chemotherapy followed and I started to prepare for closure by the end of March 2020 if no buyer could be found. Reluctantly, I started to wind down the business and made some redundancies.”
Michael died in October this year.
Michael as a lawyer
His self-penned byline on his blog said it all:-
“I’m a husband, dad, friend, boss, businessman, negotiator, mediator, problem solver, fun lover, adventurer, tea drinker, blogger – and I know some law”
I knew Michael as an able and formidable commentator on many matters relating to the law. I was proud when he became the final “founding member”, the world is a much poorer place without him. As his byline shows he was much more than a lawyer. However he was, rightly, described by Sir Henry Brooke as:
“That admirable solicitor from Crewkerne”
LAWYERS OF THE YEAR 2020
These were two giants of our profession. They gave much and had much more to give. We are all poorer without them.