Institute of Global Law

Trevor Brown
(1937- 2006)

The Chairman of the Institute, Professor Sir Basil Markesinis, QC, FBA, writes: Trevor BrownDuring its six years of existence the Institute’s website has only announced ‘good’ news: the arrival of new colleagues; the honours and rewards given to others; the launching of new research projects in pursuit of the unattainable object of scholarly excellence. Exceptionally, we publish today a sad piece of news; but the premature death of Trevor Brown has deprived us and the legal world at large of an exceptional man.

Trevor had many features which made him not only unique but also admired by many in the legal profession. He was a meticulous, down-to-earth, hard working practitioner, with a talent for finding the solution that worked. As if this were not enough, he brought to his work not only his professional talents but also a sense of loyalty towards all who surrounded him and a sense of integrity and honesty that were truly impressive even in a profession which prides itself on having the kind of virtues one expects of servants of the law. He was also a sensitive soul, devoted to his family; endless stories, recounted to us in an understated but loving manner, testify to that.

But Trevor also had an academic mind and tried, in his work as well as in his writings, to combine the best of the two sides of our profession and care for both. This predilection made Trevor not only a respected but also a thoughtful practitioner; it also led him to support the academic world in its hour of need in numerous ways and in the hope that this would lead to new contacts, new thinking, new ideas. Not all practitioners think like that.
As head of the Paris office of Clifford Chance he thus played a key role in setting up a scheme which the then Senior Partner of this global firm, Keith Clark, and I came up with during my Oxford days. The idea was simple: to strengthen the links between the Universities of Oxford and Paris I and to help create a generation of exceptionally talented and doubly trained young lawyers. If the idea was simple, its execution was anything but. The “Association Sorbonne-Oxford” provided the answer and it was Trevor’s brain child. The structure defeated the kind of obstacles and hesitations which so often induce paralysis in old institutions who find it difficult to adapt to a new world. The Association was thus largely the product of Trevor’s labours. Without him it would not have been set up, nor able to finance, for over five years now, numerous professorial exchanges and conferences, as well as the purchase of English law books to assist the Institute of Comparative Law of Paris I.

Trevor worked hard to get all this going and, as stated, did so while also building up the Paris office of Clifford Chance, not to mention the fact that he found time to play his favourite instrument, the cello, with friends. (Fittingly, the former
senior partner of Herbert Smith Paris sang a solo at his funeral in Paris on January 5th, stressing, perhaps, the most beautiful of Trevor’s talents).

The partners of the Paris office of Clifford Chance, who now run the firm (as well as the Association), will be the first to acknowledge this praise, as will be Yves Wehrli, the current Paris Head, who has brought his own formidable talents to the firm which Trevor helped build up and ran from 1990 to 1999.

Trevor’s help to Oxford was thus unique. In fact, it was more than that: it was remarkable given that he was a loyal Cambridge man, and showed his generosity towards his alma mater not only personally but also by convincing many in his firm to follow suit. This writer has spent more time than most legal academics in the unrewarding task of fund-raising, so he can speak with some knowledge when he says that he has met few who can truly match Trevor’s loyalty to the academic endeavour, wherever it originated, provided it had excellence as its true aim (something not adequately appreciated in an era in which political correctness has almost wiped out ‘merit’ from the list of essential qualities that academics must possess). It says much of the French Government and the French honours system that they noticed the multi-national nature of his interest in education and honoured him with the insignia of the Chevalier de l’Ordre national de Mérite, a prestigious order founded by General de Gaulle to reward ‘distinguished’ services. Style is not something the French lack; and this gesture was synonymous with it.

Our Institute’s website was also the beneficiary of his labours for he selected, translated, and annotated over forty leading French decisions dealing with commercial law matters which were so close to his professional career. With characteristic generosity, he also insisted that he should do this for free even though the generous support of the M.D. Anderson Foundation of Houston has enabled us to bring this project to great prominence in a very short period of time under the inspired leadership of M. Guy Canivet, First President of the Cour de cassation. Indeed, Trevor worked on this project until the onset of the illness that brought his life to a premature end forced him to give up.

Praising a colleague who has passed away and who also happened to be a close personal friend can easily slide into the realm of hyperbole or acquire the unattractive overtones of sentimentality. Yet one is avoiding both when asserting that Trevor truly bridged the Channel and also the divide of the contemplative and practising aspects of the legal profession. Through his work and his encouragement of others, he showed us all how much we benefit by working with each other and how one can achieve worthy objects without losing one’s humanity or humility. No wonder so many already miss him dearly. We at the Institute of Global Law most certainly do, and wish to convey to Trevor’s family our heartfelt condolences and sincere sense of gratitude for what he did for us and others during his fruitful life.

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