You will recall my very sad message a couple of weeks ago following the death of our dear friend and IBC member Nigel Jones.
As promised, please find below a very moving tribute to Nigel from his former colleagues Joe Ferrigno and Sam Biggerstaff.
Nigel’s funeral took place Friday 11th December at 10.00am.
Should anyone wish to make a donation in Nigel’s memory to his chosen charity, Lymphoma Action, you can do so using the following link.
Nigel Jones was not your average clerk.
He was born in Tavistock, Devon, in 1966 to publicans and hoteliers Ken and Barbara and, along with his sister Beverley, subsequently moved to the Lake District where his parents ran The Kendal Bowman. This was followed by a move back to the South West at 11 years of age to Poole where his parents simultaneously ran The Portsmouth Hoy and The Helmsman, above which the family lived. Hard work obviously runs in the family.
Nigel was privately educated at Canford, a leading public boarding school in Wimborne, Dorset (Nigel was a day boy) and he carried that authoritative air installed in him from a young age throughout his career. He was admired for his professionalism, kindness and wit.
We thought it was very apt when writing this memorium, “in memory”, as Nigel was partial to the odd Latin quote in the clerks room leaving most of us scratching our heads in the days before Google.
Nigel was a clever bloke who had an informed opinion on most things …. apart from football. Despite being born in what remains to be the most iconic year in English football, he simply had no interest in the sport. His junior clerks had a 30 minute window on a Monday morning to “get your football banter out of the way!”
Nigel used his intelligence to become one of the nation’s leading Barristers’ Clerks and 1 Harcourt Buildings, Essex Court Chambers and Pump Court Tax Chambers were incredibly lucky to have him.
He not only raised the level of education in the clerks’ room, he also raised the sartorial levels as he was always impeccable dressed!
Nigel was recognized in the Legal 500 as ‘amenable, constructive and courteous’ and manages ‘a very slick’ team ‘with effortless ease and is exceptionally good at helping clients to choose counsel’.
Chambers & Partners noted that Nigel earns praise for his commerciality and his ability to “make really intelligent suggestions about who to instruct”.
In 1984, as a young 18-year-old, Nigel started work as the Junior Clerk at 1 Harcourt Buildings under senior clerk John Collins. With his family still living in Dorset, Nigel had to find digs in London and rented a room in Wembley. A young man alone in the big city, of which he liked to remind us “mummy’s boys” who were still living with our parents into our mid 20’s and beyond.
In his first Christmas at 1 Harcourt Buildings he pulled the short straw and had to man the fort on New Year’s Eve. As he was to be back in chambers on 2nd January he did not have time to travel to Dorset to celebrate with family and friends so he saw in 1985 sitting alone on his bed in Wembley with two bottles of Liebfraumilch. He told that story a lot. No surprise then that when he was asked to write an article about his time as a clerk for a legal magazine, he answered the question “What is the best part of the job?” with “drinking expensive wine at someone else’s cost”.
Nigel had a lot of stories and was so expressive and comical in the way he told them; severing his thumb with a newly QVC purchased mandolin slicer; using bubble wrap as a makeshift duvet on yet another night sleeping in chambers and having one too many at Ascot and sitting on his antique, silk, and custom fitted top hat, to name but a few.
Every story true and told with the comic timing of a professional.
Nigel was an outstanding clerk. After 10 years learning his trade at Harcourt Buildings, he spent the next 8 years at Essex Court Chambers under the stewardship of David Grief and Joe Ferrigno. Having moved from a Common Law set he had to connect with a whole host of new contacts in the Commercial world including clerks, listing officers, solicitors, barristers and clients. This he did effortlessly with a natural charm and flair. Nigel could mix with anyone, from esteemed Lord Justices, to 16-year-old junior clerks, from senior partners at magic circle firms, to Lil who used to bring tea and cakes to the clerk’s room every afternoon. Everyone liked him and enjoyed being in his company.
In 2002 he was appointed as Senior Clerk at Pump Court Tax Chambers and became an instant hit with Members of Chambers, clients and staff alike and together with them, Nigel led Pump Court to become the leading Tax set in the country – “Nigel brought with him his vision of how a modern set of Chambers should be run, together with the skill and enthusiasm to put this into practice”.
He was never afraid to speak his mind, particularly in the clerks’ room, to perhaps an underperforming Junior Clerk or a new tenant who may have been getting ideas above their station a little too early. But it was carried out with authority, sometimes humour but most importantly, in a constructive manner. Nigel was someone to whom one listened, someone to learn from.
Nigel was a stickler for grammar and pronunciation which was something he instilled in his Junior Clerks. They didn’t have a swear box in the clerks’ room, they had a “T” box. That is to say that whenever one of his team neglected to pronounce the “T” in a word they had to put a pound in the box. A typical Nigel incentive, fun but with a purpose.
He was trusted by his members and staff and was exactly what a clerk should be – an advisor, a negotiator and a friend. He was always one of the first people we could turn to with all manner of problems both professional and personal and he was always ready with thoughtful and sound advice.
Just before lockdown Nigel and a contingent of members travelled to a Tax Disputes conference in Kenya. Nigel was tasked with giving a speech to over 200 people including tax directors from Shell, BP, IBM and all the large banks as well as every single judge from the Tax Court which they closed for the day so they could all attend. Unsurprisingly he went down a storm with an informative and of course, humorous (in a couple of places) speech. It takes skill to get a funny line from a Tax talk, but if anyone could it was Nigel. Nigel was hugely proud of being asked to give his speech and understandably he was more than a little nervous but was very pleased how it was received and particularly enjoyed the restorative Tusker beer as soon as the applause died down.
During lockdown Nigel was quick to the mark, ensuring Chambers would adapt to the ever-changing demands of the “new normal”. The clerks would attend daily zoom meetings where he would not only discuss business but would also provide them with daily updates on the progress of his model making Spitfire kit (something which became a bit of a lockdown hobby for him). On Fridays, it was beer time! A lockdown was not going to stop this tradition which he put in place. The zoom invitation would be sent round, with the only instruction “you must have a drink in hand to attend”. He was always first in attendance.
As a Senior Clerk he led by example and would often volunteer to go into Chambers when he could have worked from home, although it was suspected that a large part of this decision was made from the fact that he got to ride in on his new retro Lambretta scooter.
Nigel was hugely respected and regarded as a role model in the clerking and wider legal community. He will be sorely missed by all who met him over the years. We have lost a dear friend who we were all the richer for knowing and we are sure that we speak for many others in mourning the loss of a leading light and thoroughly decent man – a gentleman who put more into the world than he took out. The Bar has indeed lost a leading clerk and character.
Nigel is survived by his wife Penny, their 21-year-old daughter Esme, their 17-year-old son Theo, his mother Barbara and sister Beverley. He was a proud family man who often spoke glowingly of his children’s accomplishments and we offer our sincere condolences to his family.
Joe Ferrigno and Sam Biggerstaff
(with thanks to Bruno Antoniotti for his help)