Forty Years On

By Richard Roberts, Law and Politics ’76-’79

At times, I do think my life has resembled an Alan Bennett play: the interweaving of a rewarding legal career with the ‘dead dying and demented’, coupled with living at a time of increasing acceptable of the LGBT community, of which I have been increasingly ‘out and proud’ since my time in College from 1976-1979.

My 2:1 in Law and Politics gave me good foundations in both law and decision-making, with a smattering of diplomacy thrown in. Little could I have foreseen quite where life would take me, when I returned to the Lake District, and joined a small firm of solicitors based in Grange over Sands.

If in doubt, I resorted to humour

Forty years on, my firm now has an additional office in central London, and has an established reputation in the field of estate planning, trusts and disputed inheritances. For nine years, I sat on The Law Society Wills and Equity Committee, and was its Chair for three years. That exercised all my diplomacy skills, as keeping a dozen experts in the field of wills trusts and charity law was not always easy. And if in doubt, I resorted to humour – laughter can break even the knottiest argument. At times the Committee resembled the ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’ radio show.

My firm was fortunate to win a major international law award – the STEP Award for Outstanding Written Communication – a sort of legal ‘Oscar’ that launched me to lecture regularly on a variety of legal topics, and contribute to both the legal and consumer media.

I have witnessed families ripping themselves apart

Working in Law has also has an emotional side; I have witnessed families ripping themselves apart contesting wills, and equally seen acts of kindness and generosity that have moved us all to tears. I have dealt with death on almost a daily basis and hope I can support those brought down by grief and loss.

Philanthropy in all its forms fascinates me, and I am now privileged to be a Trustee of the Cumbria Community Foundation who distribute over £4M annually in life changing grants to the disadvantaged of Cumbria. I also help a number of charities in raising their legacy-giving profiles.

I have been fortunate enough to travel most of the world from Antarctica to Uzbekistan

Outside the Law, I have been fortunate enough to travel most of the world from Antarctica to Uzbekistan, and with my first partner Christopher creating a nationally famous garden at Charney Well, overlooking Morecambe Bay.

Now that I am back to living in Durham, I spend time passing on the legal skills I gained over my career with the creation of a new Blog. I have also been engaged with more lecturing, especially on issues such as the rights of residents in care or subject to prolonged care at home, and their ability to have a normal life (including acts of intimacy), with a focus especially on LGBT residents. Lastly, I am also embarking on some self-publishing: an anthropology of poetry written at a time of profound personal despair, and two books relating to my upbringing – the effect of the BBC on the town of Penrith, and the story of my mother’s family, the Richardsons.

My most memorable moments are: being interviewed by Eddie Mair (at very short notice) live on Radio 4’s PM programme; driving one of the world’s worst 4×4 roads along the East Coast of Madagascar, and every time I see Durham Cathedral in the moonlight.

And the best decision ever: becoming an undergraduate at St John’s.

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