Dinner in Honour of Alan Brakefield

January 1, 2003

Nobody has more richly deserved recognition on retirement than Alan Brakefield, who has been both central to the success of SCL, endlessly helpful and a genuinely creative influence throughout its many phases of development. It was therefore fitting that a special dinner was held in his honour at the House of Lords where Lord Saville welcomed the guests and Sir Brian Neill proposed a toast to Alan. Two past Presidents, five past Chairmen, three past Honorary Secretaries and all of the current Trustees were present to honour Alan. These included Sir Brian Neill and Richard Morgan who, along with Alan, were on the first board of directors of the Society for Computers and Law.

Lord Saville remarked on how, when becoming President, he was impressed by Alan’s input into SCL meetings and felt the Society was lucky to have such a dedicated champion as its Honorary Treasurer.

Sir Brian, in a characteristically good humoured speech, praised Alan’s commitment and unsung contribution to all manner of initiatives which had resulted in real public benefit through improvements in access to justice and the administration of the law. The Society was also enormously in Alan’s debt by virtue of the benefits which it had gained through his financial prudence.

Alan was a founder member of the Society and was appointed a director on 11 September 1973 – the day the Society was incorporated and was the Society’s first Honorary Treasurer. He remained as a Director until 20 March 2002. He was always prepared to deal with the difficult situations which from time to time arise in any organisation, exploiting his calm and reasoned manner, and his charm, to defuse them. He has always made himself available at the end of the telephone for the administrators of the Society; Diana Hastings, Ruth Baker and Caroline Gould (and, indeed, the Editor of this magazine) have always been most grateful for his support.

Sir Brian made a bizarre presentation to Alan of a photograph of a wheelbarrow – the actual wheelbarrow is the gift of the SCL, recognising his latest passion – his allotment, and has since been delivered to him.

In his speech of thanks, Alan remarked on the initial meeting in 1967 which he attended with others who were convinced of the importance of promoting the use of computers for lawyers. They failed to convince the Law Society that this was a matter of real importance but were not deterred – and established the SCL.

[For those interested in the early thinking about the application of computers to the law, an extract from an article written by Alan Brakefield in 1971 is available on the SCL Web site – see Web articles.]