On 24 April my dear dear friend Jane died wholly unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm. Losing her was, and remains, impossibly hard; worse of course for Mark, Sam, Niamh and Newty. Thank you to Jess, Alexander & Sal, David, Adam, Ben and James for the cordon of friendship. It would be worse without you.
There’s a short obituary for her (which Alexander wrote) in Keating’s summer Legal Update here. I’ve written one for the Society of Construction Law, borrowing quite a bit from Alexander. They’ve published it now so I’ve added it below.
Jane Lemon QC studied human sciences at Jesus College, Oxford from 1988 to 1991. She was called to the Bar in 1993 and, on successful completion of her pupillage, joined Keating Chambers. And after that, we couldn’t have done without her.
Jane was a brilliant barrister. She was able to combine never losing her sense of humour with sharp legal analysis and a meticulous and unflagging attention to detail. She wanted every point fully understood, she wanted the documents for everything, and as a result her submissions and her cross-examination were succinct, on-point and effective. If the case threw up a problem or two – or even if the case consisted solely of problems – or even, to quote Jane, if it was “the 2 week arbitration of TOTAL DOOM” – she dealt with those problems gracefully, realistically and practically.
Directories rightly described her as a “fine advocate” with “a famed intellectual prowess”. Who’s Who Legal wrote: “a real star of the Bar” who combined “tenacity with charm”. A very recent opponent of hers said that “as always, she was a joy to work against – a formidable fair and friendly advocate”.
Her clients loved her, because she was brilliant but also because she always worked collaboratively with them. She always wanted to talk through a problem together, so that the solution was arrived at jointly, as a team.
It remains sadly a fact that female commercial barristers are rare, and a female commercial QC rarer still. Jane was a cheerleader for both women in chambers and outside. A client and organiser of a women in law event at which Jane was due to speak summed it up: “Jane really was an inspiration: you can be formidable and serious in your work but feminine, career and family oriented at the same time, fiercely clever with a great intellect but without arrogance, affectation or ego.”
Jane worked on a series of huge cases throughout her career. She contributed academically to Keating’s key textbooks and many people will remember her excellently clear and helpful seminars. She took silk in 2015, and continued to harness her successful international practice, with particular interest in the Middle East. She would without doubt have gone on to become a leading QC in international arbitration, and we mourn the fact that we won’t be able to celebrate that rise with her.
But it’s not Jane’s brilliance as a barrister that we will miss the most. We will miss her brilliance as a person and as a friend.
Jane was kind and fun and funny. She was charming and charismatic and she was beautiful. She laughed all the time. She was always in people’s rooms in chambers, telling an anecdote or demonstrating a new pair of ridiculously high heels or asking for comments on whether she’d got the analysis of this clause right, or was she going mad. She loved champagne, of course, and made sure Friday night drinking on Essex Street featured Perrier Jouët and not Dalys’ house brand.
She loved all the good things that a successful career at the commercial bar can bring you – she was close to poetic about Emirates First Class – but she never got confused about what was really important. When chambers was refurbished, she lobbied hard to have a pool table installed in the break out area on the second floor (also happened to be her floor). Her room in chambers was full of pictures of Sam, Niamh and Newt, and her husband Mark is a chambers fixture. We all received regular and enthusiastic updates about what her family were up to. She combined her friends outside chambers with her friends inside chambers and her friends who were also clients in a way which means that she’s left a legacy of friendships and love which wouldn’t have existed without her.
She was loved, admired and respected by many people, as was clear from the deluge of tributes chambers received after she died. As Coulson LJ said, “Jane was an extraordinarily warm and empathetic person, with no side or hidden agenda. Sadly, I think she is irreplaceable.”
We know that there are many people who miss her and love her. We in chambers miss her and love her too.