The Spirit of Andrew Phillips – please don’t rest in peace

Lord Phillips of Sudbury, Andrew Phillips, is dead at the age of 84. This is not an obituary. I did not know him socially at all, nor particularly well as a colleague, and have not been in touch with him much for years, but I felt some desolation to hear the news, and I’d like to explain why.

Andrew had a big heart for the charitable sector. He loved it to bits, in all its bittiness. He was I thought a traditional Liberal, distrustful of political ideology and warmly approving of a multiplicity of diverse, independent citizens taking responsibility for making the world a better place. In this, he reflected his own energy and creativity in founding a number of charities promoting access to the law and responsible, informed citizenship. His vision of the law as an instrument for the public good and progressive values, embedded in Bates Wells, which has always combined high standards of professional excellence with a determination to use the law for good and a passion for the charity sector.

He could be fierce, and displayed a self-assurance that could be daunting, but he was fierce on behalf of the causes in which he believed – his clients, the many other charities and individuals he advised, the interests of charity trustees – and against unnecessary constraints, unfairness, and especially the greed and entitlement of those who he thought used their power and privilege for selfish ends. He was seldom more vehement than when describing lawyers on the make who did not share the ethos of Bates Wells. He was unashamedly moral in his judgements. He was warm, generous and approachable to those who he thought were doing their best for a charity or for the charity sector.

He was also brilliantly talented; Nicholas Hinton (then Director of NCVO) once told me that Andrew Phillips was the cleverest person he had ever met. With a combination of brilliance, legal acumen, moral passion, energetic personality, handsome bearing and generosity, he was an immensely reassuring person to have on your side. And once he had earmarked you as someone trying to advance the goals he believed in, he was on your side and would go out of his way to give encouragement and support.

And that’s why I, like so many others I feel sure, experience desolation at the thought he isn’t with us any more. He was our big-hearted, vehement and brilliant champion.

He passed on some of his vision and determination to his clients and to all those to whom he gave counsel and encouragement, to those influenced by his charities, and to younger stars in Bates Wells like Rosamund MacCarthy, the late Stephen Lloyd and Philip Kirkpatrick, and I’m sure plenty of others I don’t know, who combine his professional excellence and passion and make their own significant mark on the sector, not just on their individual clients. It is customary to wish that those who have died may rest in peace, but for the sake of the charitable sector, the health of the law and the chances of a better world, let’s hope the spirit of Andrew Phillips marches on.


2 thoughts on “The Spirit of Andrew Phillips – please don’t rest in peace

  1. Thank you Andrew. I too remember Andrew Phillips — I only knew him from a distance (the late lamented Stephen Lloyd was our direct contact) but even from a distance his intellect and passion were impressive, and his championship of the charity sector endeared him to us all.


  2. What a wonderful tribute, thank you Andrew. As you say, Andrew Phillips was a passionate advocate for a diverse and independent charity sector, kicking back hard against the stifling effects of excessive bureaucracy and regulation. He hated the concept of ‘efficiency’ as applied to charities, and was an ardent supporter of ‘letting a thousand flowers bloom’. May his spirit indeed march on.


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