Goodbye Sir Henry

There has been an outpouring of affection from the legal and legal blogging community following the recent death of Sir Henry Brooke. Apart from a number of lovely obituaries in the national press (see for example this one in the Guardian), there have been a number of tribute posts from legal bloggers. Because although Sir Henry was not the first of us, he epitomised what many of us wanted to achieve, and shared many of our motivations.

He hadn’t been blogging and tweeting all that long, but Henry Brooke had managed to find a human and accessible way of communicating and of making use of social media that attracted readers to his posts. And he did all that without dumbing down.

In April last year, having been at it for two years, Sir Henry wrote a blog post reflecting on his motivations and the degree of success he had achieved.

One commenter from Hong Kong had written in praise of Sir Henry’s blog that

The writing of legal history/legal anecdotes through the internet will make them more accessible to the public.  Picking up and buying a book written by a judge may be a difficult thing for most people/lawyers, but reading articles online for free is a completely different story.  People may be researching some legal terms or background of certain legal icons by Google and they can read online articles with ease. 

Sir Henry was pleased with that, because his driving force was

to demystify the practice of the law; and

to show that although some things undoubtedly change, at the heart of our legal and judicial system there have always been (and I hope always will be) many, many men and women who have been doing their honest and honourable best to provide a system of justice that meets people’s everyday needs;

and to try to show that although the practice of the law will always be hard work, and although we are in a certain sense facing unprecedented obstacles and difficulties today in the absolutely vital corner of the market that is dependent on public funding, it can and also should be fun.

Sir Henry may not have realised it, but to read this, and to see it played out across blog after blog by a hugely respected former senior judge, is such an encouragement to those of us who are plugging away at our own little corner of legal blogging, chuntering away hoping that somehow we will demystify the practice of law and bring a smile occasionally too. When I first started blogging lawyers looked askance, or would say mockingly ‘Oh, you write that blog don’t you?’. When I first wrote a book for litigants in person it was seen by some colleagues as a sort of treachery. But if engaging with ordinary mortals in ordinary language about law, through blogs and social media is good enough for Sir Henry Brooke, then it’s good enough for me. When Sir Henry Brooke took up blogging, legal blogging came of age.

Of course, even before he took it up himself, Sir Henry had an impact on legal blogging through his support of BAILII, a resource upon which we all depend and draw – and which I hope the legal blogging community add value to.

That first commenter also said this :

most legal biographies/autobiographies in book form may be forgotten and hidden in the bookshelves of a law library.  Your articles will always exist on the internet and accessible to all.  Your articles will be “immortal”. Thank you for this, Sir Henry.

Now that Sir Henry himself is no longer with us we must make sure that his blogs really are immortal, and I hope that in the coming months a plan will emerge to ensure that the site remains accessible for many years to come.



PS I hope nobody will mind me using Sir Henry’s picture from his twitter account. It is such a striking and lovely picture.

4 thoughts on “Goodbye Sir Henry

  1. “PS I hope nobody will mind me using Sir Henry’s picture from his twitter account. It is such a striking and lovely picture.”

    One of Henry’s sons writes: it is, and nobody does.

  2. I’m one of his sons, and in addition to thanking you for that lovely tribute I’d like to reassure you and everyone else reading this that there is not the tiniest possibility that the blog will disappear. His family (most of whom were regular and avid readers themselves) couldn’t be more aware of its immense importance. We’ve got a few more pressing issues to sort out first, but long-term preservation of the blog is most definitely firmly on the agenda.

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