Celebrating 45 years of legal excellence and deep community commitment
After working in Newcastle’s legal sector for 45 years, Barry Speker OBE DL has become one of the best-known lawyers – and probably one of the best-known people – in the city.
After qualifying as a solicitor in June 1971, Barry has gone on to achieve widespread national acclaim in his legal career, while also being a leading community figure in Newcastle and the wider North East.
Receiving an OBE in 2008 for his Services to Business and Community in Newcastle, Barry continues to be one of the most active – and not to mention dapperly dressed – members of the city’s business sector, with no plans to slow down even at the grand old age of 69.
Much has changed in the legal sector since Barry began his articles (or training contract as it is now known) in 1969, being paid £5 per week.
Barry remembers: “It was a very different world from what we have now. There were no computers and instead we used manual typewriters. And of course or were there any mobile phones, internet, emails, scanners or fax machines, everything had to be sent by post. There was no means of getting the instant responses and transfers of documents we expect today.
“Forty five years is a long time to be in an ever-changing profession and it is certainly a very different sector for young solicitors starting out these days.”
As a lawyer, Barry spent 25 years as Senior Partner of Samuel Phillips Law Firm in Newcastle, having joined the firm upon qualification and becoming a Partner two years later. After 42-and-a-half years with the same firm, Barry took the decision not to retire, but to move to Sintons as a Consultant in its highly-esteemed Healthcare team in January 2014.
Achievements in his legal career are too many to mention and even the summary of highlights is rather lengthy. He has amassed a loyal and wide portfolio of clients throughout his career, many of whom are something of a ‘Who’s Who’ of high-profile North East individuals and businesses.
Over the years, Barry has become a national leader in medical ethics and medico-legal work, frequently lecturing and writing for Medical Journals and textbooks on the topic. He achieved international publicity recently over a case involving a patient’s right to privacy even on death.
He was a founder member of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Panel and Children Panel (for which he is still an assessor) and is also a past President of the Newcastle Law Society. Barry sat as a District Judge for ten years, and became an Employment Judge in 1991, which sees him preside over Employment Tribunals in Newcastle, Middlesbrough and London.
Barry has also been the highly-esteemed Trust Solicitor to the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since its inception, and continues to hold the position to this day, dealing with many complex legal issues for the Trust.
But despite his many legal commitments, Barry is deeply committed to his community work.
He has been a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Tyne and Wear since 2002, which sees him carrying out regular ceremonial duties across the area.
Furthermore, Barry sits on the boards of a host of charities and community organisations, including Age UK, NE1, Tyne Theatre, North of England Civic Trust, The Children’s Foundation and NECA (North East Council on Addictions) of which he is president. As a director of the Grainger Town Project, he helped to secure public and private funding worth more than £240m to help sustain the historic centre of Newcastle.
Barry has a well-documented longstanding relationship with the Chinese community in the North East and has become a trusted advisor to them. He was heavily involved in the Imperial Arch project on Stowell Street, which was erected in 2004, playing a central role in spearheading and raising the funding to enable it to become a reality.
Somehow, he still finds time to write monthly articles for two magazines and play the occasional game of golf at Northumberland Golf Club, as well as to make regular trips to London to see his children and four treasured grand-daughters.
Last month, he was named an Honorary Chairman of the North East Chinese Association, in tribute to his many years of support and dedication.
“I have always been very passionate about my work in the wider community. As busy as my legal work does keep me, l always make time for community involvement. It is something I have done for many years, and I believe everyone should make time for it,” he said.
“It is a great privilege to be recognised for my work and it was a very great honour to receive the OBE in 2008, as well as to serve as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant. I was delighted to be made Honorary Chairman of the North East Chinese Association, a community with whom I have been associated for so long.”
But for Barry, it’s very much a case of 45 years and counting, as he shows no signs of slowing down or retiring. Roll on 50?