Speech by The Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane: The Hershman Levy Memorial Lecture 2014

Association of Lawyers for Children

Thursday 26 June 2014

As a young barrister, when I first understood the importance of the decisions being made which might, or might not, lead to a child being removed from her family for ever and placed for adoption, there was but one ‘go to’ expert barrister in the field: it was Allan Levy. Allan was, to my eyes, the role model of all that I aspired to be. He was a consummate expert on child law and adoption, an excellent advocate who was utterly in tune with the emotional and social work perspectives of his cases. Above all, he was the author of the only practitioners’ text book on adoption. As the years went by he achieved national prominence through the Pindown Inquiry, regular appearances in serious radio and television discussions and, of course, as counsel in every single leading case in the field for a decade or more.

David Hershman, about whom I have spoken and written on other occasions, was one of life’s dynamos; he was a game-changer. His contribution to child care law and practice continues to be felt today, not only in the case law that he helped to develop, not only through ‘The Book’ [Children: Law and Practice (Family Law: loose-leaf)], not only through the style of legal lecturing that he and I developed but also, and he would I feel be most proud of this, through the success of the many pupils and younger barristers that he formally or informally influenced over the years.

This is the tenth and final memorial lecture to mark the untimely deaths of Allan Levy QC and David Hershman QC, my dear friend and colleague, during the summer of 2004. Given my admiration for Allan and my very close relationship with David, I am pleased, daunted and honoured in equal measure to be standing here this evening.

The ALC’s generosity in holding this event over the past decade has been greatly appreciated by all of us who were close to Allan and to David. It has meant a lot to us to have a focus once a year around which to gather, to remember them and to listen to a lecture which has sought, each year, to provide greater understanding of the area of law that they both considered to be the most important and to move the game on, as they each, in their time, succeeded in doing. The list of speakers has (at least until this evening) been of the highest order; no less than three Hershman/Levy Lecturers are current members of the Supreme Court; four others were or were about to be President of the Family Division; and the remaining three of us are mere High Court or Court of Appeal judges. Not a bad memorial for two barristers!

The gratitude that we in the profession have to the ALC is echoed and surpassed by Abi Hershman and David’s family; particularly the girls, now each a young woman, Alice, Issy, Martha and Florence. After such a strong and impressive run, Abi and the ALC now feel the time is right to draw this sequence of lectures to a close. I agree. Those many of us who remember Allan and David so well and so fondly, and still, a decade later, feel their loss so keenly, will not forget them or the place that they had in our lives. For me, David was as a brother and I have missed his presence in my life so much throughout the last ten years. Ten years seems such a long time when set out in stark numerical terms. Much has happened in those years, but for me, my time with David still feels as if it were just yesterday.

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