A Tradition Of Innovation
Gower Modern Law is named for Kate’s grandfather, Laurence Cecil Bartlett Gower (known to everyone as “Jim”). L.C.B. Gower wrote “Gower’s Principles of Modern Company Law” in 1954. He was the founding member of the “Modern Law Review” in 1937. He was an educator, a company lawyer and a law reformer who instinctively improved institutions. Kate will tell you she wants to be like him.
“On the occasion of the award of one of Laurence Gower’s many honorary degrees, the Orator at the ceremony remarked that he foresaw Gower becoming to Company Law what Gray is to Anatomy.” –
Jim innovated right from the start. His father decided he should article and train as a solicitor. Jim found he could take a law degree first, and then do the necessary articles. It was not the usual path. It meant he had a first class law degree before he was twenty and his articles were reduced from five to three years.
As he started working in law, he also held a full-time teaching post at University College of London, where he joined the team that started the Modern Law Review. Two years later, in 1939, he married Margaret (Peggy) Birch. Their first son, James, was born in 1940, with Richard and Jenny following in the next five years.
He became a solicitor and then a partner at Smiles & Co, a firm in London, England, and in 1944 became the Sir Ernest Cassell Professor of Commercial Law at London School of Economics. He was Cassel Chair when he wrote the first edition of “The Principles of Modern Company Law” in 1954, a text that the Modern Law Review once described as “absolutely crammed with original arguments and suggestions for doing things better which neither the Bench nor the Bar could afford to ignore.”
He acted on his convictions. He believed that countries which were just gaining independence from the United Kingdom, must set up and staff their own legal training systems. After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, he worked as Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Lagos from 1962-65.
Returning home, he was one of the initial Law Commissioners for England and Wales. Then, in 1971, he became the Vice-Chancellor of Southampton University, which is where Kate first remembers him.
After retiring in 1979, he was appointed as the sole investigator to review investor protection in the UK and his Gower Report of 1984,1985 led to the Financial Services Act 1986.
But these achievements pale somehow, compared to what he was to his family, and his friends and acquaintances. He was great fun, with a delightfully dry sense of humour. He and Peggy were great friends to many and to art and theatre, and they were terrific at charades and treasure hunts.
Jim really was, as the Modern Law Review so kindly wrote in their appreciation of him, “a man of great intellectual acuity, imagination, courage and optimism, whose interest and sympathy were constantly engaged for others, rather than for himself.”