In Memoriam: Fernando Pombo - A lawyer of the world
'En el abogado la rectitud de la conciencia es mil veces más importante que el tesoro de los conocimientos.’
(‘In the lawyer, righteousness of conscience is a thousand times more important than the treasure of knowledge.’)
Angel Ossorio, El alma de la toga.
In the course of their lives, many lawyers question themselves about the significance of their profession and what good it contributes to society. Fernando Pombo never questioned the importance of our profession because he believed so passionately in the principle of justice and maintained a lasting belief that law has the power to summon righteousness away from wrongdoing. He lived his life this way and in doing so Fernando contributed enormously to the good of the international community and to the legal profession. Fernando was gifted with a strong educational background, intelligence, clarity of expression and professional ability. But he also possessed an impeccable moral character, constant diligence, patience, enduring energy and an immense generosity. He was honest in thoughts, words and deeds. Methodical thinking and clear speaking became his trademarks.
But this great lawyer has left us at only 68 years old – much too early – and we are now feeling this immense loss.
Fernando studied philosophy and law at the Universities of Oviedo and Complutense of Madrid (1965) and completed his legal doctorate in Geneva and Munich, Max Planck Institute (1970–1971). He completed his legal education at the University of Dundee (1978) and at the European Institute, Amsterdam (1979).
Jointly with Ignacio Gómez Acebo, who has also left us recently, Fernando founded the law firm Gómez Acebo & Pombo in the early 1970s, which soon became prosperous and world-renowned, particularly in the area of international business transactions.
Fernando belonged to a number of professional bodies and associations including the Bar Associations of Madrid, Bilbao, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona and Malaga. He was a member of the Spanish Court of Arbitration, ABA, LES, AIPPI, AEPPC, IPBA and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He was a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the American Law Institute (ALI), Honorary Associate of the Mexican Bar and a visiting Professor at the Institute of International Legal Studies, Salzburg.
He received an endless number of awards including the Grand Cross of Merit for Service to the Bar (the highest honour of the profession, issued by the General Council of Spanish Lawyers) (2005), the Medal of Honor of the Bar Associations of Barcelona (2009) and Malaga (2009), and the Prize awarded by the Club Aptissimi Law ESADE Alumni (2011).
But Fernando’s most important professional achievement was undoubtedly his involvement with the IBA. Fernando gave a significant amount of time, energy and devotion to the IBA over many years where he served on the Management Board ( 2001–2008) and the Council (1996–2011), as well as serving as Chair of the Section on Legal Practice (1998–2000), Treasurer (2001–2002), Secretary-General (2003–2004),Vice-President (2005–2006) and finally President (biennium 2007–2008). During his IBA Presidency, Fernando focused his efforts on promoting the rule of law, and he created the Presidential Taskforce on the Rule of Law. He was also firmly behind the creation of the IBA’s distance learning and LLM programmes. A strong human rights campaigner, Fernando was an ardent supporter of the IBAHRI. He was unfailingly considerate to the staff and fulfilled his IBA roles with style and evident relish.
Fernando was also the consummate diplomat, with a remarkable ability to bring people together. He was compulsively friendly and generous, particularly as a host on social occasions. He was an indefatigable traveller, an increasingly important part of the President’s job as the Association expanded in every manner and direction. Whether in Beijing, Dubai, Johannesburg, Mexico City, The Hague, New York, or Moscow, he was known by everyone. We often joked with him that he was the IBA’s ‘Legal Rock Star’.
Samuel Butler, the iconoclastic Victorian author, once said that ‘to die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead’. We will not forget Fernando and he will live with us for a long time. His love for his family was enduring too and so was his passion for music and the sea. We are sure that God has prepared for Fernando a perpetual symphony in the most wonderful and peaceful waters.
Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director
Akira Kawamura, IBA President
Emilio Cardenas, Past IBA President
Francis Neate, Past IBA President
Fernando Pelaez-Pier, Past IBA President
Ramon Mullerat, former Co-Chair of the IBAHRI
Paul Hoddinott, former IBA Executive Director