Honorary Life President of the IBA,
I first met George Seward by chance at my very first IBA conference in Zurich in 1979. He was then 68 and I was 28, an assistant solicitor in the litigation department of Allen & Overy. As a young lawyer trying to find my way around what then seemed a very puzzling organisation for the first time, I needed all the help I could get. George explained to me the need to get involved in one of the specialist committees (which he always used to describe as the 'life-blood of the IBA') and how I had to work my way up to becoming a committee officer. It all seemed a daunting prospect at the time, but the fact that this very senior lawyer was prepared to take time to explain to this very junior lawyer how it all worked was both comforting and inspiring.
Throughout all his very long professional life, George Seward provided leadership and inspiration. He was invited to play a role by the President of the ABA soon after the IBA was founded in 1947, but he was only able to sit on the Board as a representative, as only bar associations could then join the IBA as members. He set out to change all that and, in 1968, proposed to the IBA that it should form a section for individual lawyers to join, and thus was born the Section of Business Law (SBL), the forerunner of our Legal Practice Division. It had its first official meeting in 1970 in Tokyo and George was its first Chairman, putting the IBA on a firm financial footing.
After 1974, when he ended his term as Chair of the SBL and when he could easily have bowed out having made a wonderful contribution to the IBA's work, George remained fully active and until he was well over 90 went on assiduously attending every IBA conference and SBL conference such as the 1982 conference in New Delhi when he was elected Honorary Life President. It is significant that the first of the George Seward lectures was delivered by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. Other George Seward lectures were later given by the President of Hungary, Arpad Goncz, and the President of Portugal, Dr Mario Soares.
George had a wealth of experience and good advice to offer to his successors. Shortly after I became Chair of the LPD in 2005, he took me to lunch at the famous Knickerbocker Club in New York – refusing the lift, he shot straight up the stairs to the lunch-room and ordered us a very good bottle of red wine. He then took me through the IBA's early history, much of which I did not really know, and I found it all fascinating. George was also a great source of help and advice when Bill Rowley and Francis Neate prepared their very significant Review Report in 2004 which led to a major, highly beneficial, restructuring of the IBA.
It is extraordinary to think of the enormous changes to the legal profession and the practice of law that George witnessed during his long and richly fulfilling life. He followed it all very closely indeed and remained convinced of the unique role played by the IBA as the global voice of the profession, and its great strength in combining the bar associations of the world and individual practitioners. We shall all miss him as a wonderful travelling companion, an endless source of wisdom and amusing stories, and, most of all, as the true 'Father' of the IBA, a constant reminder of where it all began and a guiding light showing where it should be going.
Michael J Reynolds
Vice President of the IBA
Former Chair of the Legal Practice Division
Partner, Allen & Overy