Born: August 28, 1960;

Died: September 19, 2021.

JAMES Alexander Walker (Jim or Jimmy to family and friends), who has died aged 61, was a Scottish man of business who became one of the most prominent commercial lawyers in East Asia.

After qualifying as an English solicitor he moved in 1994 to Clifford Chance’s Hong Kong office, where he qualified in Hong Kong law. He made his name there, alongside a relatively small group of other partners, including Jim Baird and Roger Denny, who became close friends. He became a partner in Clifford Chance Hong Kong and head of a funds and asset management practice stretching across Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai.

After the Asian financial crisis in 1997-8 and Hong Kong’s re-absorption into China, he played a leading role in the development and drafting of Chinese securities investment funds law, having previously advised on the establishment and listing of the Tracker Fund of Hong Kong.

In the 2000s he was active in advising leading US and global hedge fund managers on their establishment in Asia, including all regulatory and licensing requirements.

He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA) Hong Kong; Co-Chairman of the AIMA Hong Kong Regulatory Sub-Committee; and a member of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association Regulatory Sub-Committee.

One online tribute to him, from Asia, reads: “James Walker was the iconoclastic grandmaster of the funds legal industry. Our industry has lost an incredible life and a towering leader. He had the vision way back to see that asset management and hedge fund advisory work could (and should) be a legal speciality in Asia.

“He groomed generations of young lawyers to devote themselves to this area of practice and was a mentor to so many more. As a lawyer, he had a razor-sharp mind and always delivered his advice and insights with marvellous warmth and great humour”.

Born in Glasgow in August 1960, the eldest of four children of Dr Sandy and Olive Walker, James Walker attended Rannoch School in Perthshire, then the University of Glasgow, where he graduated in history and politics in 1982 before reading law at Edinburgh.

At Glasgow he was an active Union debater, President of the Dialectic Society, and debates leader of Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association, enjoying a successful competitive partnership with Clark McGinn, the global Burns Supper speaker.

At Edinburgh, his mentor was the Regius Professor of Public Law, Sir Neil MacCormick, later an SNP MEP and principal author of the European Constitution. Jimmy was a passionate internationalist and was to remain a dedicated supporter of the SNP all his life.

His life was that of a global Scot, and dissatisfaction with the state of his homeland was as evident in his character as his ambition and desire for new experiences. Like other global Scots before him, he got on with everyone he met, whatever their background. He was charming, shrewd and blind to status, with the ability to entrance other people and make them feel valued while getting them to do what they did not yet know was in their best interest.

Short walks with Jimmy would turn out to be long ones; visits to Indian restaurants ran the risk of his changing the pictures round on the walls if he was bored waiting for the food, but his mischief and high spirits were always accompanied by an outgoing friendliness that made him popular.

Active and engaged, he was often looking for something to do or someone to talk to: he listened well and thoughtfully and advised carefully. In his solitary moments, he reflected deeply.

Following a traineeship at Murray Beith & Murray, he went to London to join Clifford Chance as a commercial lawyer in 1987, where he advised on the new regulatory regime under the Financial Services Act 1986.

Later, he had a major role advising the UK government on the marketing implications of the privatisation of the 10 English and Welsh water companies, and he spent several weeks in Edinburgh advising on the privatisation of Scottish Power. The move to Hong Kong followed.

After his retirement – unlike almost everyone who plans to retire at 50, Jimmy both planned it as a young man and carried out the plan on time – he continued to serve as a non-executive director, consultant and adviser on many Asian hedge and investment funds, while enjoying his house in Phuket, and his boat.

His love of sailing had been nurtured in Scotland, starting at school, his skills honed on the unpredictable waters of the west coast. His business interests, like his personal ones, extended across the globe, from Thailand to France, where he had a share in a restaurant.

Jimmy was very close to his family. He frequently returned to Scotland to see them, and took them (especially his parents, once they had retired) round Asia. After he was diagnosed with cancer on a visit home in 2018, he spent more time in Scotland and grew closer to his nieces and nephews, and at the last to his great-niece Bella, who was born in September 2020.

James, who died in the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, is survived by his parents Sandy (whom Hamilton Academical celebrated as their oldest supporter in 2020) and Olive, brothers Alastair and Bruce, and sister Alison Walker, who has enjoyed a long career in Scottish sports broadcasting, notably with the BBC.