Lawyer and former president of the Law Society of Scotland

Born: June 6, 1946;

Died: October 20, 2015

MICHAEL Scanlan, who has died aged 69, was a prominent lawyer who embodied all that was best about the Scottish legal community. Approachable, knowledgeable and authoritative, he was admired by colleagues, peers and clients alike.

He was elected president of the Law Society of Scotland in its 50th anniversary year of 1999 and although he reached the top of his profession, he always kept his feet on the ground and approached his work with a wry sense of humour.

Never one for pomposity, he was bemused by the trappings of presidential office. At the Law Society’s 50th anniversary dinner he greeted guest of honour, Sandra Day O’Connor, an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court by saying “Hello, I’m Michael. We are pretty informal in Scotland, what should I call you?” “Justice Day O’Connor will be just fine,” came the frosty reply.

He was born in 1946 and grew up in Woodlands in the West End of Glasgow with his mother, two brothers and his sister. Educated at St Aloysius College, he entered the University of Glasgow to study engineering.

One evening, while struggling with a page of equations, his mother suggested to him that, maybe, a career in the law might be more suited to his talents. He was apprenticed to the late Terry Russell, who would go on to become a sheriff, and learned on the job, working full time, studying at Glasgow University and sitting Law Society exams.

He would sit in the Glasgow Sheriff Court, watching lawyers in action, taking notes and learning the art of successfully pleading a case before the bench.

He was admitted as a solicitor in 1971, the same year he married Margaret, herself a solicitor of renown. Margaret was the love of his life and they enjoyed a happy 44 year marriage together.

In 1973, his first, and only child, Michael Jr was born and, by this time, Michael Sr was well on his way to becoming a partner with Russells, latterly Russells Gibson McCaffrey, the firm he would be with all of his career.

It did not take him long to become known as a court practitioner of considerable skill and was already an active member of the Glasgow Bar Association, enjoying the social side of law as much as the business side.

This skill in the courts led him to being appointed a lecturer in evidence and procedure at the University of Strathclyde where his enthusiasm for the finer points of legal procedure helped to inspire many young lawyers.

He was always committed to the future of the profession and was happy to encourage, advise and, as those who knew him would testify to, gently tease young lawyers as they started out on their career.

As one such beneficiary of his support said: “There are countless people who owe the first steps in their careers to him.”

In 1986, he was appointed as a temporary sheriff and he abandoned court work and, instead, turned to private client work where his charm, wit and warmth proved an asset to this most personal branch of law.

He stood down from the bench in 1996 to concentrate on his work with the Law Society of Scotland, where he had first been elected to the Council in 1992 and, in 1999, was elected the society’s president for its 50th anniversary year.

The highlight of this year was being a guest at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. The Parliament opened with a procession from Holyrood to the Mound but, unfortunately, that part of his invitation was lost in the post. So, he spent a lonely two hours in the Parliament gallery, wondering where everyone one was, with only an equally lost and lonely William Hague for company.

He was always happy to promote the legal profession and, in 1999, released hundreds of helium balloons in George Square to celebrate the launch of a new service from the Law Society. This was met by an irate letter from a woman who informed him that helium balloons cause serious environmental damage.

The same woman sent him an even angrier letter a month later after news reached her that a Michael Scanlan had been seen releasing a whole cloud of helium balloons in Aberdeen as a protest against student fees. Michael had to explain that, this time, it had been his son but that no Scanlan would ever do such a thing again.

Although his term of office ended in 2000, his commitment to his profession continued and he served on the Judicial Appointments Board. His down-to-earth approach served him well as he helped appoint the first generation of post-devolution judges in Scotland.

He finally retired in 2013, shortly after being diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually take his life. Although his retirement was short, it was filled with love and laughter, much of it from his grandson Benjamin, who was the light of his life.

His death was met with sadness from all quarters of the Scottish legal community and beyond. Because, more than anything, Michael Scanlan demonstrated that nice guys do, sometimes, finish first.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, his son, Michael, his grandson, Benjamin, his brother, Sean and his sister, Barbara. There will be no helium balloons at his funeral.