Barrister known as “the Bruiser”

Born: January 27, 1943;

Died: April 11, 2019

GORDON Pollock, who has died aged 76, was not your average barrister. Born in England but proud of his Scottish Borders heritage and his schooling at Glenalmond College near Perth, at his peak he earned over £2 million a year. He once earned a reported £316,000 for a single case. “Well, there was a lot of preparation involved,” he said in self-justification. He also cut a dash, in his working suit-and-tie, on a top-of-the range, bright red, high-powered BMW motorcycle.

In court, he was known to give opposing counsel and witnesses what became known as “a right good pollocking.” Among his most famous cases was the long-running trademark dispute between the Beatles, who had called their record label Apple Corps, and the tech company which happened to stumble upon the same name, calling itself Apple Computers. Gordon Pollock defended the Beatles and won an out-of-court settlement. The private settlement was never revealed but Mr Pollock reckoned that Sir Paul and Ringo, the surviving Beatles, made more from it than from much of their music output.

Under the settlement, Apple Computers promised not to get involved in music and Sir Paul promised not to get involved in the computer industry although burgeoning online music outlets have led some to question Apple Computers’ adherence to the settlement.

Celebrities, rock stars, film stars and others rushed to get “Bruiser Pollock” on their case. He was involved in Elton John’s multimillion-pound battle with his management company, and in George Michael's case against Sony. To fellow lawyers, however, he was best-known for setting a record for the length of a courtroom opening speech.

It happened in 2004 when Mr Pollock was representing the liquidators of the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) against the Bank of England. The barrister spent a record 79 days on his feet while making his introductory statement. It was the longest opening courtroom speech in English legal history.

BCCI had collapsed in 1991 owing more than £10 billion to depositors and creditors. Mr Pollock argued in court that the Bank of England had been deliberately negligent in letting the BCCI collapse. During the case, there was much friction between Mr Pollock and the judge, Mr Justice Tomlinson. It is said that their respective staff had to arrange their visits to the famous Garrick Club in central London so that they would not cross paths.

Mr Pollock also won another famous case after the collapse of the International Tin Council, the organisation which acted on behalf of major tin producers and consumers to control the international tin market. Sir Richard Jacobs, now a High Court judge, recalled how Mr Pollock essentially won the case by using only three words, paraphrased from the French philosopher Descartes’ famous “Cogito ergo sum.” (I think, therefore I am.). Mr Pollock told the court: 'Debeo, ergo sum': (I owe, therefore I am).

A straight talker and very un-PC, Mr Pollock took much flak when he “joked” that two female solicitors who happened to be on maternity leave at the same time must have been "sex-crazed.” It didn’t go down too well at the time. These days, it might have ended his career.

Alan Gordon Seton Pollock, always known as Gordon to distinguish himself from his father, was born in London on January 27, 1943, the eldest of three children of Alan Pollock, a tobacco industry executive, and his wife, Kathleen (née Sinclair), both of whose families were from the Scottish Borders.

His father took the family to South Africa and later Canada where Gordon studied at Upper Canada College in Toronto, playing cricket for the Canadian under-21 team. He read law at Trinity College, Cambridge, taught law at the University of Chicago and did postgraduate studies in Paris.

He was called to the Bar in 1969 and “took silk” as a Queen’s Counsel soon after. In his chambers, he met a law student, Karen Philippson, and they were married in 1975. It is said by his friends, although the story may be apocryphal, that he was such a workaholic that he almost forgot about his wedding, rushing out of court at the last minute. Perhaps his crowning glory as a lawyer was moving his offices to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the largest public square in London and adjacent to the historic Lincoln’s Inn, housing one of the world's most prestigious professional bodies of judges and lawyers.

Despite his fame, Mr Pollock refused to provide an entry in Who’s Who. "I don't like the thought of people being able to look me up," he once told The Times which described him as “a Falstaffian figure with a large frame and a big chest .. piercing blue eyes and fair brown hair, and for a time he sported a beard that he enjoyed stroking with a friendly chuckle.”

A longtime friend, Lord Sumption, said of him: “Gordon has wonderful chutzpah. He is an incredibly eloquent and extremely effective street-fighter with a tremendous talent for making impossible cases sound plausible.” Another friend, Lord Grabiner QC added: “Gordon is big, noisy, clever and very aggressive. He will go as hard as he possibly can within the confines of what’s acceptable. Meanwhile, he pretends to be asleep while you are making your submissions, calculated to make the judge think what you are saying is irrelevant.”

Gordon Pollock retired to Oundle, in Northamptonshire near Peterborough, where he liked to play golf, watch scandi noir or speed around the country roads on his big red BMW bike. He also enjoyed a holiday home in south-west France. He died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and is survived by his wife Karen, children Rufus and Cressida, and sisters Alexandra and Griselda.