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Irwin Mitchell chairman Michael Napier is to retire from the firm after 40 years.
Napier will stand down at the end of the year when the firm will announce a non-executive chairman as his successor.
Napier joined Irwin Mitchell in 1972 and spent 29 years as senior partner of the firm. He is widely credited with shaping modern group action law and introducing the concept of conditional fee arrangements to the legal system.
One partner at a rival firm commented: “Michael wrote the book on CFAs in 1995. Before that he had on a number of high profile cases which came out of some big disasters in the late 1980s and early 90s.”
Napier acted for the families of the 187 people who died in the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster in 1987 and, in 1989, acted for families of the victims of the Marchioness pleasure boat tragedy. He was also the first solicitor-advocate to appear before the European Court of Human Rights in 1981.
According to Russell Jones & Walker chief executive Neil Kinsella, who worked with Napier and Rodger Pannone during their partnership in the late 1980s: “Together with Roger Pannone, Michael helped shape access to justice especially around the area of group and complex litigation.”
At Irwin Mitchell Napier has helped prepare the firm for its conversion to an alternative business structure when the regulations allow. He was a keen advocate of the Legal Services Act and helped shape the legislation as it passed through parliament (25 April 2011).
Irwin Mitchell chief executive John Pickering said: “He has been an outstanding senior partner for Irwin Mitchell, not only showing leadership flair but, above all, care for our clients. I and the partners hold him in high esteem and wish him a very happy retirement.”
An honorary QC and Napier was also President of the Law Society in 2000-01, a founder member and former President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil), a member of the Civil Justice Council and, for the last 10 years, has been the Attorney General’s pro bono envoy.