Alumni News

Remembering Ian Scott

Ian Scott

Ian came from a Dorset family, as does his widow Mary, and his family can be traced back to Sir Walter Scott, of Rob Roy and Ivanhoe fame. He was educated at Sherborne and the London School of Economics, where he took a law degree. He joined what was then Ashurst Morris Crisp & Co in the mid-1960s from Chancery Lane litigation firm Sharpe Pritchard, following the departure of Max Thum. Max went on to become the leading litigation partner at Ashurst and is credited with persuading Ian to join the firm.

Ian wanted to practise commercial/company law and joined the Company department, becoming a partner in 1972.

D’Arcy Biss (senior partner 1957-1974) had agreed to act for Nigel Broackes (later Sir Nigel) when he founded Trafalgar House, and in due course Ian assumed responsibility for, and dedicated practically all his time to, developing and leading one of the firm’s most important and successful client relationships. Trafalgar House grew from a private property development business to one of the major publicly listed conglomerates of its time, with interests in property, construction, engineering, hotels (the Ritz and the Stafford), steel manufacture, oil exploration and rig construction, newspapers (Express Newspapers and the London Evening Standard) and cruise ships (Cunard).

It is a reflection of Ian’s many personal and professional qualities that he secured at Trafalgar House the complete confidence of three outstanding business leaders of that generation – Sir Nigel Broackes, Lord (Victor) Matthews and Sir Eric Parker – and he acted for Trafalgar House throughout the whole of its independent life (which extended to the mid-1990s), leading Ashurst teams in Trafalgar’s many and varied transactions. Ian’s role was that of a very successful client relationship partner and counsellor who was fully trusted by the client: they knew they could rely on him to deliver the desired outcome with considerable professional skill, patience, perseverance and complete dedication to the interests of the client and the firm.

Trafalgar House was taken over in 1996 after some years of decline and accounting issues leading to major losses, and Ian then transferred his attention and energies to developing, with others, the firm’s infrastructure business and energy sector work. This followed in the wake of Trafalgar's bids, both successful and unsuccessful, for privately financed infrastructure projects in the UK and Europe, including a Channel Tunnel. Ian helped to lay the foundations for the firm to take advantage of the new Private Finance Initiative promoted by the UK Government in the mid-1990s, as a result of which the firm gained new clients such as the Docklands Light Railway, Transport for London, Balfour Beatty and Amey, and broadened its practice to include the rail, healthcare, education, defence and custodial sectors. Following the UK's lead, other countries adopted the PFI model, and public-private partnerships in infrastructure are now prevalent around the world. Ian’s client relationship skills gave the firm both the platform and the head start to create the major global infrastructure practice and significant energy practice that are pillars of the firm today.

Ian’s final contribution to Ashurst was also a significant one. In 1994, the firm had obtained a licence to open a liaison office in New Delhi – in the face of much opposition from Indian law firms and an aggressive regulatory attitude. It was a challenging and sometimes hostile environment for the partner(s) relocated there and Ian assumed the role of the firm's ambassador in India, bringing his wisdom, common sense and calmness under pressure to many difficult situations and supporting his partner(s) by acting as a father figure over many years. He was the ultimate diplomat, held in high esteem by the British High Commissioner to India and regarded with affection by Indian law firms, including those who did not count themselves as friends of Ashurst. He worked tirelessly with the Law Society in the UK on behalf of Ashurst and other firms seeking to expand their presence in India. Those partners who worked with Ian in India are sure that Ashurst could not have achieved what it has achieved there without his close involvement and dedication.

Alongside his distinguished professional career, Ian brought much more to the firm.

In his early days as a partner, he was closely involved in graduate recruitment and training. A perfect ambassador for the culture of the firm, he was always welcoming and made interviews enjoyable. He and Mary would entertain the firm’s articled clerks (as they were then called) to dinner in a variety of restaurants. This grew into an annual tennis evening at his home in southwest London and a nearby tennis club.

Ian was also a very accomplished hockey player – having played for leading UK clubs and even touring South Africa, where he was described as a “defensive rock”. He played centre back for Ashurst against other firms and in the Law Society’s annual hockey tournament. For nearly 20 years, he captained Ashurst in its annual cricket match against a Trafalgar House team led by its Chief Executive.

Ian was genuinely interested in other people – their careers, their families, their interests and their problems – and was always willing to provide support, help and advice whether you were a partner, senior or junior lawyer, or a member of the firm's support staff in any capacity. Ian always put the interests of others – our clients, partners and staff – before his own, and that quality of selflessness was recognised throughout the firm. His dedicating much of his professional life to Trafalgar House, rather than building a more diverse client base, and then his willingness to spend time in India with Mary, at a stage in life when others might reasonably have been looking for an easier time, are clear examples of that.

Ian was never out of sorts and he never lost his temper. An admirable partner and work colleague, he was supportive of others and always keen to pass on his skills and experience. Ian really was the embodiment of Ashurst’s unique culture, combining professional excellence with concern for and appreciation of the individual. Those who were fortunate enough to work with him considered it a privilege, as well as a joy. He was a friend as well as a colleague.

A few of the many stories and tributes

  • Andrew Soundy remembers a call from Willem Calkoen, a senior partner at NautaDutilh – our best friend international law firm in the Netherlands – shortly before we were about to play a hockey match against them. He warned that Nauta had recently hired two Dutch internationals in their tax department – and they would be playing. There was no need for concern: the two internationals got no change out of the "defensive rock".
  • Ed Sparrow says that Anne, the firm's tea lady for many years, who was not shy of expressing her opinion on most subjects and most people, counted Ian as a friend, such that he was the favoured recipient of twice daily tea and biscuits.
  • Richard Gubbins recalls that, after he took over responsibility for India in 2008, whenever he was introduced there as being from Ashurst, the response was always "Oh yes, and how is Ian Scott?"
  • Geoffrey Picton-Turbervill says that Ian was a wonderful friend and mentor during some difficult times in India - but whatever the challenges, Ian's visits were always fun. He remembers evening drinks events at the British High Commission in Delhi, where white-jacketed waiters brought round trays laden with glasses of Scotch, along with water and soda. Ian scorned the water and soda and considered the whisky measures inadequate for a man of his proportions; so each time a waiter appeared, he simply took several glasses and emptied them into his own, finishing up with a tumbler full of neat Scotch – to the waiter’s astonishment (and admiration).
  • Judy Sharrock says that "as well as being one of the rocks upon which Ashurst was built in the 1980s, Ian was a very kind and generous man. He used to host a Summer Garden Party at his own home in Putney for the whole firm, until it got too big to fit in the garden!".
  • James Levy says that "from the perspective of lawyers in the firm, Ian was Trafalgar House. The idea that one corporate partner could do what was needed to be done for an entire conglomerate is absurd from today's perspective, but that's how it was."
  • Mark Elsey says that "Ian’s legacy has been built upon by partners too numerous to mention across our global network, all of whom embrace the mutually supportive team ethos that was the hallmark of Ian's approach to life and the law".

Book of remembrance

The alumni team is creating a book of remembrance for Ian's family. If you would like to include a message or share a story about your time working with Ian, please send your copy to by Thursday 31 August 2023.

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