The London Community Gospel Choir were weaving and waving as they beat out the strains of Amazing Grace. Hundreds had gathered in Chelmsford Cathedral to say goodbye to a solicitor who infuriated many and was undoubtedly the bane of the NHS Litigation Authority and medical defence organisations – but a solicitor who was loved enough for so many well-wishers to turn out for him.
Roger Wicks was a leading light in claimant clinical negligence. He was pioneering and aggressive in the causes he fought; winning many and occasionally losing. He and his partner Gillian Gadsby ran a hugely successful clinical negligence practice in Chelmsford.
A decade ago I had the mixed pleasure and terror of working in his office for a year. He was both a delight to know and impossible to live with. He was at the same time funny and fussy.
The office was run with absolute precision. Control was exercised right down to the colour of ink you used (black – or you were excommunicated). Fee-earners had no direct email access and no one was allowed to rearrange their rooms (one solicitor who made the mistake of moving her desk only lasted a week).
All that sounds grim. It was not. Despite the tight control and the long commute (I had a five-hour round trip from Norfolk every day), it was one of the most enjoyable working years of my life.
Roger had been involved in early efforts to level the playing field. In those days, the odds were stacked against victims and it was only gradually that the law shifted to make it possible to have a reasonable hope of obtaining compensation when there had been negligence (a situation now sadly reversing again, with the government putting increasing numbers of obstacles in the way of victims who hope for access to justice).
It was a pleasure to be part of the energy and drive of his firm.
Roger will be sadly missed by all (except perhaps the NHS) and his legacy lives on. To this day I feel nervous if I use a pen that does not write in black ink.
Richard Barr, Law Society Council member for Norfolk, Norwich