Alan Langleben died on 19 February, within months of discovering that he was suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cancer.
After reading law at Sheffield university, Alan qualified as a solicitor in 1970. He was for many years a partner at Rochman Landau in the West End of London. That firm merged with Ashfords in 2012. A couple of years ago Alan retired from full-time practice but continued as a consultant to Ashfords.
Alan’s focus was litigation, especially property-related litigation. He was a member of the law reform sub-committee of the Property Litigation Association for many years. The head of property litigation at a top-50 firm, on recommending Alan in a conflict situation, said that if he needed a solicitor for himself, he would go to Alan. I felt the same way.
Many of the litigation lawyers are assertive, argumentative and aggressive. A highly regarded management consultant once said that most of the trouble in law firms was caused by litigation partners. In many ways Alan was not a typical litigator; he was invariably courteous, gentle and quietly spoken. Time and again he would achieve good results for clients without being unnecessarily aggressive.
In fact, one of Alan’s skills was to resolve disputes without litigation. Today, mediation is taken for granted in many contentious areas. At one time, most litigators seemed to regard mediation as a threat but Alan always embraced the concept of mediation. He qualified as a mediator and his services were in high demand. He was a founding member of the Property Mediators group. Following a successful mediation by Alan, a solicitor commented that both sides felt that they had won.
Alan and I met at the City of London School when we were about 11. We remained good friends thereafter. After university, we shared a flat for a while together with another friend, Michael Birnbaum (now a well-known criminal law QC). Then Alan met Diane, the love of his life, and they were soon married. Alan is mourned by Diane, their two children and their six grandchildren.
The last time we spoke, Alan was reconciled to the fact that he had only a short time left. He said two things in particular.
The first was a request that when the time came, I should find a way of communicating the news to colleagues within the profession. I do so now by writing these words for the Gazette.
The second was to say that he had had a very happy life. And he wished that it might have lasted a little longer. All those who knew him will share that sentiment, will retain happy memories of a wonderful man, and will reflect on the irony of Alan’s surname which means ‘long life’ when his own life was much too short.
Ronnie Fox is principal at Fox Lawyers