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The lawyer doing justice to the piano

07 April, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Euston-based lawyer – and pianist – Patrick Allen

PATRICK Allen’s life as a lawyer is matched by a long list of miscarriages of justice that he has fought so illustriously against in his 40 years as a solicitor.

But you would never think he is the same quiet man often to be found sitting at a grand piano in his Euston offices playing classical music.

When I called to congratulate him on Tuesday for his award of a lifetime achievement by the world’s oldest legal publication, Solicitors Journal, I found he had just finished his weekly lesson which he takes, along with 10 of his staff, in the office.

His firm – Hodge Jones and Allen – is surely the only solicitors in Britain which can boast a grand piano on the ground floor of its atrium-style foyer.

He took to the piano in his 50s and, now 67, he says – proudly – that he is studying for a diploma, having passed the top 8th grade. He had just popped down from his office to play Bach, Beethoven and Scott Joplin in preparation for the diploma.

Mr Allen is one of those men who found himself, as it were, after leaving Oxford with a science and engineering degree. By that I mean he realised that what he wanted in life wasn’t engineering but to directly help people in trouble. And he saw himself fighting all the good causes.

He turned when he saw a friend arrested for demonstrating against the visit of the South Vietnam ambassador during the Vietnam War – his friend was acquitted. He knew there would be other people needing help – and he wanted to give it to them.

As a man who saw himself as a liberal, progressive person his choice seemed to fit.

Having helped to found Hodge Jones and Allen in 1977, Mr Allen has been involved in legendary cases that have made the headlines. Along with colleagues he acted for several woman – who lived in north London – who had been treated virtually as slave labour, working in the so-called Magdalene laundries in Ireland. Single, pregnant women, they had gone to convents where their babies were removed for adoption and then forced to work unpaid in laundries. Mr Allen helped to get sizeable compensation from the Irish government.

He also appeared for the families of 13 black children who died in a fire in New Cross in 1981 appealing against the findings of an inquest and eventually persuading the High Court to hold another which returned an open verdict.

At the time, the tragedy fired a civil rights campaign and an unprecedented march through Fleet Street and the Strand of 21,000 mainly black protestors, led by Darcus Howe and John La Rose.

Then he followed up the exposure by the campaigning journalist Paul Foot of the “Bridgewater Four” – four men, unjustly jailed for 20 years for a crime they had never committed. After the appeal in 1999 they were released, though one had died in jail.

I rang him early in the evening – and naturally found him at his desk. Still actively working away as a solicitor he has no retirement date in mind though he is planning for the day and the changes it will mean for the firm.

He has worked so passionately for so many years fighting good causes it is hard to imagine him leading a quieter life.

But then, of course, he does have his piano at his Camden Town home which somehow has given him another passion in life.


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