Friends, colleagues, clients and those who simply admired his work, benefited from his advice or perhaps heard him speak at one of his many public engagements will remember Stephen’s expertise, dynamism, creative intellect, wisdom, leadership, sense of fun and commitment to good causes.
Stephen joined Bates Wells in 1980 and headed Bates Wells’ charity and social enterprise department for many years before becoming Senior Partner, a post he held until 2013.
Stephen was ranked by the legal directories Chambers UK and the Legal 500 as a leader in the field of charity law, was recognised as a Leading Lawyer for charity in the Citywealth Leaders List 2013 and selected by peers for inclusion in the Third Edition of Best Lawyers in the United Kingdom in the practice area of charity law. He was also listed in Who’s Who 2014.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO – the national body for charities – said: “Stephen’s unparalleled expertise combined with his innovative thinking and sheer passion for the work of charities and social enterprises made him rightly one of the most respected figures in the voluntary sector. Our sector is so much the stronger for his lifetime of work.”
Stephen’s career spanned almost 40 years of service as a lawyer, encompassing a remarkable list of achievements.
“The father of CICs”
Stephen is credited with the creation of the Community Interest Company (or the ‘CIC’), a dedicated legal form for social enterprises, of which there are nearly 10,000 registered in less than a decade. Tribute was paid to Stephen by both the government and the opposition in Parliament on 2 September 2014: Brooks Newmark, the Minister for Civil Society, describing Stephen as “the father of CICs.”
The development of charity law
In his professional capacity, Stephen was an adviser to many household name charities and campaign groups, including the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Amnesty International, Sightsavers and Media Trust. He advised Friends of the Earth on the demarcation of their charitable and campaigning activities and numerous other environmental charities.
Stephen succeeded in obtaining charitable status for English Pen – by arguing for the charitable status of human rights charities that advance freedom of expression.
He persuaded the Charity Commission to accept that the promotion of sustainable development was a charitable purpose.
Tim Gutteridge, COO of Fairtrade Foundation, said: “We remember the critical role Stephen played in ensuring ‘sustainable development’ could be considered a charitable activity. On behalf of the 1.4 million small scale farmers and workers now benefitting from Fairtrade’s work, we remain profoundly grateful for Stephen’s enduring legacy to global social justice and fairness.”
Stephen was appointed by the Cabinet Office as Lord Hodgson’s adviser on the review of the Charities Act 2006.
Service to the sector
A trustee himself of more than 20 charities, Stephen was chairman of the Centre for Innovation and Voluntary Action, chairman of the sustainable energy organisation Ashden, and on the board of the Social Stock Exchange. He was a director of Buzzbank, the UK’s first crowdfunding site to raise loans for social enterprises and allow tax-efficient charitable donations. Stephen recently served on a working group of the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce, established following the G8 Summit in London in 2013. He was chairman of the Charity Law Association from 2003 to 2006.
Stephen was the founder of CaSE – Charity and Social Enterprise Insurance Management LLP – which he also chaired and which now provides insurance cover for at least 2,000 Civil Society organisations at much reduced cost.
He also founded Trustees Unlimited, a joint venture between Bates Wells, NCVO and Russam GMS, which helps organisations to recruit high quality trustees and non-executives. Trustees Unlimited has been involved in helping recruit almost 200 senior people including the chair of Mind and trustees for organisations such as Christian Aid and Rethink.
Stephen was also a well-known public speaker in the Civil Society sector (including keynote speeches at NCVO Annual Conference three years running), an accomplished columnist, and author of a number of respected publications on charity law.
Stephen took on a new role as Senior Counsel in 2014, and was free to give advice and follow his own legal interests (for example, social investment) without management responsibilities.
Career and Family Life
Stephen met his wife Lorna at Bristol University. After studying law at Cambridge University, he and Lorna did VSO in Sudan for a year, which had a big impact on both of them.
When Andrew Phillips (Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the founder of Bates Wells) asked Stephen to join the firm in 1980, Stephen fully embraced the ethos and values of Bates Wells as a charity and commercial law firm that was also mindful of justice and the public interest, valuing staff and with a determination to grow organically. He modernised, updated and extended Bates Wells’ reach, renamed the Charity Department the Charity and Social Enterprise Department and became the undisputed legal expert on social enterprise, social finance and investment.
A progressive leader as well as thinker, he encouraged flexible working and was particularly instrumental in ensuring that talented female lawyers continued to progress at Bates Wells.
Stephen was also a Quaker and a member of the Blackheath Meeting. He had lived in Greenwich, south London, since 1974 and been on the board of a number of local charities. Concerned about environmental issues since the Stockholm Conference in 1972, he took up cycling “to reduce my carbon footprint!”. Indeed, he often cycled to meet clients, come rain or shine – and listed his personal interests as “walking, cycling, classical music, reading and enjoying the company of my family and friends”.
Several obituaries have been published to remember Stephen’s life. Click here to view the obituary in the Guardian. Click here to view the obituary in the Independent. Click here to view the piece in the Times.
Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall, recalled the first time he met Stephen, who helped create the legal framework for the enterprise. He said: “I was struck immediately by his insistence that every cup was half full and, in all my time with him, I never once heard him downbeat or lost for a solution to whatever problem we were seeking to resolve. Most of all he was a kind and generous man whose advice was always coloured by a humane perspective and an insistence that the law should serve the spirit of the intentions not just a mechanistic means of controlling events.”
Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK said: “Stephen exuded humility, kindness, gentleness, generosity, respect, humanity, charm, passion and insight. What he did for the social enterprise and charity sectors was extraordinary, he was both a visionary leader and a catalyst for making big impactful changes occur. He achieved all of this with such incredible modesty and humour.”
Sir Tony Hawkhead, Chief Executive, Action for Children, said: “If I could sum Stephen up in one word, it would be grace. He was incredibly thoughtful, helpful, unstinting in the amount of time and advice he was prepared to give. … In all the years I knew Stephen, he gave me unfailingly good and thoughtful advice on a range of topics and always asked how I was doing. I will miss him.”
Arthur Wood, founding partner of global investment practice Total Impact Advisors, said: “Very few people are both visionary and practical combined with being genuinely ethical, generous and great company – what a loss to the sector, his family and to life.”
Additional tributes include:
Celebrations of the memorial service, include: