Michael Kalisher QC

When Michael Kalisher died prematurely in 1996 at the age of 55, the criminal Bar lost one of its most respected and popular members.

Michael Kalisher QCMichael was admitted as a solicitor in 1965 but he was to his fingertips an advocate and he was called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 1970. From 9 King’s Bench Walk, where he established a busy practice and good reputation, in 1976 he moved to 1 Hare Court and became one of the UK’s leading criminal practitioners. He mastered serious and complex fraud cases in a fraction of the time it took most of his contemporaries. He was as comfortable addressing a jury at the Old Bailey as he was before the Court of Appeal and in the House of Lords.

After only 14 years at the Bar, in 1984 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel. In silk he continued to prosecute and defend in heavy cases and his expertise took him to Hong Kong to act in large fraud trials. He also acted as a DTI Inspector. In 1985 he was appointed a Recorder and in 1989 a Bencher of Inner Temple. From 1990 until shortly before his death he was Head of Chambers at 1 Hare Court.

Somehow he found time for the wider interests of the profession. He believed passionately in the strengths of the independent criminal Bar and its role as a fearless provider of advice and advocacy. His message was that its standards and ethical behaviour had to be of the highest order. He had time for everyone – at any level – who wanted his advice and hundreds of youngsters starting out turned to this wise, warm, clever man. Not so young now, many of them lead the profession and would be quick to say he was part of their progress.

He became Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Chairman of the Legal Services Committee of the Bar Council and in 1994 reported on the appointment of Queen’s Counsel. Had he lived, any professional accolade he wanted would have been his.

Michael condensed into a day more than some achieved in a week, always with irrepressible humour. He bore his dying with courage and dignity. The then Anne Rafferty QC talked to him about a Trust in his name, to support youngsters at the criminal Bar who echoed his range of abilities and wicked sense of fun. From his hospice he wrote:

“I’ve spoken to the family and we’re thrilled. The problem is none of us can see a single characteristic of mine that anyone sane would wish to replicate.”

Promising her she’d enjoy visiting him, he added:

“This place is like Champneys but without the tourists.”

He is much missed. But the Kalisher Trust, of whose birth he knew, stands in its marvellous twenty-first century form as a triumphant tribute to him.

Contributed by:
The Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Rafferty
His Honour Stephen Kramer, QC