Julian Clark, maritime lawyer who also pursued rock music and became a druid – obituary (2024)

Julian Clark, who has died aged 60, was a maritime lawyer, a druid and a musician.

He started singing along to his brother’s LP collection from the age of seven and became a church chorister, but he missed the opportunity of a scholarship to Lincoln Cathedral School when his parents refused to let him leave home. He joined his brother’s band at the age of 13 as a keyboard player, playing pubs and clubs across the Midlands, northern England and Scotland.

Having read law at university he left England to work in Greece and Turkey, returning to Newcastle in 1990 where he performed in Percy Screams, and when this group broke up, he founded his own band called the J JClark Band. J J C B had some minor success in the North and in London, and released a four track EP. After J J C B and a patch-up band failed, Clark formed a covers band which played on cruise ships, cross-Channel ferries and on the international hotel circuit, including a year in Beijing.

In 1997 that band failed and Clark, now back in London, became lead singer in a succession of groups including the soul band Soul Traders, the R’n’B band 80 Stone O Boogie, a covers band Crocodile Thong, a funk outfit Dr Funkenstein & The Chapel of Soul, before forming Love Street.

Somehow, while pursuing his musical career, Clark qualified as a barrister, converting in 2002 to a solicitor. He worked for the North of England Protection and Indemnity club based in Newcastle, for Clifford Chance in London, and in 2003-10 for Holman Fenwick Willan, before founding his own firm, C J C, with Jonathan Campbell and Alistair Johnston in 2010.

As a maritime lawyer Clark specialised in cyber, casualty, piracy, terrorism, sanctions and e-commerce. He chaired the Comité Maritime International working group on cyber-crime, and was a founding member of Maritime Leaders Forum, a collaboration between Trinity House and a lobby group, Maritime UK.

What set Clark apart was his ability to communicate: he was funny and passionate and kept his audiences awake in presentations, seminars and meetings. An admirer compared him to lawyers who after a lengthy meeting or a co*cktail party one struggled to remember: “But Julian Clark, you never forgot.” On some evenings at C J C he would turn the office into a makeshift studio to rehearse with his band, setting up the equipment between the computers and printers, and three hours later take everything down.

C J C, powered by Clark’s energy and inspiration, grew from seven people to a staff of 80-plus, with offices in Singapore, Miami, Newcastle and London. But in law as in with his bands Clark, though brilliant, could also be maddening, frustrated, and he suffered periods of depression. He left the firm he had founded in 2016.

Next he was global head of shipping at Hill Dickinson 2016-18 and then a senior partner at Ince & Co 2018-22; when Ince failed he declared himself in mourning. Subsequently, he became a vice president and senior legal advisor with the Norwegian insurers Gard.

Julian James Clark was born on April 22 1963 in Sheffield, where his father was an engineer, and educated at Frenchville Comprehensive School, Sheffield, before studying at Kingston Technical Institute 1984-87.

Clark loved being a shipping lawyer, loved being a singer, and did both with gusto, but, while he played keyboards for the international rock covers band Seven Seas, his first love was his band, Love Street. In 2022 he added lead vocals to the music of the Chilean rock band Pacifico, and last year he composed a song, Putin’s War, to raise funds for Ukraine. The following year Love Street headlined the Tall Ships Festival in Arendal, Norway, and a few days before his death his latest album, The Alchemist’s Daughter, was released.

A strong advocate of seafarers’ welfare, Clark supported Stella Maris and campaigned for the recognition of seafarers as critical workers, notably during the Covid pandemic, emphasising their role in global supply chains. During lockdown he persuaded Rod Stewart to let him release a version of Sailing to benefit stranded seafarers.

Kind, compassionate, keen to mentor young people at the start of their legal careers, host to a Ukrainian refugee family, and master of his masonic lodge, in November 2023 Clark announced a diagnosis of terminal cancer, posting: “I have always been one of the ‘rip the sticking plaster off’ people, so here it is. I hope I don’t cause you any undue upset. Life can be scary sometimes, but in any event, I am not dead – yet.”

Clark’s first marriage was brief, and he was married secondly, from 2008 to 2014, to the actor and author Emily Carding; through their mutual respect for the alternative aspects of nature he became interested in Druidry. In 2017 he married, thirdly, the American business editor Liz Clark, who helped him to master his depression.

Julian Clark, born April 22 1963, died April 19 2024

Julian Clark, maritime lawyer who also pursued rock music and became a druid – obituary (2024)
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