It is with tremendous sadness that we learned that our former colleague and friend, Stephen J Doggett, passed away on 8 August after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer (synovial sarcoma). He was just 40.
Like many legal journalists and law firm consultants of his generation, Stephen (or SJD as he affectionately became known) cut his teeth researching The Legal 500 in the regions. But it soon became clear that he was an exceptional talent, combining a razor-sharp, analytical mind with a gentle, unflappable and unquestionably generous nature – bringing all these qualities together to make him a highly respected legal commentator and, more importantly, a unique and much-loved human being.
His abilities saw him quickly assume responsibility for the flagship London M&A section of The Legal 500, such a critical and hotly contested practice area for our readership that only the very best researchers are assigned to it. Such was the strength of the relationships he built up with senior corporate partners up and down the country and the respect he garnered from them, combined with his own desire to extend his capabilities to long-form feature writing and sophisticated analysis, that it was inevitable that he would start writing for Legal Business in 2004, becoming senior reporter in 2006.
Stephen was a scientist – he had a first class honours degree from King’s College, London (where he met his wife, Lorraine) in physics and philosophy of science – and it was this intellectual rigour and ability to distil complex subjects into clear language that transformed aspects of reporting on Legal Business. His legacy as author and editor of our market-leading portfolio of thought-leadership reports and industry surveys, which were regularly picked up by the mainstream media – including his beloved The Economist – exists today. In particular, his work bringing a whole new level of rigour and detailed analysis to the Legal Business 100, the Global 100, and Global London set the standard for law firm financial reporting and many of the matrices that he devised and the formulas he created are still used by us today.
It was inevitable that law firms would see in him someone who could bring so much to the table, and he did, joining the marketing and communications team at Baker & McKenzie in 2009 and becoming a senior manager and deputy head within that team, before moving to Clyde & Co in 2015 to become global head of communications.
Stephen approached his work in much the same way he approached all aspects of his life: with passion, sensitivity, kindness, loyalty, and, above all, with very good humour. Never brash or insensitive, he was always devastatingly funny and some of his one-liners – always delivered with his trademark wry grin – floored us completely. His passion for music was evident and much fun could be had when editing, finding obscure song lyrics or album references he had inserted into headlines and standfirsts.
It was always a mistake to confuse his quiet, calm and kind exterior as suggestive of him being in any way malleable, as law firm management, colleagues and – very often – opponents on the football field found out to their cost. Stephen was a man of steel and never failed to surprise you if you made false assumptions about him. He always played fair but would never compromise his integrity, which was unimpeachable.
James Baxter, editor of Legal Business between 2006 and 2010, said: ‘After joining the magazine, it quickly became clear that Stephen was a star in the making. Combining sharp analytical insight with a fluid writing style, Stephen’s ability to distil highly complex legal trends into engaging copy was unsurpassed on the team at that time. Stephen’s dry wit was another big part of his personality. I recall, shortly after checking into a hotel in Manhattan at the beginning of a trip to research the Global 100, Stephen asking the receptionist if he could swap his complimentary room upgrade for a working kettle!
‘On leaving Legal Business, It was no surprise to anyone that Stephen went on to achieve big things at two major law firms in the City. His loss is keenly felt and he will be missed by all who knew him.’
Richard Lloyd, who worked with Stephen on Legal Business at the same time and was editor of the magazine in 2010, said: ‘Stephen – or SJD as he’ll always be to me – was just simply the kind of colleague anyone would want to work alongside. He was unflappable, diligent, and considerate – traits he mixed with a wonderful sense of humour.
‘He had an impressive analytical mind and when he joined the Legal Business team he made a massive long-term difference to how we handled some of our biggest projects, such as the LB100 and Global 100. I was truly lucky to work with SJD; we’re all poorer for his passing.’
A committed Christian, at the time of his passing Stephen was studying to become a minister, something he would have undoubtedly excelled at.
To lose anyone so young is cruel. To lose such a wonderful, decent and committed family man so soon is heartbreaking. Rest in peace, Stephen. We miss you.