FRIENDS and colleagues of Banbridge solicitor, Conleth Lavery came together last week to pay tribute to a man they described as “the ultimate professional”.
Mr Lavery, a well-known solicitor in the Banbridge area, died suddenly while on holiday in Spain on Saturday, 29 September.
Mr Lavery’s family were present at Banbridge Magistrates’ Court, which sits in Newry Courthouse, last Thursday (4 October) to hear the touching tributes.
Before court proceedings began, District Judge Mr Paul Copeland paid a special tribute to the popular solicitor.
To a full courtroom where solicitors, barristers and court staff were gathered, District Judge Copeland said he wanted to “pause and remember Conleth Lavery”.
“Widely and affectionately known as Con, he has died abroad in tragic circumstances while on a well-deserved short holiday in Spain,” he said.
“He was a highly respected member of the legal profession in this area and far beyond and he was a personal and good friend to me.
“Our association goes back to the 1970s when we were students studying law at Queen’s University Belfast.”
Having set up his own business, Con Lavery and Co. in Banbridge 14 years ago, District Judge Copeland said Mr Lavery was the “specialist ‘go-to’ lawyer in commercial and residential conveyancing”.
“Some 40 years in practice earned him an enviable reputation for expertise, judgment and professional skill,” he said.
“He had a quiet, good-humoured, unflappable and assured demeanour, but nonetheless he was tenacious and resolute in a just outcome for his clients.”
A “regular practitioner” in the courtrooms of Banbridge and Newry, District Judge Copeland said you could “always be assured of his being thoroughly prepared and having a total grasp of his clients’ issues”.
“When he came into court - invariably fashionably late - he presented cases with a forensic economy. Every word struck home with purpose and focus.
“He is missed today and will be missed by many, for manys a long day to come.
“I extend deepest sympathies to his colleagues and friends, his family - his wife Ethna, son James, daughter Helen and grandchildren.
“He was a good man, a fine lawyer and a good friend. I am so sorry we have lost him. May he rest in peace.”
Following a round of applause for District Judge Copeland, Banbridge solicitor Michael Gillen thanked him for his “kind words”.
He said Mr Lavery had come to work in Banbridge in 1981 and had been “part of the legal community in Banbridge since that time”.
“Con and Ethna have lived in Banbridge and been part of the community since 1982 and it has been their home from then.
“Many people believed he was from Lurgan, but he was quick to point out he was from Derrymacash and he was very proud of that fact,” he said.
“We were all greatly shocked when the news began to filter through of his sudden and untimely death. We can only imagine the shock for his wife and his son and daughter.
“He was a great family man, a loving husband and father and a doting grandad.
“I pass our sympathies to his colleague, Aoife and the secretarial staff, some of whom have worked with him for over 20 years. May he rest in peace.”
Having been briefed in many cases by Mr Lavery, barrister Justin Byrne said he always gave “a thorough professional brief”.
Speaking on behalf of the Bar Association, Mr Byrne said: “When one thinks of Con Lavery in terms of the profession here, he was an absolute stalwart of the legal profession.
“It was said you would not have to do anything other than present the case, as he always did such a thorough job,” he said.
“I also had the pleasure of being against him in civil cases and he had a clear grasp of the case, but he also brought a certain amount of humour to the court.
“On behalf of the Bar we pass our sympathies to the family. He will be sorely missed.”
An associate of Mr Lavery’s, Frank McCartan spoke on behalf of the staff and family and thanked everyone for their “kind words”.
“He came to St Colman’s when I was in senior year and I remember him, because I had never seen as dapper an 11-year-old as him, even then,” he said.
Describing Mr Lavery as “neat, precise and very determined” Mr McCartan said he would echo all of the sentiments expressed about his friend.
Mr Lavery’s funeral took place on Sunday (7 October) in St Therese Church, Banbridge with burial afterwards in St Patrick’s Cemetery, Banbridge.
He is survived by his wife Ethna, son James, daughter Helen, daughter-in-law Sarah-Louise and grandchildren Lilly and Jake.