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Tributes paid to legal trailblazer Ivan Selig, a man of integrity and stalwart of Jewish community

Ivan Selig, who died recently in Manchester, was a leading lawyer with a large joint practice based in Belfast. He was 86.

In May 1959, he formed the partnership of Mills, Selig in conjunction with Stratton Mills.

Both were aged 26, and the formation of a partnership between young lawyers was unusual in those days.

In October of that year, Stratton Mills became a Unionist MP at Westminster for North Belfast, sitting until the early Seventies, while continuing his law practice with Mills, Selig.

In 1961, they were joined by Robin Bailie, a Stormont politician who became Minister of Commerce, and the practice became known as Mills, Selig and Bailey.

In the beginning, they dealt with a wide range of clients, but at a time when corporate law practice in Northern Ireland was at an innovative stage, Ivan Selig and his colleagues built up a strong client base in commercial property law among many of the leading firms in the province.

Stratton Mills said: "Ivan and I were colleagues who became close friends. He had an extremely fine mind, and I learned a great deal from him, as did other members of the practice.

"He had an ingenious ability to look at problems from different angles. He was also a man of great charm and integrity."

Mr Selig was a leading member of the Jewish community in Belfast until a few years ago, when he moved to Manchester to be closer to his family.

In his early days, he was recording secretary to the Council of the Belfast Jewish Community. He later became the chairman of the council and also chairman of the Council for Christians and Jews.

Ronald Appleton, co-president of the Belfast Jewish Community, said: "When I was president and he was chairman, we ran the Jewish community in Belfast. He was an extremely nice man and a very good friend."

A former colleague, John Kearns, the managing director of Mills, Selig, worked with Mr Selig for several years until his retirement in 1998.

He said: "Ivan Selig was a smart and intuitive lawyer who was ahead of his time.

"He could grasp the essence of an issue very quickly, and he was also a gentle man with a good sense of humour and good to work with.

"Ivan was one of the old school, a genuine man with a great sense of honour and integrity. He would do his very best for his clients and fight their corner, and his word was his bond. I had a great deal of time for him."

Ivan Selig was a keen sailor who took part in the Fastnet Race, and he was also well-read with an eye for a good painting and a taste for fine clarets.

He is survived by his wife, Daphne, son Justin, daughter Eli and step-children Dennis, Brian, Fiona and Bobby.

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