Sheila Lesley, OBE
Sheila Lesley, OBE passed away peacefully on 22 November 2019. Sheila was Senior Partner at Forresters from 1983 to 1996 and was – to put it mildly – a formidable character, but someone whom we all held in high regard and for whom we had great affection.
A full obituary is available here, including words from Sheila herself and a tribute compiled by Steven Wake, one of our current trade mark partners. Steven’s eulogy is a perfect reflection on someone who will be greatly missed by all of us at Forresters, and by everyone else who knew her. It is repeated below.
“Sheila’s words provide us with a reflection on her life, but cannot begin to convey her personality or the distinct impression she made on all those she came into contact with. There will be many in the IP profession and beyond who will have fond memories of Sheila, not least her partners and colleagues at Forresters, the many clients she worked with, international associates from many countries around the world and the officials at the UKIPO and other Government bodies she came into contact with.
Sheila was one of a dying breed, a true “character”, once met never forgotten. Very proper, often wearing one of her trade mark hats, sometimes accompanied by gloves. She was identified by some as the Miss Marple of the IP world. Words like remarkable, honest, decent, charming, a treasure, a formidable lady and a woman of strength have all been used in relation to Sheila following her death and will resonate with those that knew her. She was much admired for having risen through the ranks in a male-dominated profession, and she hoped that by becoming the first female President of the Institute she would inspire other female members of the profession to follow in her footsteps.
When abroad at INTA events, particularly in the US, her demeanour was such that taxi drivers would ponder out loud whether she might be the Queen or Margaret Thatcher (two other formidable women).
As a mentor to many trainees, she was not an easy taskmaster. She had high standards and high expectations. Things had to be done properly. Compromising was not in her nature. Her trainees learnt far more from Sheila than just what trade mark law was about. She was able to find great balance in dealing with people. She could be offering “constructive criticism” of a draft letter of advice at one moment and be asking after the wellbeing of your family the next. Those of us who trained under her all still share the values she instilled.
She had an inquisitive mind and would encourage others to think in the same way. Lunchtime educational sessions in the office might involve Sheila asking the assembled attorneys how the new 1988 Copyright Act would impact someone who put a copy of Constable’s Hay Wain on a tea tray and then mass-produced them. She could never be palmed off with a superficial answer. If something was puzzling or needed clarification, she was always determined to get to the bottom of it.
As an attorney, she was a true expert. She started her career in IP as a patent attorney, but will best be remembered for work in the field of trade marks. She lived and breathed trade mark law and practice. She was, of course, totally familiar with the 1938 Act and the 1994 Act and the associated Rules and practices. Her diplomatic powers of persuasion were legendary, as many a Hearing Officer at the Trade Marks Registry can no doubt attest. Some thought that perhaps she might retire before having to get to grips with new legislation in the form of the Community Trade Mark and the Madrid Protocol. Not so. Sheila mastered all of this and made sure that her colleagues did so too.
Sheila had an inexhaustible supply of stories and anecdotes, gathered over the many years of her working life. Being seated next to Sheila at an event was always highly entertaining. She was a regular attendee at the Institute annual dinner dances, with her OBE affixed to her evening dress.
Sheila devoted her working life to IP and to the firm of Forresters for which many owe her a considerable debt. Sheila’s character is indelibly etched on many minds, and she will be missed with fond affection. Her passing truly feels like the end of an era.”