When writing an obituary of León Barriola, I cannot remain neutral. León was co-founder of this firm and my partner for 36 years. I have to say, from the affection and immense intellectual respect that I have for León and his work, that above all I feel like a loyal supporter of his. I must stress that we have lost the most talented lawyer of the last 25 years from the legal world.
No one like León had the ability to combine the knowledge of the three fundamental fields with wisdom which underpins the success of any business lawyer – the tax and corporate side and the procedural instinct – almost a sixth sense for our dear León – of the potential risks in operations and proceedings.
León held in great capacity the virtues of induction, deduction and a fine intuition, as a great observer of the environment that he was. What’s more, he observed everything in a silent and sagacious manner. He always listened to people for the time required in order to weigh up the validity of their proposals. He was very generous with his time. On a human level, he always made a special effort to listen, withstand and reciprocate. All these assets made him unbeatable and at the same time irreproachable in discussions and debates.
As with all intellectuals, with plenty of experience, knowledge and wisdom, he was humble. He was full of humbleness and ease, qualities which are rarely seen in a sector where the lawyer is accustomed to be arrogant, invasive and insensitive towards the opponent and with their own opinions. I never heard him yell, scold or shout.
León had a unique ability for abstraction. He knew how to draw his conclusions in a scientific but nevertheless understandable way and how to portray statistical risks owing to his remarkable and overwhelming Cartesian reasoning. His ingenuity not only made him a great editor and businessman or a lawyer specialized in procedural law but also the perfect advisor to help employees or explain risk maps showing collateral or peripheral impacts.
León was an engineer. That is why he did not experience this difficulty that we as lawyers have in order to understand engineering contracts, patent litigations or the conveyance of know-how. Understandably, neither did he face any difficulty in proposing numerical solutions or clauses with mathematical formulations which made it possible to quantify operations or amounts of damage.
As a great player of Bridge, he knew extremely well the psychology and the timings of his adversaries and only used his most formidable and hidden tactics when the opponent was in a position of weakness or in other words of transactional and procedural vulnerability. He conversed with clients in a controlled manner and with infinite elegance without showing cruelty or malice.
Unlike me, trained in literature, languages and law, with little mathematical knowledge and obsessed with text, Leon had little interest in form but commanded his working languages with academic efficiency. It was clear and understandable, reiterative and insistent, true, but natural and direct.
León had an enormous capacity for hard work. Thanks to the immense understanding and endless support of his wife Lola, his commitment to his work will not be easily outshone by any other European jurist. With a firm awareness of the needs and emotions of others, more characteristic of a Renaissance lawyer than that of an internationally recognized and specialized lawyer of today, he had a significant impact on all territories of law.
However, it was not only the amount of work and dedication but also the quality thereof, and above all the flawless material quality as well as his open-door policy to all his colleagues and partners in order to answer all questions, which were never seen to be trivial.
Being in the office adjacent to mine, two simultaneous and overlapping sounds will forever be recorded in my memory, especially during the long afternoons and nights spent at work:
The music of Mozart, Bach, Händel or Beethoven (with more symphony and piano than vocals) and, at the same time, the sound of his relaxed dictation with extremely long and complicated sentences that only an exceptional memory could sustain in its entirety. His Baroque music together with his strong and powerful Basque voice will live on forever in my memory.
León inherited from his mother, Laura, an exquisite British education, extremely respectful and embellished with a refined sense of irony, which saved him from confrontations, rows and upset. His humor and irony were British but his heart and feelings were entirely Spanish.
León was a man of profound religious beliefs. During the early years he tried hard to put an end to my agnosticism. He did not manage it, but nevertheless instilled in me an unshakeable faith in his values and principles: the pursuit of reality and justice which I achieved due to my desire for formal and procedural beauty.
León was a Basque at heart as well as a fierce Spaniard. Basque in his analytical spirit and in his sense of responsibility as he made promises but only promised what he could achieve, but Spanish as he shed light on all these virtues which allow us to keep alive and unaltered his memory, the memory of León Barriola. A dear friend and excellent lawyer once wrote to me – probably here with us – that, if the Last Judgment really does exist, he will only appoint Leon Barriola as his lawyer.
May he rest in peace,
Socio Director Lupicinio International Law Firm