Jerry Pearlman, solicitor

Jerry Pearlman
Jerry Pearlman
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Joseph “Jerry” Pearlman, who has died in his 85th year, practised as a solicitor in Leeds for six decades and was one the best known and most popular lawyers in the city.

Particularly known for his dogged persistence in defending rights of way and in creating better access to the countryside, he played a significant role in the successful lobbying for the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 – the key piece of legislation that secured access and the “right to roam”.

He and his wife, Bernice, were themselves great walkers and had a ready base with a cottage in the hamlet of Stalling Busk in Raydale, one of the smallest of the Yorkshire Dales.

As a consequence of his notoriety as an environmental lawyer he often found himself acting for campaigners he described as eccentric zealots who nevertheless had the potential to change laws. Three of these he described in his 2015 book, Tales from an Environmental and Tribal Lawyer.

Other consequences were that he became deputy chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority, chairman of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Access Forum and an honorary vice-president of the Ramblers’ Association.

The “tribal lawyer” reference in his book title harked back to the work he did, little more than 18 months after qualifying, on behalf of the Bunyoro Kitara tribe of Uganda, which was in dialogue with the British government. It led to an appearance before a Privy Council Commission.

He described the experience as “a wonderful culture shock which expanded the horizons of my life, both professionally and personally”, and clients who mounted the narrow stairs to the garret in Albion Street, Leeds, that was one of his earliest offices were intrigued by the deed boxes prominently displayed on a shelf and clearly marked, “Kingdom Native Government of Uganda”.

It was one of the topics for which he was in demand on the lecture circuit, and he also addressed many a room on a comparison of the legal profession of old with that of today, and which better served the public.

He had a long professional partnership with Colin Grazin, followed by others – not all of which proved congenial. But he ended his legal career happily as a consultant to Zermansky and Partners. His colleagues demonstrated their respect for his legal reputation by making him president of the Leeds Law Society and a member of the Solicitors’ Complaints Bureau.

He made only one foray into politics, as the Liberal candidate for Moortown ward in 1963, but he was generous in providing advice, pro bono, to needy constituents of the Liberal former councillor and MP, Michael Meadowcroft.

He was also part of the pioneering campaign for the establishment of a parish council for Alwoodley and served as its chair of planning for many years.

He and Bernice, whom he married in 1961, were regular attendees at a wide range of musical occasions in Leeds, and at the Leeds Luncheon Club.

She survives him, with their daughters Kate Pearlman-Shaw and Debbie Hougie, and grandchildren Mark, Alexandra and Jacob.