Obituary: David Coates, solicitor and charity trustee
David Coates, who has died at 86, was a leading Leeds solicitor and long-serving charity trustee who as chairman of the Sir George Martin Trust distributed more than £1m in the last five years to the disadvantaged and vulnerable in West and North Yorkshire.
Sir George, the former Lord Mayor of Leeds set up the charity in 1956 and after his death in 1976, its trustee board was headed by Mr Coates for 35 years until 2020.
He was also a trustee of the Leeds Benevolent Society for Single Ladies, set up during Queen Victoria’s reign, which has given nearly £1m in the past five years, as well as the Mollie Croysdale Trust.
David Coates, who was christened Tom, after a grandfather and an uncle, was in practice for more than 50 years in Leeds. After his 75th birthday, he reluctantly stood back from day-to-day work but maintained his legal connections and his charity duties.
Born in December 1935, he went to school at Grange-over-Sands and then Shrewsbury, where his dogged prowess with the bat set a record never since repeated on the school’s cricket square. Opening, he carried his bat; when his team had to follow on, he remained undefeated.
He survived polio and went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to read Law. Then he did the fast-track solicitors’ course at Guildford College of Law and joined the Leeds firm of Cranswick Crawford and Owen, articled to Loy Wooler, soon to be Lord Mayor of Leeds. He became a partner in 1964, before his 30th birthday.
The firm expanded to become Cranswick Watson in 1967 and by 2000 had a dozen partners. As the senior partner Mr Coates led merger negotiations with a rapidly-expanding Bradford-based practice to form the 25-strong partnership, Gordons Cranswick.
Gordons, as it became in 2003, is currently listed at 146 in the country’s top 200 legal firms with annual revenues of more than £18m.
Highly regarded by both fellow professionals and clients, Mr Coates prided himself on delivering a personal first-class service. Whilst he specialised in commercial property, in many ways it could be said that he was one of the last true family solicitors, if not the last standing at the crease, prepared to act in every field of the law.
A Yorkshireman to his core, he was not a keen traveller beyond the county but he managed occasional excursions to remoter golf courses or to visit his only son, George. Once or twice, he even needed his passport but was most content to be in his native county.
Outside the office, he enjoyed his large garden, which was opened for several years in succession for the benefit of St Gemma’s Hospice. He helped the hospice too with fund-raising, often quietly in the background.
In 1981, he married for a second time, Ann, who predeceased him in 2014. He is survived by George and a granddaughter, Zinnia.