History of the centre

Sir William (Leonard) Dale KCMG 1906-2000

The Government Legal Advisors Course was initiated by Sir William Dale in 1964. By this date there were 20 independent states within the Commonwealth and many more where to come. The new independent countries had relied on the Colonial Legal Service but after independence the men of these services were returning home. In other words, the governments were lacking experts when they most needed them. Advice was given by correspondence to all governments asking for it. However, it soon became clear that this was not enough to meet their needs. What they lacked was trained staff to cope with the everyday work particularly in legislation and international law. With the help of such men as George Coldstream, Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor, Noel Hutton, First Parliamentary Counsel and others, Sir William formed the Government Legal Advisors Course. Professors of International Law at Oxford and Cambridge collaborated with enthusiasm. In 1976 Sir William became Director of the Course and remained so until 1999. In 1997 Sir William became the first director of the Centre For Legislative Studies at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. The Centre now bears his name.

William Leonard Dale was born in Hull, Yorkshire on 17 June 1906, the son of a vicar. From this provincial launching pad he took off to a career of singular variety and achievement as solicitor, barrister, civil servant, teacher and musician. He combined in a rare degree his father's common sense with a fine intellect, the power of eloquent and simple expression, and a highly developed ability to instruct and impart knowledge.

Educated at Hymers College, Hull, he was articled to a Hull Solicitors firm where he studied externally for his LLB from London University. He then read from the Bar at Gray's Inn. A chance reading of an advertisement took him to Palestine to work for the firm of Richardson, Turtledove, solicitors in Jerusalem in 1934. He returned to England in 1935 and took up a job as legal assistant in the Colonial Office. Thereafter his formidable abilities took him rapidly through the ranks of the civil service. During the war he served at the Ministry of Supply and afterwards returned to the Colonial Office where he soon found himself on the way to Sarawak to examine Rajah Brooke's offer to cede the country to Britain. From 1951 to 1953 he was legal adviser to Libya, charged with producing a single legal system from many differing codes. The Libyan government paid tribute to his wisdom and single mindedness and indeed wanted him to stay as a judge of the Supreme Court. Instead he returned to London to be legal advisor to the Ministry of Education.

Between 1961 and 1966 William Dale was legal advisor to the Commonwealth relations Office and was seconded to act as legal advisor to the Central Africa office to deal with the break up of the Central African Federation.

In 1965 he was knighted. Retirement brought him great happiness and unceasing activity. In 1966 on his 60 th birthday he married an American, Gloria Finn, with whom he shared many interests in the arts, food and other pleasures of civilisation.

Back in London he founded the Commonwealth Law Bulletin and became Director of Studies of the Government Legal Advisors Course, an influence over several hundreds of commonwealth lawyers for a generation. He continued to occupy that post and to teach until almost the end of his life, imposing clarity and simplicity in drafting. He also found time to write two books, Legislative Drafting: A New Approach (1977) and The Modern Commonwealth (1983).

Yet another interest was the regular updates of the Law of the Parish Church , first published in1932. The seventh but first "unisex edition", as he called it appeared in 1998. Like so much else of his work, these volumes cover an extraordinary span of history in one lifetime.

"The Government Legal Advisers Course and the IALS" by Sir William Dale

"Sir William Dale - Profile" by Julian Harris

"Sir William Leonard Dale 1906-2000: an appreciation" by Sir Franklin Berman QC

Annual Reports

Page last updated: 18th January 2016