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James Selby Bennett

We’ve been hugely saddened to learn that James Selby Bennett, Senior Partner at Humphries Kirk has passed away. DBA Chief Executive, Deborah Dawton has penned these words in his memory.

The DBA’s close relationship with Humphries Kirk goes back to its inception; in-fact the law firm played a critical role in the founding of the Association and its team of leading solicitors has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of DBA members over the years since.

I was first introduced to James Selby Bennett in 2003, shortly after joining the DBA.

I’d arrived into an organisation that was in rather a precarious position financially, so I sought his advice about the reach and implications of the liabilities it was facing. As it turned out, we were able to successfully navigate our way out of that position and I didn’t have to implement half of his advice (a good thing in this case), but so it was, that we established a warm and trusting relationship which, over the years, kept me and the DBA out of trouble and one that I saw replicated between James and many members too.

James had a remarkable knowledge of design law and I’ve always considered Humphries Kirk the legal safety net for the UK design industry; their support being invaluable in helping members identify risk and deal with misunderstandings. But there was also much more to James beyond his legal brilliance.

I was delighted to visit Humphries Kirk some years back and joined him at his organic farm afterwards for lunch. I will never forget those homemade sausages. And I finally understood why James had the hands he did – he didn’t just live on a farm, he owned it and worked it. Nor will I forget the stories. And there is one that always brings a smile to my face, perhaps because of the picture that it conjures up in my mind. And it is of James on horseback in his local town campaigning for a councillor position when a thief ran past. James gave chase and caught him!

But I can’t write this about James without including a nod to Darrell Stuart Smith. Darrell has been, for as long as I’ve known them, the other half of this formidable team that have looked after us, and our members, for years. Our very own Robert Plant and Jimmy Page if you will, both rock stars in my eyes, who have tirelessly fed us wise advice with perfect timing. Thank you Darrell. And thank you to the wider team at Humphries Kirk too; I know the legacy James leaves and the quality of advice provided by Humphries Kirk will be carried forward by you all.

I spoke to James last month about a matter. I asked him how he was, and he mentioned that things weren’t going as planned. When I asked him where he was, his reply was hospital and no, he shouldn’t have been on the phone to me, but he had some loose ends to tie up. That was James – never left anything undone. Thank you, James. We will miss you. I will miss you.

A word from a DBA member


“I was introduced to James this year via Adam at the DBA and was very sad to hear the news that he had passed away. I worked with James on two cases (both of which turned out very favourably for fst), and I can honestly say he was a pleasure to talk to. He was calm, interested and gave me very straight answers to the potential problems that we had. 


I will remember James not only for his professional expertise but for two other reasons – firstly his genuine desire to help me and fst with our cases. And secondly his delightful southern accent! You see, although I’ve lived near London for over 25 years I still have a northern accent (born in Sheffield) and when on the phone to James we must have sounded, if someone was listening in, that we came from different planets!


However, my point is it didn’t matter because it felt like I was talking to a friend. Our thoughts are with his family at this time. RIP James x”


Otto Marples, Chief Operating Officer, fst


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