Claire Meltzer 18th September 1926 – 30th January 2008 In Appreciation
In June 1998 at the age of almost 72 the remarkable Claire Meltzerembarked upon one of the most ambitious projects of her remarkable life. She became a co-founder of the nascent law firm which was to bear hername: Levison Meltzer Pigott. At a time when most professionals have longsince decided to hang up their boots or perhaps drift into and along thegentle stream of part-time consultancy, Claire chose instead to pursue to itsultimate aim her extraordinary career.
From then on, until she put things on hold in order to look after her belovedbut ailing husband Joe in the summer of 2006, she entered the mostinteresting, productive and, as she often said, professionally satisfying timeof her career.
By the time she stopped working (she never actually retired - alwaysintending to return at the appropriate moment) Claire had built up areputation as one of the top divorce lawyers in the country: loved by hercolleagues and clients, feared by her opponents, respected by everyone.
Claire was born on 18th September 1926 in the city of London which she soloved and where she was to remain throughout her life. Devoted to literature,a passion which remained with her always, she won a place at Oxford butchose instead to study and take her degree at London University. There, in1945 she met her husband Joe. It was love at first sight. They married in
1950 and remained together until his death only three months before herown.
Their union produced two children: Louise in 1957 and Daniel in 1960. When she became a grandmother to Ella in 2000 and Allegra in 2004Claire’s joy was unconfined. Almost every week she would produce anotherround of the latest photographs of the young girls, proudly holding thebabies herself and we would hear of her delight at the latest antic of one orother of them.
After she left college Claire went into journalism, eventually to becomefeatures editor of the respected fashion trade ‘bible’, the Drapers Record.
In the late 1960’s, needing a new challenge, Claire became a director of asmall fashion company, started by Sally Levison (the mother of the writer,the ‘Levison’ of LMP) called Levison Originals. The company specialised inhand-made designer knitwear. The clothes were made on the island of Gozoin the middle of the Mediterranean.
Over the next eight years or so Claire and Sally transformed this tiny start-upcompany into one of the two or three leading high profile knit and crochet-wear organisations in the world. At its height it employed over 500 peopleknitting away in the Gozo factory and exporting to the major fashion housesworld-wide. Whilst Sally provided the creative flair for the business it wasClaire’s level-headed skill in interpreting Sally’s eccentric ideas which wasso instrumental in enabling the business to flourish.
The writer believes that without Claire’s ability to transfer Sally’s ideas intopragmatic reality, Levison Originals would not have been the success that itwas. Examples are now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum’spermanent clothing collection.
By the mid-1970’s (already approaching 50) and with her children leavingthe nest, Claire decided that she needed another new challenge.
In 1978, at the age of 52, she qualified as a solicitor. Encouraged by Jeremyto pursue her ambition to become a family law specialist, Claire left her firstfirm, Franks Charlesley. She joined Jeremy (and later Simon Pigott) atTheodore Goddard, becoming a partner there in 1981. She was to work withthe two of them for the remainder of her career. Together they becamepartners at Collyer-Bristow in the early eighties. When Jeremy and Simon
decided to move on, they knew they would not and indeed could not do sowithout Claire and this led to the formation of Levison Meltzer Pigott.
Although filled with Jewish self-deprecatory angst that she was never quitegood enough, that she would never attract another client, that she reallyought to retire, Claire had nothing to worry about. She acquired an amazingpractice. Included amongst her clients were some of the world’s mostfamous names: from film, music, business and all other walks of life, clientsarrived in droves to be looked after by Claire and to benefit from the skill,passion and endless enthusiasm which she brought to her task. She wasinvolved in some of the highest profile causes celebres of her day, eventrying (and only just failing) to persuade the Beth Din to overturn 6,000years of history by allowing women equal rights to men on the question ofJewish religious divorces.
Without Claire, LMP would never have achieved its present profile or levelof success.
Her dedication to her career, though, never overwhelmed her myriadinterests away from it. Prime amongst these was her devotion to her family,through its generations. She cared for her own mother until her end. Hermarriage to Joe lasted 57 years. Her home always had its doors open forLouise and Daniel and then for Daniel’s wife, Sian and their children Ellaand Allegra.
Nor did Claire ever lose the extraordinary physical beauty with which shehad been blessed. Always looking at least twenty years younger than herage, Claire was an inspiration to anyone intending to retain youthful beautyin their later years. She was, simply, stunning.
She loved literature. Her house was a depository for over ten thousandvolumes. She spent as much time as she could in the Shoe Lane library. Herjourneys to and from work provided her with a much needed half hour to sitand read, although if too tired to concentrate properly on the book in handshe would, for light relief, turn her mind to The Times crossword. This shewould finish with an easy nonchalance which was depressing for us lessermortals. She loved music: the Wigmore Hall was a favourite stompingground. She knew a great deal about cricket: a knowledge crafted, onesuspects not entirely without reluctance, from the love of the game passed onto her by Joe. She enjoyed politics, religion, art, theatre, the CafÈ du
Marche, a glass or two of good wine. She had a loyal and devoted group offriends.
The writer of this piece first met Claire when he was 16, some 40 years ago. It is not exaggeration for him to say that she was one of the most influentialpeople he has ever had the privilege of knowing. An icon of beauty, charm,intellect, wisdom, ability, achievement.
For him, and everyone else who came into contact with her, she enrichedtheir lives. She truly was a remarkable woman.
Claire was much loved during her life. She is now greatly missed.
Claire died on 30th January 2008 after a short illness. She leaves behind herher two children and her two grandchildren.
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