Market leading insight for tax experts
View online issue

Obituary: James Bullock

printer Mail

James Francis Bullock, who passed away suddenly in September aged only 47, was part of the senior leadership team at Pinsent Masons and headed its global litigation and compliance practice.

A well-known and highly respected tax disputes lawyer, James joined Pinsent Mason’s legacy firm KLegal (which was associated with KPMG) from Ashurst in 2000, where he founded one of the UK’s first specialist tax litigation practices. When that business merged with McGrigors and subsequently separated from KPMG due to regulatory changes, James was appointed as the head of the McGrigors national litigation and tax practices and joined the McGrigors board. James played a lead role in developing McGrigors’ City offering, prior to its merger with Pinsent Masons in 2012. On the merger, he headed up the enlarged Pinsent Masons’ litigation and compliance practice, which includes the commercial litigation, regulatory, tax, insurance and EU competition practices. Under his leadership, the litigation and compliance practice grew domestically and internationally, and received industry-wide recognition. Following a reorganisation earlier this year, James took over responsibility for Pinsent Masons’ global litigation practices.

James remained a fee-earning lawyer throughout his career and was renowned as a passionate and uncompromising tax litigator, as well as an expert on HMRC’s powers. ‘I have known James for my whole career,’ said one of his contemporaries, ‘and I shall best remember him for his passion for the correct outcome of a case and a sense of justice to the parties concerned. I always enjoyed his effervescence in presentations and in his articles.’

With more than two decades of experience advising on large and complex disputes with HMRC for both large corporates and high-net worth individuals at all levels from the tax tribunals up to the Supreme Court and CJEU, James was consistently recognised by the legal directories. James was the lead lawyer in a number of seminal tax cases, including Westmoreland, Weald Leasing, Mayes and the Glyn residence case. ‘James indeed was a presence and definitely someone you wanted on your side in a “scrap” with HMRC,’ said one tax lawyer, ‘and he made a suitably thoughtful but appropriately pugnacious contribution.’

Passionate about people and his profession, James approached life with an energy and vivacity that those who worked with him couldn’t fail to admire. He was a popular conference speaker and a frequent contributor to tax publications, and he was also a member of Tax Journal’s editorial board. He was an active member of a number of tax professional bodies, including the VAT Practitioners Group and the CIOT, which awarded him a posthumous fellowship for a body of work he submitted before he died. He had a close relationship with the University of Oxford, and was influential in establishing the Pinsent Masons Chair in Taxation.

James was described as having the gift of making friends with everyone he met. ‘He had such vitality and always brought such energy to bear, whether lecturing or in conversation,’ said one. ‘James was one of the most generous people I knew,’ said another. ‘He had a real generosity of spirit – he always gave of his time and his knowledge freely, helping others with their careers and needs, always smiling, always cheerful.’

James cared deeply about politics and education. He had strong connections with Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon, which he attended and of which he was latterly proud to be a governor. After leaving the school, he read law at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, graduating in 1989.

James’s passing was ‘a real and substantial loss to the community’; he was ‘a consummate professional who will be sorely missed as a practitioner and colleague.’ In a statement, Pinsent Masons said: ‘It is hard to overstate James’s impact on our business and contribution to its success, as well as the wider tax industry. James was an ebullient character and will be sorely missed.’

He is survived by his father, Robert, and three siblings, Lucy, Julia and Stephen. 

In his own words:

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

‘Don’t expect instant success, and remember it’s a long-term career. There will be frustrations along the way, but if you stick at it then before too long you will look back and see that all your hard work has paid off. I’d also advise anyone entering the profession to get stuck into the tax community. It’s a fantastic professional community with some really wonderful people in it.’

Reproduced from ‘One minute with… James Bullock’, Tax Journal, 19 October 2011

Issue: 1284
Categories: News