Tributes have been paid to a leading Birmingham lawyer, described as one of the city’s greatest ever exports, after he lost his battle with cancer.
David Birch, who was 61, was a leading light at Wragge & Co where he helped build the firm’s international credentials and was one of the founding directors of the British-North American Business Group in the Midlands, which went on to become the British American Business Council of the Midlands.
Quentin Poole, senior partner at Wragge & Co, said Mr Birch played a hugely important role putting Wragge on the international stage.
He said: “He joined us in the late 1970s as an insurance lawyer and set up our insurance practice in Birmingham and went on to be our head of litigation.
“However, he also developed our international presence when we launched a US project called Atlantic Bridge in 1985. From then he was at the very forefront of US-UK business relations, not just for us but also with the British American business group he helped establish.
“He is an iconic figure as he is an extremely well-known lawyer in the US and even further afield.
‘‘I would say that he was not just one of Birmingham’s best known lawyers, he was one of Birmingham’s best known products internationally.
“From a Wragge point of view David was extremely important. If you asked me how Wragge & Co got into the international market then I would say that it is because of David Birch and Atlantic Bridge and the US remains our most important overseas market.
‘‘David was charming, engaging, an absolute gentleman, gracious with a very dry sense of humour and he had unlimited energy.”
Mr Birch was educated at Arnold House School in London and Shrewsbury School and began his professional career after obtaining a law degree at University College London in 1971 with City of London law firm Herbert Smith.
He practised insurance litigation before leaving London in 1978 to join Wragge & Co. Over the years he held a number of trans-Atlantic business roles and in the 2004 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was made an OBE for services to UK-North American relations.
Harry Reilly, who took over from Mr Birch as chair of the British American Business Council in the Midlands, said: “I was fortunate to have known him for over six years, as a friend and as my immediate predecessor.
"During that time he was continually helpful from a business and personal perspective, drawing upon his amazing ability, not only to travel extensively and network at all levels, but also to retain and recall information about names, dates, places and relationships.”
Mr Birch had also been on the British Airways regional board and BA chief executive Willie Walsh visited Mr Birch at his bedside before he died.
He leaves wife Diana and two children, Toby and Emily. A memorial service will be held in April.