Saying Good-bye To 'The Best'
William Gallagher had many admirers in the legal profession. Other lawyers, to be sure. But judges as well.
Now-retired Superior Court Judge Jonathan Silbert said that Gallagher, who passed away in late December at age 76 following an illness, was simply "the best."
"At oral arguments, he would drive me nuts, in the best possible way, coming up with amazing legal theories and ideas that might rescue cases that seemed doomed to dismissal," said Silbert, who now has a private alternative dispute resolution practice. "I loved those arguments. I'll miss them, and him."
Gallagher, the founder of The Gallagher Law Firm in New Haven, was known primarily as an appellate lawyer, but following his death, many colleagues spoke of his versatility.
The Branford resident was a "man comfortable in all courts, all venues and with everyman, regardless of his station in life," said Kenneth Laska of Segal & Laska in Plainville. "A jovial man of wit that resided within a serious scholar. A man who would take your call to help, assist or just listen to you. A man who was an attorney, just plain and simple, not a litigator, not a transactional attorney, just an attorney."
Barbara Cox, an attorney who has worked at the Gallagher firm since 1991, said, "Bill had a huge heart, despite a sometimes gruff demeanor. People who knew him well knew that."
Gallagher's practice was based in a restored 20-room Victorian house in a New Haven residential area. According to the firm's website, "it's a place where we can comfortably provide focused personal attention that recognizes our clients' diverse legal needs and concerns. Our clients feel most welcome here."
So did his staff members. Cindy Bott, who worked at the Gallagher firm for 13 years before moving to Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, said some of Gallagher's staffers worked for him for decades.
"He was respected and loved by his staff," Bott said. "Bill had a wonderful, sort of quirky sense of humor, a lot of people probably don't know this. He loved to play practical jokes."
He also enjoyed collecting antique clocks and playing the fife with the Ancient Mariners, a fife-and-drum band whose barefoot members in red-striped shirts are a staple at Connecticut parades and patriotic holiday celebrations.