JJ was born in 1929 in rural Devon. In 1931 he and his younger brother moved with their parents - who were 'flat broke', out of work and in poor health - to a rented cottage in Lyme Regis on Dorset's Jurassic coast. There the family survived on what they could grow and rear on a small allotment and what they could catch in the sea. For cash they took in lodgers. They were not the only family in difficulty. JJ was shocked to discover that the playmates next door were not available on Tuesdays because Tuesday was the family washday. Their parents could only afford one set of clothes for them.
By 1935, the family had progressed from 'lodgers' to 'guests',- in a small private hotel. That enterprise, backed by a local entrepreneur, was not a bonanza for the entrepreneur but generated sufficient resource for the family to leave the West Country in 1937 and look for work in the London area. There JJ's father found a job as a salesman of chemicals used in the making of perfumery some six months before JJ's brother was killed in a road accident.
That death had a traumatic effect on the stability of the family but the man responsible for it offered, by way of compensation, to pay for JJ, who had only been taught at home, to be educated privately at boarding schools until the age of 18. The last of these was The King's School, Canterbury and from there JJ went on to study law at Queens' College, Cambridge with the benefit of a scholarship awarded by the University supplemented by a grant from the Ministry of Education.
JJ left Cambridge with a law degree in 1952, took a job with the British branch of Philips, the Dutch electronics company and in 1953 took a further Cambridge law degree and qualified as a barrister.
JJ stayed with British Philips full time for 29 years, joining its board in 1966 and leaving it in 1981 to start a new career as a self employed consultant. In that role he joined the boards of a number of companies, both public and private in different industries, becoming chairman of many of them.
In 1981 he organised the rescue of the popular history magazine History Today. That experience intensified his interest in small businesses, particularly those in difficulty, and cemented his belief in the importance of personal freedoms and the dangers in pressures to conform.
In 1992 he became the first non-solicitor chairman of the law firm Mishcon de Reya, a position he holds today.
JJ's Campaigning Work
In the 1990's he helped to create the Countryside Alliance which, under his chairmanship, campaigned vigorously for liberty and livelihood in the countryside. During that period also, he chaired a working party of employers, trade unionists, academics and journalists studying the impact of new technologies, particularly web based technologies, on the work place. Their report was published in 1996 by the Fabian Society as 'Changing Work'. At that time he also became a trustee of One World Action, a charity which campaigns and works for the rights of women, particularly in developing countries.
In 2001 he became one of the first directors of the global web based publication openDemocracy.
In 2011 he founded JJ Books.