Close this search box.

Al O’Brien | In memoriam

It is with great sadness that the partners and staff of Nelligan Law announce the passing of their beloved partner, Al O’Brien.

Allan Rodney O’Brien, loving husband to Gail O’Brien, father of Scott (married to Payal), Craig (married to Alecia), and Lauren O’Brien, died peacefully with Gail by his side on Sunday, April 4, 2021 at the age of 75, following a long battle with Multiple Myeloma.

Al joined our firm as an articling student, returning after his call to the Bar in 1975 to work with John Nelligan.  He has been part of the heart and soul of our firm ever since and always a willing mentor and source of support to the lawyers who followed him at the firm.  Al was an active member of the CCLA and The Advocates’ Society throughout his career.  In 2005 he became a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Al was an advocate and a trusted advisor to his very core. As a lawyer, he earned the reputation for utmost professionalism and worked tirelessly to advance the interests of his clients. He was often called upon to deal with the most complex or difficult of matters and did so with wisdom, wit, and grace. Even as his illness limited his ability to actively practice, Al remained engaged. His clients’ interests were always close to his heart. Al believed in the law as a force for good, and felt it a privilege to represent and assist his clients through their most difficult times.

Al’s immense intellect was often masked by his humility. Though he was one of the most powerful and sought-after counsel in Ottawa, he had an innate empathy for everyone he met. He gave the same respect to a janitor that he would a Judge. Respect is owed by virtue of someone’s humanity, not their station in life.

There was a wisdom about Al that was hard to miss. He loved to tell his children and grandchildren stories of his upbringing on a farm near Alexandria, Ontario. Always funny and engaging, Al’s stories taught profound lessons about how to live an honourable life. Indeed one of his favourite activities was to spin a yarn to a rapt set of family, friends, or colleagues. His stories will be greatly missed.

Al’s pride in his grandchildren Dhara and Siersha (Scott), Evan, Chloe, and Sophie (Craig), and Brody (Lauren) was joyous and intense. He always made time for them, loved their cuddles, and took great delight in participating in their adventures.

A proud alumnus and teacher at Glengarry District High School, St. Pat’s College and the University of Ottawa faculty of Law, Al maintained his friendships of youth throughout his life. Lac Heney, Quebec, became Al’s oasis and held a special place in his heart. He loved puttering about, maintaining the grounds, chatting with neighbours over a beverage or campfire.  It was a place of peace, calm, friendship and family.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider making a donation to research into treatments for Multiple Myeloma, or to Orkidstra. A Celebration of Life for Al will be held when COVID-19 is over. Until then, to honour Al, we ask that you love each other and make time for a good story. Al’s story is one of the greats.

To view Al’s full obituary, click here

Ottawa Business Journal April 6th, 2021

Al was one of the best lawyers I ever had the privilege of dealing with - as well as being an amazing human being. I can’t tell you the number of times I thanked heaven knowing you and Al we’re on the same team. I know Dan is heartbroken and I’m sure you must be feeling an incredible sense of loss. I too am feeling a profound sense of sadness...but aren’t we all blessed to have known Al, his wise counsel, his mercurial sense of humour and his steadfast friendship.

He was a leader in every sense of the word and commanded instant respect and confidence.

So sad. Al was one of the great ones. A wonderful human being who cared about our community and all the people who make it up. He will be sorely missed.

I’m so sorry to both of you and all our friends at Nelligans for your loss. It’s truly a loss felt by the entire family that is the Ottawa bar.

You know more than any of us that Al was a great lawyer, mentor, partner, leader, friend but more importantly ,he was a wonderful person. I know that you will draw strength from remembering him that way..

I am so sorry to hear this news. Al was a truly great guy. I had naively thought he was going to beat off his illness for many more years. My condolences to all of Al’s colleagues at your firm

I just saw that and it broke my heart. I had a couple of cases with him a few years back and I always admired his cool and calm approach - a style that was very effective . My deepest sympathy to you, your partners and your firm.

I found Al to be a formidable presence. We were partners first in the practice of law and then in business for about 45 years. Al will be in my thoughts.

On behalf of the Faculty, please accept my condolences on the loss of your colleague and your friend.

So sad. Al was one of the great ones. A wonderful human being who cared about our community and all the people who make it up. He will be sorely missed.

To everyone at Nelligan O’Brien Payne: We learned on the weekend of Al O’Brien’s passing. We are so very saddened by this news, and we send our deepest condolences to Al’s family and to everyone at Nelligan O’Brien Payne. Our firms have a shared history. Many of us at DHA worked for years with Al. The notice on your website puts it wonderfully well: Al was larger than life for many of us too. We are shocked and unsettled by Al’s passing. Our thoughts, and hearts, are with everyone at NOP at this very sad time.

Just a lovely person not to mention a great lawyer. I and so many others will miss him – please give our deepest sympathies to your colleagues at Nelligan’s.

I am so sorry to hear about Al’s passing. I know you have lost a very dear friend. For well over 30+ years, the many things he did for me, big or small, business or personal, will never be forgotten. Always a true gentleman. Always true to his word. He will forever be in my memory and in my prayers.

I wanted to extend my condolences on the loss of your partner, Al O’Brien We spend so much time with those we work with and great colleagues are truly to be cherished.

It was with such shock and sadness to learn about Al’s passing. Please accept our deepest condolences. Nelligan O’Brien Payne must be reeling. My heart goes out to you. It is so hard to absorb and imagine Ottawa (and Waverley Street – we live on the same street) without his wit, intelligence and kindness. When I think of Al the first thing I think of are his mischievous sparkling eyes. I only know a fraction of his story but what I know for sure is that he made a significant difference in so many ways. He will be profoundly missed. Please know that Gary and I, and your entire OrKidstra family, are sending love to you and your family.

I am just checking in to express my condolences. It is difficult for me to imagine a world without Al in it, and you knew him and worked with him much longer than I did

I’m very sorry to hear about Al. What a loss for the firm and for the entire community. He will be missed.

I enjoyed Al’s warmth and engagement. He will be missed by many. My condolences to you on losing a long time colleague.

Just to let you know I have been thinking of you all week since the heartbreaking passing of Al. So difficult to imagine. Such an especially personal loss for you (and of course, Gail, Craig, Scott, Lauren and family) as I know what a touchstone he was for you personally and professionally.  Such a brilliant, thoughtful and measured legal mind - everyone sought his valued opinion or counsel.  During the last few months of 2020, we were both in almost every day (and many Sundays) and he always waved hello and often stopped to chat for a bit while on his way to the kitchen - and often after hours he sat in the kitchen chatting with Debbie B and Mia.  He had time for everyone. My sincere sympathies on your loss.

My condolences on the death of Al O’Brien. It must be very difficult for you having known and worked so closely with Al for all the years. Although he was ahead of us, I remember Al from law school days and used to see Al at the YMCA on Bank Street frequently. He always had a smile and time to say hello. My very best wishes,

This is very sad news indeed. Al was not only an excellent counsel he was also a wonderfully engaging person who will not be forgotten anytime soon.

I was deeply saddened to learn of Al’s passing. My wife eva and I have known Al for over 40 years— longer for Eva. Truly wonderful person and a terrific lawyer. We were at his induction into the ACTL an organization I know he was very proud to be a part of. A recognition by his peers of his outstanding qualities. We often remarked on how lucky we each were to have such wonderful mentors — John for him and Ian Scott for me. We send our condolences to the firm and to his family.

Al went out of his way to invite me to dinners, and to introduce me to the Ottawa bar. We spent a memorable evening in the Market listening to the great Irish folk artist Tommy Mekom, who was in the last months of his life. Peter, I am so sorry for you and your colleagues. Al was a great lawyer, and an even better person. He will not be soon forgotten.

Janice and Peter, I cannot express the sorrow I feel at the loss of Al O’Brien. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling. I first met Al when I was in undergrad at UO. Al’s brother in law Tim Kehoe and I were classmates in high school and in undergrad and we often used Al and Gail’s apartment in Sandy Hill to study, or just party. Al was a prince then and he remained one throughout. There are very few people who are respected by all. Al was one of those few, and he will be sadly missed. We extend our condolences to the Nelligan family.

I am very sorry to hear of Al’s death on Sunday. Terribly tragic. My heart goes out to the firm and to Gail and Craig and the rest of the O’Brien family, who must all still be reeling. Al was a great mentor to me and to so many others.

I just wanted to tell you how very sorry I was to hear of Al’s passing. I know that he will be greatly missed both at the firm, and amongst friends and family. My memories of Al during the early years at Nelligan’s are flooding back to me… He was always one to jump on the bandwagon whenever we had any crazy ideas for Nelligan parties!

I have only good memories of working with him during that articling year when I spent more time with him than anyone else in the firm. Great mind and good sense of humour.

I am saddened to learn of Al’s passing. I have many memories of my time at Nelligan’s and my interactions with Al. I remember his sound advice, his wit at firm events and his leadership. I know he will be greatly missed.

I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him on some files, even though we opposed one another. He was a true gentleman, and how I wish there were many more like him!! I am thinking of you and hoping that the wonderful memories you made over the years will bring some comfort.

As you, your family and the firm are coming to terms with your loss, please know that your colleagues across the CCLA and beyond grieve with you. We have lost a true leader who was a shining example of how one can be both a tenacious advocate and a model of civility at the same time. Al reached the pinnacle of our profession without a hint of arrogance and was always willing to provide guidance and mentoring to others. Over the years we shared some difficult matters but never at the expense of his good nature, positivity or the spirit of camaraderie which he engendered. Al was a wonderful man in every aspect of his life and we are all richer for having known him. He will be sorely missed.

He was such a remarkable man, mentor, consummate professional and gentlemen and I know the Nelligan, O’Brien and Payne family will miss him immensely. Sending our thoughts and prayers to the entire O’Brien law partner family.

I just wanted to send you a quick note to give my condolences on Al’s passing. I had the good fortune to work with him on a couple of files and he was not only a great lawyer but also a wonderful man. I am very sorry for the loss to you and the firm. May his memory be a blessing.

I just read the alert shared about the passing of Allan O'Brien, and I just want to pass on my condolences to you and your whole firm, as well as Allan's family. He seemed like a wonderful man and I am sure this is a hard hit for you all. I will be keeping you and all your colleagues in my thoughts.

So sorry to hear that Al passed yesterday. He was such a force to be reckoned with, its hard to believe.

This is a difficult time for Al’s immediate family and his Nelligan’s family. I still feel part of the Nelligan’s family, and grieve with you. Please share my heartfelt condolences with others at the firm.

Janice and Peter, I cannot express the sorrow I feel at the loss of Al O’Brien. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling. I first met Al when I was in undergrad at UO. Al’s brother in law Tim Kehoe and I were classmates in high school and in undergrad and we often used Al and Gail’s apartment in Sandy Hill to study, or just party. Al was a prince then and he remained one throughout. There are very few people who are respected by all. Al was one of those few, and he will be sadly missed. We extend our condolences to the Nelligan family.

I am very sorry to hear of Al’s passing.  Al made a tremendous contribution to the legal profession and the people of Ontario and Canada.

I was saddened to read about the passing of your partner, Al O'Brien. You & your firm must be devastated. I think Al was one of the nicest , most capable, decent lawyers I have worked with. You have my sincere condolences as I am sure he was a good friend .

Al was a true champion in our profession.  He was a fierce lawyer in the courtroom but always very respectable amongst counsel. We wanted to send our condolences to you and your firm

This is a huge loss for the firm but even more for everyone who worked with him over all the years. It was such a pleasure to work with Al as a lawyer and more recently with his extensive law school involvement. My bias leans towards the Nelligan Moot Competition but I know he was involved in so much more. He was a very loyal alumnus, an excellent lawyer and mentor to so many.

Have Questions?