Lawyer and former MP Julian Hall, who died on Saturday at Agape House of an undisclosed illness at age 59, had been a compelling presence in public life for more than three decades.

He entered the political domain in the early 1970s as a young, gifted and black star on the rise within the then governing United Bermuda Party.

The landmark Fisher case established Mr. Hall's reputation as a fighter for social justice and a formidable figure in the courtroom. The Fisher children had been removed from their school and ordered to leave Bermuda by the immigration department.

The Privy Council determined in 1977 that the Jamaican-born Fisher children, who had moved to Bermuda to join their mother after she married a Bermudian man "belonged to Bermuda" and were therefore entitled to Bermuda status.

Mr. Hall's gift for oratory was unmatched-and his penchant for performance extended beyond the courtroom. He enjoyed a reputation as a singer, and gravitated to the microphone in bars and churches. "My Way" was his signature song.

With his formidable talents, engaging personality and the ease with which he moved within all levels of society and between both races, many had him tipped as a future premier.

Yet the potential he demonstrated for rising to the top ranks of political leadership, was never fully realised. Flamboyant, charismatic with expensive tastes, he had unfortunate capacity to get himself in financial fixes, leaving others, including the Bermudian taxpayer to bail him out.

Mr. Hall did admit to making mistakes. He told the Bermuda Sun in 2005: "I decided years ago that I should spend the second half of my life singing mostly for the glory of God in churches and religious places if only to try and atone for the sins of the first half of my life. Consequently, I have a lot of singing to do. "

He didn't specify what his sins were.

Mr. Hall quit the UBP in protest over the hangings in 1977 of Buck Burrows and Larry Tacklyn that led to riots, and joined the PLP.

He was a PLP MP from 1989 to 1993, but lost his seat in Hamilton Parish, mainly because he refused to canvas. While he retained his interest in politics, and engaged in public commentary, often through well-crafted newspaper columns, he never ran for election again. He seemingly had no appetite for the demands of politics.

He told the Bermuda Sun: "It really was a good thing that I was never Premier of Bermuda. I build things up and then break them down again. I am not good at knocking on doors and schmoozing. I don't suffer fools gladly."

Mr. Hall's first financial flameout occurred in 1977, when he was the promoter of a concert called Summerfest, with an all-star line-up. He later described it as a musical success, but a financial disaster.

By then, he had his own all-star legal practice. In 1982, he was declared a bankrupt. When the UBP government pushed through a law to prevent bankrupt lawyers from practising, he termed it the "Julian Hall law", whose only intent was to punish him. He questioned the fairness of a law that prevented him from practising, making it impossible for him to pay off his debts.

He left Bermuda, but returned in the 1990s, and joined the legal practice of Charles Vaucrosson, who agreed to pay off his debt. That move proved to be financially and professionally disastrous for both men.

In 2000, Mr. Hall was declared bankrupt a second time. In 2005, he was in Supreme Court, accused of stealing $500,000 from a wealthy client. Allegations of drug use on his part emerged during the high-profile case, which ended with his acquittal.

In recent years, Mr. Hall spent much of his time outside Bermuda, living in Montreal. On his visits back home, he commented on political affairs. Several years after the PLP's historic 1998 victory, he was strong critical of the PLP government, saying it was not living up to its principles as a labour party. He famously described Housing Minister David Burch as a "public relations train wreck in slow motion." He also took issue with the performance of his former close friend Alex Scott as premier.

He remained in the PLP camp-and his very vocal support of Premier Ewart Brown was said to have played a role in the PLP's 2007 election victory.

Last year, there was an often contentious hearing over several sittings in which Mr. Hall sought to have his bankruptcy discharged. He owed $3 million and his creditors included the estate of lawyer Charles Vaucrosson and Betty McMahon, the elderly widow he was accused of stealing from in his 2005 Supreme Court trial.

The hearing revealed he was earning $119,000 a year as a consultant to the Works and Engineering Ministry. He was also criticized for living a champagne lifestyle while making no attempt to pay back his creditors. He was unsuccessful in having his bankruptcy discharged.

In February of this year, it was disclosed that his annual salary as a Government consultant had increased from $119,00 to $200,000 and he was ordered to pay his creditors up to $6,000 a month.

Last December, Government pushed through a law, over the objections of the Bermuda Bar Council, the Opposition and some PLP MPs that cleared the way for bankrupt lawyers to practise.

Mr. Hall obtained his legal certificate, which entitled him to practise. But he never returned to the courtroom because of ill health.

He is survived by three adult daughters and leaves a legacy, according to his legal colleagues, of being the best lawyer of his generation. But in the wake of his death, many have ruminated at the prospect of the bigger contribution he might have made.