5 Raymond Buildings

There are those out there who think that the libel and defamation bar is in serious danger of going under. The arguments are persuasive. Numbers of claim forms are gradually diminishing and so is the size of damages.

Chambers:

5 Raymond Buildings
Heads of chambers: Desmond Browne QC, Adrienne Page QC
Senior clerk: Kim Janes
Total no of tenants (silks): 24 (six)
Total no of staff: Seven clerks
Key clients: Carter-Ruck, Farrer & Co, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Wiggin
Recent cases: Paul McKenna v Mirror Group; Charman v Orion Publishing Group; Armstrong v Times Newspapers; Kieron Fallon v Mirror Group

There are those out there who think that the libel and defamation bar is in serious danger of going under. The arguments are persuasive. Numbers of claim forms are gradually diminishing and so is the size of damages.

Even so, media set 5 Raymond Buildings has followed this specialised path with remarkable success. Its barristers consistently win instructions on the headline-grabbing libel cases, including the recent Paul McKenna and Kieron Fallon disputes.

Desmond Browne QC, co-head of chambers, is aware of the naysayers, but is not deterred by them: “For as long as I can remember there have been those people saying that libel had no future and that it was the end of the world for the defamation bar, but that hasn’t been the case – for our chambers at any rate.”

The real key to the longevity of the chambers is its longstanding management team.

Browne and his co-head Adrienne Page QC have worked together for almost 30 years, while senior clerk Kim Janes has been at the chambers for more than 10 years, creating an experienced core to the set.

Browne and Page sit on the management committee with one elected representative each from the ranks of QCs, senior juniors and junior juniors at the chambers. Elections for the management committee are held every three years and recruitment decisions are voted on by all members.

The chambers has had to specialise in media and entertainment matters to remain competitive, but this has not always been the case. A little more than 25 years ago, when Browne joined the set, 5 Raymond Buildings handled everything including shipping, family and criminal disputes. One of Browne’s first assignments was to follow Luton Town FC hooligans around on away fixtures and advise them when they were arrested for violent conduct.

Browne says it is now more difficult to get young barristers this kind of varied court exposure because of the pressures on chambers to specialise.

“I think it’s one of those sad things that we’ve all become so specialised,” says Browne. “It’s partly down to the directories, which have put people in pigeonholes.”

But the set does have some up-and-coming specialists, such as IP barrister Madeleine Heal, who joined from Stone Chambers two years ago.

Browne says: “We’ve tried to recruit in that area. Trademarks and copyright are very often involved in a media case.”

Other stars include David Sherborne, whose clients have been as varied as the late Princess of Wales, pop band Oasis, Sven Goran Eriksson and former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.