Bar/litigation roundup

Lawyer Awards 2001
Barrister of the Year: Rabinder Singh, Matrix
2nd place: Laurence Rabinowitz, One Essex Court
3rd place: Philip Sales, 11 King's Bench Walk Chambers
Litigation Team of the Year: Richards Butler
2nd place: Freethcartright
3rd place: Clifford Chance
North East circuit faces Bar Council expulsion
While the Bar Council continued its efforts to dispel its image of being out of touch, the North East Circuit appeared to be travelling at speed in the opposite direction, proposing to ban employed barristers from its membership.
The Bar Council had spent the past three years promoting the message that employed barristers and those in independent practice were part of a united profession. It promptly stated that if the circuit went ahead with the ban it might struggle to maintain its position on the Bar Council, although in the event this was not necessary as the vote was not carried (7 May).
End of the line for BCCI
After 10 years of preparation, Lovells tough guy Chris Grierson managed to pull off a House of Lords victory in the battle for compensation from the Bank of England.
Three Rivers & ors v Bank of England finally reached its conclusion. Lovells was forced to resort to an allegation of misfeasance against the bank for failing to supervise BCCI and revoke its licence, as the Bank of England enjoys statutory immunity.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, acting for the bank, not only lost, but also hired a team of heavyweight counsel who probably made more money than them.
“So will Three Rivers v Bank of England lead to copycat actions against the bank? The general consensus is that it will not, although Hall v Bank of England in 1999 took inspiration from it.
“Misfeasance is exceptionally difficult to characterise, let alone prove, so Deloitte & Touche and Lovells had better keep all the BCCI creditors onside. Even though this victory will not necessarily open the floodgates, it could certainly bring a new dimension to the liquidation process. And will Freshfields advise the Bank of England to settle? Don't even think about it” – Catrin Griffiths, Leader, 26 March.

“What would be the ideal merger? My own suggestion – though I think the clerks might be vying for the top job – would be Fountain Court and 3/4 South Square. Just imagine it: a 91-tenant commercial set with 25 silks and a combined turnover of more than £30m”
Matheu Swallow, 24 September

Bar probes 4 KBW over Claims Direct payments
The Bar Council launched an investigation into allegations that Robert Rhodes QC's 4 King's Bench Walk paid Claims Direct in return for work.
The chambers flatly denied the allegation claiming that the set's consultant clerk Ian Lee received the bulk of Claims Direct's advisory work on quantum and liability and then forwarded it to other chambers.
A £15 payment from the set to Claims Direct for each case it handled was to help the set keep track of what was happening to the cases. This payment was stopped pending a decision by the Bar Council (24 September).
The Bar Top 30
In the first ever Bar Top 30, part of The Lawyer 100 survey, The Lawyer revealed the extent of the bar's commercial clout. The survey revealed that the top 30 sets boast a combined turnover of £406m.
One Essex Court scooped first place with a turnover of £27m, which in real terms represented a year-on-year increase of about £6m, having suffered the loss of several high-earning silks in 2000. Fellow magic circle sets Brick Court Chambers and Essex Court Chambers finished in second and third place respectively, but the real surprise was 20 Essex Street, which, with a turnover of £20m, finished in fourth. Although its figures were bolstered by the income of its 11 arbitrators, which was not factored in by other sets, it was nonetheless impressive (The Lawyer 100, 3 September).
The Lawyer Court of Appeal Survey
in 2001, The Lawyer pulled off the first ever in-depth study of law firm and barrister performance in the Court of Appeal.
The results were dominated by the insurance specialist law firms with Beachcroft Wansbroughs, Berrymans Lace Mawer and Kennedys placed second, fourth and fifth places respectively. Herbert Smith topped the table while Allen & Overy, with only three appearances, fell well below expectations. Among the chambers Brick Court Chambers dominated the scene, with almost 70 Court of Appeal appearances (12 and 19 March).
Crystal demands £10m as Thyssen trial collapses
In April, the infamous Thyssen litigation, which continues to be the bane of so many lawyers' lives, ground to a halt in the strangest of circumstances.
The Lawyer reported how Mr Justice Mitchell had resigned after his application for more money under a new employment contract had been rejected by the Bermudian authorities. It later emerged that defence lawyers had requested his resignation because of potential conflicts arising out of his request for a pay rise.
Money continued to be the main feature of the case. The Bar-on's counsel, Michael Crystal QC of 3-4 South Square, who had just spent 105 days making his opening statement, threatened to sue the Ber-mudian government for more than £10m because of costs arising out of delays to the trial.
The future of the trial remains in doubt, with a new judge and the location of the court still to be agreed. Mr Justice Lightman was approached to take over, but he has not confirmed whether he intends to do so. Meanwhile he is busy with Railtrack (2 April).

George Carman QC RIP

No round-up of the year can be complete without reference to the death of George Alfred Carman QC, otherwise known as 'Gorgeous George'. He had been battling with cancer for about four years. Carman was obviously best known for his libel work acting for the likes of Elton John, Imran Khan, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. He was known less for his heroic stands in the criminal courts in the early stages of his career and his contributions to the law of shipping, licensing and commercial arbitration (8 January).