The junior bar must jettison 'Dickensian' aloofness and embrace the team ethic.
For solicitors it is critical that barristers are both willing and able to work as part of a team. One practitioner was astounded by a recent episode where counsel excluded the solicitor from consultation on a high-profile case.
This Dickensian attitude, says the solicitor, is borne out of pomposity and arrogance and has no place in the modern relationship between barrister and solicitor. He feels that barristers need to realise that as the solicitors' side of the profession becomes more specialised, so they will become more expert and will have more input than ever before. This criticism, substantiated by several other practitioners, is surprising given that in past surveys solicitors widely praised the thoroughly modern attitude of barristers.
But it is not all doom and gloom. A wide number of juniors still command appreciation both for advocacy and written opinions.
Blackstone Chambers has a team of outstanding quality. Names rolling off the tongues of solicitors are Javan Herberg, Mark Shaw, the "simply tremendous" Pushpinder Saini and the "commendable" Dinah Rose. "Very junior but very very good" is Tom Weisselberg, while Beverley Lang, Gerard Clarke and Ian Mill are all rated.
4-5 Gray's Inn Square is top for sheer weight of numbers. Richard McManus is likely to be on the next silks list and he will get there because he is "very bright and flexible". The "terrier-like" Clive Lewis is right up there and, having been an academic, "knows his stuff" and is "very good on detail". Other members winning praise, in no particular order, are David Wolfe, Timothy Corner, Murray Hunt, Helen Mountfield, Marie Demetriou, Hodge Malek and Tim Kerr.
Next door at 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, James Findlay is highly rated for local government work, as he frequently acts both for and against government entities. For the same kind of work, Guy Newey at 7 Stone Buildings comes recommended.
Other juniors who stand out are Gregory Jones at 2 Harcourt Buildings, who is an "excellent specialist in environmental law" and is instructed heavily for planning and pollution cases. "Good for opinions" at New Court is Oliver Hyams, while Adrian Beltrami of 3 Verulam Buildings has "an impressive grasp of difficult factual matters".
The star "by a long way" at 4 Breams Buildings is the "thoroughly dependable" Nathalie Lieven. Among her colleagues, Timothy Mould and Timothy Morshead, are both "excellent", with Christopher Katkowski blessed with the enviable talent of "making it easier to put up with boring old law". He has "a very funny, dry, sense of humour" and is "user-friendly and eloquent".
2 Garden Court has an active public law practice, primarily in "social welfare law", where joint head of chambers Owen Davies is acting on the Pinochet case in the House of Lords. Bethan Harris recently joined from 1 Pump Court and the "very good" Jan Luba has long been in residence. Other favourites are Stephanie Harrison, Stephen Cragg, Frances Webber and Richard Scannell.
At Doughty Street Chambers Keir Starmer is "head and shoulders above everyone else". Also at this set Kate Markus, Ben Emmerson and Martin Westgate are highly rated.
Although one solicitor was reluctant to recommend 11 King's Bench Walk barristers saying they had had too much good press recently, there were others who praised the "very bright" Nigel Giffin for his "clear advice".
At One Essex Court Nicholas Strauss is "very precise and very very good", Alan Griffiths is "very able" and Neil Kitchener is leaving many solicitor clients "well satisfied".
39 Essex Street has top dog Richard Gordon QC well supported by Tim Ward, Eleanor Grey and Sean Wilken, of whom it is said "although young, his grasp of the law and advocacy are excellent".
29 Bedford Row has the rated Craig Barlow and Nicholas Bowen, Brick Court Chambers has David Anderson and Cloisters has both Paul Epstein and Philip Engelman. In a recent Judicial Review case Engelman, acting on his own, took on the three silks representing the respondent and won.
Finally, at 4 Stone Buildings Robert Miles is a "very good all-round junior".