The Lawyer has sounded out those in the know to find which silks are considered the champions of the commercial bar. The leading practitioners in this area have singled out the 'premier league' of silks, senior juniors and juniors to watch in the future. This list is not exhaustive but is based on the subjective recommendations of leading litigation partners.
Commercial awareness and versatility are just two of the qualities that are prerequisites for a commercial barrister. They should also have “an ability to come up with ideas for workable practical solutions to highly complex technical problems.”
There are a number of sets housing the general commercial heavyweight 'mega-silks'. The names of these barristers, who are regarded as the most expensive, can have the opposition scrabbling to instruct one of the other names in the heavy-hitter category.
The sets named most frequently are Brick Court Chambers, Fountain Court Chambers, 1 Essex Court and Essex Court Chambers as well as each of the respective heads of those chambers.
At Brick Court Chambers, the “intellectual” Jonathan Sumption QC is considered “head and shoulders above the rest and is highly rated for detailed and complicated matters”. Others aim the same praise at the head of the set, Christopher Clarke QC, who “has an excellent bedside manner, especially with non-English-speaking clients”. Another leading solicitor says Clarke has “impressed the socks off him”. And 1 Essex Court Chambers is singled out by others as a very commercial and well-organised set with chambers head Anthony Grabiner QC highly rated for commercial litigation.
At Fountain Court Chambers, the set head Peter Scott QC “is an A1 advocate, an excellent cross-examiner, and has the ear of the court”. Gordon Pollock QC at Essex Court Chambers and Sydney Kentridge QC at Brick Court “must both be mentioned”, and while Peter Goldsmith QC is a “complete lawyer”.
Richard Sykes QC at Erskine Chambers is “probably the number one company law barrister, and technically superb”.
Other silks at Brick Court, such as Richard Aikens and Mark Hapgood QC, who is a “useful advocate”, all rate numerous mentions, and Mark Howard QC who “although a more junior leader is rated very highly”. Others singled out at this set are Mark Cran QC and Jonathan Hirst QC, with 1997 silks George Leggatt, Andrew Popplewell, and Stephen Ruttle all justifying their mentions in previous articles.
Michael Brindle QC at Fountain Court Chambers is “absolutely first class and is doing very well. He is heading for the premier league.” Also at this set and singled out for mention are Charles Falconer QC (who “is otherwise occupied now as Solicitor General”), Anthony Boswood QC, and 1996 silk David Railton QC who was “an excellent junior and is definitely someone to watch”. Nicholas Underhill QC is “energetic, and very good at coming up with original ideas about a problem”. Others named at this set are Nicholas Stadlen QC and Andrew Smith QC.
Other very able silks are Johnny (VV) Veeder QC at Essex Court Chambers, who is noted for his knowledge of arbitration and commercial litigation generally and is “very bright and excellent with clients”. Another very able silk at this set is Bernard Eder QC.
Christopher Carr QC at 1 Essex Court and Elizabeth Gloster QC, who is “a name that immediately comes to mind”, are also rated. Also recommended at this set are Ian Glick QC and Nicholas Strauss QC, who is “one of the most intelligent for planning and drafting and is also good as a consultant”. At the same set Geoffrey Hobbs QC and Peter Leaver QC are said to be “excellent” and 1997 silk Jeffrey Gruder QC gets a favourable mention.
Presiley Baxendale QC at 2 Hare Court is always in demand and Charles Flint QC is described as being “very quick, and commercial”.
Stewart Boyd QC at Essex Court Chambers is recommended, while Sir Patrick Neill QC at 1 Hare Court is said to be a “good all-rounder, but particularly expert in administrative law”.
Paul Lasok QC at 4 Raymond Buildings is highly rated, as is Michael Burton QC at Littleton chambers.
For general corporate work, Robin Potts QC at Erskine Chambers is recommended.
Another underrated silk is Michael Lyndon-Stanford QC at William Christie's set at 13 Old Square who “although not particularly well-known, has been used to good effect”.