One Essex Court trails behind rivals in House of Lords cases

Magic circle chambers One Essex Court has a surprisingly low profile at the House of Lords, with only one silk from the set appearing in the last judicial year.

Elizabeth Gloster QC was the sole silk at Lord Grabiner’s set to take a case to the country’s highest court.

Research by The Lawyer reveals that Blackstone Chambers had 11 appearances at the House of Lords, nine of them by silks. David Pannick QC of Blackstones emerged as the most frequently appearing silk, taking four cases and winning three of them. Lord Lester QC, also of Blackstones, appeared three times but lost all three cases.

Blackstones’ performance has confirmed it is a serious rival for the magic circle set.

Blackstones’ senior clerk, Martin Smith, emphasises the chambers’ reputation as a public law set. He says that while members appear before the House of Lords in commercial cases, they are also very active in civil liberties and human rights cases. The public interest factor means that civil liberties cases have a tendency to reach the High Court on appeal.

This may account for the success of 5 Raymond Buildings, which was one of the top five chambers. 5 Raymond Buildings is not a leading chambers but it does specialise in media, entertainment and sports. Its areas of practice include libel and therefore its cases are more likely to end up in the High Court. And the introduction of the Human Rights Act means the number of media cases going to the House of Lords is likely to increase in the next few years.

Gordon Pollock QC of Essex Court Chambers and Jonathan Sumption QC of Brick Court Chambers, who are considered to be the two leading UK silks, have appeared once and twice respectively.

Further research reveals that the dissension in the judgment at the House of Lords was predominantly carried out by four judges.