20 December 1994
The recently-published 'Havers' Companion to the Bar' claims 74 barristers specialise in computer law. This compares with 266 who specialise in intellectual property law.
Because cases are seldom clear cut, many of the IP barristers do computer law cases. But solicitors claim it is hard to find barristers who have a clear understanding of the technology involved.
It is even more difficult to find a Queen's Counsel because the area is so new that those specialising in it are too young to be considered for silk so far.
Says one solicitor: "There are not many IT barristers and even fewer telecoms barristers. Part of the problem is the complicated technology that they have to grapple with."
In the main, only a few barristers who have made their mark on the computer field are singled out, with Henry Carr of 11 South Square (the chambers of Christopher Floyd QC) coming at the top of the list for most.
Carr, who was called in 1982 and who is author of 'Computer Legal Software Protection in the UK', is described by by colleagues as "very laid-back, very sensible". A solicitor says: "Because he's not formal, he's very good with the clients."
"He knows technology, has good barrister skills and academically his work is excellent,'" says another.
Because he is so popular, however, the drawback is that "you must make sure you book enough time with him. When you do, he's very good but you do have to fight for his time".
In the same chambers, Michael Silverleaf also comes in for a mention, described as "very computer literate" and "more switched on to the super- information highway than Henry".
At the junior end, the barrister who gets most mentions is Richard Meade at Michael Fysch QC's chambers at 8 New Square.
Called in 1991. He is "worth watching," says one solicitor, adding: "He's highly computer literate, understands technology and gets down to the basics as well as being very thorough."
Meade spent two years at Andersen Consulting specialising in computers which, says his clerk John Caul, "has stood him in very good stead". At the more senior end, in Fysch's chambers, John Baldwin QC comes in for a mention.
The link between construction law and computer law is shown by the inclusion of Atkin Chambers, headed by Anthony Butcher QC. A number of its barristers come in for attention, including Andrew White, who was called in 1980 and David Streatfeild-James, called in 1986.
White's most notable computer case to date has been the dispute between Marconi and the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, which finished in 1993.
Streatfeild-James is currently involved in the DSL case against Unisys which started in 1991. Anthony Butcher QC led for Unisys.
Since most computer law deals have a European and an intellectual property side, solicitors nominated barristers in both these areas.
On the competitive aspects of computer law, Nicholas Green, of Brick Court Chambers, is highly regarded with Christopher Vajda of Four Raymond Buildings also mentioned.
"Both know technology and are very commercial barristers as well as being very good academically but at the same time seeing the commercial issue," says one solicitor who has used both.
On the intellectual property side, Hugh Laddie QC, Peter Prescott QC and John Baldwin QC of 8 New Square are mentioned, as is Alistair Wilson QC of 19 Old Buildings.
Other chambers coming in for a mention are: 1 Essex Court, headed by Stan Stamler QC and 6 Pump Court.
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