Matheu Swallow enquires.
Tomorrow's silks are proving themselves as the juniors of today, but will the number of juniors dwindle?
Good junior barristers form the backbone of the commercial Bar, and the best are quickly recognised by top firms.
"A good silk is often only as good as the junior he's leading," says one wise old chambers clerk.
But good juniors may become an endangered species. Many of the biggest City firms acknowledge that their solicitor-advocates are stealing away the work upon which the younger juniors would have once cut their teeth.
"One of my concerns about the Bar is how the Sumptions and Grabiners of the future are going to get the experience," says one senior partner. But for the time being, top commercial chambers already have many of tomorrow's stars.
Among the most favoured, Laurence Rabinowitz of Anthony Grabiner QC's One Essex Court is tipped for greatness. "An imposing intellect…", "It's difficult to fault him…", "He'll be in the Lords one day…", are the quotes he attracts from some of the City's most senior commercial litigators. Colleagues Alain Choo Choy and Jeffery Onions are also seen to be "highly able".
Antony Zacaroli of Michael Crystal QC's 3-4 South Square is tipped as a favourite almost as frequently as Rabinowitz. His colleagues Lexa Hilliard, Mark Arnold, and Robin Knowles are all strong runners.
Fountain Court is resplendent with highly rated stars, including Raymond Cox and Guy Philipps.
At the same set Stephen Moriarty and Bankim Thanki are described as "high-flying intellects", and the glittering team was joined by David Waksman from 3 Verulam Buildings – itself noted for its quality juniors – in February.
At Colin Ross-Munro QC's 2 Hare Court, which mixes strengths in commercial work and public law, Ian Mill is recognised as "very good on the media and entertainment side".
Erskine Chambers' Richard Snowden and Martin Moore fare well as front runners in heavyweight company and insolvency matters, while colleague Andrew Thompson is "a rising star".
Brick Court Chambers' Charles Hollander is highly sought-after as a strong advocate. Neil Calver, Helen Davies, and Dominic Chambers, recently joined from One Hare Court, are also in demand.
One Hare Court's reputation for specialism and its high-profile joint heads Lord Neill of Bladen and Richard Southwell QC have helped its juniors to flourish. James Eadie, Dominic Dowley and, in particular, Nicholas Lavender enjoy a strong reputation in the City. Colleague Khawar Qureshi is known for his international and constitutional expertise.
Francis Taylor Building's Philip Rainey is praised for his work on commercial property matters in particular.
At 24 Old Buildings Elspeth Talbot Rice, who is described as "deeply analytical and dirt cheap", and Francis Tregear both win hard-earned praise from solicitors.
At 17 Bedford Row expatriate Kiwi John McLinden is singled out as being "outstanding" while Hasheem Boreezen is also mentioned.
At Littleton Chambers Paul Lowenstein and Naomi Ellenbogen are highly rated, as is their colleague, Antony Sendall.
Christopher Smith from 4 Field Court is "very aggressive, approachable and not hideously expensive".
Essex Court Chambers won praise, not only for barristers but also its clerking team.
As one solicitor put it: "Brilliant clerking. If timetables are a problem then you get the impression that they go and beat up their barristers."
Although running a smaller set, Field Court Chambers' clerks also won plaudits.
We asked clerks and practice managers to name the silks and juniors they would poach for their sets.
Anthony Grabiner QC at Essex Court was popular, while aviation specialist Michael Crane QC, who has just moved to Brick Court Chambers, was also named as a favourite.
Elizabeth Gloster QC, a colleague of Grabiner's at One Essex Court, wins substantial praise.
Fountain Court's Anthony Boswood QC, who is described as "hard-nosed but bloody good on his feet", would be snapped up quickly.
Robert Hildyard QC of 4 Stone Buildings and Iain Milligan QC of 20 Essex Street also feature strongly.
Joe Smouha of Essex Court Chambers, Christopher Hancock of 20 Essex Street and 4 Stone Buildings' Jonathan Crow are at the top of many clerks' wish-lists