Leader

Who says class distinctions are dead? This year’s Who’s Who welcomed 135 law-yers to its pages, 115 of whom were silks and just three of whom were solicitors in private practice.

In this year’s The Lawyer Hot 100, we’ve tried to be a bit more representative. Of course, we’re slightly hampered by our raw material. We could do with a few more Lady Hales; the upper reaches of the profession are still overwhelmingly white and male. There is a new female generation coming through, but the drop-out rate of women in their early 30s inevitably has a massive impact on our 100, and it’s an issue we’ll be returning to this year.

Some of our Hot 100 are dedicated client handlers who have created wealth for their firm, such as Matthew Layton of Clifford Chance, or Mike Francies of Weil Gotshal.

Three lawyers from the Hutton Inquiry and four UK judges make the list. Others are entrepreneurs, such as Dawn Dixon and Michael Webster, who set up the City’s first black law firm in 1998, Andrew Thompson of Lee & Thompson, who brokered David Beckham’s split from SFX, or David Beech of nine-partner Stoke-on-Trent firm Heatons.

Some may have built – or in some cases, relaunched – a business, such as Gide Loyrette Nouel’s Gerard Tavernier, BLP’s head of corporate John Bennett, Chris Campbell of Dundas & Wilson, Neil Kinsella of Russell Jones & Walker and Nigel Savage of the College of Law. Others may, in the case of Liverpool City Council’s legal team, have managed a massive regeneration project that will change the lives of locals.

Others will have been singled out because of what is likely to be a tough or exciting year, such as the new Stephenson Harwood chief executive Sunil Ghadia, still only in his 30s and with a massive task ahead of him.

We make no apology for focusing on lawyers from the commercial world. The one exception we made was Michael Mackey of Burton Copeland for his work on the Sally Clark case, which heralded a watershed in the treatment of cases concerning sudden infant death.

Those campaigning for justice here or abroad deserve acclaim, but putting an activist from Zimbabwe in the same list as a rainmaker from a magic circle firm is in our view a queasy compromise. Because of this, we will be investigating the work of front line lawyers in a separate feature. Those unsung, underpaid heroes deserve their own spotlight.