A man rarely afraid of a fresh challenge, John McDonnell this year managed to set up from scratch a new set of chambers, Thirteen Old Square, house it with 14 tenants and equip it with ultra-modern technology while maintaining a first-class practice. A bold move in the current climate, but in 2005 McDonnell expects the set to double in size to 30 tenants.
Before becoming a barrister in 1971, McDonnell’s work ranged from being a speechwriter for Senator George McGovern to helping create England’s 1971 Industrial Relations Act. Diversity is at the heart of his practice as a barrister. This year he acted for sisters Chitralekha Mehta and Anila Shastri in their high-profile dispute with their brother over ownership of the Patak spices empire; for the world’s largest steel owner Mittal; and in the vast Nina Wang case in Hong Kong over ownership of a family trust in which kidnapping and murder claims feature in the evidence. All colourful stuff – which is undoubtedly a description that many in the City would afford McDonnell himself.