WINNER: Tim Ward QC, Monckton Chambers
Monckton Chambers' Tim Ward QC scored a monumental victory for the Icelandic government in January and was declared a national hero for his work in connection with the 2008 Icelandic financial collapse. The Luxembourg-based European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court dismissed an application brought by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and European Commission alleging that Iceland had broken the deposit guarantee directive by refusing to compensate British and Dutch nationals in the wake of the collapse of Icesave. Had the ruling gone the other way Iceland would have been left liable for around £3bn in compensation. That is more than one and a half times the annual revenue for the Icelandic state, something that would have plunged it back to the depths of recession.
It has been a long and hard slog for Ward who, litigators say, is unafraid of rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in. The case attracted interventions from the UK, represented by Brick Court's Mark Hoskins QC. According to Iceland’s foreign minister Ossur Skarpheoinsson: “We hired the best barrister in Britain. In my opinion his defence was a masterpiece.” While this might have been Ward's highest-profile mandate in the past 12 months, he has also secured instructions in the £2bn Franked Investment Income group litigation dispute, while also being instructed by AkzoNobel, British Sky Broadcasting and Vodafone. A legal tactician who is an outstandingly talented advocate, Ward has built strong followings in his chosen fields of competition, public and EU law. He is one advocate who will be breaking new ground for years to come.
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2ND: Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, Debevoise & Plimpton
The former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith QC turned poacher in 2007 when he joined Debevoise & Plimpton after six years in the Government. His highest-profile case to date is yet to be heard by the High Court but in January Goldsmith will represent business tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz and the Tchenguiz Family Trust in their £200m damages claim against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). That the case even got to court is an achievement for Goldsmith, who persuaded the High Court last July that the SFO search warrants against his clients were obtained unlawfully. This came after the SFO dropped its investigation into Tchenguiz, admitting that errors had been made. While this is Goldsmith's most anticipated case to date he is held in high regard around the globe and is in constant demand. As well as being instructed by his Debevoise colleagues, Goldsmith is a go-to advocate for other firms. Highlights included a Court of Appeal (CoA) instruction from Herbert Smith Freehills on its high-profile case for Paddy McKillen over the £1bn Mayfair group of hotels. Litigators say Goldsmith is a natural with clients, is strategic and practical in his preparation for court and brings to a courtroom a presence that is worth its weight in gold.
3RD: Melanie Hall QC, Monckton Chambers
Monckton Chambers' Melanie Hall QC can rightly be proud of saving HMRC a massive £20bn in the past year in two groundbreaking cases for the taxman. The first concerned landfill taxes and, had it gone against the Government, could have resulted in payouts of more than £9bn. Hall, a tenacious and well-respected advocate, then went on to successfully defeat a challenge by sandwich chain Subway over its tax obligations. Hall has acted in landmark cases that have shaped the structure and boundaries of VAT and other indirect taxes. She takes the most complex of cases and constructs simplistic and persuasive arguments. Outside of the office Hall has worked with Dechert partner Miriam Gonzalez on The Lawyer's Circle, the legal branch of a charity established by the singer Annie Lennox, which works with Oxfam on gender-based programmes. So far she has encouraged more than 100 female lawyers and barristers to sign up to the project. According to Lennox, Hall “has a wicked sense of humour and she makes incredible things happen”.
- Timothy Dutton QC, Fountain Court Chambers
- Robert Francis QC, Serjeants' Inn Chambers
- Nathalie Lieven QC, Landmark Chambers