Northern souls lead the field

Once again it is the North West leading the regions – this time in the family Bar. But few sets display the depth required

The regional family Bar comes with a raft of recommended individuals but the problem, as often seems to be the case, is that there are few sets with real strength and depth in this specialist area.

Once again the exception is the North West, where head of chambers at 40 King Street in Manchester, Philip Raynor QC, is outstanding, being possibly the “only financial silk you would automatically think of”. Raynor is also a commercial barrister. Also at this set, Sonia Gal wins praise for her child care work and Fiona Ashworth is “liked”.

Elsewhere in Manchester, 28 St John’s Street boasts the “marvellous” Lindsey Kushner QC, the “rated” Sarah Singleton and the more than up and coming Charles Eastwood, who is “authoritative beyond his years”, probably because he has one of the deepest voices around. At the same set, Bernard Wallwork, is your “senior man for big money matters”.

At Deans Court, Ernest Ryder QC is “very methodical, very well prepared and good in conference”, having “carved his niche for children’s work”. The set also has Alan Booth, a “top money junior” and Karen Brody, a “good fighter” who is “tough on cross-examination”. At Young Street, Grenville Jay wins praise and, for children’s work, Lesley Newton is “red-hot”. At 8 King Street, Elizabeth Rylands is rated.

In Liverpool, India Buildings (moved from Peel House in January) has David Harris QC as chambers’ head and rated individuals Maureen Roddy (chair of the local Family Bar Association) and Martyn Bennett. Kevin Reade of Martin’s Building is rated, as is the ever-reliable Andrew Sander from Oriel Chambers.

Exchange Chambers wins several plaudits from solicitors who cite the set as an example of the strength and depth the regional Bar has in the region. Judith Fordham and Karen Gregory also stand out. A further positive note was sounded by practitioners who see a number of junior juniors capable of taking the Northern Circuit to a higher plane. Elsewhere in the North West, Anthony O’Toole and Sarah Leigh (both now of 40 King Street, Chester) are rated.

Across the Pennines, Mercury Chambers in Leeds has Paul Isaacs – “well respected in the region” – predominantly for matrimonial finance work, and Raphael Cohen. Also in Leeds, 6 Park Square’s Eleanor Hamilton wins praise for both financial and children’s work. Jill Black QC of 30 Park Square is recommended, as is Sally Cahill of Park Lane Chambers. Annabel Walker QC of 26 Paradise Square in Sheffield is also highly rated.

Moving further south, the Birmingham Bar offers a number of highly-praised individuals for family work. 5 Fountain Court has “a very good team”. Its “outstanding heavyweights” are Robin Rowland and Stephanie Brown. St Philip’s Chambers has the “pre-eminent” David Hershman, noted for his “technical skill”, the “top quality” Andrew McFarlane and the “steady and thorough” Alison Cook. Also in Birmingham, Julia Macur QC, a 1998 silk, possesses “great advocacy skills” practising from St Ive’s Chambers.

Elsewhere in the Midlands, Christopher Butler of St Mary’s Chambers in Nottingham is rated for anything difficult, and Mark Rogers also wins praise at the same set. The “excellent” Heather Swindells QC seems to have had her solicitor fans follow her from Ropewalk Chambers in Nottingham to 36 Bedford Row – which has offices in Northampton and Leicester as well as its main London presence and is determined to push its family credentials. In Leicester at 2 New Street, Timothy Clark is “pretty exceptional for ancillary relief”.

Heading across the Fens to East Anglian Chambers in Norwich, Graham Parnell and Peter Wain are rated, as are Tim McLoughlin and Roderick Newton. Meanwhile, Fenner’s Chambers in Cambridge has several good juniors – Simon Tattersall for ancillary relief, Lindsay Davies and Susan Espley for Children Act matters, and the more junior Clive Pithers and Meryl Hughes.

Surrey is represented by leading Guildford Chambers silk Suzan Matthews QC.

In the South West, there are three sets winning praise in Bristol: St John’s, Guildhall and Albion. At St John’s, Christopher Sharp is “the best in the west” and Ralph Dixon is rated. Stephen Wildblood of Albion is “extremely good” while Catriona Duthie is rated for her money work at Guildhall Chambers. The leading silk on the south western circuit is Mark Evans QC of All Saints Chambers. In Exeter at Colleton Chambers, Richard Crabb is “very good in court and with clients” and Martin Meeke is “extremely good, particularly with figures”. In Plymouth, Heather Burwin of King’s Bench is “good on children matters”.

In Cardiff, Lynne Morgan of 32 Park Place is highly rated as are Jane Crowley QC and Malcolm Bishop QC of 30 Park Place. Recommended juniors at this set include James Tillyard, Jonathan Furness and Helen Mifflin. 9 Park Place has Ian Murphy QC, Philip Davies and Isabel Parry for child care matters, whilst 33 Park Place has two up and coming barristers – Nigel Osborne and Lucy Higginson – and leading junior Jill Walters.

THE barristers rated by clerks of rival sets

BARRISTERS: Florence Baron QC, Barry Singleton QC, David Bodey QC, Nicholas Mostyn QC, Paul Coleridge QC, Nicholas Francis, Lewis Marks, Lucy Stone, David Balcombe Judith Parker QC, Roderick Wood QC, Patricia Scotland QC, Michael Horowitz QC, Joanna Dodson QC, Henry Setright

CHAMBERS: 1 Mitre Court (financial); 1 King’s Bench Walk (children)