Preferences in the provinces
17 March 1998
Outside of Manchester the provincial Bar is widely avoided because of what solicitors describe as insufficient specialist support.
The Birmingham Bar for example, "doesn't hold itself out as having a good record in the field of professional indemnity." One observer said that the opening of the mercantile court in Leeds may change this, although importance was placed on the resident judge.
More than 20 regional firms were contacted with circuit solicitors particularly vocal in their views about why they did not use the regional Bar more often for professional negligence work.
The lack of a price differential between London and regional barristers, and the fact many claims started in London are all cited as reasons as to why the regional Bar is losing out. Finally some solicitors say their clients simply prefer using London juniors and silks.
However one solicitor comes riding to the rescue of the regions saying he prefers to use barristers he can see from his window rather than travelling to London.
In particular, recent silk Edward Bartley Jones QC from Exchange Chambers in Liverpool wins praise for being approachable and "very straight talking".
Also highly rated at Enterprise Chambers in Leeds is "the very approachable, very able" David Halpern and Teresa Rosen Peacocke who has "a keen idea of the law" on wills and trust matters. Hugh Jory at at this set also stands out.
One junior barrister expected to be elevated to silk is Andrew Sander, who heads Oriel Chambers in Liverpool and is described as "excellent".
Other solicitors reflecting on the Manchester Bar picked out the chambers of Byrom Street, Deans Court and especially the work of Philip Raynor QC and Peter Smith QC at 40 King Street.
A provincial silk to receive multiple mentions is Brian Leveson QC of 25 Byrom Street described as a "very clever man who can turn his hand to most things".
The London chambers and silks who win regional praise are 2 Crown Office Row headed by John Powell QC. It is roundly praised as the leading set by regional solicitors with the "high flyer" Justin Fenwick QC and Rupert Jackson QC, earning most plaudits for their "superb results".
Another set earning numerous mentions is 9 Old Square headed by the highly rated Robert Reid QC, with David Hodge QC described simply as "very good".
Other leading silks in this area of practice commanding a mention are the recently-appointed silk Alastair Norris QC of 5 Stone Buildings, the "extremely able" Robert Akenhead QC and Nicholas Dennys QC both of Atkin Chambers who are particularly strong in construction, while Andrew Hochhauser QC of Essex Court Chambers earns special mention because, despite being "a general commercial guy", he is "so good we use him in professional negligence as well".
Also highly rated are Jules Sher QC of Wilberforce Chambers, that "talented man" Richard Gray QC at 39 Essex Street and Alan Steinfeld QC at 24 Old Buildings, who continues to get "superb results".
Heading up their chambers and renowned in this field are Kieran Coonan QC of 6 Pump Court and the "respected" Peter Crampin QC of 11 New Square.
Provincial juniors earn more mentions than their seniors but again Manchester and Liverpool stands out where Bridge Street Chambers is particularly praised for its work in agricultural disputes and several juniors at Deans Court winning recommendations, including Mark Turner.
Also in Manchester, Gerard McDermott of 8 King Street and Neil Berragan of 9 St John Street are also rated.
In the Midlands, the name of Stephen Beresford at Ropewalk Chambers "was seen on enough pleadings" to know he is used on a regular basis.
In Wales, 9 Park Place is popular, with Andrew Keyser winning praise, and the "very good and tough" Geraint Jones at Fenners Chambers in Peterborough receives honourable mentions.
Andrew Parsons of Portsmouth Barrister's Chambers is a rated southerner as is John Virgo, at Bristol's Guildhall Chambers, although once again the general preference is for London chambers where there are specialist juniors in abundance.