The best players in England
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21 August 2013
Gulshanah Choudhuri and Claire Collins asked leading solicitors which barristers they rated in a range of specialist fields.
At 13 Old Square David Oliver QC (below right) is “very user-friendly, a good advocate and very approachable”, while Carolyn Walton (below) turns work around “very quickly and is a good draftsperson”.
At 3/4 South Square William Trower is “infinitely dedicated and thorough”, Robin Dicker is described as “most intellectually powerful” and Martin Pascoe is said to be “practical and easy”.
At Erskine Chambers, David Mabb (below) is “very corporate heavy and good at heavyweight tax matters” and Robin Potts QC “will give plenty of time to discuss issues at length”.
Anthony Mann QC, at Enterprise Chambers is “extremely friendly, has no silly airs and graces, and is very hard working”.
Some solicitors are unhappy with the service they receive from the tax bar and describe good tax barristers as “a dying breed”. One solicitor complained that fees have risen noticeably in the past 18 months.
Recommended silks include David Milne QC, from Pump Court Tax Chambers, who is described as “absolutely brilliant - his arguments are beautiful”. From the same set, Stephen Allcock QC “has a quick and fresh mind”, Kevin Prosser QC “doesn’t stop until he has exhausted himself” and Andrew Thornhill QC is “a very good lateral thinker”.
Graham Aaronson QC of Anthony Grabiner QC’s chambers, 1 Essex Court, “knows his stuff”, as do David Goldberg QC and David Goy QC from Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers. Richard Bramwell QC at 3 Temple Gardens and Peter Trevett QC at 11 New Square are also recommended, while Malcolm Gammie (above) of 1 Essex Court has “an encyclopaedic knowledge of British tax”. Johnathan Peacock of 11 New Square and Julian Ghosh at 24 Old Buildings are well regarded.
Solicitors say that although there are plenty of barristers who specialise in shipping law, there is a real shortage of barristers who actually have sea-going experience.
Steven Tomlinson QC, of 7 King’s Bench Walk, stands out from the crowd. He is described as “very supportive to both the clients and the instructing solicitor”. Among the juniors at that set, Alistair Schaff is “a good fighter”, Charles Priday “extremely conscientious” and Christopher Butcher (left) “among the brightest of his generation”. Julian Flaux QC and Dominic Kendrick QC are also well regarded.
From 4 Essex Court, Jeremy Russell QC, Belinda Bucknall QC, Charles MacDonald QC, Michael Howard QC and Timothy Brenton QC and Luke Parsons are all well thought of. Other silks mentioned were Gordon Pollock QC, of Essex Court Chambers, Richard Stone QC and Elizabeth Blackburn QC of 4 Field Court, and Richard Aikens QC of Brick Court Chambers.
Nigel Meeson of 4 Field Court is also highly regarded.
Lawyers said they looked for a strong personal interest in sport when choosing who to instruct in this field.
Several barristers at Blackstone Chambers are recommended. David Pannick QC is “bright and thoughtful, good on constitutional issues”, and Charles Flint QC is “very good on sponsorship matters and injunctive relief”.
Up-and-coming Adam Lewis is “very competent, intellectually very smart and particularly good at competition law”. Michael Fordham (left) is also recommended and Robert Howe is described as “having a good, robust approach and strong analytical skills”.
At 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, Michael Beloff QC is “bright and excellent” and Tim Kerr is well regarded. Desmond De Silva QC, of 2 Paper Buildings, is ” flamboyant, very powerful” and has “a wicked sense of humour”. Murray Rosen QC at 11 Stone Buildings is “very active in the sports bar”.
Antony Sendall of Littleton Chambers is “practical and up to date”, while Jonathan Crystal at Cloisters is highly rated in sports injury cases and is “very commercially minded”. In Brick Court Chambers, Mark Cran QC is praised for his ability to relate to clients.
Other recommended barristers include William Norris QC and Edward Southwell, both at Farrar’s Building and Alan Saggerson of Barnards Inn Chambers. Michael Melville-Shreeve of Walnut House Chambers in Exeter, is said to be “outstanding”.
Solicitors say there has been a lack of experienced silks in this field of law ever since Robert Webb QC of 5 Bell Yard left the bar to join British Airways. Only one barrister, Michael Crane QC of Fountain Court, was mentioned as a suitable alternative.
The favourite junior is undoubtedly Andrew Lydiard of Brick Court Chambers (below), who is described as “very erudite”, “an intellectual powerhouse” and furthermore “very pleasant to work with”.
Robert Lawson of 5 Bell Yard is also highly regarded and described as “very enthusiastic”, “acidulous and aggressive” and “definitely on his way to greater things”.
At Fountain Court, Anthony Boswood QC has “a robust attitude to difficult problems”, Akhil Shah has “good intellectual skills”, Bankim Thanki is “phenomenally intelligent”, “completely unflappable” and able to “turn his hand to any case you give him” and Louise Merrett is “young but extremely keen and intelligent”.
Fountain Court silks who are highly regarded include Trevor Philipson QC and William Wood QC. Meanwhile, Dominic Kendrick QC of 7 King’s Bench Walk and John Taylor QC of 2 Mitre Court Buildings are both well regarded.
Philip Shepherd of 24 Old Buildings is “a mean fighter whose pleadings are excellent” and Michael Soole of 5 Bell Yard “gives sound advice which he follows through”. Charles Haddon-Cave of 4 Essex Court is also recommended.
Media and entertainment
Several solicitors in this industry said they would instruct counsel on contractual, commercial or litigation issues, but not general media matters.
Leading the pack, Gordon Pollock QC, head of Essex Court Chambers is the top silk and is compared to a Hollywood star: “very much in demand and very expensive, but worth every penny”.
Richard Price QC of Littleton Chambers (left) is described as “a tenacious character, a steamroller in his arguments and very, very practical”. 5 Raymond Buildings is highly recommended for defamation work, with Patrick Milmo QC described as “the doyen of libel silks, very expensive, but easy to work with and a real gent”, while James Price QC is acclaimed for his “feisty” manner, as is Andrew Caldecott QC of 1 Brick Court, described as a “real high flyer, often very busy”.
Highly recommended tenants at Raymond Buildings include Alexandra Marzec (libel) David Sherborne (defamation) and Stephen Bate (media and entertainment), along with Mark Warby who has “the presence of a silk”.
Trade mark lawyer Jonathan Rayner James QC, head of 5 New Square, is commended as “easy to work with and bright”, while Vincent Nelson, of 39 Essex Street, is “very persuasive and very firm, listening well to clients’ needs”. Ian Mill of Blackstone Chambers is “highly regarded, clear and analytical”, while Mark Cran QC at Brick Court Chambers is “excellent at paperwork and extremely intellectually adept”.
At 2 Garden Court, Nicholas Blake QC (left) is described as “happy to discuss matters at all levels” and Stephanie Harrison is “very good with clients and has a firm grasp of all aspects of the law”.
Tim Eicke of Francis Taylor Building is good on matters relating to free movement in the European Union.
Nigel Pleming QC (below left) of 39 Essex Street and Judith Farbey of 3 Paper Buildings are well thought of and James Gillespie at Enfield Chambers is a good all-rounder on immigration issues.
Andrew Nicol QC at Doughty Street Chambers was summed up as “having an excellent brain” and “very good with clients”. Simon Cox of Plowden Buildings is “a good all-rounder but sometimes too busy”. Peter Duffy QC (left) at Essex Court Chambers is excellent on “European Human Rights, but not a generalist”.
Martin Soorjoo of 14 Tooks Court is said to be very efficient, approachable and knowledgeable. Amanda Weston and Melanie Plimmer at the Chambers of Ian Macdonald QC in Manchester are also well regarded.
David Pannick QC at Blackstone Chambers was also recommended.
In a noticeable contrast with some of the other areas covered in this survey, there were no complaints about the parliamentary bar.
At 2 Harcourt Buildings, Charles George QC is “very good at handling people” and is described as “intellectually able”, while head of chambers, Gerald Ryan QC, has “unsurpassed experience” and is also “extremely affable and very nice to work with”.
At the same set, Sheila Cameron QC is rated, Andrew Tait, “has a penetrating mind and is a jolly hard worker” and Philip Petchey is noted for his “extremely thorough research”.
Other rated individuals include Michael Fitzgerald QC (above) and Anthony Anderson QC, both of 2 Mitre Court Buildings, George Laurence QC (right) at 12 New Square, Nicholas Asprey at Serle Court Chambers, Thomas Hill at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square and Nathalie Lieven (left) of 4 Breams Buildings.
At 12 New Square, Sara Hargreaves is effective and enthusiastic, especially in cross-examination. Patrick Clarkson QC, at 1 Serjeant’s Inn, is described as “experienced, efficient and confident”.
Although the majority of solicitors are satisfied with the standard of service at the EU bar, some feel there is a lack of specialists in this area. One solicitor was so unimpressed with the British bar that he recommended looking to the continent for a barrister.
John Swift QC is returning to the Bar as head of his old set, Monckton Chambers, after a spell as the rail regulator and is expected to “go straight back to the top”. Swift is described as “a tough, competent advocate whose advice on difficult competition law matters is always extremely good”. Another welcome return to the set is Jeremy Lever QC, described as “the outstanding leader in his field”, who returned from sabbatical in October.
At Monckton Chambers. Richard Fowler QC (above) is described as “one of the doyens these days”, with unparalleled experience. He is “good at teasing out the issues and working constructively towards a solution”. Christopher Vajda QC is “very good technically and on paper” and “very consumer friendly”, Paul Lasok QC “has the best academic approach to European Union matters” and Kenneth Parker QC is also recommended. Gerald Barling QC and David Vaughan QC at Brick Court Chambers are both highly regarded.
Juniors at Monckton are also highly sought after. Aiden Robertson is “extremely talented and client-friendly” and Rhodri Thompson is described as “the best of the new bunch”.