John Beggs QC, Serjeants’ Inn Chambers
Over the past 25 years John Beggs QC has built up a leading practice acting on defendant police work. The Serjeants’ Inn Chambers tenant acts for individual policemen and women, chief constables and police authorities – as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner – on a wide range of cases and inquiries.
In 2015 Beggs continued his representation of the Hillsborough match commanders before the Hillsborough inquest; a job that has kept him on his feet for months and put him firmly in the public gaze. More inquest work is scheduled for this year, with the inquiry into the 1995 death of trainee soldier Cheryl James at the Deepcut Barracks.
With a raft of similarly high-profile cases on his caselist for the coming year there is no doubt that Beggs is the go-to man for a policeman facing the courts.
Guy Blackwood QC, Quadrant Chambers
Quadrant Chambers silk Guy Blackwood QC had a fantastic 2015, setting a precedent on the way hypothetical evidence should be dealt with in court as well as handling a number of high-profile sovereign immunity cases. In the former, Blackwood successfully defended Arab Insurance Group (Arig) against claims from Axa Versicherung that material non-disclosures from Arig had led Axa to write two reinsurance treaties in a specific way. While Axa proved that Arab Insurance Group had not disclosed the relevant information when it should have, Blackwood persuaded Mr Justice Males disclosure would not have influenced the way Axa’s treaties were written.
The decision was particularly significant given that the new Insurance Act will come into force in 2016.
On the sovereign immunity front Blackwood was successful in having a $100m (£70m) New York suit against hedge fund Talos dismissed on the grounds that it was oppressive and also represented Taurus Petroleum in a case against the Iraqi Government that will now go to the Supreme Court.
Next up, Blackwood is due to appear in a case concerning a ship hijacked by Somali pirates.
Tom de la Mare QC, Blackstone Chambers
The past 12 months have seen Tom de la Mare QC set the wheels in motion for a career-defining era in competition litigation.
Of the 25 major cartel claims to hit the UK courts he has been instructed in 10, with three ongoing. De la Mare was also appointed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal expert working group that delivered its game-changing review last September, having a fundamental impact on the court’s Rules of Procedure and championing the rights of consumers and businesses potentially harmed by a breach of the law.
The eminent silk has a self-confessed “weirdly varied practice”, which meant his headline case of last year was Lumsdon v Legal Services Board, otherwise known as the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates case. Despite the Supreme Court throwing out de la Mare’s client’s case in June, it recast the proportionality test in cases involving measures that impede EU legal rights.
De la Mare was no stranger to the Supreme Court last year, appearing before it three times on a range of competition and policy cases.
He has also taken on a primary role campaigning on criminal justice cuts.
Richard Hermer QC, Matrix Chambers
Amid a raft of high-profile cases on which Matrix Chambers’ Richard Hermer QC appeared last year, two in particular stand out.
The first was the successful £55m settlement with Shell on behalf of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta. Instructed by regular client Leigh Day, Hermer led advice which saw the oil giant settle out of court in January with almost 16,000 farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods were devastated by oil spills in 2008 and 2009.
At the other end of the year Hermer spent four days in the Supreme Court leading a four-day hearing in the latest stage of the battle brought by Libyan dissident Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, who claims he was the victim of unlawful rendition by the security services.
Indeed, the UK’s highest court will be a regular destination for Hermer in the coming year, with three cases set down to be heard. Expect the high-profile battles to keep on coming.
Anneli Howard, Monckton Chambers
Anneli Howard has a string of top-name clients including Visa Europe, BT, Orange Telecom, Ryanair and the London Stock Exchange. She is also standing counsel to the Civil Aviation Authority.
In her field of competition law she is fast becoming the go-to junior at the bar, having earned a reputation for being a collaborative team player who gets the job done.
In the past year Howard successfully acted for Visa in its bid for a Commercial Court summary judgment in the ongoing interchange fees litigation. In doing so she persuaded the court to strike out more than 30 years’ potential damages sought by a group of 12 retailers, totalling over £500m. She will appear for Visa again later this year in a six-month trial on liability.
Howard thrives on managing cases, applying practical methods of cutting court procedures to help clients achieve their goals in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
Sarah Lee, Brick Court Chambers
Brick Court Chambers tenant Sarah Lee has become a staple of telecoms litigation and is one of the bar’s most prolific juniors when it comes to FTSE 100 clients battling it out. Her rising profile was recognised with her appointment to silk in January 2016.
Within telecoms, Lee began acting for BT, her principal client, in 2004. In 2014 alone she appeared for the telecoms giant in the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and Competition Appeal Tribunal dealing with the extent of Ofcom’s jurisdiction over an appeal in relation to termination charges.
But Lee, who began her career at Brick Court as a pupil in 1990, is a also go-to for Government work as well as acting for private and public companies. An example is her lead appearance for the Government in a landmark European case concerning the Working Time Directive last year.
Now that she has just been awarded silk, Lee will be even more in demand.
Jolyon Maugham QC, Devereux Chambers
For a tax barrister, Devereux Chambers’ Jolyon Maugham QC has an unusually high profile.
Just over two years ago Maugham began a blog with the aim of better informing the public about tax in a bid to start a “more nuanced debate”. That blog has made him the go-to commentator on tax issues.
Maugham is also involved in driving the political debate. He advised former Labour leader Ed Miliband on tax in the run-up to the general election and continues to advise both the Conservative and Labour parties on tax issues.
Maugham’s case list is impressive, with a series of major disputes progressing through the courts last year and this year. Notably, having taken silk in February 2015, he is set to lead the Supreme Court appeal in a claim brought by film financiers, after previously being led in the lower courts.
Somehow, Maugham also finds time to sit on the Bar Council’s policy and diversity committee.
Laura Newton, Wilberforce Chambers
At just seven years’ call Wilberforce Chambers junior Laura Newton has been dubbed a “superstar” by QCs for her record of bringing in significant commercial litigation mandates and being a “driving force” in complex case management.
Newton was the most junior barrister to be hired by the set from closing 11 Stone Buildings last October. She was immediately put to work on six cases, with Wilberforce sources praising her ability to immediately get to grips with the details.
She is known for her skill on the marketing side of building a practice, succeeding in securing instructions as a result of networking conferences around Europe. She was instructed as sole counsel on a dispute involving allegations of fraudulent misappropriation being heard in the High Court in 2016, and brought in a QC to the case once its counterclaim was valued at $100m.
Her varied commercial and fraud practice has also seen her take a lead role running the day-to-day aspects of a $4bn arbitration, a Kazakh mining dispute and a headline BVI trial.
Mark Simpson QC, Fountain Court Chambers
Fountain Court Chambers’ Mark Simpson QC spent much of the early part of 2015 on his feet defending Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner Peter Gray against allegations that he misled the High Court. Although Gray’s fight was unsuccessful the dispute highlighted the sort of complex work that forms Simpson’s caseload.
As well as Gray’s appeal, due in February, 2016 looks to be a banner year for the professional disciplinary specialist. Among the cases to come is a £200m claim by a special purpose vehicle, Gemini, against two firms of valuers in relation to the valuation of a portfolio of 37 properties. The case is the biggest valuation claim ever brought in the UK and is listed for three months in October.
Simpson also has a thriving practice advising firms and companies on investigations and regulatory issues.
Described as being “as hands-on as I have ever seen a silk”, he receives plaudits for his gravitas and his leadership skills.
James Willan, Essex Court Chambers
The past 12 months have seen Essex Court Chambers’ James Willan undergo a career transformation from junior barrister to one of the big names at the bar in civil fraud and banking and finance litigation, despite only being 10 years’ call.
In one of the most high-profile cases of 2015, Willan acted for Djiboutian businessman Abdourahman Boreh in his case against the African nation, securing the discharge of a $100m freezing injunction due to dishonesty by the claimants’ solicitors and misconduct by the claimants.
Willan is not afraid of wading into complex global disputes: he is also acting for Yukos in its claim to enforce arbitral awards worth $500m
set aside in Russia in allegedly corrupt judicial proceedings.
Willan’s banking work saw him act for Italian investment bank Dexia Crediop, securing a judgment dismissing allegations of fraud and mis-selling. Judgment was secured during a hearing so his silk mentor was never brought into the case.
Willan’s instructions see him going above and beyond traditional junior mandates, being brought in by top silks on strategic case management and coming up with those “clever points of law” that take the case where it needs to be, according to one of his peers.