The Lawyer Awards 1999

Linda Tsang examines the achievements of individual barristers and chambers that impressed the judges last year, and takes a look ahead to the new Litigation Team of the Year award.

Litigation team of the Year

WITH the Woolf reforms approaching rapidly over the horizon, litigation lawyers have never been so busy, and this award for litigation team of the year has been introduced to recognise their contribution to legal practice.

Court cases inevitably capture headlines. High profile cases involving celebrities, the establishment and the fourth estate have been hogging the headlines. In the professional services sector, cases involving blue chip companies have given the industries pause for thought, such as the recent Prince Jefri and the "Chinese walls" case involving one of the Big Five accountancy firms, KPMG. There has also been the long-running litigation over BCCI, and the Grupo Torras fraud case. Personal injury and medical negligence cases have also been setting new highs for monetary awards and expanding the boundaries in this area of litigation.

And in an economic climate where there is an announcement almost every week of a mega-merger forming the latest industrial giant – whether a multinational oil company, a chemical giant, or a financial services company – lawyers are in demand to settle the outstanding litigation, smoothing the way for the merger to be completed.

This new award is being sponsored by legal search and selection specialists, Langford Associates.

The judges will be looking for proactivity and a dedicated team, which has made a difference not only to their client, but also to how litigation will be practised in the future. But it is not just about setting precedents – the team should show cohesion and creativity in they way they litigate. This will include how the litigation has been co-ordinated and organised in both geographical and legal terms.

Barrister of the year

THE BAR has never been under as much pressure as now, with the expansion of rights of audience under the Access to Justice Bill, the junior bar having to compete more and more with solicitor-advocates and current moves for a QC selection procedure to be paid for by the Bar Council.

But the Bar generally, and barristers individually, have been playing a proactive role in dealing with the radical changes, so that the independent bar will continue to play a focal role in the legal profession of the next millennium.

This award was introduced last year to recognise a barrister's outstanding achievements within the legal profession and in legal practice generally. Unsurprisingly, the entries were a veritable Who's Who of the Bar, which included Michael Mansfield QC (one of this year's judges), Margaret McCabe and Neil Addison.

It was a very close decision, but the winner was Barbara Hewson of 12 Gray's Inn Square (now at Littman Chambers). In a particularly high profile year, Hewson impressed the judges with her willingness and dedication to highlight awareness of the rights of pregnant women on programmes such as Everyman and Newsnight.

This year's award is sponsored by the College of Law. The judges for this award will be looking for a barrister who has made an outstanding contribution in their field of law and to the profession as a whole. Entries for this award should detail how the individual has made their mark and what their influence has been, and will be. A leader, in all senses, who barristers will want to follow.

WITH barristers having to meet the challenges of a major overhaul in how they practise, it is not just individual barristers who are playing a role – sets of chambers are also making a difference.

Last year, in an impressive range of entries for Chambers of the Year, the winner was the Chambers of James Hunt QC. The judges highlighted in particular the set's proactivity in four diverse areas, including its campaign on the "inequality of arms" faced by both the prosecution and the defence in the criminal justice system, and the organisation of its relationships with solicitor clients.

The close runner up was Doughty Street Chambers, which continues to lead the way with its commitment to human rights – the set takes more cases to Strasbourg than any other chambers. What also impressed the judges was how the chambers has been – and continues to be – instrumental in developing how the barristers of the future are trained.

In third place was Fountain Court Chambers, which had just undergone a major transformation in its management and service to clients.

This award is sponsored by Hays DX. The judges for this award are looking for a set which has demonstrated excellence in its advocacy, advice and management, and how it is regarded by its peers and its clients. The judges will also be looking at how the set is shaping up for the future and, in particular, how it is training and developing barristers for beyond the millennium.,