The regions' finest
22 October 2001
The latest edition of Chambers shows the stalwarts of the regional bar making a strong showing.
For commercial litigation on the Western circuit, Bristol's Guildhall Chambers retains its position as market leader, with new silk Stephen Davies QC "head and shoulders above his contemporaries". On the Midlands and Oxford circuit, Birmingham-based St Philips Chambers dominates, with John Randall QC ("brilliant brain, dedication and personable manner"), James Corbett QC ("tenacious, impressive and formidable") and Jeremy Cousins QC ("thorough and hard-working") all being rated.
St Philips also dominates in terms of juniors. Of the six rated, three - Lance Ashworth, Stephen Campbell and Alistair Wyvill - are from the Birmingham
On the North Eastern circuit, Enterprise Chambers is the number one set, with leading junior Hugo Groves winning
much praise. He is said to be: "bright, commercial, excellent on his feet and a good advocate".
Manchester's 40 King St leads the field for commercial litigation on the Northern Circuit. Chambers singles out Peter Smith QC as having "a notoriously aggressive style of advocacy and cross-examination unmatched by others. He was called 'a cold-blooded killer' by one solicitor and nicknamed 'the barracuda' by another". Other members of 40 King St with special mentions include Lesley Anderson, who was felt to be good at interlocutory hearings, Louis Doyle - formerly of 10 Park Square - and Paul Chaisty QC.
Byrom Street Chambers, St James's Chambers, Merchant Chambers, and 8 King Street continue to do well, says the directory. And in Liverpool, the outstanding set is Exchange Chambers.
When it comes to more specialised areas of law, the field in the regions is nowhere near as wide.
For Chancery work, many of the same names recur, but the top leaders regionally are Nicholas Cooke QC of 9 Park Place in Cardiff, John Randall QC of Birmingham's St Philips, and in Manchester James Allen QC of No 6 Barristers Chambers and Peter Smith ("robust") of 40 King St.
Perhaps inevitably, there is slightly more choice when it comes to clinical negligence. On the Northern and North Eastern Circuit there is a decent choice of specialists. Top silks are 28 St John St's Michael Redfern QC, who has "an uncanny knack of sussing out clients and acting accordingly", Byrom Street Chambers' Caroline Swift QC, who has a "good client manner", and Giles Wingate-Saul QC, who has "gravitas", also of Byrom Street.
Chambers has taken a radical approach in assessing the regional personal injury market this year. It reports that solicitors rated much fewer silks and juniors, partly due to the reduction in panel firms. "While vast numbers of practitioners are still performing personal injury work, there are fewer who are attracting the high-profile notice of their peers, law firms and insurance companies," it states.
In Wales, 9 Park Place with Ian Murphy QC and 33 Park Place with Neil Bidder QC lead the field. On the Western Circuit, St John's Chambers tops the table, followed by Old Square Chambers. The directory notes that Christopher Sharp QC of St John's is one of the very few local silks that personal injury practices are instructing on a regular basis.
On the Midlands and Oxford Circuit, Ropewalk Chambers in Nottingham is considered to be "head and shoulders above" the rest of the region. Richard Maxwell QC of that set was active on the Vibration White Finger action, while Robert Owen QC specialises in industrial disease. Ropewalk also boasts Ian McLaren QC, who is gaining a strong reputation beyond the region - one quote reads: "I've seen him wipe the floor with London QCs."
5 Fountain Court is the top Birmingham set for personal injury work, with Ralph Lewis QC ("good on complex, high value personal injury claims") and Gareth Evans QC, all attracting recommendations.
On the North Eastern Circuit, Park Lane Chambers in Leeds and London set Plowden Buildings' Newcastle annex lead the field, although no silk is singled out. And on the Northern Circuit, Byrom Street Chambers, Deans Court Chambers and 28 St John St top the tables.