Who’s on Herbert Smith’s shopping list?

Last week, The Lawyer revealed that Herbert Smith is setting up its own chambers in order to decrease its reliance on the junior bar.

The chambers will be run by a QC who will join the firm’s partnership. Herbert Smith has not yet hired this QC, and the question remains: which leading commercial silk would move to a law firm, assuming the many administrative duties of a partner, for likely earnings of £800,000 a year?
Herbert Smith may have to rule out many of its favourites, such as 3 Stone Buildings’ Geoffrey Vos QC and Maitland Chambers’ Charles Aldous QC, both members of the bar’s £1m a year club. The great triumvirate of Grabiner, Pollock and Sumption, the commercial bar’s highest earners, are, of course, also out of the picture.

Here are four commercial silks and one up-and-coming junior, who are regularly instructed by Herbert Smith and who might just fit the bill.

Michael Fordham
Set: Blackstone Chambers
Estimated annual income: £350,000
Practice areas: Administrative and public law
A real superstar in the junior bar, whose cases have included Pinochet and Diane Blood. He is regularly instructed by Herbert Smith in the Administrative Court, particularly with David Pannick QC as his leader. Recent actions for Herbert Smith have been Geologistics Ltd v Financial Services Compensation Scheme and Sporting Options plc v Horserace Betting Levy Board. With his formidable reputation and 1990 year of call, it is about time Fordham started leading cases. Or at least that might be the Herbert Smith line of argument.

Ali Malek QC
Set: 3 Verulam Buildings
Estimated annual income: £900,000
Practice areas: Banking and general commercial
Regarded as real quality at 3 Verulam Buildings, which also has considerable strength at the senior junior level. A banking and general commercial specialist, he recently worked with Herbert Smith in its successful defence of Coutts in a claim brought by Lloyd’s syndicates. His main sidekick is the up-and-coming Adrian Beltrami, who could join him in any move he makes. Despite attempts by other chambers to recruit him, Malek remains faithful to 3 Verulam, so Herbert Smith might have to do more than just dig deep into its pockets. In the past year, Malek’s earnings have grown considerably.

Anthony Mann QC
Set: Enterprise Chambers (head of chambers)
Estimated annual income: £850,000
Practice areas: Chancery, commercial, professional negligence, insolvency
Like Geoffrey Vos QC at 3 Stone Buildings, Mann is a star barrister in a set filled with little-known tenants. He would be a huge feather in Herbert Smith’s cap and is not outside the firm’s league in terms of affordability. Mann recently acted with Herbert Smith for the provisional liquidators of Independent Insurance and has a very solid bankruptcy practice, which, considering the volume of this work at present – not least offshore where Mann has a growing practice – would make him an attractive catch.

Christopher Moger QC
Set: 4 Pump Court (joint head of chambers)
Estimated annual income: £750,000
Practice areas: General insurance, construction, licensing
Still regarded as a force within the insurance litigation world, particularly for professional negligence. Generally thought to be stronger in insurance than in construction, his other main speciality. Recently worked with Herbert Smith for National Air Traffic Services in the action against it by Electronic Data Systems, which related to a 1997 contract to build an air traffic control system. If Herbert Smith comes calling, 4 Pump Court will not let him go without a fight, particularly as it has suffered a few tenant losses of late.

Guy Roots QC
Set: 2 Mitre Court Buildings (head of chambers)
Estimated annual income: £500,000
Practice areas: Planning, local government
Having been called in 1969 and with 14 years of silk work under his belt, he may want to take life a bit easier. 2 Mitre Court Buildings is suffering from the retirements of its most eminent counsel, Lord Silsoe QC and Michael Fitzgerald QC, so Herbert Smith could play the law firm stability card. Roots has an unusual practice, including a fair amount of compulsory purchase order disputes and land tribunals. He appears more in the High Court and the Court of Appeal than Herbert Smith’s other planning favourite, Landmark Chambers’ William Hicks QC.