Gloster QC is first female Commercial Court judge

Elizabeth Gloster QC, the highest-earning female barrister who was set to rake in £2m in 2004, has been appointed the first female judge of the Commercial Court, which deals with the UK’s biggest cases.

Only Lord Grabiner QC and Gordon Pollock QC, the bar’s biggest earners with each bringing in £3m a year, earn more than her.

On 21 April, Gloster will join the High Court bench, which currently has just eight female judges against a grand total of 99 male judges.

Her appointment, announced last Wednesday (7 April), has particular significance as it makes her the first female judge at the 110–year-old Commercial Court, where the country’s largest insolvency, insurance, marine and general commercial cases are heard.

Gloster’s move will result in an income drop to around 13 times less than her current salary. Her glittering career at the bar included prosecuting in the Guinness criminal case, unusual for a barrister renowned for general commercial work.

Other leading cases of her career have been Sumitomo, which is set down for a 30-week trial later in 2004, Equitable Life, and representing the Railtrack Shareholders’ Action Group in their compensation claim arising out of Railtrack’s administration.

Other barristers in Gloster’s £2m-a-year club are 3/4 South Square’s insolvency star Michael Crystal QC, Brick Court Chambers’ Jonathan Sumption QC, and Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers’ David Goldberg QC, according to The Lawyer’s latest research.

Although her move causes a significant dent in the earnings of her magic circle chambers One Essex Court, the set, whose earnings have remained static at £26m for the last two years, said there were sufficient quality barristers moving up the set to recoup the loss.

“So what. Life goes on. There are others who will grow into her shoes,” said Paul Shrubsall, who has been her senior clerk at One Essex for the past 27 years. He added he would miss her “fantastic” and “lively spirit” around chambers.

A new barrister will have to take her place in the ongoing Isle of Man dispute over ownership of $250m (£136m) of alleged defrauded funds from US software giant AremisSoft (The Lawyer, 29 March).