Awards preview: chambers of the year

On 22 June, 1400 people will crowd into the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the most eagerly-awaited event of the year. With only one week to go, The Lawyer brings you a sneak preview of the shortlisted individuals and teams

Ely Place Chambers

The magnetism of Ron Thwaites QC, the head of Ely Place, goes beyond the courtrooms where, before he shifted to media cases, he advocated in leading criminal trials for almost two decades. He was once described as being capable of “getting the Devil off”. He is now attracting major silks to join him at Ely Place: the roll call this year includes Nicholas Stewart QC, the former head of Hardwicke Building, crime specialist Jonathan Goldberg QC and Winston Roddick QC, a highly rated public and civil law advocate. With such a colourful round-up, there is no surprise that the set’s big clients of 2003-04 have included the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Asil Nadir, Roman Polanski and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Essex Court Chambers

Another splendid year for Essex Court. The set picked up instructions on three of the biggest cases of 2004: BCCI Liquidators v Bank of England (where head of chambers Gordon Pollock QC also scooped his record £3m brief fee), Virgin Mobile v T-Mobile (Richard Millett QC) and BP Amoco v Swiss Re, Axa Global, AIG, Ace, Aegis (Johnny Veeder QC). Tenant Professor Christopher Greenwood QC was called in to advise the Attorney-General on the legality of invading Iraq, and the set
further bolstered its clout in arbitration with the hire of Coudert Brothers’ Laurence Craig.

Keating Chambers

Adept marketing coupled with obvious excellence has resulted in this set gaining a good reputation overseas as well as in the UK. The clearest examples are in the set’s energy work. Recent instructions have included: power station disputes in several South American countries; work relating to the consolidation of Russia’s mining industry; and in relation to oil refining in Central Asia. Transport work, another core area, is also developing apace. The set’s latest projects have included Manchester, Hong Kong and Stansted Airports and the massive Taiwan high-speed rail link. Much of Keating’s work is handled by alternative dispute resolution, an area consolidated this year through the set’s hiring of Judge Peter Bowsher QC for his arbitration expertise.

Landmark Chambers

Landmark Chambers has made significant headway since it was formed in November 2002 from the merger of Eldon Chambers and 4 Breams Buildings. It continues to recruit quality barristers, with Neil King QC and Rupert Warren the outstanding hires of this year. Growth in size has also made Landmark more ambitious. While the Far East has been considered the main source of property and planning work for many years, this year saw Landmark advising on major Caribbean projects for the first time. A word also on its cases: they include the Hutton Inquiry, the year’s largest planning inquiries (South Downs and Dibden Bay), as well as a host of actions before the European Court of Justice. A rock-solid performance.

Outer Temple Chambers

Great strides forward have been made by this set in the past year. It has grown from 34 tenants to 50, it claims to have seen its turnover rise to £10m from £6.5m and it moved out of the Inns to a less expensive property opposite the High Court. It is also marketing itself with the vigour of law firms – innovative indeed for the traditionally closed world of the bar. Interesting cases include: acting for contractors which handled the foot-and-mouth crisis in pay claims against the Government; several major rail inquiries; and the large class actions of the year, including the organ retention case and breast screening in Devon case.

Wilberforce Chambers
A longstanding leader for pensions and property disputes, Wilberforce is now breaking into new areas with success. First, it has been rattling at the door of IP rivals with its involvement in, for example, a patents dispute between Affymetrix and Oxford Gene Technology, and for tobacco companies in a trademark dispute. Its recruitment of Anna Carboni from Linklaters and Alan Bryson from Clifford Chance has also helped its IP consolidation. Planning is another area of growth; recent cases have included the development of the Tube’s East London Line and Arsenal FC’s new stadium. It also holds its own as a rent review specialist, acting among others in the Telegraph Group’s case against Canary Wharf.