Leading lights shine out

Landlord and tenant cases may be seen as the ultimate David and Goliath battle in the commercial property sector, but in terms of barristers many involved say that one set houses the legal giants in this very specialised area.

According to most leading practitioners, Falcon Chambers is “pre-eminent in this field and very highly rated. But the caveat is that “too much work goes to them, leading to overload on occasion.” Despite that comment, most barristers at the set are highly recommended.

As in any other specialist area, practitioners are not necessarily looking “for counsel from the old school, but barristers who are approachable, who are meticulous with the paperwork and commercially sensible”. The following list is not exhaustive but is based on the subjective recommendations of leading practitioners in this niche area.

Highly recommended silks at Falcon Chambers are Kim Lewison QC, who is “one of the leading leaders, brilliant on his feet and very clear”, David Neuberger QC who has many fans, “is a great thinker of new ideas and is the leader in the field although he needs to be pushed a bit on the paperwork side”, whereas Paul Morgan QC was the “number one choice” for others. Another in the set is joint chambers head Jonathan Gaunt QC and Kirk Reynolds QC also merited a number of mentions.

Another set where the silks are highly regarded is 4 Breams Buildings headed by Christopher Lockhart-Mummery QC, where John Furber QC is considered “very sound”, and the “underrated” Joseph Harper QC has “directness and clarity”. Also at the same set, Michael Barnes QC is “fierce and focused and has an incredible brain”, and John Cherryman QC is also noted.

But it is not exclusively these two sets where expertise is found and at Charles Sparrow QC's set at 13 Old Square, Michael Briggs QC is a “generalist and knows his landlord and tenant stuff and is quite bullish”.

One leading practitioner commented that although women are well-represented on the solicitors' side, they are less so at the Bar. But at the other 13 Old Square headed by William Christie, Hazel Williamson QC “has a good following, is extremely good on rent review and a joy to work with”.

There is a certain amount of overlap and crossover with the chancery side and at Wilberforce Chambers, considered by many to be the leading chancery set, Terence Etherton QC received a number of mentions for being “commercially sensible”, as did the “very very good” John Martin QC, and Jules Sher QC and Robert Ham QC were also singled out.

Another set with a number of silks who were selected by practitioners is 9 Old Square headed by Robert Reid QC, who is noted. Also at the same set Simon Berry QC is “excellent as a leader”, Judith Jackson QC is singled out for mention, as are Michael Driscoll QC and Nicholas Patten QC.

Other silks noted for property-related disputes are Michael Burton QC at Littleton Chambers, Roger Ter Haar QC at 2 Crown Office Row headed by Raymond Kidwell QC and Christopher Moger QC at Bruce Mauleverer QC's set at 4 Pump Court.

Although the majority of the barristers mentioned are in London, the regions were not totally ignored. Peter Smith QC at 40 King Street in Manchester is one of the leading barristers in the North in this area of practice, and in Birmingham, at Rex Tedd QC's set at 7 Fountain Court, John Randall QC “is more chancery but is good with property cases.”