The QCs who really stand out in the sensitive area of family law are those who combine academic nous with approachability

Acting in divorce cases, especially those that are known as the "big money" cases, can often bring fame to the solicitors involved. But the silks are also making a name for themselves.

This is inevitable because, as one solicitor comments, "It is self-perpetuating – if you do the big money cases, you get instructed in more of them." Another practitioner considered that "even the big money cases do not always justify the use of silks. The cases have to be complex and difficult, and not just on the legal side, before you need to instruct a silk".

The list of recommended silks is not exhaustive, but is based on the subjective recommendations of leading family and matrimonial solicitors, who are looking for approachability, the ability to work as a team, and academic nous, as well as advocacy skills.

But the most sought-after quality when dealing in such a sensitive area, especially when the case is likely to be contentious, is a good "bedside manner".

The premier tier consists of Bruce Blair QC, set head at 1 Mitre Court Buildings, who is described as "excellent", and the "punchy" Barry Singleton QC at 1 King's Bench Walk is "brainwise, absolutely superb; he is very tough, he reads the papers very carefully and is very good on company matters and is very good in taking a strong line where it is needed".

Florence Baron QC at Queen Elizabeth Building is described in glowing terms as "such a star, she is just excellent, and rated the highest. She is gutsy, thorough and very clever. She knows what she's talking about: she is brilliant all-round, thinks on her feet and excellent with clients. She has the best bedside manner of anyone at the Bar".

Another at this level is Paul Coleridge QC, also at Queen Elizabeth Building, who is "extremely good, very charming, and very good with clients. He is probably destined to go to the bench".

Others who are recommended are David Bodey QC, also at Queen Elizabeth Building, and Jeremy Posnansky QC, who is described as "very meticulous and helpful", and Michael Horowitz QC at 1 Mitre Court Building, and Alison Ball QC at One Garden Court, Rodger Hayward Smith QC at 1 King's Bench Walk, and recent silk Lord Meston QC at Queen Elizabeth Building for "his authority and clout".

In the area of public law and children, Judith Parker QC at 1 King's Bench Walk stands out, as do James Munby QC, at 1 New Square. Allan Levy QC, who is set head at 17 Bedford Row, is also well-known in this area, as are Eleanor Platt QC at One Garden Court, Mark Everall QC at 1 Mitre Court Buildings, and Queen Elizabeth Building set head Ian Karsten QC.

Another chambers head, Patricia Scotland QC at 1 Gray's Inn Square, is also rated in this area, as are Judith Hughes QC at 1 Mitre Court Buildings, Gordon Murdoch QC and Anna Pauffley QC, both at 4 Paper Buildings.

Tim Scott QC at 29 Bedford Row Chambers is a "very nice approachable silk". Pamela Scriven QC at 1 King's Bench Walk is also well-regarded, as is Richard Anelay QC at this set.

New silks who continue to impress are the "red-hot" Martin Pointer QC at 1 Mitre Court Buildings, who "knows the case law very well and is tough".

Another new silk is Nicholas Mostyn QC, also at 1 Mitre Court and highly rated, while fellow new silk Jonathan Cohen QC at 4 Paper Buildings is also recommended.