Given the specialist nature of personal injury and medical negligence law, perhaps it is not surprising that most solicitors in the field turn to the capital for lead counsel.
Most lawyers want counsel who can empathise with clients, many of whom have had their lives turned upside down. The general consensus is that there is no room for arrogance or pomposity in personal injury work, however technically brilliant the individual.
Choosing counsel is always subjective and many lawyers build relationships with a select few or with a particular set of chambers. But one silk whose name is on almost everyone's lips is Dan Brennan QC at 39 Essex Street. Accolades range from " absolutely wonderful" and "very impressive" to "a great advocate – very calm and convincing". Edwin Glasgow QC, from the same chambers, is also said to be very able.
The prize for strength in depth at leader level goes to 1 Crown Office Row, where eight individuals are singled out for praise. James Badenoch QC is mentioned by several lawyers for combining humour, intellect and sensitivity towards clients when acting for plaintiffs in cases of medical negligence. Terence Coghlan QC, Philip Havers QC and Stephen Miller QC are similarly repeatedly commended for being "personable, articulate and taking a reasonable approach". Robert Owen QC, Philip Vallance QC, Mark Strachan QC and new silk Sally Smith QC are also recommended.
A number of new silks are making their mark and are missed by the lawyers who instruct junior counsel. Benjamin Browne QC and Jeremy Stuart-Smith QC, at 2 Temple Gardens, are said to have impressive all-round ability.
Also, Stephen Irwin QC, a new silk at Doughty Street Chambers, receives several plaudits, and the same goes for William Stevenson QC, at One Paper Buildings, and Edward Faulks QC at No.1 Serjeants' Inn, who took silk last year.
As for the old hands, many of the usual names come up time after time. Adrian Whitfield QC, at 3 Serjeants' Inn, and
Peter Weitzman QC, at Devereux Chambers, remain popular choices. Whitfield, in particular, was praised for being good with clients in medical negligence. Kieran Coonan QC, at 6 Pump Court, is another old favourite held in high regard, because "he isn't flashy and gets the job done".
John Grace QC, at 3 Serjeants' Inn, has a lot of experience in medical negligence acting for both sides, and is mentioned several times as a "very good practitioner".
At the same set, Robert Francis QC is equally commended for his ability to combine humour, intellect and sensitivity when handling difficult medical negligence cases. He is also said to be impressive on ethical issues such as terminating life support.
Nicola Davies QC, also at 3 Serjeants' Inn, is described as "extremely good, lethal on her feet, but very friendly and able to give straightforward advice, which clients like".
Leading medical negligence lawyers speak very highly of Simeon Maskrey QC, at 9 Bedford Row. One says: "He has a wonderful approach with clients. He is one of the few silks who can communicate with clients, and when asked to fight, does so." Richard Latham QC, at the same set, is also mentioned, and Jean Ritchie QC, at 4 Paper Buildings, is another woman silk highly praised for her specialist knowledge.
Cloisters Chambers is also well represented in the lawyers' honours list. Laura Cox QC is described as "extremely sympathetic with clients and very good with medical experts" and Brian Langstaff QC is praised for his ability to get on top of documentation quickly. Robin Allen QC is also mentioned.
At 2 Harcourt Buildings, Jonathan Playford QC is mentioned for his efficiency, while Andrew Prynne QC is said to be self-assured and well organised – "he doesn't miss a thing" according to one lawyer. Meanwhile, at Farrar's Building chambers, Geoffrey Nice QC and John Leighton Williams QC come recommended.
Finally, Christopher Gardner QC, at Lamb Chambers, is "excellent, extremely knowledgeable", John Hendy QC, at Old Square Chambers, is commended for his experience in employment and occupational injuries cases, and George Pulman QC, at Hardwicke Building is widely praised for exhibiting "a marvellous manner with clients".