Leaders of the major league

This high-profile field often attracts the media spotlight with the result that many of the top practitioners make the headlines

Despite the large number of specialised areas which come under the umbrella of public and administrative law, and the spectacular growth in judicial review cases over the past 20 years, virtually all the leading silks are based in London with no regional public law Bar as such.

In addition, because many of the cases are high profile and newsworthy, the same faces tend to recur – although there is a substantial list of recommended silks.

The scene is dominated by two principal chambers – 4-5 Gray's Inn Square and 2 Hare Court – closely followed by 4 Breams Buildings and 11 King's Bench Walk. Ian McDonald QC's chambers at 2 Garden Court is also regarded as up-and-coming.

Generally agreed to be one of the leaders is 4-5 Gray's Inn Square's head of chambers, Michael Beloff QC, despite his recent appointment as Master of Trinity College, Oxford. He is described as “still keeping his hand in , but can be busy”. He is “very in demand and in a position where he can pick and choose” and “very good once he's sufficiently interested in something”.

Also very much in the top tier is David Pannick QC, of 2 Hare Court, who is described as “very intellectually sharp”. At the same set, Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC has a similarly formidable reputation in the human rights field in particular. He is described as “very good, but very much his own man”.

Coming up in the world is Presiley Baxendale QC, also of 2 Hare Court and probably best known to the public for her role in the “arms to Iraq” inquiry, who is “of astounding ability”. Robin Allen QC of Cloisters comes “strongly recommended” by several sources.

Others recommended at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square include Duncan Ouseley QC, who is described as “very good”, Elizabeth Appleby QC, W Robert Griffiths QC and Jeremy Sullivan QC. At the same set, special mention is made of Cherie Booth QC, whose career has enjoyed a substantial boost in recent years. According to one source, Booth has “undoubtedly achieved a major-league status”. In addition, she “has a good bedside manner and is very popular with clients”. Booth is well known in the field of representing local authorities.

Civil liberties specialist Geoffrey Robertson QC, head of Doughty Street Chambers, is “absolutely the right person for the job within his area”. At the same set, Andrew Nicol QC is also recommended. Anthony Scrivener QC, head of chambers at 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, has a very high profile. At the same set, Anthony Porten QC also receives plaudits.

Nigel Pleming QC of 39 Essex Street has a very strong reputation and is described by one source as “very reliable and sometimes quite brilliant”. Richard Gordon QC, at the same set, gets top marks.

Others meriting recommendation include 4 Breams Buildings' Richard Drabble QC and John Howell QC, who is “considerably under-rated”.

Laura Cox QC, head of chambers at Cloisters, and Charles Flint QC of 2 Hare Court have a growing reputation, as have Edward Fitzgerald QC at Doughty Street Chambers, Sydney Kentridge QC of Brick Court Chambers and David Oliver QC of 13 Old Square, headed by Michael Lyndon-Stanford QC.

Also rated are Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office Row, headed by Robert Seabrook QC, William Hicks QC of 1 Serjeants' Inn, Kenneth Parker QC of Monckton Chambers and Robin Purchas QC of 2 Harcourt Buildings, headed by Peter Boydell QC.

Sir Patrick Neill QC, head of chambers at 1 Hare Court, and Andrew Arden QC, set head at Arden Chambers, both merit a favourable mention.

Among the most prominent recent silks are Essex Court Chambers' EU law expert Peter Duffy QC, who is highly rated, “thorough” and said to have “a good intellect”, and Roger McCarthy QC at Cloisters. Also recommended are the “excellent” Peter Roth QC and Nicholas Paines QC, both of Monckton Chambers.

Outside London only two names garner a regular mention: Birmingham's Martin Kingston QC of 5 Fountain Court and John Randall QC at 7 Fountain Court.