Solicitors look for different qualities in the silks they instruct, but there is no shortage of candidates, writes Matheu Swallow
The criteria for assessing what makes a good silk is extremely difficult to pin down. One practitioner said the "first test was whether they are winners", while another described it as "the ability to turn in three directions, to be able to get on with the client, to speak to us [the solicitors] in sensible language and to command the respect of judge and jury."
Thus, the following list is by no means exhaustive, but is based on the recommendations of leading criminal solicitors who practise in both general crime and white collar crime.
It seems that the usual suspects are still at the top of their field. Maintaining a high quality of service despite intensive demand is Michael Mansfield QC, head of chambers at 14 Tooks Court. He is described as the "doyen of the criminal bar", and comes out on top.
Other gold star awards go to the head of chambers at 10 King's Bench Walk, Ronald Thwaites QC for his "fearless advocacy".
Nicholas Purnell QC at 23 Essex Street wins praise for his "superb client care skills", as does Michael Hill QC at the same set.
Joint head of chambers at Two Garden Court Ian Macdonald QC (with Owen Davies), Richard Ferguson QC at 1 Crown Office Row and Anthony Arlidge QC head of chambers at 18 Red Lion Court, are also star performers.
Snapping at their heels are two "absolutely excellent" barristers at 3 Raymond Buildings. Stephen Batten QC is des-cribed as having "superb client care skills" and Clare Montgomery QC who, it should be noted is "not just good at what she's known for [fraud]".
Doughty Street chambers is very strong, with four silks earning multiple mentions: Peter Thornton QC who is recommended for "some slightly dull but complex and extended legal argument", Edward Fitzgerald QC for his "outstanding hun-ger", the renowned Helena Kennedy QC and Christopher Sallon QC.
If it is a true gentleman who you are after, then look no further than Richard Lissack QC of 35 Essex Street, who is an "extremely good advocate and who could charm the birds off the trees".
However, while one solicitor felt the best thing to be done with silks would be to "take the lot of them outside and have them shot", the general consensus of opinion seems to be that there is an abundance of choice.
One practitioner in heralding the notaries of the criminal Bar said: "There are so many good silks, and there are 30 more who could do the job equally well."
Some of those deserving to appear in this category are, at 1 Hare Court, Charles Salmon QC who is "very good on fraud" and Martin Heslop QC of whom it was said, "he is the most exceptional lawyer I've ever come across".
Elsewhere, Adrian Fulford QC at Michael Mansfield QC's chambers wins solid praise for being "one of the best all-rounders and, unlike many, is utterly charming. He is very good with judges and clients and that is often why you have them [QC's]".
Kuldip Singh QC at 5 Paper Buildings always produces "very impressive work", as do Colin Nicholls QC and Clive Nicholls QC and Alun Jones QC, all of 3 Raymond Buildings. Also highly rated are Rock Tansey QC at 3 Gray's Inn Square, Andrew Trollope QC of 1 Middle Temple Lane and Lawrence Kershen QC of Cloisters.
"Always doing well" is Robin Grey QC at Hollis Whiteman Chambers, with Julian Bevan QC and Vivian Robinson QC also rated at these chambers, while on the forensic side William Clegg QC is "outstanding" at 3 Hare Court.
Strength and depth is offered by 6 King's Bench Walk, where David Spens QC and Roy Amlot QC are rated, as are Ann Curnow QC, Victor Temple QC, Dorian Lovell-Pank QC and Bruce Houlder QC.
Leading a commendation for one practitioner's top chambers team is Stephen Leslie QC of 1 Crown Office Row, where Peter Feinberg QC is also praised.