Matheu Swallow spotlights the regional barristers who attract praise for their specialist knowledge and tracks down the chambers favoured by provincial firms.
The regional Bar is not particularly strong in the area of landlord and tenant work. Regional solicitors do a lot of work in-house and only turn to counsel when they do not know the answer.
However, they tend to avoid instructing barristers practising in landlord and tenant work at the regional Bar because they are often general practitioners who do not have sufficient specialist knowledge. One Birmingham practitioner says this is a shame because solicitors in the Midlands do a large amount of housing work with a commensurate need for help from the Bar.
The London Bar is also preferred because there is very little difference in price between it and the regional Bar. In addition, where an issue is so technical or a case is so high-profile that it requires counsel's input, it will often be the clients who decide who to use and they tend to have experience of the London Bar only.
Manchester is the only provincial bar that has some specialisms which come close to those of London, although for any particularly specialised rent review or more technical land dispute, practitioners would still go to the capital.
Manchester's 40 King Street earns praise, notably Peter Smith QC who is ably supported by Mark Halliwell, Lesley Anderson, Katherine Dunn, Mark Harper and Wilson Horne.
In Bristol, John Virgo and Paul French of Guildhall Chambers are rated, as are Charles Auld and Leslie Blohm of St John's Chambers. Blohm “knows his stuff, is good on paperwork and is very solicitor-friendly”.
In Cardiff, 9 Park Place has Andrew Keyser, a generalist doing some good landlord and tenant work, while in Birmingham, 5 Fountain Court and its specialist property and chancery unit soaks up the praise on offer in the city. At the chambers David Stockill is described as a “sensible chap” who is “good with clients” and Adam Oyebanji also produces some good work.
Finally, at Ropewalk Chambers in Nottingham, Stephen Beresford is “a good general civil lawyer” doing landlord and tenant work with Ian McLaren QC also rated.
Apart from these few favourites, the regional firms are all converging on London to vie for the attention of the leading barristers.
Falcon Chambers again comes out on top and is compared by one practitioner to Liverpool FC for having a “cascade of skills” and for its continued development.
However, whereas some solicitors have built up a solid, even excellent relationship with the set over the past 20 years, there still appears to be a hangover from the criticisms voiced in last year's survey. But, considering the volume of work that comes the set's way this is not really surprising. In addition to the “outstanding” Paul Morgan QC, the “wonderful” Kim Lewison QC and the “fast rising” Timothy Fancourt and Stephen Jourdan are mentioned, while Joanne Moss is the one new name to surface at the chambers.
Climbing the ladder and displacing 9 Old Square as top landlord and tenant chambers are Enterprise Chambers and 4 Breams Buildings. For some, Enterprise Chambers is the first set to contact because it deals with work within the time limits set, provides a good service even when a client's first choice is not available and is willing to travel. It has developed a good reputation for landlord and tenant work and has an annexe in Leeds. Its outstanding barristers are David Halpern, who is “sensible”, “forcible” and “easy to work with”, and Jacqueline Baker, who “clearly knows her stuff” and is also “easy to work with”.
4 Breams Buildings is described as complementing Falcon Chambers because, despite a lack of leaders, it has a ready supply of willing juniors, headed by John Male, who has surprised many by not yet having taken silk.
9 Old Square still clearly has strength in depth, and praise was heaped on the usual suspects at this set, not least on Simon Berry QC.
Regional practitioners endorse a far broader range of London sets than their London counterparts. Earning special praise is 2 Harcourt Buildings (chambers of Roger Henderson QC). It has its own property unit where Andrew Jordan can boast “reliability, sound judgement and a safe pair of hands”. Charles Bourne is “very clever and good on his feet”, Malcolm Sheehan is a “rising star, very technical” who “gives very good written opinions”. Also rated are Prashant Popat who is a “good trial man, cool under pressure” and the “clever and able” Oliver Campbell.
At 1 Pump Court, Stephen Reeder is good for housing work while 6 King's Bench Walk (chambers of Sibghat Kadri QC) offers a true “tenant's man” in Terence Gallivan. Michael Crystal QC, head of 3-4 South Square, is rated, while at 2 Field Court, Ashley Underwood is “quick, innovative, versatile and approachable” and Bryan McGuire is very thorough”. Jan Luba of 2 Garden Court is “excellent on novel points of law and one of the best in the field for tenants” and Michael Douglas QC of 4 Pump Court, a chambers not usually recognised for this kind of work, is “very good”.
Finally, a mention must go to Thomas Dumont of 11 New Square (chambers of Peter Crampin QC). He is described as a “first-class chancery junior, both as a lawyer and as an advocate”. He would be one practitioner's first choice when “faced with a fight with opposition clients who are unscrupulous”.