Top tenants for housing disputes

Matheu Swallow identifies which barristers client solicitors selected as the top five of the landlord and tenant Bar. Matheu Swallow is a freelance journalist.

Since there seems to be no doubting which are the top three sets in the field of landlord and tenant work, it will come as no surprise that three of the top five barristers – consisting of three leaders and two juniors – come from Falcon Chambers, with one each selected from from 9 Old Square and 4 Breams Buildings.

Three leaders have been chosen because, out of the solicitors The Lawyer surveyed, the majority are doing an increasing amount of work in-house and require counsel only in more rarefied circumstances where the practitioner is not able to “crack the nut” or be spared for court time.

At the top of the list is Paul Morgan QC of Falcon Chambers, the undisputed top dog in the landlord and tenant field. His fan club stretches far and wide and his attributes include academic ability, a good attitude to client care, solid technical awareness and brilliant advocacy skills.

In court he has a “restrained delivery, and a quiet authority that the judges respect”. Fellow counsel have said that if there ever exists a flaw in Morgan's arguments, they can never find it! Other commentators praise him for being “intricate in cross-examination”, with a “very good reputation for taking people to pieces in an understated way” but equally “prepared to roll up his sleeves” when necessary and enter the ring as a “total street fighter”.

What sets Morgan apart from the rest is that he has “retained his thoroughness in mastering the details which set him out as a junior” – the only change being a slight mellowing in his adversarial style, although most practitioners still bracketed him at the tenacious end of the scale.

Second choice is Simon Berry QC of 9 Old Square, the man with a solicitor's background – which has made him very popular with many practitioners.

Commentators say that having practised on that side of the profession himself, he is fully aware of the wider issues contained in the masses of paperwork dumped on a solicitor's desk at the commencement of a case and that he is interested in those and not just the one aspect a barrister is commonly asked to comment upon. He is described as possessing a “good bedside manner” which would be suitable for a client who needed more than just “a simple advocate”. His manner in court is persuasive, impressing the chancery judges with an intellect comparable to theirs, and he is interested primarily in selling a given point to the judge and not just the legal point itself.

The third leader is the second from Falcon Chambers – a man who only took silk in 1997. He gained a solid reputation as a senior junior and has carried that through after taking silk. Nicholas Dowding QC is very committed to any case he takes on and will put in a vast amount of effort.

He is, it has been said, liable to take on too much, but Morgan – his guiding light – might teach him to take a more dispassionate approach and not to overload himself. However, it does mean that Dowding is very much in demand.

Of the juniors, John Male is described as simply splendid, particularly on the planning side, for which his chambers, 4 Breams Buildings, is renowned.

Male is many people's favourite which means that he can be “terribly busy”, but he can do the work of a leader and fills that gap in the market opened up by so many taking silk in the past few years.

Finally, from Falcon Chambers is Stephen Jourdan – a man who is especially “good on his feet”, with a “brilliantly analytical mind”. He, like Simon Berry QC, is an ex-solicitor and is described as a cross between the adversarial Morgan and the intellectual Jonathan Gaunt QC, who is also from Falcon Chambers.

Jourdan is particularly noted for his skill in cross-examination and for many, other barristers simply “pale into insignificance” by comparison.