Commercial awareness and versatility are just two of the prerequisites for a commercial barrister.
The leading practitioners in this area have singled out the 'premier league' of silks, senior juniors and juniors to watch out for in the future. This list is not exhaustive but is based on the subjective recommendations of leading litigation partners.
The barristers classed as the commercial star players, are, in no particular order, the “very intelligent” Jonathan Sumption QC, Christopher Clarke QC who is “marvellous”, Peter Scott QC who is “a real fighter, and a solid and forceful individual”, while Gordon Pollock QC, Sydney Kentridge QC and Peter Goldsmith QC are all “at the top of the tree”.
And Richard Sykes QC is “probably the number one company law barrister. Technically superb, with a high degree of commercial awareness, and ideas for workable solutions to complex technical problems.”
One Essex Court Chambers was singled out as a very commercial and well-organised set with Anthony Grabiner QC, standing out “head and shoulders above the rest”.
As one partner commented, there has been no significant change in the market perception of the silks that litigators want to instruct, but a number of silks are seen as just outside and capable of moving up into that echelon. Michael Brindle QC at Fountain Court Chambers is “absolutely first class, is doing very well and is heading for the premier league”. Other very able silks are 'Johnny' Veeder QC of Essex Court Chambers who is noted for his knowledge of arbitration and commercial generally and is “very bright and excellent with clients”.
Also noted is Lord Irvine of Lairg QC at 11 King's Bench Walk, Michael Burton QC at Littleton Chambers and Christopher Carr QC at One Essex Court. Elizabeth Gloster QC, also at One Essex Court, is “one of the very best”.
Other able silks are Bernard Eder QC and Stewart Boyd QC, both at Essex Court Chambers. And Sir Patrick Neill QC at One Hare Court is a “good all rounder, but particularly expert in administrative law”.
Next door at 2 Hare Court, Charles Flint QC is “very quick, commercial, gets to the heart of the matter with no fuss” and Presiley Baxendale QC is “in demand”.
Others in the “highly regarded” category are Anthony Boswood QC, who is “slightly unorthodox but quite a performer and is knocking on the door of the top 10”, and Charles Falconer QC. Nicholas Underhill QC at Fountain Court Chambers is “energetic and good for coming up with original solutions”.
Paul Lasok QC at 4 Raymond Buildings is “first rate, provides detailed and reasoned opinions, is calm and effective and has a remarkable memory”.
For general corporate work, Robin Potts QC at Erskine Chambers is recommended. Geoffrey Hobbs QC at One Essex Court is considered “excellent”, and at the same chambers Ian Glick QC, although not as well known as others at this level, “bears worthy comparison with them” and Nicholas Strauss QC is “one of the most intelligent for planning and drafting and is also good as a consultant”.
Another underrated silk is Michael Lyndon-Stanford QC at 13 Old Square who “although not particularly well-known, has been used to good effect”.
In the more specialised area of administrative law with a commercial overlap, Michael Beloff QC is “enormously impressive”, and for insurance related work, Gavin Kealey QC at 7 King's Bench Walk is recommended. The barrister to go to for fraud work is John Mathew QC at 5 Paper Buildings, and in the growing area of environmental law, Robert Owen QC and John Hand QC are singled out for praise.
The mainstays for shipping are Jonathan Gaisman QC and Alistair Schaff at 7 King's Bench Walk.
The regions have not been overlooked. Stephen Grime QC at Deans Court, Manchester, is “thorough and sensible and bears favourable comparison with his London peers”, and Peter Smith QC at 40 King Street, Manchester, is also a “local hero”. Elsewhere in the regions, John Randall QC at Birmingham's 7 Fountain Court is also recommended.