The ones to watch

Anne McGrath tracks the careers of five rising stars at the Bar and finds out why their instructing solicitors rate them.

Claire Blanchard

Essex Court Chambers

Called to the Bar : 1992

Professional achievements/associations: Member of COMBAR.

Areas of practice: Commercial practice, including shipping, insurance, banking, and employment law.

What others say about her: Blanchard is a "tenacious, feisty advocate" and is particularly popular in applications which require a certain amount of standing up and justification of the legal arguments. She is "academically sound", and several leading commercial solicitors say they would be happy to use her for any commercial matter.

She comes into her own in the courtroom and once inside is "very relaxed with an analytical, persuasive manner" and "an assured performance". She is "more than able to fight her own corner and will stick to her guns, not letting go of a point because the judges don't like it".

Said to be "blunt and steely", she is very forthright in her views and her "no-nonsense, matter-of-fact approach" gains her wide respect. Although she is usually very forceful and direct with clients, she will also listen and consider all views. She is always extremely well-prepared and coupled with her excellent judgement this means it would need a particularly impressive client to move her from her original opinion.

One solicitor says she is equally impressive with very little preparation. And in a recent case when the side was ambushed, even though she had to run with little preparation, she performed impressively – her "stunning ability to have huge amounts of law and facts at her fingertips serves as a great strength".

She "works particularly well as part of a team and is not just a reference point, but is highly approachable and accessible".

Christopher Butcher

7 King's Bench Walk

Called to the Bar: 1986

Professional achievements/associations:

Panel of Lloyd's Arbitration Scheme Tier 1 Arbitrators.

Areas of practice: Commercial practice – insurance, reinsurance, professional negligence, international trade banking and shipping. Also, cases on environmental pollution.

What others say about him: Though it should be taken as read for any successful barrister, Butcher's intellect "particularly stands out". He is "able to identify key issues very quickly" and is, therefore, "technically exceptionally able". He combines this formidable intellect with a "stubborn determination to win, always working out all the angles and coming up with points which no one else would". His "imaginatively rigorous approach" has gained him many fans and he is hugely in demand.

Several instructing solicitors have admitted that in cases where they were almost resigned to losing – including an important Court of Appeal market reinsurance case – Butcher kept at it until he found an angle they were confident anyone else could not have found and he turned the case around successfully. In several instances, it was his understanding of the technical issues which enabled him to do this. In court, he is "tenacious and will not back down from a point because it is not liked". He will "stick to his guns – and in walking this fine line he has very sound judgement".

Butcher is known not to suffer fools gladly, but there is a growing sense that he has come to recognise the need to develop a more approachable manner and he is said to be working at building a greater rapport with clients. In fact, many solicitors claim that clients adore him. It is also said that, despite his high fees, his efficiency leads him to be quite cost-effective because of his speedy turnaround.

Robin Dicker

3-4 South Square

Called to the Bar: 1

Professional achievements/associations:

Contributing editor to Totty & Moss on Insolvency.

Areas of practice: Mostly commercial, business and financial law, including banking, corporate restructuring and insolvency.

What others say about him: Particularly renowned for his work in insolvency cases, Dicker is mentioned by a number of leading commercial solicitors and is tipped for the top. He has "exceptional intellectual ability" and is "a very firm and calm advocate who is very much at ease in court". He is also "conscientious and meticulous in his preparation", and his arguments are "well-honed and persuasive".

His persuasion is illustrated by one solicitor in a case where he was happy to go to a meeting of a committee of creditors. He explained the situation with "dazzling clarity", ultimately persuading the creditors to join in the action which duly carried the day.

In Oasis Merchandising Services, it was claimed that funding arrangements were champertous, leave was applied to take it to the House of Lords and, in quite a rare situation, an oral hearing was called. But, in spite of this, Dicker managed to convince them that the arrangements were not illegal and the House of Lords refused to hear it. In many instances where the client has requested a silk to lead, instructing solicitors have said that Dicker could have got the same result alone. And more than one has said they can see him, if that is what he chooses, definitely sitting in the House of Lords himself one day.

It is often said that he is always prepared to explore new ways of turning a case around rather than sticking to his first opinion and that he really enjoys the two-way process which makes working with him "very interesting".

Toby Landau

Essex Court Chambers

Called to the Bar: 19

Professional achievements/associations:

Retained as consultant on arbitration law by the DTI since 1994; lectures widely, particularly on arbitration issues in England and abroad.

Areas of practice: International and commercial litigation.

What others say about him: Landau's big break came with his behind-the-scenes role assisting Lord Saville in the drafting of the Arbitration Act 1996. His technical knowledge on arbitration issues is said to be outstanding, and he is highly respected by all in the arbitration world. His knowledge and understanding "go beyond the English arbitration system" and he is "very international" in his outlook. He knows the personalities of the arbitrators and has a "keen sense of how to pitch his arguments in exactly the right way".

More than one instructing solicitor cites his speed of response as being particularly impressive and one exceptionally complex arbitration case is mentioned which involved a number of foreign law elements which put them "very much under the gun". The case succeeded in a large part due to his "getting to grips with the issues so quickly", and "often applying the law in very creative ways".

His ego is "definitely not in proportion to his intellect" and everyone speaks of his "unassuming and easy-going manner" and "lack of pomposity". His "quick sense of humour is always at hand to relieve the tension" and his style and approach are pointed out as being one of the "keys to his success".

He receives the type of instructions not normally given to someone so junior, but even when he is led by a silk he is giving advice on arbitration issues. He is respected as very much an equal in the team.

Laurence Rabinowitz

1 Essex Court

Called to the Bar: 1

Professional achievements/associations:

Editor: Weinberg & Blank on Takeovers and Mergers (5th edition).

Areas of practice: A broad commercial practice including banking, insurance, computer disputes, oil and gas industry disputes and professional negligence.

What others say about him: Described by one leading commercial solicitor as "a budding Sydney Kentridge QC", Rabinowitz is widely hailed as being a leading senior junior. It is also thought that he will take silk quite soon.

Aside from his "fabulously impressive intellectual abilities", he is also "capable of downloading his intellect in an accessible way and in commercial terms". As a result, he is very popular with high-profile commercial clients. The incredible faith his clients and instructing solicitors have in his abilities is demonstrated by their willingness to use him instead of a silk in many matters where a silk would otherwise be instructed.

In the recent high-profile B & C v Atlantic Computer, Rabinowitz was the leading junior and, although Anthony Grabiner QC was instructed to lead, in many stages of the proceedings Rabinowitz was able to act alone or in a very front-line role, giving "an impressive performance". He is said to have "a sleek and confident approach in court". This outstanding reputation means that he is always in demand – particularly in banking cases.

One leading commercial solicitor says Rabinowitz is the best drafter of pleadings at the Bar – and his statements of claim are "a joy to read". His brilliance has not elevated his ego and he is said to be a good team player and a pleasure to work with.