There is little dispute that heavyweights at the Bar will continue to be instructed by law firms. QCs such as George Carman, Geoffrey Robertson, Helena Kennedy, Anthony Arlidge, Allan Levy, Michael Mansfield, Robert Reid and Anthony Scrivener will continue to feature in the national and legal press.
But the extension of the rights of audience of solicitors has already caused ripples. And with some solicitors considering that trial advocacy has a diminishing role in litigation, and the possible development of a culture where barristers are instructed as 'hired guns' for the courtroom showdown, who are the barristers that will survive the competition?
As one partner said: “What has changed radically, and this is true of London and the regions, is that law firms with over 100 lawyers are no longer exceptional. Once the firm has acquired critical mass, it can be regarded as something of a failure if you have reached the stage of actual litigation and have to instruct a barrister.”
But even with larger firms and increasingly specialised solicitors, there is still a need for pure advocacy skills.
This list is not exhaustive, but is based on the subjective recommendations of leading litigation practitioners.
Christopher Clarke QC, Brick Court Chambers: “One of the best advocates to be instructed.” Mark Hapgood of the same chambers is described as “excellent”, and Mark Howard is also highly rated.
John Mathew QC, 5 Paper Buildings: “The senior man at the criminal Bar.”
Jonathan Sumption QC, Brick Court Chambers: “One of the brightest of barristers.”
Iain Milligan, 20 Essex Street: “A very able lawyer.”
Peter Goldsmith QC, Fountain Court Chambers: “Always mentioned with respect.”
Helen Davies, Brick Court Chambers: “An absolute star.”
David Perry, 6 King's Bench Walk: “Excellent on criminal matters.”
Stephen Solley QC, Cloisters, 1 Pump Court Temple: “Highly recommended of that generation – we are always very keen to instruct him.”
Timothy Langdale QC, Queen Elizabeth Buildings: “Well-regarded for both civil and criminal cases.”
Clare Montgomery, 3 Raymond Buildings: “She has a very good reputation, and is known for her expertise in the area of extradition.”
Nicholas Elliott, 3 Gray's Inn Place: “An excellent analytical mind, and assiduous.”
Clive Freedman, 3 Gray's Inn Place: “He throws his full commitment into cases. Excellent on urgent applications.”
David Unwin, 7 Stone Buildings: “He has an extremely powerful mind and is able to grasp the most complex issues and present them effectively.”
Alastair Wilson QC, 19 Old Buildings: “Diligent and extremely helpful, and very solicitor-friendly.”
Robin Potts QC, Erskine Chambers: “Extraordinarily exceptional, and one of the cleverest of counsel.” Michael Todd from the same set is “absolutely first class for quality and
Gabriel Moss QC, 3-4 South Square: “Very, very highly regarded.”
Michael de Navarro QC, 2 Temple Gardens: “A high quality generalist.” Honourable mentions in this set also go to Benjamin Browne and Sarah Vaughan Jones.
Anthony White, Cloisters: “He is tipped for the top, and horrifically talented.” Insiders suggest that he may become one of the youngest QCs.
Piers Feltham, 11 New Square: “One of the new breed of 'cross-over' barristers. He is redefining the role of the Chancery barrister and is as much a general litigation barrister as a Chancery specialist.”
Andrew Moran, 1 Hare Court: “Good for general commercial work.”
Denise McFarland, 3 New Square (formerly 6 Pump Court) is: “Recommended for intellectual property intricacies.”
Victoria Teggin, Mitre House Chambers: “Highly regarded for general civil litigation including employment.”
Heather Williams, Doughty Street Chambers: “Super-bright. One of the most intelligent barristers for tricky issues.”
David Richardson, 13 King's Bench Walk: “A very sound and safe pair of hands, well-organised, and very good value for money.”
Keir Starmer, Doughty Street Chambers: “Instructed in a wide range of civil liberties cases and a very good specialist in this expanding area for lawyers and barristers.”
Nigel Tozzi, 4 Pump Court: “A real find from the recommendation of colleagues.”
Dominic Chambers, 1 Hare Court: “Extremely good with professional negligence and heavyweight commercial cases, and good as part of a team.”
London no longer has the monopoly on quality – regional chambers are producing heavyweight contenders.
Giles Wingate-Saul QC, Byrom Chambers, Manchester: “The first port of call. Very careful and thorough, totally reliable and dependable and trusted by the judiciary.” Brian Leveson QC and Michael Black QC of the same chambers are also highly regarded.
Peter Smith QC, 40 King Street, Manchester: “A good hard-hitting silk in the mould of Gordon Pollock QC, a very tenacious fighter.” Philip Raynor QC, and Andrew Gilbart QC in the same set also receive favourable mentions. As do Katherine Dunn and Lesley Anderson, who “has a head start with a law firm background, and is highly recommended”.
Also high on the Manchester list are: Stephen Davies, 8 King Street, Stephen Cogley, Hollins Chambers, and Mark Cawson, 68 Quay Street.
John Randall, 7 Fountain Court, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham: “A deserved reputation as the best Chancery counsel in Birmingham (although it is a limited field). Good on his feet but can annoy judges.” Randall, James Corbett and David Lock, are “all first choice barristers, very commercial and conscientious”.
Martin Kingston QC, No. 5 Chambers, Fountain Court: “As good a planning silk as will be found in the UK.” Adam Oyebanji QC of the same set is “good on his feet and relishes a dust-up in court”.
Jonathan Gidney, Clock Chambers, Wolverhampton: “Good, thorough and inexpensive all-rounder for civil/ Chancery litigation.”
Richard Stead, St John's Chambers, Bristol: “Very highly regarded on building disputes.”
Nicholas Dowding, Falcon Chambers: “Is exceptionally bright on all landlord and tenant matters.”
Stephen Davies and Martha Maher, Guildhall Chamber, Bristol and Jennifer Lemkey, Old Square Chambers annexe, Bristol also “deserve mention”.